parenting as a hero’s journey – Kindred Media Sharing the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood, and the Human Family Tue, 01 Dec 2020 03:41:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 parenting as a hero’s journey – Kindred Media 32 32 Inner Child Journeys: How Our Children Grow Us Up – An Interview with Robin Grille Mon, 28 Oct 2019 23:38:41 +0000 Robin Grille, author of the seminal book, Parenting for a Peaceful World, talks with Rebecca Thompson Hitt about the Inner Child Journey parents take when they set out on their path of motherhood and fatherhood. The interview is a part of the Parenting as a Hero’s Journey series from 2015. In October 2019, Robin launched […]]]>

Robin Grille, author of the seminal book, Parenting for a Peaceful World, talks with Rebecca Thompson Hitt about the Inner Child Journey parents take when they set out on their path of motherhood and fatherhood. The interview is a part of the Parenting as a Hero’s Journey series from 2015. In October 2019, Robin launched the book, Inner Child Journeys: How Our Children Grow Us Up.

Read the foreword to the book, by Ray Castellino, on Kindred here.

Read Robin’s essay, Inner Child, Inner Wisdom: Unmasking The Mythology Of The Modern, Uber Parent.

Visit Robin’s website here:

See Robin’s bio below.


About Rebecca Thompson Hitt

Rebecca Thompson Hitt is the founder and executive director of The Consciously Parenting Project. Rebecca has been actively educating parents and facilitating parent groups and workshops that encourage conscious decision-making in family life since 1998. As a wife and the mother of two boys, she has personal as well as professional experience navigating the terrain of parenting. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’sdegree in Marriage and Family Therapy, with specialized training in attachment and trauma. Consciously Parenting: What It Really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families is Rebecca’s first book, and the first of four books in the Consciously Parenting Series.

Read Rebecca on Kindred.


About the Book, Inner Child Journeys: How Our Children Grow Us Up

In simple layman’s terms, ‘Inner Child Journeys’ explains a safe, step-by-step method for understanding the emotional reactions triggered in us by our children, at all ages. This Process was tested and refined over many years by Australian psychologist Robin Grille, and it is based on sound neuropsychological principles. In its ‘light’ or ‘in-depth’ forms, this Inner Child Process can help you gain new and profound insights about yourself and about your children, honing your own intuition about what your children need in order to thrive. It will help you understand even your children’s most baffling behaviors – via a better understanding your own childhood experiences and how they’ve affected you. At the same time, this Process helps you to better understand your own, deepest emotional needs, and how to have those needs met. Ultimately, Inner Child Journeys are about healing long-held emotional wounds that are often brought to the surface through our interactions with our children. Most of us encounter, from time to time, significant challenges and difficult terrain in the course of parenting or educating our children. This Inner Child Process helps you engage with even the most insurmountable challenges in your child-rearing endeavours, and turn those challenges into exciting and empowering personal-growth and healing opportunities for you. The book gives no advice about how to raise your children, nor how to educate your students. That’s because this book helps you access your own inner knowledge, based on your own experiences as a child. The more you befriend your own Inner Child, the more empathic and effective a parent or teacher you become. Your children benefit enormously as you grow. Written for parents, elders, schoolteachers and psychotherapists, this book shows you how to turn child-rearing into a most exciting and transformative personal growth and healing adventure. Indeed, ‘our children grow us up’.

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Ending Patriarchy Thu, 28 Jun 2018 21:17:22 +0000 Caption: Protesters with sign denouncing the “patriarchy” in the society during the “Women’s March on Washington” to protest against Trump presidency on January 21, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. Photo by Shutterstock/arindambanerjee “Rather than a means to an end, patriarchy is an end in itself, and the most serious threat to public health that the world […]]]>

Caption: Protesters with sign denouncing the “patriarchy” in the society during the “Women’s March on Washington” to protest against Trump presidency on January 21, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. Photo by Shutterstock/arindambanerjee

“Rather than a means to an end, patriarchy is an end in itself,

and the most serious threat to public health that the world has ever known.”

— Robert Hartman


Editor’s Note: A new survey shows the United States now ranks in the top ten most dangerous nations for women. The survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation of about 550 experts in women’s issues around the globe labeled the U.S. the 10th most dangerous nation in terms of the risk of sexual violence, harassment and being coerced into sex. The foundation asked the experts which of the 193 United Nations member states they felt were “most dangerous for women and which country was worst in terms of health care, economic resources, cultural or traditional practices, sexual violence and harassment, non-sexual violence and human trafficking,” according to the foundation’s article on the survey. The United States is the only Western country on the list. See the study here.

Naming The Problem

Starting a conversation about the horrendous consequences of 7,000 years of patriarchy with most anyone is, at best, like trying to start a campfire in the rain. When I talk with other men informally about patriarchy, a rare few give me a knowing smile and a nod. Mainly though, after a couple of awkward seconds, his eyes glaze over and he has a “deer in the headlight” moment before his shoulders slump forward; I wonder if he wants to plead, “But I never raped anyone!”

Some say, “that’s just how men are; they will never change”. A significant minority of men insist that malehood is in trouble only because women have too much power already. I find it interesting that, despite the denials that men are the problem, many folks – women and men alike – still want to know how to stop the violence. Since men cause 98% of the violence world-wide, this is a tacit admission that men are, in fact, the problem.

Here are some statistics on domestic violence in America to help us with naming the problem:

The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.

Domestic violence is not a singular incident, it’s an insidious problem deeply rooted in our culture — and these numbers prove that.

The number of women murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the U.S.
The number of women who have experienced physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
The number of women in the U.S. who experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year.
The number of women murdered by men they knew in 2011. Of the 1,509 women, 926were killed by an intimate parter and 264 of those were killed by an intimate partner during an argument.
The number of women who have been killed by men in domestic violence disputes since 2003.
1 in 4
The number of women who will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.
1 in 7
The number of men who will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.
The number of days of paid work women lose every year because of the abuse perpetrated against them by current or former male partners. This loss is equivalent to over 32,000 full-time jobs.
The percentage of women in physically abusive relationships who are raped and/or assaulted during the relationship.
The number of mental health care visits due to intimate partner violence every year.
The average cost of emergency care for intimate partner violence related incidents for women. The average cost for men is $387.
2 in 5
The number of gay or bisexual men who will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
The percentage of lesbian women who will experience domestic violence (not necessarily intimate partner violence) in their lifetimes.
The percentage of women who are stalked by a current or former male partner who are also physically abused by that partner.
The percentage of women worldwide who will experience physical and/or sexual abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetimes.
The percentage of financial abuse that occurs in all domestic violence cases. The number one reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to the abusive relationship is because the abuser controls their money supply, leaving them with no financial resources to break free.
The estimated cost of incidents of intimate partner violence perpetrated against women in the U.S. in 1995 alone.
The number of LGBT people murdered by their intimate partners in 2013. Fifty percent of them were people of color. This is the highest documented level of domestic violence homicide in the LGBT community in history.
The amount of times more likely a transgender person of color is to become a victim of intimate partner violence than a non-LGBT person.
The amount of times more likely a woman is to be murdered in the few weeks after leaving her abusive partner than at any other time in the relationship.
The number of children exposed to domestic violence every year.
The percentage of physical assaults perpetrated against women that are reported to the police annually.

Indeed: how do we deal with these careening bulls who threaten to pull down civilization?

Forming The Question

After almost a half-century as a health-care professional, I became curious about this “problem” and the obvious connection between men and the extreme violence I witnessed in various ERs and operating rooms. Later in my career, I counseled families and individuals, both in agency and private practice and found that overall, a majority admitted to serious abuses at the hands of a male partner, family member or caregiver, generally a man in a position of trust.

25 years of NICHD brain-behavior research documenting how early sensory deprivation, abuse and neglect patterns the brain for a lifetime of depression and violence.

Wherever I looked at different cultures – American, European, Middle Eastern, Russian, South American – I found that roughly the same statistic emerged: men commit extremely violent acts everywhere, and not just in the community with guns and knives, but they are also wantonly laying waste to the environment, taking food away from children, destroying healthcare and inflicting entirely unnecessary suffering everywhere.

After four years of focused research and writing about the history, ancient and modern, of violence and conflict, I turned to the fields of psycho-history, neuroscience, brain development, epigenetics, and early childhood learning to understand what is ‘Eating Men’. Combining this new scientific knowledge with my experience in diverse aspects of healthcare and my clinical practice in counseling psychology, I finally saw the “blizzard before the snow’”.

Psychologists and psychotherapists frequently view the family as a system. When one member of that system begins to “misbehave” in some way, very often another member of the system supports the negative behavior. When I considered that the wizards” behind ecological catastrophe, stunning cruelty and massive population trauma are 98% male, I came to realize that for such extreme and toxic androcentric assumptions to flourish for the past 5-7000 years, something must be reinforcing it, supporting it.

My own “ah-ah” moment came when I realized that patriarchy is just a container in which to hide the toxic parts of our human selves. Directly and indirectly, patriarchy is a system of totalitarian control that supports and promotes the conditions — like racism, scapegoating, climate warming and unregulated gun ownership — absolute prerequisites for violence and chaos to erupt. Patriarchy is an umbrella term under which culture, capitalism and its other elements are mere “shell corporations” of male control. Rather than a means to an end, patriarchy is an end in itself, and the most serious threat to public health that the world has ever known.

To truly understand what patriarchy is about you need to get into an unhappy mood. A miserable frame of mind. A place where no one  knows who you are. A place where your cries of hunger and abuse go unheard. A place where being vulnerable is dangerous and you walk alone. Exile. Separate. But that’s not all. If I haven’t made the point well enough: patriarchy is both implicit and explicit in everything we do, what we wear, what we believe in, what our roles are, what not to do, who to love. All of it. It is our Old Story of Separation from Life.

Marry that to patriarchy’s history of obsession with conflict and suffering, by which it sustains itself, and who would hesitate to shout out from the highest towers and demand that men stop putting their legislative hands on women’s bodies, stop producing radioactive waste that is poisonous for millions of year, stop creating endocrine disruptors, stop raping women and stop having sex with your daughters, stop waging endless wars, and even insist men quit their jobs in the oil  industry or at Smith & Wesson.  Stop destroying the future!

We must demand that men WAKE UP and stop working out our lack of early nurturing and the fear that is epidemic in a death-worshipping, war-loving culture. Despite the violence that literally rocks cradles around the world, most cultures go on praising their narcissistic bullies as saviors, and it is alarmingly unpopular, if not dangerous, to claim that we MEN are the problem.

Maybe it’s a “claim too far”, but it’s obvious to me that we must  re-assess how men actually function in society. In light of men’s historically catastrophic abuses of power, a question begs to be asked: in what ways have patriarchal-inspired stressors, intrauterine trauma, the pressure to be the ‘right kind’ of boy, toxic shame and rage at our own vulnerabilities create a practice of masculinity that is so toxic as to make him, for a generation or two at least, exactly the wrong type of candidate for any position of power?

Growing Up Male

Growing up male is a complex river of tides, unseen cultural, political and biologic forces, and harsh socio-economic factors. Not the least of which are the four laws of a patriarchal manhood: stoicism, homophobia, aggression and misogyny. The biological roots of male vulnerability include environmentally triggered, intrauterine stress that causes an untimely release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Be Worried About Boys, Especially Baby Boys: A Three Part Series by Darcia Narvaez, PhD

Cells in the process of dividing are especially vulnerable. Male fetal cells divide more rapidly than a girls. As a result, the boy child is naturally and exquisitely sensitive to stress in the womb. Cortisol, while essential for development when it is released at the proper time, is poisonous to rapidly dividing, first trimester fetal brain cells. The post-natal period of brain development and attachment is also key, because it is there that the ‘young man’ gets his first taste of love and acceptance, as is his due, or shame and isolation, which will be his (and our) undoing.

