The first week of July I went to a silent retreat for 6 days at Spirit Rock in San Rafael. Now in its 21st year, the People of Color silent retreat offers an opportunity for meditation, contemplation, movement and health. We ate in silence, walked in silence and sat in silence from 6:30a til around 9p basking in the opportunity to slow down.
During the retreat we were given opportunities to ask a question. A misconception around mediation, that the goal is to not think and be free from the confines of thoughts, came up and we all focused on how meditation is learning how to be with what is in real time. It is training our minds to be present and respond from a steady center that we come back to sooner. Our brains are designed to think and that will not be stopped no matter what we do. The thoughts that run through our minds though often take us into stories of the past, future and/or fantasies about what we want or need.
At its core meditation is an invitation to be with what is without story. To sit with what is and refrain from an opinion or train of thought is difficult but gives the mind a rest while . When I sit I think about so many different things from past events, to building a dream house, to bills I need to pay and so on. As these thoughts come up I sometimes say to myself: "ok, I can't do anything about this right now, let's take a rest and just breath." That way the thoughts come in and I let them go. For others it is focusing on the sounds around them, or sensations in the body.
The principle to be with what is opens the door for something to not be good or bad but merely exist while reminding us we have infinite ways to respond to stimuli
coming in. Birth and labor are great teachers in being present or with what is. All of the pain, emotions, personalities and possibilities of labor make it so the birthing parent really needs to find their center. The call to be with the good, the bad and the in between is so palpable in the birth room. Parents can control but so much until there is a true release to the unknown. Some of that experience is great and other aspects are challenging while some won't be remembered again but, all of it is occurring at the same time.
During birth you will have so many experiences and to begin practicing and training your mind now to have a place of refuge can only help you while you birth your child. There are many apps, classes, YouTube videos and music apps that have meditation content for you to try. You can sit or walk in meditation from 5 minutes to 2 hours it is up to you, your schedule and what your needs may be. Feel free to ask you Doula if they provide any mediation before or during your birth. You can even reach out to parent groups and see who maybe already have a circle. Don't forget that you can also just start up as meditation is a free practice for you to use as a tool.