I’ve been reflecting on this idea as the summer sporting events ramp up a notch and there’s a lot of expectation, hope, and desire. How do the England team and tennis players at Wimbledon manage that HUGE desire to win, BUT keep it in check so they can perform at their optimum levels? We all know that performance is inhibited when we place demands on ourselves so it’s a fine line….
In Buddhism it’s the practice of non attachment. In REBT (Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy – the strand of CBT i initially trained in) it’s about taking our unconscious demands and returning them to natural desires. In yoga it’s the concept of ishvara pranidhana – non attachment to the fruits of one’s actions. The ancient sage Patanjali offers this advice: to focus on the quality of an act rather than its outcome, leaving the fruits of action to something greater. From this perspective, everything you do becomes an opportunity for practice. You do the best you can, whether you’re playing a football game or tennis match, giving a big presentation, meeting new people or even conceiving, welcoming and parenting a baby. Regardless of the outcome, the mind is calm, clear and present, because joy comes from the act itself, not the result.
Many people get annoyed at the expression “She believed she could so she did” – worrying that it sets women up to believe that simply wishing for something should make it happen and if it doesn’t she’ll believe SHE has failed in some way. What utter tosh. The women I work with are strong, creative, whole-hearted, fierce women who know they do everything they can to attain what they want AND that not everything is within their control.
In ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – a third wave therapy under the umbrella of CBT and my favoured therapeutic approach these days) we take time to clarify our values. and it’s a very important thing to do, because it’s our values that infuse our life with purpose.
So what are values, exactly? They are your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave as a human being; they are the qualities you want to bring to your ongoing actions. They are different to goals in that goals can be completed or achieved, ticked off the list and finished, whereas values are ongoing until the day you die. If you’re a little confused by this concept, you’re not alone. We live in a goal- focused society, not a values- focused one. Values are not about what you want to get or achieve; they are about how you want to behave or act on an ongoing basis. The young England football team (who have CLEARLY had mindfulness training!) and their ever calm, stoic manager embody this philosophy.
So what does this have to do with birthing? In hypnobirthing it’s about getting clear on our preferences for birth rather than creating strict birth plans. When we identify and connect with our values a loving mother for whom it matters that her baby is safe and welcomed calm and gently to the world may have a home birth or caesarean section and stay aligned with these values.
Preparing for birth is a holistic process – in my hypnobirthing course we prepare emotionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually. Birthing a baby can evolve in so many ways that ‘planning’ just isn’t possible, Think of anything you’ve ever planned – a dinner, a party, a wedding. When has it EVER gone exactly according to plan??
Understanding how your body is capable of birthing your baby and how to support it is one part of preparation. The other part is being open to the journey that lays before you. Being open means adapting to each step on that journey. Be very clear that nobody cares more for your baby than you. You will never put your baby at risk and you will always do the best that you can. This sometimes means saying “no thank you” to hospital policy, and sometimes it means agreeing to procedures you might not have preferred.
Agreeing to an induction, a caesarean and / or using pain relief may be a step on your birthing journey. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up, giving in, forfeiting your rights or abandoning your instincts. It means you are a free thinking woman, able to take responsibility for the path you are treading bringing your baby into the world.
My clients have a sense of self agency in life and we focus on being deliberate with how we want to feel, cultivating a sense of personal power. We identify and connect with our core desired feelings and loosen how we think we’ll get them.
This has never been clearer for me than working with clients going through IVF. It’s easy to become so focussed on the outcome with this journey that you’re simply no longer present in your life. Moving focus away from the goal to values brings you to the here and now. What if the outcome were none of your business? All you can do is concern yourself with if you did all you could to honour the moment you’re in… Not only does this increase the chance of success but also our life becomes imbued with meaning. We develop a sense of creating the life we want, and we experience a sense of vitality and fulfilment that is wholly missing from life on autopilot.
If you’re trying to conceive, are getting ready for birth or simply want to get clear on your own values in life please do get in touch.