Ironically, from the start of the history they themselves wrote, we men have shown ourselves to be the truest and most reliable victims of our own appalling snares; and frequently, because of unrelenting confusion, betrayal and fear, we go berserk.

It’s a hardscrabble road from boyhood innocence to suicide bomber, from summer in his pocket to unbearable narcissism and despair. What’s worse than that? A boy isn’t even allowed to complain about it. Stoicism is a scar on childhood. Stoicism creates isolation that can force a child to walk alone in darkness.

When, as a result of patriarchal rules, we have called a boy ‘weak’ for expressing feelings of fear or sadness, or mocked him because he was different, we’ve essentially murdered his spirit and transplanted a culturally-created toxic virus that hijacks the operating system of a child. In the years to come he will call it “demon”. The karmic results are the same: not only are we men primarily responsible for almost everything that’s gone wrong, but ironically we’re doing it, not because we are bad or evil, we’re doing it because we’ve been operating from a deep well of sadness and shame at our innate vulnerability, which is rooted in human prehistory, male biology, and the unique particulars of the male’s response to trauma.

Exploring the nexus of men’s biologic vulnerability with the stressful demands that patriarchy places on men, I have found that across man’s lifespan and cultures, living up to patriarchy’s expectations can be as deadly as a heart attack. The recipe for making a man starts in the womb (perhaps even before), but after birth the cultural injunctions to ‘be a man’ are so tone-deaf to the realities, needs and wonder of being a boy that in place of a childhood, he gets Hell on Earth instead. Right from the ‘git-go’, from conception, we are simply not ‘built’ to tolerate stress as well as females.

Any child is harmed by abuse and neglect, but male fetuses, male babies, male toddlers, male children and male teens are especially vulnerable to hardship. Boys are handicapped if they don’t get the loving care they need early on. Without it, he starts out a day late and a dollar short. Since we don’t see the brutality of patriarchal control as the cause, our social structures are unable to evolve in a way that provides the ‘special protections’ that all boys need, absolutely. As a result, we are still harming boys by trying to “toughen” them up, and sadly, most boys will never fully recover. Their natural development is waylaid and changed forever; they carry their wounds into manhood and, at best, men have shorter lives than women, punctuated by a greater risk of accidental death, suicide, disease and disability. For too many, the trajectory of male life follows the Hobbsian arc: “short, brutish and nasty”.

Ending Patriarchy

But what, anyone could rightly ask, is being done about it? Not Much. Although it’s a great start, we seem to think that passing legislation outlawing behaviors that patriarchy implicitly encourages is enough. That a slap on the wrist, some cell time, bankruptcy and ruin, a little public shaming would scare anyone straight. Yet, no matter how pugilistic we are against offenders like Weinstein and dozens (would-be-billions) of other men, if we hope that legal actions like this will change the way men think about women – hope again. No law can ever heal the root cause of misogyny, racism, greed, religious fundamentalism, and environmental chaos. These are the same old tools, albeit with some new names, that patriarchy has used for millennia to “stir the pot”, to keep conflict in motion. If laws had this kind of power, we wouldn’t need such laws and regulations in the first place.

March for Moms, #MeToo, Birth Trauma, And Ending Medical Model Patriarchy: An Exclusive Kindred Interview, Download and Transcript Available

Arguably, it might be said that what the rule of law attempts to address, or more likely cover up, are the fundamental fault lines of human nature that patriarchy has cracked open through one privation or another. Put another way, our failings as a patriarchal driven society to properly serve boy’s early needs, and as parents and communities, to properly protect and nurture them. We must take into account that all life strives towards wholeness or goodness; and we must pass laws that protect THAT, far beyond the accumulation of power and wealth.  We must encourage boys’ general welfare in such a way as to make “it-takes-a-village” model more useful than the sound byte it has become.

Yet, out of fear, denial or apathy (or the ‘horror’ of such village intimacy?) we soft-shoe stage right or left and are content with mudslinging, demonizing every group our leaders have told us we should be afraid of. We create demons and scofflaws of anyone who feels like “other”.  We allow Trump to deport people, responsible fathers and mothers, who have been in the US for 20, 30, 40 years. There is a law in physics that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. So while patriarchy is busy making “other” out of decent human beings, in the eyes of others we are the American demon. Who can tell one demon from the other? Not me. I just see demons begetting demons, never justice, never peace.

It’s either too much government, or too little, but by any name, if you follow the signatures of family, environmental, social, and religious upheavals, you will invariably find that a destructive, self-serving patriarchy is at the center of virtually every manmade catastrophe. The list of crimes that toxic hyper-masculinity have perpetrated worldwide for seven millennia come mostly under the heading of ‘Crimes Against Humanity’. Yet, the idea that men and patriarchal ideology and systems are responsible for the planetary killing mess we are facing is still viewed as pure ‘rubbish’, if not gender heresy. Of course, that’s what we can expect from a system of control that has had 7,000 years to develop, 7,000 years to adapt and 7,000 years to really get inside your head.

How could something so outrageous and harmful go unnoticed for so long? Feminist, Adrienne Rich, wrote in Of Woman Born 40+ years ago, that men’s power is hard to see because “it permeates everything”. Of course, this implies that patriarchy is right here in front of us, but cleverly hidden within the sheer ordinariness of yet another school shooting, and entirely dependent on our willingness to allow violent conflict and suffering to be normal.

The vastness of patriarchal space makes it difficult to find an edge you can get your thumb under and peel a bit of it away; discovering where you begin and where self fades into communal blackness is a valuable pursuit in any search for meaning. Patriarchy is everything we can think of, right down to the Happy Meal™ you bought your son at McDonalds, which is another way of saying that consumerism is just one of the many tentacles of patriarchy that emboldens the male shadow-spirit to conflate a calorie-laden, tropical forest clearcutter, ecologic devastator, land-fill-filler, heart-hurting diet with happiness.

Hunger is good for patriarchy and it’s good for business, so it is a central doctrine that we should want ‘more’. As one commercial demands, “Obey Your Thirst!” After all, if hunger is good for the economy, then it’s flag-waving patriotic.

Patriarchy likes you unhappy because unhappy, hungry people buy more stuff than happy, satisfied people. This kind of consumerism is a blizzard of manufactured, unmet needs that depend on unrequited hunger.

Sadly, since there is no permanent satisfaction possible anywhere, outside of cocaine maybe, like Monsanto shareholders, few men of the patriarch will ever desire less.

So we are back at the beginning, the part of the discussion that deserves real conversation because the answer to, “How do we fix it?” is really messy.

The short answer: IT’S THE WRONG QUESTION!

Healing The Male Heart

In AA we often talk about the “gifts of sobriety” such as improved relationships. Some of my early “gifts”, much to my despair, were anger and resentment. This is really normal stuff for the early path, because sobriety allowed me to be present enough to feel the anger for the first time. Inevitably, I came to ask, “Why is it that I’m sober, but my life is still a drunken mess?” And the equally inevitable reply: addiction is a symptom, and my life being a mess, a manifestation of something wounded at the level of my most basic self, far deeper and more unexplored than I could imagine.

Is A Primal Wound Driving You To Addiction? Is suffering a necessary part of the human condition? Is it species normal for individuals to feel anxious—like impending doom, a fear of intimacy, or a sense of falseness and meaninglessness? Part one of a seven part series.

Simply stated, my life had been such a blizzard of unmet need that I didn’t understand, that I tripped over the demands of hundreds of patriarchal chains strewn across my path. Twenty-four sober years later, I can appreciate my naiveté because I didn’t see the huge paradox that loomed over those first sober years that made my early questions and doubts irrelevant: my drinking had nothing to do with alcohol.

In a similar way (hang on), the possession of an assault rifle has nothing to do with protection or safety. They both cover up those deep fault lines of male vulnerability. Every addict learns to “protect” their supply. An unregulated gun market and the 2nd amendment serve to do just that: to provide unrestricted access to a gun enthusiast’s ‘DOC’ – drug of choice – in this case, weapons of mass destruction. There are many DOC’s out there: food, sex, gambling, video games, just to skim a few off the top, and all highly resistant to change.

However, the “Father of all DOC’s” is Patriarchy.

Wherever patriarchy thrives, the privileges that membership confer, like the ‘right’ to dominate and terrorize those you are suppose to serve, to interpret the Earth and Women as commodities to consume and regulate, to decide who deserves to thrive and who deserves to barely cope, who gets a living wage and who doesn’t, who has sovereignty over their bodies and who doesn’t. It is rightly said that those who demand  power over others have the least access to authentic inner power themselves.

Feeling powerful or arrogant or “chosen”, that grand cosmic joke of control, is a narcotic; and like any DOC, we never have to feel what we don’t want to feel, face what we don’t want to face. It’s his denial of men’s innate vulnerabilities that’s been at the root of everything that’s been wrong for 7,000 years.

So, if the important question remains, “What Do We Do About Men?”, then the only answer possible lies not in creating more demons, more surveillance, higher border walls, more prisons, bigger guns or more laws. Paradoxically, even women’s “salvation” lies not within a global #MeToo Movement, it lies within something even more radical: a change in the male heart.

Now that would be truly heroic.



Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline or visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.



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My Grandma Is Not A Hippie Fri, 11 May 2018 05:07:08 +0000 Caption: My grandmother, Ida Stone, talking with her great-granddaughter on her 100th birthday; graduation from high school photo; on a family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC; and the log house she was born in on June 8, 1918.   An Early Imprint Becomes A Mother (of a) Quest  For months leading up to the cosmic wonder, […]]]>

Caption: My grandmother, Ida Stone, talking with her great-granddaughter on her 100th birthday; graduation from high school photo; on a family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC; and the log house she was born in on June 8, 1918.


An Early Imprint Becomes A Mother (of a) Quest

 For months leading up to the cosmic wonder, newspapers around the world hailed The Great Eclipse of June 8, 1918 as a once-in-a-lifetime event that, unless you lived another 99 years, you would not witness again. Then, last summer on August 21, 2017, the rare, full eclipse — with its 70-mile wide track spanning the entire, contiguous United States — returned as The Great American Eclipse.

And, despite the odds, one person did witness the two Great Eclipses in her lifetime.

A headline from the Richmond Times-Dispatch from June 9, 1918, Richmond Times-Dispatch/Library of Congress

On the day of 1918’s Great Eclipse, Ida Dorothy Hodges was born in a log house (not cabin or she will correct you) at the bottom of a green hollow in Surry, NC, where she would live with her family and survive The Great War, The Great Depression, and the Spanish Flu, until she married in 1939. Except for a few summers, she lived in this well-loved family home until she married my grandfather, Walter Cecil Stone, at twenty.  I’ve heard whispered accounts at family gatherings of how she inserted the number 21 into her shoe so as not to be telling a lie when asked if she was “over 21” at the across-the-state-line wedding ceremony in Virginia… but we’re not supposed to know this story, so just forget I mentioned it.

In the conscious parenting world, and now prenatal neuroscience, we talk of early imprints, often meaning Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) that leave negative and draining neurological damage, making us vulnerable to modern stresses, resulting in mental and chronic illnesses.  But there are other imprints, positive and nourishing imprints we receive as well from those who impact our young lives, from our direct biological parents, caregivers, relatives and even our ancestors (see Mark Wolynn’s book, It Didn’t Start With You).

