Are you trying to cope with stress, chronic illness, pain, or just general fatigue? Learn how habitual behavior, thoughts, and feelings affect your overall well-being; and how you can make healthy choices. The practice of meditation can bring you lasting changes in physical and psychological symptoms, greater energy, improved self-esteem and increased ability to concentrate and cope with pain and stress. When we begin to separate ourselves from our thoughts, we allow the “doing” to come from a place of “being”. The practice of staying present and making clear choices involves perceiving our thoughts differently. Part of the focus is to recognize different ways of perceiving stress/anxiety and learning different skills to address that kind of suffering. We will learn how to incorporate a daily meditation practice into our busy lives. Meditation cultivates our natural capacity for clear decision-making. It offers the possibility to live like Buddha suggests: “May we live like the lotus blossom, at home in the muddy waters.” All beginners and established practitioners who need a boost are welcome.
Living My Ethics
For the past 27 years, I have been living in international intentional communities—from permaculture ecovillages to queer-focused direct-action cohousing to macrobiotic communes. As a child, I grew up on farms using compost toilets, gray water systems, passive solar, geothermal, heat transfer pump, ground level to cupola ventilation system, French drains, and living in earthberm structures. Now, as a single mother raising my six year-old son in the U.S. (and supporting us while living below the poverty line), every day I make the conscious choice to deflect how this plutocrat-driven democracy may impact my son. In contrast with petroleum-parenting (what I identify as the decisions parents make that overwhelmingly contribute to both environmental destruction and body-phobic institutional practices), I attempt to lead a social permaculture lifestyle. Living my ethics includes my commitment to never own a credit card, smart-phone, or a car. I barter 98% of services and goods —acquiring absolutely everything through swaps, I have never purchased anything new or used for Zazu (now 6 years-old); and for myself, have not purchased any new or used clothing, shoes, accessories for over twenty years. This commitment is integral to my daily practice of merging art, daily life, and my parental ethics.
Birth and Pregnancy
The Long Version
“What just happened?!” My first words as I held Zazu Shock Alhadeff-Racker for the first time.
I became conscious of intense sensations at 3am the previous night. I immediately began timing the contractions (although I didn’t want to label them as contractions, but rather rushes, surges, or birthing waves…)–3-5 minutes apart separated by about 20 long breaths. If things had gone according to plan, I would have woken up Kent and called our mid-wife. I couldn’t fully realize that I was in labor. Even though I timed my “surges” without stop for 3 and a half hours, all I could do was count and breathe; I clung to each consecutive number–early labor had actually begun!!!
Finally, 6:30am arrived. Breathing got more difficult. Somehow I managed to move, open my mouth-generate sound–I asked Kent to call our mid-wife. Next thing I know, I am vomiting. I hear me reminding myself that I am here, I’m really doing this, I’m going to have a baby! I remember feeling crystal clear in my consciousness that I absolutely needed reassurance that I was still not in early labor–the sensations had rapidly accelerated/intensified. I wasn’t able to piece together what was actually happening. Kent helped me to the toilet. I remember my mind searching for some story, some reference, some memory that corresponded to my current experience. I had read so many books, had so many conversations, heard so many stories, and nothing sounded like this felt–I looked for the Pause–that precious space in-between the sensations–but there was none. One intensity collided into the next. When we had called our midwife around 7am, she said to call her back when my contractions (I fought to translate “contractions” to “surges”) are 45 seconds long. But the timing was all confused–I kept hearing Kent’s watch beep as he tried to keep up with my signals which had become totally erratic. I remember asking Kent how many seconds were in a minute–2 minutes + long–didn’t make sense that 120 seconds was longer than 45 seconds. I would enter a bizarrely deep restful state in the midst of the extreme sensations and then I would come out and need immediately to count numbers–any numbers to feel safe. In the meantime, Kent had called our doula who was not able to come, so Jenna, our back-up doula was on her way. Two-hours + passed between the toilet and the bathroom floor. The whole time I wanted so badly to know that this was NOT early labor. Sweating and shivering, in total awe and disbelief that so many women go through this! I was desperate to find air–that was by far the most challenging part. Kent kept encouraging me to breathe long, deep, focused breaths–but there were none.
Jenna arrived–recognized how dehydrated I was and insisted on getting liquid and food into my mouth. Swallow. Chew. Swallow: like breathing, seemingly impossible tasks. She was on the phone with our mid-wife when my two final tortuous screams tore through Kent. I felt something hard and big coming out of my vagina.
“Get on your hands and knees!…” Suddenly, I could breathe. Everything snapped into alignment. As Kent straddled me, facing Jenna, he saw Zazu’s purple head emerge, then retract. Not only was the cord wrapped around his neck, one of his shoulders was caught behind my pubic bone. (It turns our that this was a case of shoulder dystocia. This happens in 1-2% of births; in hospitals most commonly dealt with by breaking the infant’s collar bone; the brachial nerve can be damaged causing erbs palsy). In our tiny, plant and sun-filled bathroom, our back-up doula, who had witnessed multiple births, but never delivered a baby before, channeled the divine, reached into me, unwrapped the cord and dislodged my baby’s shoulder. Moments later, she passed him to me through my legs and Zazu was in my arms.
I cannot remember feeling any pain, or even discomfort during our birth–just an exquisite clarity. It wasn’t the orgasmic birth that I had hoped for, but instead, the most spectacular miracle of a series of misunderstandings that actually allowed all of my visualizations to manifest!
I had an unusually small amount of blood loss and no tearing, only abrasions. An hour or two later, I was ready to birth the placenta. It turned out there were two placentas–a succurient lobe! (We ate one raw and the other dehydrated). SHAZAM!!!
Alternatives to Petroleum-Parenting
- Included in the anthology Women, Violence, and Resistance, edited by Hagar Ben Driss and Meryem Sellami, University of Tunis, Tunisia, pp. 2-24
- borders/debordering: Towards a New World Culture of Hospitality, Institute for Philosophical Studies, Science and Research Center, University of Primorska, Slovenia