Birthing As Awareness Practice. ~ Tikva Adler

Via elephant journal
on Sep 19, 2011
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Photo: Worshipping Crom Cruaich

I was the type of person who would immediately dose up on pain killers at the first sign of a headache. But when I became pregnant, I knew that I wanted to have an “all natural” birth without any drugs or interventions. How could I possibly prepare for such a thing?

I mean, I was headed toward the most physically intense experience of my life and I couldn’t even handle a little headache! I watched “Birth As We Know

Photo: Mac 2014

It” and “Orgasmic Birth” (both excellent films), and read “Birthing From Within” from cover to cover. These things were very inspiring, but I knew that in the heat of the moment, there was no way that I’d be thinking about that “inspirational thing I read about inner strength that one time.”

At some point I realized that there was actually nothing I could do to make myself have an ideal birthing experience. Everybody’s birth is different, and you can’t know beforehand how it will all unfold. I realized that I would have to learn how to be ok with whatever happened, even if it happened in an unexpected way. I started practicing being okay with THIS MOMENT, in every new moment (without a story about what happened before and what might/should happen next). I just kept noticing my body sensations, what I was hearing/seeing, etc. without focusing on my thoughts about any of it. And something awesome began to happen. I noticed that my experience of reality was largely based upon my interpretations of what was actually happening.

For example: In the past when I would get a headache, I would immediately start thinking something like “Oh no! This is a headache and it is gonna suck!”. But I noticed that without that description, there was just the sensation in THAT MOMENT, and it changed from moment to moment. When I started to think “This is pain, and pain is BAD!”, I would start to tense up my body and mind, and THAT was what actually made the experience so horrific. Without the story, it was just a squeezing sensation, and eventually it passed.

Ok, sure. But can that really work during CHILDBIRTH?

Yes! But you might have to practice it a lot beforehand for it to become second-nature. All throughout the last couple months of my pregnancy, I spent

Photo: Bertie Mabootoo

most of my time noticing my body sensations and what I was hearing/seeing/experiencing, and noticing that my thoughts about all of this profoundly altered my experience of it. I practiced being aware in every new moment that I remembered that I could. I had no real background in meditation, but I have come to understand that this is what I was doing. I was basically meditating for 2 months.

So when the time came to give birth, I felt a calmness and a trust in my body. I experienced every intense sensation that came along with labor, without a story of “pain” or “suffering”. And thus, I did not experience any of it as pain or suffering! I went into a deep trance, and envisioned being in a cave with drums beating. I felt a powerful spiraling energy moving through me, and I trusted that it knew what to do. All I had to do was to let it move through me, without tensing up or trying to stop it.

A “contraction” is that intense spiraling energy pushing through you, and people experience it as pain when they try to fight against it by clenching down on it or “being tough” to get through it. It is like huge waves in an ocean, and you can either try to fight them (and lose), try to ignore them (and they will hit you anyway), or you can RIDE them!

I was surprised to find that I didn’t need all the hysterical screaming like you see in movies. I made some low groaning noises when I felt moved to, as the energy was moving through me. Much of the time I remained silent. The midwife said that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a woman with such focus during labor. To me, it felt effortless because I was not DOING something extra; I was merely letting myself have the experience. At one point I made a noise and she said something like “was that a contraction?”. Her speaking brought me out of the trance and I realized that perhaps I should let everyone know that I had already gone into the final (pushing) phase some time ago. My nurse, midwife, and husband all swooped over as soon as I told them. I thought it was funny because I felt like their presence was totally unnecessary. I was doing fine on my own, and feeling powerfully awesome. Moments later, little Ariana burst into the world.

Later, I realized that just because I had already gone through the intensity of labor did not mean that I had to stop using this meditation practice. Now, when I am experiencing each new moment, and noticing how my thoughts change my experience of it, I have so much more enjoyment from life. Some people have esteemed gurus as their “spiritual teachers.” I had pregnancy as mine.


Tikva Adler spends 100% of her time with her guru (her baby daughter), and therefore her day generally revolves around chalk-drawing at the park, throwing rocks into the river, and flashing her boobs all over town (because she’s nursing).  When the guru us asleep, Tikva paints.  Because her brain gives a lot of attention to mystical Judaism, environmentalism, and the “divine feminine”, her artwork often takes on these themes.  Check it out:


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27 Responses to “Birthing As Awareness Practice. ~ Tikva Adler”

  1. Sarah says:

    That's how I approached labor. It is so true – to just "ride the wave". My husband thought I was sleeping during my labor (uh… Yeah right!) but I put ear plugs in and just focused inward meditating and being in the moment. This allowed me a medication free 70 hr labor!!