I credit my nearly 20-year Mother (of a) Quest for all things holistic and sustainable to the early imprint of pilgrimages to my grandmother’s home.  During high holy days, like Christmas and Easter, my father would scoop my brother and I out of our beds at four a.m. and tuck us into the roomy back seat of our Ford Fairlane with pillows and blankets, sometimes never waking us up before setting out on the seven or eight-hour journey from the coast of Virginia to the foothills of North Carolina.

When my brother and I arrived, we were surrounded by rolling farm land and an extended family who ate together, sang together, and shared our stories together, especially those about our pioneering ancestors listed in reverently held books like The Stones of Surry, or teasing tales like when my father’s childhood mule, Brownie, would run away from him, tour the hillside, and come back after chores but in time for dinner.

Over time, this childhood imprint transformed into an amalgam, a composite memory of the meaning of “family” – sacred, holy, connected, joyful – and left an expectation in my cells that blossomed when I gave birth to my own child, back in Virginia, many years and miles away. My experience of grief, shock and isolation as a new mother was not unique.  And it wasn’t just my family, but seemingly everyone’s family, that disintegrated  over the past fifty years in America.  The anguish of this early imprint sparked a thousand questions when I failed to find or create my own extended family after my son’s birth. (Read Lisa’s stories about her quest here.)

Over the years when I would return to my grandmother’s home, I would look around through the eyes of an adult, trying to understand what happened.  My grandmother served as a constant, an unchanging and clear model for something that I often believed I must have imagined.  Sometimes I felt like a time traveler returning to Brigadoon, hoping to glimpse once again insight into an age, or time, that most people believed impossible, sentimental or unworthy of our efforts anymore.

Sometimes I wondered if my grandmother descended from a different species of humans.  Her insight was uncanny and her willingness to share it in her quiet voice, unnerving.  When I handed her the newspaper clipping of my fiancé proposing to me she said, “Huh, he’s in armor… and your shoe is coming off like you’re going to run away.”  Yes, that’s right, he’s an emotional fortress and I’m an escape artist and this will be the dynamic of our relationship for the next three decades.  As a Missionary Baptist, my grandmother would disapprove of the idea of divination, but at a glance, she saw through two kids on a bridge romanticizing the mine fields that lay before them. (See the photo of Lisa’s engagement to Keith to the right and read her story here.)

As a part of my quest to learn to farm sustainably, in 2007 I visited her after spending a few days learning about biodynamics at an institute near her home.  I sat at the dining room table with her, the one with the giant lion paw pedestal that frightened me so badly as a child I knelt in my chair, unwilling to risk dangling my toes near the massive claws.  She asked me what I had learned about farming at the institute and, trying to respect what I thought may be her beliefs around fairies, moon phases and stars, I lightly skimmed the surface in my explanations.  But when I looked up, her eyes were sparkling.

“My daddy planted by the stars,” she said, seeming to also hold back the whole truth of this ancient farming knowledge for fear of offending some modern taboo or invisible room monitor.  “And the brownies.”

This is the same Ramon’s calendar my grandmother handed to me in 2007. I’ve kept it in my desk for a decade, knowing I would share this story eventually.

Now wait, I thought.  Brownies? Fairies?  She stood up and, with her hallmark intentional and measured pace, walked toward the wall near the refrigerator and pulled down the calendar and handed it to me. At first I stared at the red ink calendar unremarkably.  It was the same brand that always hung in her kitchen, so unchanged year to year you’d have to look close to make sure it was a new year: Ramon’s Brownie Calendar.  But then I saw them: brownies and moon phases and planetary symbols sprinkled through daily date boxes.  Perhaps this was as far as modern sensibilities or churches would allow some to go, but clearly those who knew the meaning and connection of these symbols KNEW… there was a greater intelligence to work with above and below the soil and most of our ancestors would have perished without this knowledge and wisdom.

There were other times I visited my grandmother and would not dare share my latest mindful meditation retreat, but watched her with wonder as she clearly already practiced, I don’t know, prayer? Something, something that allowed her to possess and know her own mind.  Never hurried, she stunned me with her casual ability to say, “Well, I got to studying on this and…” To me, she appeared to know when she was shifting into a thinking brain and then back to the present moment, and without spending all of that money on books, tapes and retreats!

The Imprint’s Impulse

On my last visit to her home last year, she leaned forward and asked pointedly, “Do you let your doctor give you a flu shot?”

“No,” I said.  “They have too many adjuvants in them.”

“Well, that doctor keeps trying to give me one and I told him I haven’t had the flu since the Spanish Flu in 1920.”  I tried to imagine a shot-pushing medical doctor taking on my 85-pound grandmother and immediately felt sorry for him.

Still smiling from her tale of surviving the Spanish Flu, my grandmother leaned forward, crooked her finger at me and pointed my twin aunts toward the back of the house.  Once in her bedroom, we gathered around the high post bed she worked to buy for herself before marrying my grandfather in 1939. Three years later, she gave birth to my father in this bed. This is how everything is in my grandmother’s house: everything is a story, brimming with meaning and purpose.  When a coffee cup’s handle broke off decades ago, it became the egg cup and is still in its rightful place in the cupboard.

Because nothing is ever fussed over, or ceremonial, sometimes I find it hard to determine how to respond to my grandmother. So when she pulled out a bag of quilted squares and told me it was the last quilt she began before my grandfather passed suddenly from a heart attack in 1985, I just nodded my head and said thank you.  One of my aunts pointed out the colorful Ohio stars were lovingly hand-stitched from my grandfather’s shirts. I thanked her again and carefully carried the bag home, wondering what I should do with them as I hadn’t sewn since I was a child, and then just quilts and clothes for my doll.

Then I remember the pile of little boy shirts at the back of my son’s closet.  Oh gosh, I forgot.  All through my son’s boyhood I collected and saved his plaid shirts with the hope of creating a quilt for him and his children.  It was almost an unconscious act.  An impulse from a deep well of women harkening back, how many generations? An impulse straight out of that early imprint: Well, of course this is what you do. You save good shirts and make something else from them… something that echoes through time and generations the connection and love you shared together and now pass on to them.

I have tried to calculate the ways my grandmother’s quiet, meaningful life impacted my own, but there is so much woven into the fabric of my own being, I doubt I will ever know.

When I returned home, I found a local quilting guild who happily blew up my phone with emails, texts and calls when I asked for help.  The quilter who showed up patted me on the back when I cried, blubbering that these quilt squares were my grandfather’s shirts and hand-sewn by my grandmother, so did she want to make the quilt on the living room floor where I could watch? Kindly, she explained the modern process of pulling the quilt through a large machine in her “studio” as she was a real artist.  And she was.  You can see the quilt in the photos above, and the lovely caption tag sewn on the edge to tell everyone, “Pieced by Ida from Walter’s shirts.” (Thank you Ann Philbeck for creating this quilt for my family to cherish!)

My Grandma Is Not A Hippie

My grandmother lived in a log house, survived the Spanish Flu, grew, harvested and canned her own food, made her family’s clothes and quilts, birthed at home, is mindful of her thoughts, and yet, my grandma is not a hippie. But I, as her granddaughter trying to understand and emulate her life, have been called a hippie and worse for two decades.  I don’t feel like a radical doing this work.  I’ve always felt like I just wanted to go home, and to take everyone with me.

How odd.  We’ve come so far, for better or worse, as a culture in a century, but my grandmother is still the same.  She is herself.

My grandmother, Ida Dorothy Hodges Stone, may be the most sane, whole, human and evolved person I know – even though she may frown on the evolved idea.  It seems like I have spent my entire life, and certainly my life as a mother, trying to have my grandmother’s life, trying to become this whole person I see as possible when I am with her.

Surry County, North Caroline, my grandmother’s home and home to the fictional town of Mayberry in the iconic Andy Griffith Show, was not spared from global markets, the decline of family farms and the disintegration of family and community life. Documentary filmmaker, Bill Hayes, captures the small town’s decline and rebirth in his film, The Real Mayberry: Stories from Small Town America (see the trailer below).  I spoke with him last year about his project and its mission to explore “how small town America can survive and keep its heart and soul.”

Knowing if you’re from the same neck of the woods, you’re most likely connected somehow, I asked my grandmother about Bill and his family.  In an email exchange, I shared the predictable story of our connection with him: my uncle played piano at his wedding and my grandmother and her sister used to visit his mother in his father’s hardware store.  His mother “worked on people’s feet,” as a healer of sorts.

Hayes’ film captures the devastation of the small town’s economy, as clothing mills moved out of the country for cheaper labor.  The film flashes to scenes from the Andy Griffith Show (Mayberry is named after Mount Airy and is the real home of actor Andy Griffith) and shows how Mount Airy is experiencing a rebirth. Or trying.

Is Conscious Parenting Elitist? In America, Yes.

It is this piece of the quest for holistic, sustainable, peaceful living that escapes some of us – the reality of the context of our lives and how it is determined by forces often beyond our control, and some beneath or above our culturally conditioned consciousness.  In the early days of mother activism, I often heard people criticized Families for Conscious Living (the parent nonprofit group of Kindred) for “being too political.” Now, it is becoming culturally imperative and encouraged to examine and own one’s “privilege,” or how the deck was stacked for or against you from the beginning of your life.

Conscious Parenting, meeting the biological needs of infants and children for optimum development into whole adults, has also been criticized as elitist from the start.  And in America – the only developed country without paid family leave, sporting the highest maternal morbidity rate – it is.  The cost of bringing children into America today also includes the cost of a parent’s mental health, as new parents are so isolated and lacking social support, “three to six months postpartum — 42 percent of mothers and 26 percent of fathers exhibit signs of clinical depression,” according to a 2010 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Machine That Goes “Bing!” from Monty Python’s movie, The Meaning of Life. Click image to watch the film skit.

Reading last month’s wildly popular ProPublica piece on why the US is the official “worst place in the world to give birth” I felt disoriented, as if reality continually collides with a cartoon world.  The study’s revelation that doctors are fascinated with technology and ignoring mothers is a surreal echo from Monty Python’s movie The Meaning of Life, where, in one scene, a mother in labor is ignored while a group of male doctors and a hospital administrator speak reverently about the new “machine that goes bing!”

The NPR/ProPublic story quotes CDC public policy physician:

“People became really enchanted with the ability to do ultrasound, and then high-resolution ultrasound, to do invasive procedures, to stick needles in the amniotic cavity,” said William Callaghan chief of the CDC’s Maternal and Infant Health Branch.


Over the years, my return visits to my grandmother’s home became a benchmark for my own spiraling feeling of mangled despair and failure at recreating the experience of my childhood.  I feel this failure is profound and debilitating for many of us, even those who did not have a grandmother’s role model life – or the life of someone who is connected to their own minds, souls, then family and earth. Maybe connection was easier a century ago. Maybe the imprints of our ancestors on our psyches still guide us toward a better world.

Listen to The Blueprint, with Ray Castellino.

If you listen to Ray Castellino in Kindred’s video interview, you’ll hear the sound of something beneath and surrounding our imprints, something he calls our Blueprint: the unifying field we all carry with us as a “reference point” for returning home to ourselves, especially after trauma, or just the daily experience of living in a disconnected, industrial culture.

I believe we are nurtured, supported and loved in the cells and souls of our being more than we know, or can imagine. As the grandfather of the conscious parenting movement,  Joseph Chilton Pearce, shared in his lifetime of work, it just takes that one attuned adult in our lives to help us realize our own capacity for wholeness and wellness.

