My spiritual journey started in a sweat lodge

Buddha in Sri Lanka, 2006  

Today it struck me that I have gone full circle – but only to move forward, to rise even higher.

Five years ago pretty much to the day, I went on a women’s retreat and it’s days like today that I realise how much it has shaped my life as a woman, as a mother, as a doula, as a hypnotherapist, as a businesswoman, as a whoever and whatever I will become next.

It was a pretty intense experience.

It involved camping – I had never camped in my life.

It involved not showering for 3 days – I had never gone more than 36 hours without showering, and that’s because I was very ill with the flu.

It involved total silence for 3 of the 3.5 days – I had never shut up for more than 12 hours, and that’s because I was sleeping.

It involved staring into other women’s eyes, crying, shouting, acting, getting stuff out of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls.

It involved eating the most delicious vegetarian food in silence.

It involved getting naked and sharing music, songs and hushed words in a sweat lodge – a magnificent yurt that held us together, that cleansed us, that healed us.

Then on the last day, in the last hour, it was time to all introduce ourselves, having broken our silence just a couple of hours before.

And I heard a word I had never heard before but had read 2 years prior to the retreat and had never seen anywhere again since: ‘doula‘.

And I just knew.

This word went straight into my heart, like an arrow in flames, and it fired me up.

As soon as I could, I went to talk to the lady who had uttered this magic word. We chatted for about an hour. That’s all we had before the end of the retreat. And I was truly enchanted – under a spell. And again I just knew. I just knew I had to look into birth doulaing further.

The next day, I was booked onto the June Paramana Doula course, created by Michel Odent and Liliana Lammers, and although my main motivation was to help women postnatally (because having received no help myself, I knew how badly postnatal doulas were needed), in June 2011 I embarked on my birth doula journey as well, and it changed everything in my life, including my business.

The most magical thing is that it inspired me to have another baby, when I was so adamant I didn’t want another one (at least partly a result of having received no help in the postnatal period).

We were warned that first morning in June that women who came to doula training got pregnant quite quickly afterwards, and I heard a little voice in my head say ‘I bet that will be me’ – and it was! Two miscarriages later, all in all 7 months later, I was pregnant with my second daughter and we were delighted 🙂

Many times since that retreat, I have thought that it didn’t do much, it didn’t change my life. Today I wonder how I could have had such thoughts!

Of course it did! It changed it completely!

It’s the reason I’m not an editor and proofreader any more (after a 12-year career in publishing)!

It’s the reason I have two children rather than just one.

It’s the reason I became a doula and learnt SO MUCH about pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period.

It’s also the reason I became a hypnobirthing practitioner and learned EVEN MORE, and still do, pretty much every day, and the reason why my passion for pregnancy, birth and motherhood will never die.

It’s the reason I then became a HypnoMothering practitioner, an IEMT practitioner, and finally a hypnotherapist and an NLP and EFT practitioner!

And it’s the reason I joined a mastermind and business coaching course in February this year, created ‘Freedom from Food’ (a programme that empowers mums to free themselves from emotional eating and body confidence) and finished the mastermind on a magical high on 21st May, having realised how much I was missing the spiritual side of things, and so…

Finally, having gone full circle when I didn’t think it was possible, it is the reason I have decided to create another programme, one that integrates all I have learned in the last 5 years about pregnancy, birth and early motherhood (in fact, all I have learned about them since I was born, because it all starts when we are born and cared for ourselves, doesn’t it?), and most aspects of my Freedom from Food programme.

This will be a programme specifically for pregnant women. It will encourage them to think beyond the baby shower and the birth, and to find out a whole lot more about what they can do to prepare for birth and early motherhood in a much more holistic way.

Yes, some do yoga. Great.

Yes, some start meditation. Fantastic.

But this tends to be just to prepare for the birth. What about the massive changes they’ll undergo as new mums? Are they preparing for this? And if they have emotional eating and body confidence issues, are they preparing for how pregnancy, birth and motherhood are going to challenge them? Are they trying to find alternatives to dieting? What are they going to teach their little girls about their own bodies and about eating? How are they going to instill in them a positive attitude towards their bodies and food, or is the vicious cycle going to continue, down the generations?

My current HypnoMothering class is great for pregnant women to prepare for the challenges of early motherhood, for a few practical aspects and for how to use hypnosis to their advantage when they are exhausted and/or angry/stressed out/cranky etc. But I want women to think even beyond that and go on a spiritual quest, which will be immensely beneficial for them but also for their baby and their husband or partner. I want them to recognise the need for more spirituality in their lives now and in the future, and more specifically the necessity of a postnatal recovery plan (thanks Sophie Messager and Mia Scotland for introducing me to this concept), which is as much about spirituality as about the practical stuff; the power of a mother blessing (I’m in the process of organising one for one of my friends and can’t wait for the day!); the beauty of a baby blessing (postnatally); the power of a Closing the Bones ceremony to help the mum’s pelvis and hips to ‘close’ properly, to help her recovery after pregnancy and birth; and more generally the importance of the first 40 days after birth (and to help me help new mums, I have recently bought this beautiful book) and how to cruise through them rather than be completely bewildered, exhausted, feeling like it is a very steep learning curve and wishing that they had prepared better.

Weaved through all these practices will be how the mum-to-be can also reclaim her power when it comes to food and body confidence issues, with tried-and tested modalities, methods, tools and techniques that will help her regain control, feel good about herself, her body, her pregnancy and the future, without needing to use food as a crutch. She will also be encouraged to think about how to feed her baby then toddler then child. All these things are so important to the future of our children. It is time to stop the madness and start living a life that will support our babies and children in the future, in particular their mental and physical health. Introducing or reintroducing spirituality seems crucial, but so does the healing of our own wounds, so that we don’t pass them on to our children. In many cultures, this is part of the rite of passage of pregnancy – women look into their souls and release their fears, worries and concerns and heal their emotional and spiritual wounds.

I have so much to say, so much to write!

But I don’t want to rush it. This would be going against my principles and exactly what I will teach in this programme! I want it to grow, to mature and then bloom into its full force, probably early next year.

In the meantime, I’m going to resume my spiritual journey (did it ever stop?) and my doula journey (it never really stopped either – just three months ago, I attended a birth, and then I helped the family the first few weeks of their son’s life), starting (well, on 21st May, but more officially) on 26th June, when I will be properly trained in the Closing the Bones ceremony, by none other than Sophie Messager herself.

I was introduced to the concept when my daughter was 7 months old and I was the lucky recipient of such a beautiful ceremony. It was very informal, at the end of a workshop that taught us how to use the rebozo (a Mexican term meaning ‘shawl’ or ‘wrap’, a piece of cloth that Mexicans but also many cultures around the world use in pregnancy, birth and postnatally). The Closing the Bones ceremony was like a little bonus at the end of this workshop, and because I was the woman who had had a baby most recently, it was decided I would be the lucky recipient of such a spiritual, healing and life-changing (again) ceremony. I think it deserves a post of its own, so I will write about this another day 🙂

Sophie’s podcast with Alexia Leachman here is a delight and will teach you more about spiritual practices around the world and how they are finally coming (back?) in the Western culture.

If you would like to find out more about my Freedom from Food for Mums programme and how it could help you, do book a free Connection Call. I will be more than happy to answer all your questions.

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