  2. Louise says:

    Excellent article and good for anything in the future we might have anxiety about ( as fear is on ly in the future, not the present) Thank you so much for this reminder. Birth surely is a way to test it. What a gentle way to bring a baby into this world!

  3. Tikva Adler says:

    Awesome! LOL about the sleeping during labor… although I hear that HAS happened before during extremely long labors (sleeping between contractions)

  4. Tikva Adler says:

    Thanks– so true. Focusing on the future is my most frequent unconsciousness. How wonderful to realize that it is an action + a choice!

  5. Amy says:

    What a wonderful choice you made, and a beautiful story.

  6. KristinSLuce says:

    Beautiful, and thank you for this! I also had some of my most powerful "spiritual" experiences through childbirth. I especially resonate with how, when labor started, I felt a calmness and trust in my body. During my second birth I was able to "get out of the way" as you describe, and though the contractions were the same, I felt no pain. Wow. And, I aslo see no disgrace when we don't yet know how to find our way with riding the waves. My first birth I was screaming in such a primal way I couldn't recognize myself! Thanks for a heart-ful and helpful perspective 🙂

  7. Sej says:

    I totally slept during labor. Two short (20 min?) sessions during 40 all-natural hours of back labor.

  8. Maria-Jose says:

    What a Beautiful and transformative experience. Just flowing in the river of life.

    Had a 12 hr labor with my son Elias who is now 12 yrs old. I remember falling into a trance and experiencing focus like never before, aware of every breath and sensation. It was the most focused day of my life up until then and it changed everything forever for the better. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful experience.

  9. vanessa says:

    thank you for sharing. i have not given birth but can relate to different experiences in which i applied what i practiced on the cushion during vipassana meditation to real life situations where i might feel pain or stress. i felt the pain but without getting involved with my reactions and just sensing the moment to moment experience of sensation, it opened the experience up to have an experience of pain within a larger context of awareness and detachment. i wonder if something were so intense or prolonged over hours whether i could sustain it but…i suppose i could return to it at any point i realized i was suffering. inspiring!

  10. vanessa says:

    P.S. a good reminder, also, that i can do this at any moment…not just during pain but while at work sitting at desk computing…going into the body like this heightens self connection and sense of aliveness

  11. Tikva Adler says:

    That's awesome– I can't imagine sleeping during labor, but mine was relatively quick. My water burst in the middle of the night and I was like "oh I should sleep now, while I still can", and quickly fell into a restful sleep until the contractions woke me up… but Brian stayed up all night going OMG 🙂

  12. Tikva Adler says:

    Thanks! I totally agree that other ways of birthing are not disgraceful. But I found this way to be quite preferable!

  13. Tikva Adler says:

    Thank you– awesome! Wow 12 years seems like such a long time from now but I know it will happen fast!

  14. Tikva Adler says:

    Cool– yes I think it is sustainable for anyone and any type of pain, because if you "fall down" into believing your thoughts about pain again, you always have a fresh new moment after that in which to pick yourself back up! 🙂

  15. Tikva Adler says:

    Yes! Something awesome to remember in any moment. Thanks 🙂

  16. felix says:

    Baby is lucky to have such an aware and creative momma. I enjoyed your sharing very much!

  17. You may like my painting on the Dialogue of Birthing

  18. Julie says:

    I would love to learn and grow to be able to channel my energy like this. I remember when I got my back tattoo (the most painful experience that I personally know as I have never experienced child birth), it felt best when I tried to put everything I was feeling into the music I was listening to at the time, and just imagine it flowing through. Thanks for the article, it really is something more people should think about in their daily lives.

  19. Tikva Adler says:

    Thanks! Getting a tattoo is a good example too. There is a strong urge to clench down on that sharp pain (clench your fists, grit your teeth, and just push through it). But allowing yourself to be relaxed and open to the sensation really transforms it into something else entirely. Pretty awesome to experience!

  20. This post couldnt be more factual

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  22. At least some bloggers can still write. My thanks for this piece…

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