Gratefully, my imprint-driven twenty year Mother (of a) Quest did yield evidence of a growing conscious living/parenting movement, and a dynamic network of individuals and organizations in this consciousness-raising movement, whose scope is beyond returning to a way of life made culturally impossible today, and toward a future where we can, through many layers of connection, create sustainable humans, preconception and onward, as a path to a peaceful, sustainable world.

Originally and continually inspired by my grandmother, I have worked with professionals, parents and activists to collect and present these resources and hundreds of writers exploring the frontier of whole human consciousness as a path to peaceful and sustainable living.  It has been an epic and ongoing adventure. (Listen to Lisa’s presentation on the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood and the Human Family that shares some of her discoveries here.)

Happy 99th Birthday, Grandma. Thank you for the role model of your life, your love and your being that you shared so generously with me and our family for nearly a century.  We love you.


Watch The Real Mayberry below:

Buy Trazodone online

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Stories Of Connection To Heal The Primal Wound – Part 7 Sun, 04 Feb 2018 19:19:19 +0000 Each of us is connected to not only the web of life, but to the web of our stories. Our Stories In early life, we develop neurobiologically grounded stories based on how we are treated—with kindness and empathy or with cruelty and manipulation. These impressions form the base of our social personality before our conscious mind comes fully […]]]>

Each of us is connected to not only the web of life, but to the web of our stories.

Our Stories

In early life, we develop neurobiologically grounded stories based on how we are treated—with kindness and empathy or with cruelty and manipulation. These impressions form the base of our social personality before our conscious mind comes fully online. These are implicit, tacit stories our unconscious carries throughout the rest of life—in a direction toward openness or toward bracing against the world. (Narvaez, 2011; Tomkins, 1965).

Read Part One: The Primal Wound: Do You Have One?

Communities have a choice in what orientation—openness to or bracing against others—that they will foster in young children. Supportive communities allow parents to be responsive to and supportive of their young children. Born so immature, parental treatment shapes the functioning of our physiological systems and psychological functioning (Narvaez, 2014). We are biosocial constructions: Our biology is shaped by our social experience. The characteristics of the Evolved Nest are what helped our ancestors survive and thrive, fostering openness and wellbeing (Narvaez, Panksepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013).

The stories that rescuers in World War II tell are those of connection—’before me, there was a human being in need, how could I not help?” This was not bracing against others but openness to the other. Such an orientation appears to have been grounded in early life social support they experienced, support that builds secure attachment to parent or caregiver (Oliner & Oliner 1988).

Our Communities

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As children grow they take up the stories the community promotes. What is the nature of our connection to the natural world, to the universe, to one another? We adults can talk to our children and the children of others about their connections. What connections, webs of relationships, do you notice? Tell the world.

We can tell our stories of connection and transformation in the natural world.

  • Annie Dillard (1999) describes a startling encounter with a weasel when they locked eyes for the longest moment, feeling as if they exchanged souls for that instant. Her writings are filled with perceptive descriptions of connection within Nature and spirit.
  • Albert Schweitzer (1997) tells of the church bells ringing right when he was aiming his slingshot at a songbird. That was the last time he thought of killing a bird. He later became a world renown humanitarian, living a life of medical service.
  • Aldo Leopold (2016) tells of when he was young and part of the rampant wolf-killing culture, of shooting a wolf and looking the wolf in the eyes as she died. Never again.

We can tell stories from our area of expertise.

  • Scientists can tell you about how you share genes with other organisms—e.g., over 60% with bananas! Dear cousins!
  • Scientists can tell you about the genes in your body, which are mostly not human because of the trillions of microorganisms you carry to keep you alive: the microbiome, your personal support system!
  • Physicists might tell you that at the quantum level, and beyond our understanding, everything is entangled with everything else. One of the mysteries of the universe.

Your Primal Pilgrimage

Primal wounds, from lack of community support and harsh or neglectful treatment in early life, or from trauma later, lead us to brace against the world. But in those wounds may be our salvation and our gifts.  They make us sensitive to certain aspects of the world and, if we are brave, our journey to healing can make us wise in ways that help others.

Each of our lives is a pilgrimage, a journey led by our spirit, our unconscious awareness of things. We can describe this pathway as a hero’s journey. Many of us face challenges in figuring out who we are, what our gifts are, what our purpose is. But if we start to follow “our bliss” or our passionate interests, we have started on the path (Campbell, 2008).

Once you take up the journey, guides and mentors will come. You will notice stories that encourage you. Despite obstacles, if you stay focused, help will be provided. Of course, sometimes the challenge is to discern the difference between the necessary obstacles we must overcome to reach our dream and the signs telling us we are on the wrong path.

The hero’s journey myth helps frame the process of our becoming. Hollywood movies use this myth (or monomyth, according to Joseph Campbell, mythology scholar). The first film where it was most intentionally used was Star Wars.

Have you noticed a new idea or tantalizing path that keeps popping into your head or turning up in your life? Will you say yes? Will you take up the hero’s journey?

More on many of these ideas see, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom (W.W. Norton)


1. The Primal Wound: Do You Have One?

2. What childhood experiences lead to primal wounding?

3. How to heal the primal wound

4. Fantasyland: A Nation of Primally-Wounded People

5. Tales of a Primally Wounded Society

6. Stories to Heal Primal Woundedness

7. Stories of Connection To Heal The Primal Wound


Photo Shutterstock/Benjavisa Ruangvaree

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Taming The Dragon Within Tue, 10 Oct 2017 16:39:35 +0000 Marshall Rosenberg’s core principles of nonviolent communication are sound. Personal conflict arises when needs (and their underlying feelings) are not being met. We then find ourselves in one of two positions: frustrated because our needs are not being met or we are relating to others who feel that way. Being in either position requires sensitivity, […]]]>

Marshall Rosenberg’s core principles of nonviolent communication are sound. Personal conflict arises when needs (and their underlying feelings) are not being met. We then find ourselves in one of two positions: frustrated because our needs are not being met or we are relating to others who feel that way. Being in either position requires sensitivity, self-knowing and clear communication skills. Lacking these ‘inner-game’ qualities, trouble is inevitable. Self-knowing and communication skills are doubly important when dealing with children (or adults behaving like children). With children we are in complete control of the playing field. Like the Pied Piper our job is to enchant the very best response the child has to offer by modeling the same.

Whether relating with an infant, toddler or teen our first challenge is to avoid dogma, “do as I say or else.” Begin by eliciting empathy, real appreciation for one’s own and/or the other’s needs and feelings, here and now. Unfortunately, we, and I am as guilty as most, often skip this part. It has been a long day. We are tired, grumpy, irritable and easily triggered. In these low states of energy and attention, what physicist David Bohm called “the reflex system” is driving the show. Reflexes are knee-jerk responses, reptilian, fight-flight responses. Absent are most of our higher brain functions with their implicit intelligences and empathy. On careful examination these knee-jerk ‘triggered’ responses mascaraed as our social image or ego with its indignation and selfishness.

If we begin with empathy for ourselves, and this implies a quality of self-awareness that allows for at least some attention that is not completely reflexive, we have a chance. If not, we are a hungry dragon on the prowl. If we are fortunate to have this sliver of attention and without blame, we can communicate what is needed to, as Marshall would say, make our life wonderful, that is, to meet our needs without conflict, something easier said than done with a self-aware adult, evermore challenging with a young child.

Being social by nature children are naturally empathic, unless this basic human quality is tortured out of us very early. Empathy implies an intrinsic drive towards mutual happiness and joy. Children, even infants, are drawn to happiness and playful wellbeing. Our job and challenge is to help them move in that direction and this requires two things; first, a deep understanding and appreciation for the child’s development age, stage and relationship capacities, and two, the ability to communicate, without implying blame or conflict, what will make our, and therefore their, life wonderful. They can’t do this. I insist, we are in complete control of the relationship-game and how it is played. We are completely responsible for the conflicts that arise or not. Here is where skill and practice come in.

Attunement is necessary to lead the child to a response that will meet their needs and ours. We must stop, sink deeply into the child’s state of heart, mind and imagination and meet them where ‘they’ are. Again, I insist, they can’t meet us where we are. We are the designated driver. With skill, sensitivity and awareness this attunement grows ever-present.

How easy we forget that before and lingering into age three and after the child’s brain, and therefore his or her reality, is governed by Delta frequencies. Delta (0.5-4Hz), the deep sleep state, is the slowest of the frequencies experienced in deep, dreamless sleep and in deep meditation where awareness is fully detached. Montessori described the “absorbent mind” of the early child. “Unquestioned acceptance of the given” was Piaget’s term. Adults are usually in Beta, our normal waking consciousness. The early child is wobbling in and out of Delta. In adult terms, it is as if the early child lives in a hypnotic trance of heightened suggestibility to both their inner experience and outer. They live in an enchanted dream state.

Analysis and reasoning, which our directives imply, don’t register. We, of course, being governed by Beta (14-40Hz) brainwaves, associated with normal waking consciousness and hopefully a heightened state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning, take this as a sign of insubordination, disobedience, rebelliousness and defiance. While that may be true, more often, the child of the dream hears our commands but registers little more than the sound. Their reality is different from ours. Every morning we reach for that double espresso to kickstart us from our dreamy, almost-awake Delta state to Beta. Imagine spending all day in the twilight between being awake and dreaming. That is the child of the dream’s normal state and this persists, in various forms, up to age five, six and beyond.

The child of the dream is absorbing, without question, experiences directly into his or her vast subconscious, which represents 90 to 95 percent of our total brain-mind activity, whereas active analysis and reasoning, our normal adult state, represents only 5 to 10 percent of our brain-mind activity. What is called “the terrible two’s” is, to a large extent, the frustration that comes from the radical disconnect between the state of the child of the dream and our adult reality. When we bridge this gap with empathic attunement, and communicate at a playful level the child can understand – most conflicts disappear. Why? Because, they want us to be happy just like they are (or want to be). With this in mind it is easy to understand why Bev Bos, an icon in early child development, notes:

Never make rules for children. Rules and abstract adult consequences don’t make any sense to the early child. People are appalled when I say that. “Oh my goodness, we have to!” Where did we ever get that idea?  That’s what I want to say to people. Where did you ever get that idea?

If not rules and dogma, then what? Our adult needs are important too. Sorry, we can’t reduce empathic parenting to a formula. Every parent and every child and every moment is a new opportunity for attunement. For example; I decide that it is time for Carly, now three plus, to get ready for bed. (I decided.) “Carly,” deeply engaged connecting her wood Brio train track, “let’s put on your jammies and get ready for bed.” She hears my voice but ignores me. I wait a few minutes. “Carly, let’s put on your jammies.” She looks up, saying nothing, continuing to dig in the basket for another section of track. I sit by the basket, help her find the missing track, and say again; “It’s time to get ready for bed.” “No,” she says, and rather plainly, a statement and attitude we interpret as drawing a defiant line in the sand. But, wait. This is a Betaview and she is wavering somewhere near Delta. Within her reality ‘time for jammies and bed’ is a distant dream and not a very appealing one compared to what is real, the train track. From her reality her ‘no’ is perfectly real and appropriate. You would say the same thing. She is responding to what is ‘real’ to her that moment. Our future, time based abstraction is not real. At best, it is a rude abstraction, a bad dream. And here we are, about to declare war or détente. Which will it be, and again I say, we are completely responsible for the outcome?

It helps to realize that war is stupid, personally and globally. The sane, intelligent and compassionate response is cooperation, but what does this look like? Realizing that attentions are short, the other evening I, admittedly frustrated by the emanate declaration of war, said; “Carly, I’m tired. I have some things I need to do. Here are your jammies. Please put them on. Call if you need help. And when you are ready, I will pour us some juice and we can snuggle with a book,” and I left the room. Instead of fighting over the jammies, I invited her into a new enchantment. Instead of demanding that she stop something completely engaging, and play is, and do the opposite, something boring and mundane, I made her a better offer; a snack, snuggling and a book. I expressed openly that I have needs too and gave her time and the independence to transition from one activity to another. Like the Pied Piper my challenge is to enchant the very best response from Carly by modeling the same in myself.

After attending to my needs, I returned five minutes later with a small cup of juice. Carly was dressed, adjusting the wood track and beside her were three books. “One book,” I said. “Two,” she countered, and a few minutes later she was fast asleep, holding tightly my hand. Who could ask for anything more?

Expanding Human Potential by Supporting Those Who Care For Children

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The New Story Of Childhood, Parenthood And The Human Family Sat, 06 Aug 2016 20:36:33 +0000 The New Story of Parenting and Childhood with Lisa Reagan 1 hour CE from Kate White on Vimeo. The video above is from a Monday LIVE Lecture presented to the international PPNE students of the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, APPPAH, in May 2016 by Lisa Reagan, Kindred’s editor and co-founder of Kindred […]]]>

The New Story of Parenting and Childhood with Lisa Reagan 1 hour CE from Kate White on Vimeo.

The video above is from a Monday LIVE Lecture presented to the international PPNE students of the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, APPPAH, in May 2016 by Lisa Reagan, Kindred’s editor and co-founder of Kindred World. In this presentation, Lisa condenses her three hour workshop lecture on the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood and the Human Family in to an hour long overview for APPPAH students, who are exploring the emergence of birth psychology into this New Story paradigm.  In sharing her own story, Lisa reveals unfolding historical events over the last four decades that coalesced into an ongoing and growing Conscious Parenting Movement.  Lisa acknowledges that most people, like herself, do not realize they are participating in meta story lines that form an expanding continuum of human consciousness.  However, with this missing context, we become able to recognize and discuss our own consciousness shifts out of an enculturated Old Story to the expansive and self-authoring potential of the New Story.

Here is the link to the community college commercial shown in the video (that does not come through above). The video seeks to normalize the cultural imperatives faced by new parents (lack of social support while parents in all other developed countries enjoy paid family leave, sometimes up to a year.  The video shows moms who “have taken two bullets in the chest,” nursing a baby at a computer while studying at night, most likely taking on debt to compete for jobs in a culture that, again, does not support parents or the biological imperatives  new humans into the US.  No context is a hallmark of the Old Story, as it does not believe any other possibility exists outside itself.

With the practical insights provided by this lecture, we can become oriented in a way that allows us to make practical daily choices, construct public policy, and support new human life on this planet in a way that leads to life long wellness.

Note: At 44:53, Lisa forgets the name of the author who coined the phrase Heroic Communities.  It is Richard Tarnas, author of Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, and you can read more about Heroic Communities and download his MP3 podcast here.

Please scroll to the bottom of the resource list to read the transcript from this presentation.

Studies Showing Risks of Becoming A Parent

A Key Reason The US Birth Rate Is At A 30 Year Low – How Women Are Punished for Having Children

Of course US birth rates are falling – this is a harsh place to have a family

New Parents At Risk For Depression


Resources Mentioned In The Lecture

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Birth Psychology articles on Kindred

Birth Psychology videos on Kindred

Kindred’s Birth Psychology PDF

Creating Sustainable Humans With Conscious Parenting: A Kindred Interview With Darcia Narvaez, PhD

30 Years of the Natural Parenting Movement: A Kindred Interview with Peggy O’Mara, founder of Mothering Magazine

Parenthood and the Space Between Stories: A Kindred Interview with Charles Eisenstein



Magical Child, Joseph Chilton Pearce

The Dream of the Earth, Thomas Berry

The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, Thomas Verny, MD

The Mind of Your Newborn Baby, David Chamberlain, PhD

Parenting for a Peaceful World, Robin Grille

Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life, Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, Cassandra Vieten

The 2007 Shift Report: Evidence of a World Transforming, from the Institute of Noetic Sciences

The 2008 Shift Report: Changing the Story of Our Future, from the Institute of Noetic Sciences

Worldview Explorations Project Workbook and Facilitator Guide

The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, Paul H. Ray, PhD, and Sherry Ruth Anderson, PhD

The Biology of Transcendence, Joseph Chilton Pearce

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell

Mindful Motherhood, Cassandra Vieten, PhD

Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, Richard Tarnas

The Role of “Heroic” Communities in the Postmodern Era, Richard Tarnas


Organizations and Initiatives

Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health

Attachment Parenting International

Families for Conscious Living

Institute of Noetic Sciences

Mothering Magazine

Parenting As A Hero’s Journey

Worldview Explorations Project

A New Story for Childhood, Parenthood, and the Human Family: TRANSCRIPT

Kate White, APPPAH’s Director of Education, Introduces Lisa Reagan to International PPNE Students

Please support our 20 year-old, award-winning, nonprofit work to Share the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood and the Human Family.

KATE:  Okay, so we are recording and today is May 16, 2016 and we are very excited today to have Lisa Reagan giving our presentation for Monday live, and I did put out a special appeal this morning to have you all come on because I just think this is a great Monday Live share.  For those of us who have been pioneers or even on the leading edge of understanding that babies have experiences in utero and are passionate about it, I know you will find some affirmation in this presentation and also it may even give you more language as you go about in your communities talking about the pre and perinatal paradigm.  So let me just introduce Lisa here, and I have worked with Lisa now for a while. She came over and did some recording in my studio and I met her then.  It was a long time ago now it seems like.

But Lisa also works for APPPAH.  She works in our PR department and she has got a real gift with words and language and vision and perspective, especially when it comes to consciousness and parenting, but she is a mother of a quest for 17 years as an award-winning journalist, activist, and nonprofit visionary.  Lisa Reagan explores the space between our unsustainable industrial story and the emerging story of what is possible for cultural creatives, families who are leading the way forward.  She is cofounder of the nonprofit Kindred World and the executive editor of Kindred.  Lisa shares her personal stories of shifting in features such as Spiritual Composting in Kindred and other conscious parenting publications. She has many presentations in different places.  She has a new series on her website, which I am hoping you have a slide here about all of your websites and stuff at  It is called Parenting as a Hero’s Journey.  So, I am really pleased to introduce Lisa.  Go ahead, Lisa.

LISA:  Okay, thank you so much, Kate.  And as you said, thank you so much for being with me on this great adventure for the last couple of years.  As long as everyone else can hear me fine, I am just going to roll.

KATE:  Okay, so when you want to ask questions then people have questions I am hoping you will be able to hear them.

LISA:  I will.  I can still hear you a little bit.  So, what I am going to do is, this is a tremendous amount of material that I am going to roll through.  I am going to do a top line.  The PDF that you have or the PowerPoint (see above for Power Point and resources) has more information, longer quotes on it that you can explore at your leisure and there are just some really key pieces that I want to make sure that I convey and then I do have time to take your questions.

But, I was talking to Kate about it.  Should I just let you stop me?  But I think that there is going to be so much that connects in the end that goes back…that goes back and folds over on itself.  Let’s just get through it and then I would love to answer your questions.  I especially do want to hear feedback about if I lost you somewhere, where was that?


A New Story Needs New Language

A new story needs new language. Because this is all a new story, it is a new language, it is a new paradigm, and even though organizations like APPPAH have been doing this work for over three decades — and other organizations (like Kindred’s Pioneering Partners) have too — when we are talking about this epic story of the human family, two or three decades is just a blip in evolutionary time.  So, as Kate said, I have been on a Mother (of a) Quest for 18 years now.  My son is getting ready to graduate from high school, and when I started on the path of motherhood I was 33 years-old.  My husband and I waited 10 years to have our child, and I was a journalist and I had already figured out like most journalists do that if you want to make any money to really live on, you are going to have to moonlight a lot.

So, before I had my son I was both a journalist and a public relations person because PR actually pays.  This is where I was when I entered motherhood, and it was a shock for me.  I had a highly medicalized birth.  In Virginia midwifery was illegal in 1997 and I went right into the space of: “something is very wrong here and I do not know what it is, but when I am capable I am going to find out.” And that is when I started…when I was capable and clear, which took a while, it has taken a while to delve into my own feelings of something is not right with this parenting quest in America.

And by parenting I mean, as you probably already know, when you hear the word “parent,” “parenthood,” or “parenting” culturally we are already programed to put our fingers in our ears and not listen to this piece of our story. So, a lot of times when I present, I do not use that word or any variation of it.  I say, “when adults decide to bring children into this world this is what they encounter,” because I do not want these trigger words – parents or mothers or fathers or families – to cause people to tune out.  These are all trigger words now, for a population of adults who most likely did not have their own needs met and are faced with supporting infants and children in a culture that does not support families. The somatic effect of these words on many people is to shut us off and shut us down.

Why Do We Need A New Story?

I like to start off with this quote by Thomas Barry, who helps us to go right up to the very 40,000 foot view right away.  This is how human beings frame our reality.  Thomas Berry says:

“We are in trouble right now because we do not have a good story.  We are in between stories.  The old story, the account of how we came to be and how we fit in is no longer effective and yet we have not learned the new story.”

And that really does sum things up for us.


Historical Timeline of the Conscious Parenting Movement

So, here is a little bit of what I discovered along the way that is an interesting timeline as we want to apply it to the idea of furthering the human species by supporting adults bringing children into the world.  This shift that we are a part of right now, of even questioning of looking at the wholeness of human consciousness a lot of people point to this photo here that is called the blue marble.  This is a color version.  There were black and white versions that were sent earlier in the 1960s that were credited with kicking off the first Earth Day in 1970.

When this photo was released, is we finally got to see ourselves hanging on this very obviously limited spaceship in outer space surrounding by the darkness in the stars and for a lot of people instead of being on the ground and thinking we could just act any way we wanted and throw away our waste, and you know act in unsustainable ways this became obvious that unsustainable living was going to kill our planet and our species and this big echo movement and a consciousness-raising movement began.

Environmentalism and ecology are still being connected with a human consciousness and the origins of human consciousness, so if we take a little look at our timeline here we see we have the first Earth Day in 1970. We have an astronaut who comes back from his first moon walk, the 6th month on the moon, Edgar Mitchell, who was so transformed by his experience of seeing the earth from the moon that he immediately feels a paradigm shift happening for himself and he realizes it is all interconnected, it is all consciousness, and where it is all conscious and we are in big trouble.  Edgar Mitchell comes back and he founds the Institute of Noetic Sciences, IONS, to start investigating human consciousness and why can’t we see what he saw from outer space:  Why don’t we all understand that it is interconnected and it is conscious?

In 1976 Mothering Magazine is founded. Peggy O’Mara, Mothering’s founder, told me — and you can download and listen to this in our interview on Kindred — that she was inspired by not just the green movement that was going on, but the Vietnam War. Her question was: How do we create peace?  How do we create children who are wired for peace?

And then 1977, rolling right through here, Joseph Chilton Pearce writes the Magical Child and says the way we are living in our Western culture does not support or biological imperatives and if we do not support our biological imperatives we cannot support the potential of our own intelligence which is going to lead us to the wisdom that we need to live sustainably on our planet.

So, we have Thomas Verny, here we go.  APPPAH is being born, 1981.  Thomas Verny releases The Secret Life of Your Unborn Child.  APPPAH is founded.

In 1988 David Chamberlain writes The Mind of Your Newborn Baby

In 1996 Families for Conscious Living is founded.  It was 1997 and 1998 when I became a part of Families for Conscious Living.  This was an underground homebirth community originally in Virginia.  It was 700 people, families that the midwife said “I cannot work with you individually, you have to support each other and you have to share what you know with each other so you have to found this organization”. That organization is still in existence and Kindred is one of the initiatives that has come out of what is now Kindred World.  Very grassroots and a very typical way that parents used to regard their midwife or their local healer as the person who is tending to their need. But in her wisdom, she did say you have to share with each other how you are parenting and she actually made it a condition of working with her as a midwife.

So, in 2000 we then we have Cultural Creatives, a book that was sponsored by IONS, going to back to Edgar Mitchell here. The interesting background of Cultural Creatives  is it was inspired by a social scientist, Paul Ray, who was just doing marketing research so he could figure out how to help companies sell their products. Ray kept seeing this new emerging piece of the population in his data, and when he started looking into it he realized this part of the population was actually massive, but they were not recognized in mainstream media or science. This population was seeking how to live holistically, how to live sustainably, and because they were making these individual choices in this way they were transforming the culture around them but unconsciously.  So, he named them Cultural Creatives and we are going to talk about that book in just a minute.

That was in 2000 and in 2002 Kindred community is founded in Australia by Kelly Wendorf.

In 2005 Robin Grille published Parenting for a Peaceful World where he showed the psychosocial history of parenting is actually horrific and how we have treated children has been just a tale of horror, and there is an excellent story on Kindred about the history of parenthood/childhood that originally ran in the Sydney Herald I think back in 2005/2006 when Robin first published his book that goes as a wonderful oversight of the horror of childhood, and you know anyone that reads Robin’s book yes you will be horrified but clearly you are also going to understand that there is a consciousness movement that is moving us towards this wonderful insight and understanding of how to foster our intelligence as human beings from the beginning.

So, we have Kindred coming to the U.S. in 2009 (and now remember this because I am going to show you something at the end that is very funny about my response to Kindred when Kelly Wendorf first said please take this for me).

And then, in 2015, Parenting As A Hero’s Journey, we started that and we are going to talk about all of this now.


What Is Consciousness?

So, let’s start first with what is consciousness because this is defining our terms and understanding.  What is consciousness based on, for example the 40 years of research that has been done at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and this is their definition.  I am not going to read the whole thing.  I know it is a big block here and I am trying to keep an eye on the time and we are at 12:15.

Consciousness is the quality of mind that includes your own internal reality. It includes self-awareness, your relationships to the environment, the people in your life, and your world view or your model of reality.  Simply put, your consciousness determines how you experience the world.

Why is this really, really important?  Because as we move in to talking about old story and new story we are really talking about world view, and world view is a known human consciousness phenomenon right out of Noetic Science research here.  They say you know world view, this is a shorter to the point definition…a world view is an organization of beliefs and perspectives that shapes how individuals perceive the world around them and what they accept as true.  It is sounding like we are really…it is going to get interesting here.

This is why I wanted to be able to just kind of roll through.  I just want to say, I put this note at the bottom to tell you The World View Explorations Project; I was trained as a facilitator in this project on the Earthrise Campus in Petaluma, California a few years but it is now a drop-in curriculum for high schools and colleges and is taught around the world.


The Old Story of Separation

So here is our thumbnail overview.  What are we talking about when we are talking about old story/new story.  These are world views that, especially this Old Story is a Western cultural belief system that is operating in full capacity right now around us, and this core…the core belief of this system is separation.

It is based on Newtonian/Cartesian science, mechanical/material science, short-term focus, factional thinking, values competition and performance and evaluation.

It demands conformism to consumer culture and cultural imperatives.

It is prescriptive:  “Let me tell you how to live, let me tell you how to think.” And, of course, it is unsustainable. And it leads to a contracting way of being.  This word is important to remember because we are going to talk about how to use our bodies to tell where we are in the space between stories.  We want to remember one is very contracting and one is not, so our bodies help us in shifting and of course you all know that.

And of course the Old Story denies that there is anything outside of itself, so no context and there is no self-awareness.


What Is The New Story? 

In this new story we have connection, and of course we have Albert Einstein and Bruce Lipton and energy science and an integrated view means long-term vision, a personal is planetary.

We value cooperation and we value meeting our full potential and our self-awareness.

We want to support that in each other.  There is no competition because me serving myself is insanity.  Why would I stop here?  Clearly me serving you serves me.

We honor biological imperatives.  This is a path to wisdom and wholeness, honors individual experience which is what noetic sciences are about.  It is sustainable and it is expansive.

It seeks context. It seeks this greater picture to facilitate self-awareness.


What Are Cultural Creatives?

So, again back to the Cultural Creatives.  Who is bringing forth the new story right now?

Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson in their book called Cultural Creatives say that these are the people who are caring greatly about ecology and saving the planet, about relationships, peace, social justice, and about self-actualization, spirituality, and self-expression.  Surprisingly they are both inner-directed and socially concerned and they are active as volunteers and contributors to good causes more than any other Americans.  So, I am going to tell you the obstacles here.  What are the obstacles for Cultural Creatives?  Disability, we do not believe…we feel like weirdos so we are kind of ashamed in our little world of believing in the connectedness of all life and I will not share that with a lot of people perhaps, unless you are in California.  But, this is a real problem. The visibility of each other…I have to tell you a story.  There is chiropractor in Florida when I was at Pathways magazine years ago and he had a Pathways Connect group there, and he sent me a picture of this…and I should have put a picture of this here for you guys to see, it is hilarious.  On this giant poster at a mall it says at the top “DO YOU FEEL LIKE A WEIRDO” in all caps across the poster and it had all of these reasons why you might feel like a weirdo in your culture because you are thinking holistically, and then you know, and it appealed to people in their pathways connect groups, and I called him and I said “John, did you write this?”  and he said “Yeah” and I said “Did you read the book Culture Creatives” and he said “No” and I was like oh my god, this is amazing.  You have self-identified as a weirdo.  That is like a hallmark of a Cultural Creative, that you feel…that you can tell that you do not fit in.  So that is…I wish I had put that poster on here, it was really hilarious.  But, these are the two challenges really. The visibility, the understanding that there are more of us out there than we realize and we can seek each other out and find each other, and that is going to be crucial to us, as they say here in this next quote.  Once we get organized there is going to be…it will harness our potential for changing culture.  The possibility there and the potential there is tremendous.  The second obstacles for Cultural Creatives, coherent.  This is a new story.  This is a consciousness that is we are trying to ride the wave of here, so it is not predicated upon one individual.  You can see as you look around the room and a that list that I just showed of the timeline.  What is going on all over the place?  There are people coming forward with a version of the new story as it applies to their field, and the challenge is I have asked Joseph Chilton Pearce this and, as I thought he is the wisest man that I know of this paradigm, where is the language and he said it is still being formed all the time, which means the coherence that we need to really help everybody get on the same page is still happening and you can tell that.  You can tell when we get together and we are struggling for language and we are struggling to communicate and we are especially struggling because the culture we are in is so driven now to make sure we isolated and disconnected, and we do not have time to sit around the fires like we used to and really discuss and dialog about what is happening and share our reality and decide to change it consciously.  So, visibility and coherence, they are our two big obstacles.  So, how does the old story…this old story of separation appear for adults who want to have children who are trying to avoid…we all have the imbedded cultural imperatives in our neural net.  I know I do and sometimes I will just click off when a word comes up if I am not paying attention.  So, I want you to look at this one minute video here.  Okay, good we are on time.  So, Kate do you play this.


KATE:  Okay, let me see if it will run here.  Do you all see it?  Lisa, do you see it?


LISA:  Waiting for the organizer to start the video, it says.


video playing (inaudible)


LISA:  Thank you, Kate.  I am not sure, do I go back here.  Do you know?


KATE:  Yeah


LISA:  So this is an interesting video.  I would never have seen this video had it not been brought to my attention by a mother who was very upset by it.  I will tell you what she said to me.  She said I am looking at this young woman and I was that young woman.  I had a baby when I was in college and I had to finish up college and I am now in my 40s, I am divorced, I have autoimmune issues, and I look at the person that I was then and I just see this stressed out, highly stressed out person who believes if she works hard enough…and if she works hard enough she is going to be able to do it all, she is going to be able to get her child and get her degree, and she said you know…she was very upset by it, so she was very triggered by his video and I looked at it with her and I realized, you know, there is no mention in this video of lack paid parental leave in the U.S.  You saw in the video the mother is nursing her child at her computer while she is trying to close the gender gap of pay in the U.S.  We have no context there.  She is also going through debt accumulation to get this education and this is the new story.  This is where we have made noble the idea that we are going to sacrifice our biological imperatives for materialistic gain.  And you heard her, it is not because it is an option now.  Her children are going to…she wants her children to not have to forage and she says I took two bullets in the chest in Afghanistan.  I am a tough person, I am a tough person, you know I can sacrifice my biological imperatives and I can stay up all night, I can be stressed out while I am nursing my baby and that is because I have a brain.  I do not know if anybody else feels disturbed by that video, that has got ¼ million views and over 3000 likes but I found it at least to be an excellent example of this old story imbedded culturally everywhere really. So, here is old story message for mothers:  Our bodies are machines.  Our babies are unconscious.  Our children are products to develop.  We are in competition with each other.  We constantly evaluate and are evaluated for our performance and our children’s performance.  We will not be…anybody else feeling stressed out yet, feel that contracting?  (laughing)  Breathe, tap it out.  So this storyline here is not meant to support our biological imperatives, (inaudible) clearly as how we are going to unfold our intelligence.


I want to say a word about this New York story here.  I love my children, I hate my life.  When I first read this story back in 2010 I could not believe how…this is another awesome example of the language, how important it is to be aware of language because the entire story is a story about how, this is how it is.  This is just how it is, it is that parents have to sacrifice and parents…this is just what parenthood is, and she uses the words in there about developing our children and how you have to develop them in a certain way, so it does not question the paradigm.  It does not question cultural imperatives, it actually says this is how it is, which is again exactly what is in the storyline of the old story that we saw before.  Nothing outside here, don’t bother to go look, it is all right here.  No self-awareness invited in.


So here we are…Joseph Chilton Pearce, whom I adore, because Joe recognized this and he gave it a phrase.  Again we are looking for language to help us refer back to and to say what’s happening as we build this new story as we have understanding and we can facilitate wisdom coming forward from within ourselves and have that manifest around us and the sort of culture we want to cultivate.  So Joe calls this, what the parents are facing when you are an adult and you bring children into the world is that now you are facing a choice between your biological imperatives having a gentle birth, being supported for breast feeding, being supported in those attachment months that are so crucial afterwards, 18 months to 3 years, and Joe says you have to choose between the biological imperatives and the cultural imperatives, and the cultural imperatives serve themselves.  I know APPPAH has memberships for everyone for the academy through Touch the Future and you can go, and I highly recommend that you do, go to the academy and watch some of Joe’s videos there because his cultures on the biocultural conflict and especially how culture serves itself and how we need to be so aware of this, what is happening here, so this is where adults who bring children into the world especially in the U.S. find themselves is facing this biocultural conflict.  And I have this very yummy quote here by Michael Mendizza that I am not going to go through, but he totally nails the piece especially about shaming parents and the rules we call culture have none of these.  We eat these and not that.  We eat this way and not that.  We wear this kind of clothing and not that, and each of us are compared, judged, punished, and rewarded based on our conformity to the accepted pattern.  Culture represents one paradigm and our innate nature, what Joe calls the biology of transcendence as another paradigm and there is a battle between the two.  I think that is, this quote sounds it out very, very nicely.  Again, visit the academy because Joe’s 30 years of work have been captured in there by Michael.


Yay, here is our new story and world view for mothers and fathers.  Your blueprint is wholeness.  Your body is wise.  You can return to this wholeness and wisdom with awareness.  Feel that, you can feel it already (exhales).  (inaudible) and external belief system.  This is right here with us at all times, it is right here.  Here we go.  Practices like mindfulness help us to notice and question stories.  You are the author and authority of your story.  The return of empowerment here.  Our bodies are intelligent and vital.  Our babies are conscious.  Our children are worthy of our best efforts but do have their own stories.  It is your human right to question all external authority, and you can read the rest.  It looks like there is one down there.  Okay, so of course APPPAH is a part of this new story.  That is just awesome.


So back to IONS and their research into human consciousness.  What inspires us to begin to shift.  What inspires us to feel like this is not quite right, I think there might be something else.  Well, there were five things that inspire this according to IONS research.  One is a direct experience and for adults who bring children into the world many times, like for myself I would even say, that could be the birth of a child that inspires you to begin to question and consider things differently.  Of course right there waiting for you is the biocultural conflict and the demand that if you want any kind of support in this culture you are going to need to conform to it, but that certainly is one of the number one…I have talked to many parents over the years, it is one of the number one reasons that they end up in Families for Conscious living groups, it is because the birth of their child inspired them to think, to ask questions.  Pain inspires people to wake up.  What is happening?  Charles Eisenstein in an interview you can go listen to on Kindred shared how did he begin…I asked him this questions, how do we get people to consider the context of their lives because that, that is a piece that people usually look at me and go “yeah whatever”.  You know, just turn that…I have got to flip this switch off.  I am not going to listen to them.  I am not going to hear it.  Well, that is being imbedded in the old story that says there is nothing outside of this little circle here; I am not going to hear this.  Well, Charles told me his own story and said, sure he has gone through is first marriage and the breakdown of that and it was pain that drove him to say there has got to be something else.  There has got to be something else happening here, and I have to credit Charles Eisenstein for also coming up with the phrase “the space between stories” which is where he says most of us are living most of the time.  So, you can also begin to question and shift because a relative, friend, or a social pressure to think differently.  Also, repeat experiences; now this is what helps the shifting to continue is that perhaps you keep having these encounters with yourself or with other groups, you keep having them knock at the door.  A really important piece of this is to have a safe environment to have the repeat experience of questioning.


So, I just want…I put this question in here because I wanted to consider how the impetus is to shift and commit to conscious living really based on community of having community there to catch you so that you can continue this process.  So, here we go.  Here is…the big question for me was okay I see all of this with the old story and the new story and I go back and I am talking to parents back in 2007 about this and there…I could not find a way to present it to them that was not terrifying, and then I remembered The Hero’s Journey and I saw how the Cultural Creatives when they are speaking of themselves as a weirdo, they are hearing the call.  This is what Joseph Campbell who wrote The Hero…no, The Hero with a Thousand Faces said that this is a call that we are hearing.  So, we have taken…let me back up and give you a little explanation in case you don’t know about The Hero’s Journey.  Joseph Campbell studied mythology around the world, thousands of years of mythology and their stories and he found imbedded in all of them what he said was the great story in this mono-myth wheel that shows where this hero starts off questioning and saying this is not right, this is not right, and usually there is a resistance.  You know, okay this is not right but I am afraid to go find out what else I need to do.  I am afraid to take a step outside of the known into the known, and so we have taken his mono-myth wheel here and on the stations of the mono-myth wheel, which is a journey of personal transformation of going through answering the call, of surrendering, of going into this place of facing the demons and dragons of enculturation where the parts of yourself you left behind, what were the treasures of your own consciousness that you had to sacrifice in order to fit into this culture.  This is how we bring parents through, this bottom piece and back out the side and to an integrative place, and it is all The Hero’s Journey but it is applied to parenting in our culture and in an nutshell what we are doing…well that is interesting, that that one just fluttered away.  So, what we are doing here is we are reframing.  A Cultural Creative becomes a hero on the journey.  The biocultural conflict becomes an appeal to answer the call.  This is the first step on the mono-myth wheel Joseph Campbell created.  The challenges of conscious parenting becomes an invitation to be present on the No Path.  Joseph Campbell says, if there is a path in front of you that is not your path, your path has not been blazed yet.  And of course, we want to unmask the mythology of uber parenting, so that is done.  Robin Grille does that piece really wonderfully in The Parenting as a Hero’s Journey series, and we want to show this return when you are coming out of hell to your wholeness, the self-nurturing, the surrendering, present thing, trusting your intuition are the treasures you have discarded in order to fit into this culture, and you are going to reclaim those now. You are reclaiming your humanity, and that is a process that does not just serve you as an individual it just serves the whole world, and as Campbell says “we are not here to save the world but to save ourselves and by doing so we save the world.”  So, the new language of the new story is crucial here, and I have thrown out a list so we can kind of see the ecology of the child, what the nuclear family that is sitting here by themselves in isolation and are expected to figure this out.  No, there is an ecology of bringing children into the world and we want to think of it that way going forward.  Anyway, you can look at these on the PDF.  Where can parents and professionals find the new story?  I pulled some headlines here that just help us see how we can question and how we have contributors on Kindred who are questioning and thinking differently inside this new story paradigm, creating sustainable humans with conscious parenting.  Darcia Narvaez just totally nails it with her work out of Notre Dame that says it is the neuroscience of meeting baby’s needs from the beginning.  She has a wonderful piece on Kindred called Bullying Begins with Babies.  So, you can even look at this later.  I included this here because I just love Cassandra Vieten.  She is the president of IONS now and she has also written a book and created the program on Mindful Motherhood, which came out of research out of IONS and this is a wonderful yummy quote, especially for parents. She says, “As you begin to spend more time in that witnessing part of your consciousness you begin to have more space.  Your container begins to stretch just like your belly during pregnancy, but in some ways this container has no limits.  As you begin to explore this realm of awareness more you may find that like the sky it is difficult to find any edges.”  And I think this quote just pulls together everything that we are talking about, especially when speaking to parents.  There is a list here of takeaway insights for parents.  It is not one thing it is everything.  This helps underline the fact that you count, your choices matter because you are part of a whole.  The shift is happening and it happens more easily in community.  World views create worlds.  What your belief system is matters and this occupy yourself is really about our bodies, our wisest guides.


So how can practitioners like yourself and professionals support parents.  We need to have adults show up in our lives who are embodying, and I know you all are doing your sematic courses now, but people are smart.  Parents are very discerning.  They can tell, are you trying to sell me something here or are you really bringing something to me right now that I need.  I need to be able to have an attuned person in my presence so that I myself can become more attuned and this way I can be more present for my child, so if you can bring your own attunement and your own embodiment to the presence of the parent that you are working with that is the best gift you are ever going to give them.  Share the compassionate insight of living in the space between stories.  We have to absolutely put to death the idea that parents are doing it wrong or parents should be shamed or they should carry around some sort of baggage that says that they have to figure it out.  It is not even possible now in the United States to parent in a way that is going to bring parents or children toward wellness without the support systems that we need to foster that.  Try to use the new language, the new story language, and of course point parents to resources, encourage community building and connection, and embrace the possibility of parenthood as an adventure.  And there are my resources, and now I have time to take your questions.  There you go, Kate.


KATE:  Okay.


LISA:  I have one thing to show you.  This is the thing that I said was really funny at the beginning.  First of all, there is our blue marble right here in the belly of this pregnant woman, and that only took about 50 years for us to make that connection, right?  Such an awesome picture with our Thomas Verny quote, “Womb ecology becomes world ecology” and the story of the Kindred piece above it is when Kelly Wendorf brought Kindred to the U.S. and had us run it for her as an initiative, a nonprofit initiative.  This was on the front page of the website because sustainability begins at conception, and my personal response was, “I am just going to lay on the floor and suck my thumb right now.”  Like oh god, how am I going to tell…I am just trying to help parents understand wellness and to help them get this piece, that sustainability begins at conception feels like such a, you know, it is almost too much to ask especially in our culture without context of what we are talking about with that context of new and old story.  So, I did take it down off the site, but it is great because now we have gone through the last couple of years with Kate’s help and we have connected those dots back again with all of our interviews on birth psychology on Kindred, so thank you, Kate.


KATE:  No, thank you, Lisa.  You have been such a great partner for me in charting our course and I so look forward to the next few years because things are really changing and I have been at this for 16 years, maybe 17 years now, and ever since the birth of my baby and how that coupled with people remembering their births on my table as a practitioner so, I really see things changing just in my experience so, and more and more of the Cultural Creatives that are carrying this paradigm of consciousness are stepping forward and it is all over the place now.  Does anyone have a question or a comment?  So, I would love for you to raise your hands and I will open the microphone because surely there will be someone who wants to speak to this new story or the space between stories, even if you want to say anything about your story and where you are in what Lisa has outlined.


Go ahead Sheila.


SHEILA:  Hi, this…I do know about no path, Lisa.  If there is no path is there a…is there a collective among the Cultural Creatives that support this whole group of people that are working with no path.  I am particularly interested in maybe baby boomers.


LISA:  Okay, no path applies to the individual’s journey, and that is something that Michael Mendizza calls…he was dancing around the phrase and I said, you are saying there is no path here.  When you are present with your child it is presence, it is connection, you are there and no one is going to blaze that trail of connection and relationship with your child except for you because you know your child and you are operating within, you know, your known relationship so this ability to step forward and understand that your path has not been blazed yet because you are going to do that now is…it applies to the individual in the moment.


SHEILA:  That makes it more manageable, but I am…


LISA:  (inaudible) a free for all.


SHEILA:  I am thinking more of how to…how as Ray Castellino says is the outer circle of support, how can we then do that with the people who are actually in the childbearing years.  Do we do that as, you know, as mothers of the mother with no path and take it back to mammalian specific and what is salutogenic and healthy just from a neurobiological standpoint, that kind of thing?  Who is supporting…who is supporting the outer circle of support in this conscious creative group?


LISA:  Now, are you saying…are you asking for a structure that is always in existence or one that is needed?


SHEILA:  When I first poked around in this cultural creative stuff I thought there were communities, local communities of Cultural Creatives.  Do you know that to be the case?


LISA:  Oh, well they are…as far as I know they are not self-identified as a club or an organization, and in Paul Ray’s research was not saying that this was true at all, because again one of the challenges of the Cultural Creative is visibility and understanding that there are more of us than we realize, so finding each other and working together…now I will say I think it is Richard Dawkins, now what is his name? who has written about…he calls…when people gather together for the purpose of this consciousness raising in our culture and from the outside somebody looking at them would say, oh they are Cultural Creatives, he would say that these are Heroic communities, so he has already tapped into the idea too of the…of a positive way of framing what a Cultural Creative is doing.  Instead of saying that you are subverting the dominant paradigm, the radical you, you can say oh you are doing this Hero on a Journey personal transformation leads to world transformation and you are putting together your community for support for whatever it is that you are taking on as a cause.


SHEILA:  And that is Richard Dawkin?


LISA:  Gosh, you know what my book is right behind me.  It is…it is in my notes, and I will find out for sure.  I do not know why it is not coming to me right now; I love this guy.  (inaudible)


SHEILA:  Thank you.


LISA:  Okay.


KATE:  Okay, thank you, Sheila.  Now, anyone else want to join and have a question or a comment for Lisa about the new story or the space between stories or just what is your response to seeing some of those.  Carmen, would you like to just come on?  Here, I will open up your microphone and you go ahead and make your comment.


CARMEN:  Thank you, thank you very much.  I was thinking, as I said in my comment it is pretty clear.  It really resonates so much with me what you said because at a certain point in my career as a psychologist I was working in university and teaching, etc., and I do not know I just needed to start all over again and then it just seemed kind of whole to start from sustainability.  And for me, sustainability really translated into working with women in pregnancy and birth, so what you are saying just resonates with me so much because I had the same realization and I am working now as a childbirth educator having shifted my career as a psychologist just because of that decision, just because of that sensibility I think that I had at that time.  So, I just wanted to thank you, really. It was a really, really great seminar, nice information.  I am really looking forward into learning more about Kindred, all the information you put out there for us today. Thank you.


LISA:  Thank you.


KATE:  There was some more things in the chat, Lisa.  Let me see if I can pull up the chat for a second.  Suzanne Hernandez had some comments too.  People are finding some of the things you were talking about on your…the babies, bullies begins with babies.


LISA:  Bullying Begins with Babies, oh yeah.  I love Darcia, a neuroscientist at the University of Notre Dame.  Her book won the William James Award last year, in fact it is worth it to go right here and see…here she is.  The name of her book is Neurobiology in the Development of Human Morality, Evolution, Culture and Wisdom, and it won the Williams James book award last year from the American Psychological Association.  She is just amazing; I love her.


KATE:  So, Sandra Helena Hernandez (? spelling of name), so I am wondering Sandra would you like to come on and make your comment so that people, so that Lisa can hear?  I send often the chat logs to people that I…oh, I don’t see you here.  You are not here anymore, so I will have to read that one out loud.  But someone has put up their hand.  Oh no, it’s you Sandra, good.  Alright go ahead Sandra.


SANDRA:  Hi Kate, hi Lisa and everyone.  Thank you for this morning presentation.  It has been really not just inspiring, Lisa, but also bringing some answers to many, you know, things that I myself have been thinking since I came to the U.S. about 17 years ago.  So, I was mentioning in my comment about how much I have been thinking about the, you know, the challenges and how to support immigrant parents here in the U.S. and that is the work that I have been doing for a few years directly with, you know, creating the doulas program as Kate knows but also have been working, you know, with the Latino communities for about 10 years and did work before with schools, so I learned a lot about how is the education and the culture here because I came to study education here in the U.S. and then I decided to stay.  So, anyways my point, and because also you mentioned Joseph Campbell, which I love it, it is amazing how much we have to learn about ourselves, our heroes or heroines.  So, the point is how really we could do something considering, you know, that immigrant parents have so much already they bring with them and then have to face the culture here that is different from then.  Any comments you could say about this would be wonderful, thank you.


LISA:  I would say I, I think what you are talking about is perhaps they bring in an expectation of community and support that they do not find.  I know that that has been true with…with people who I have talked to who have…we had an intern here from the College of William and Mary and she came to the United States from Mexico when she was 12, and her story is up on Kindred and she wrote us an essay about why she believed that our work was really important and why she wanted to volunteer for us and work for us as an intern during the time she was a student at William and Mary, and she said, you know, you can see how it is so disconnected here and my family and I feel it and we see it and it is…she did not mince words, she said it is quite horrifying.  I…we also have Kathy Kendall-Tackett on Kindred talking about how this is one of the challenges for convincing parents who are inside of the model, for example, from the video we watched that there is a problem.  They do not know what support is and Darcia Narvaez in an interview on how we create sustainable humans also…I had her spell out for me, I said okay, well I know that is true but can you describe for me what does it look like in other countries.  Let’s hear what that looks like?  You know, this mother in the story, the video we watched, would have had somebody coming to her house to do her laundry.  Her child was clearly still an infant.  She could have had a year off from work. She could have been supported in ways that again in this country we cannot even imagine right now, so I think…is that what you are speaking to?  The community piece and the support?


SANDRA:  Yes, so…yeah, first of all I was also looking to your website, the Kindred website, and it is amazing how many resources we can find there.  Of course my question is not that simple.  It is something complex related with, you know how to, for instance when you mention about the conflict that…the biocultural conflict, so that is what came to me.  So, we have (inaudible) do ways of bio-conflict but also a third one related with the culture that you know, these parents bring from their own countries, and I am especially talking about Latino countries, like I am from Brazil but of course any other immigrants here as I see difficult or a huge challenge trying to support them to be able to strive in this culture but also then they will be facing the new intelligence of their own kids who are born here in the U.S., so the kids also bring a completely new culture outside of their own house.  So, I work with duo-families as we say.  Some of them were immigrants, some of them were born here and how is…that is the challenge of this.


LISA:  Yes, I would point right away to Attachment Parenting International has support groups and they also have, all of their materials are in Spanish and can be printed out especially for new parents if they are looking to…at least if they are looking to understand bonding and attachment and how very different it is, how very difficult it can be in this culture that does not support, again, biological imperatives.  That is a resource for the Latino community there.


SANDRA:  You give a website, you were saying?


LISA:  Yes,


SANDRA:  Thank you.


LISA:  And I will also point to, we have on Kindred a parent and…we have 14 years of articles and videos and interviews on Kindred, so the first resource here is a Kindred Parent and Professional Resource Center that is coming this summer, and we are putting all of our stories into themes and into PDFs.  I cannot see myself, but you can see me.  So here is one that was created, for example, for the APPPAH Congress and it is…it shares a new story but also shares birth psychology resources that could be found, so this PDF is actually up on Kindred right now and you can print this out and share this, and it explains here what the new story is and what it looks like for parents.  So, more like that is coming.  Funding, I need funding and it will come faster.


SANDRA:  Thank you for keeping improving.  That is amazing.  And sharind.


LISA:  Right, thank you.


KATE:  Thank you, Sandra.  I remember when I came back from Africa.  I used to live in Africa.  We called the United States the hardship post because there just is not support here like there is in any other cultures where I was living in Africa.  There was a lot more strife over there and civil war in places and lots of disease and lack of resources both educational and medical, but socially it was…it was just really an amazing place and that is where I learned a lot about parenting and children and how sacred children are.  Children are gifts from God in many cultures around the world, so that really healed a lot in me around humanity just being in another culture, so it is very shocking to come here for many African people that I have talked with here.  It can…it is really hard, so thank you, Sandra, for bringing that up.  Lisa, people are saying on the chat they want to know where they can donate.


LISA:  Oh, right on the front page of there is a big blue button.  And there is a list of ways on the page that people can support Kindred.  There is a number of ways including just making a donation would be great.


So, I need to say something real quick.  I know we just have a second left, but on a personal note my mother came from a family of 12 children and there were 8 sisters, and when I grew up I did not know I was being raised inside basically what was considered…what would have been considered a tribal unit because I had so many mothers and I had so many cousins to play with, and there was a tremendous sense of support and community.  Nobody was ever left hanging or alone, and I do remember when I had my son, and I have shared this story many times before, sitting in my home by myself and having again that first initial feeling of something is really wrong, where is my community here and I have shared over the years, I do think at my core what set me off on this journey was this piece of sand in my oyster shell that was…like where is my community?  Where is my community?  This is so wrong, what is going on here?  And it really inspired me, but it was the grief of having the experience.  I have actually experienced what it is like to be in this small tribal community with 8 mothers and lots of people around me and the feeling that everything is not only be okay for me but my parents are supported.  There is a tremendous network here of resources and support for us, and then that was not my experience as a mother but that was also what drove me to continue the work with Families for Conscious Living and to create community groups.


KATE:  Okay, thank you.  Yes, Sheila says you have made a “shimmeringly” beautiful pearl that sheds light for others.  So, alright we are right at the top of the hour.  So we thank you for your presentation, Lisa.  People were saying on the chat it was very inspiring which is why of course I asked you to present because I do find you very inspiring for sure, and this is about our…this is our last module in the Monday Live series, and that is for module 11 and that is…you know, had inspiration and implications and here you are inspiring us, shedding light on where we are in between stories and APPPAH really is taking a lead here in trying to define new ways of thinking about bringing children in and getting pregnant and…so it is wonderful and I hope you all have gotten some inspiration, some new language, some ways to feel supported in yourself as you move forward as PPNE graduates.  So, we are hoping to have more of this kind of thing so that you feel that you have ways to work with your own story.  So, email Lisa, email me if you have any questions or comments or anything that we can do for you.  See you all next week for the presentation of BEBA, the clinic on Building and Enhancing Bonding and Attachment with Ray Castellino and Tara Blasco, and also this Wednesday evening we are having a sematics lecture with Patricia Lucas, so please take advantage of all of these wonderful things.  Go to those (inaudible) and our classroom into sematics module and the Monday Live module.  Once again please let us know if we can do anything for you.


Okay everyone, like I always like to do, I unmute you and I say goodbye.  Please say goodbye.  I like to hear your voice before you head out the door.  Okay, goodbye everybody.  Goodbye everyone.  Goodbyes from everyone.


LISA:  Thank you, that was fantastic.  I crammed it all in there.  I was worried.


KATE:  Yeah.

Female Cialis

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Transcendent Mentoring Of This And Future Generations Tue, 10 May 2016 18:32:54 +0000 Michael Mendizza, author of Magical Parent, Magical Child and Rebecca Thompson, facilitator for the Parenting As A Hero’s Journey Virtual Retreat Series, talk about The Hero’s Journey, or as Michael calls it, Transcendent Mentoring of This and Future Generations.  You can join Michael on an extended virtual retreat here.  You can also visit Michael at […]]]>

Michael Mendizza, author of Magical Parent, Magical Child and Rebecca Thompson, facilitator for the Parenting As A Hero’s Journey Virtual Retreat Series, talk about The Hero’s Journey, or as Michael calls it, Transcendent Mentoring of This and Future Generations.  You can join Michael on an extended virtual retreat here.  You can also visit Michael at his nonprofit, Touch the Future, here.


Transcendent Mentoring Of This And Future Generations

From the Parenting As A Hero’s Journey Virtual Retreat Series

The Heroes’ Journey is a metaphor. The usually young man or woman takes a journey away from what is familiar, the safe, what is comforting and known. This reaching into the unknown implies great risk and danger. New challenges are encountered demanding new responses, the cultivation of new skills and capacities. This reaching into the unknown, meeting new and often unexpected challenges, the unfolding of new perceptions and capacities is the essence of transcendence. The formal definition of transcend or transcendence is ‘reaching beyond limitation and constraint.’ The entire spectrum we call childhood and human development is based on this principal. Joseph Chilton Pearce devoted an entire book, The Biology of Transcendence, to this theme.


The question is: what is it that limits and constrains? What is it that must be transcended especially when viewing the parent paradigm? Yes, parenting is a paradigm, a pattern, an archetype, a way of perceiving with implicit behaviors. Looking deeply, a transcendent model of parenting is one that overcomes the limitations and constraints that the known pattern represents. The known pattern is called culture.

In Joe’s book he describes how biology is based on transcendence. Culture is not. Culture is the story we tell each other. This is the way it is done, not that. Culture is essentially conservative, that is, it resists change. Biology is dynamic, using homeostasis, stability, as a basis for ‘reaching beyond.’ We call this evolution and this constant morphing is accomplished through play. Play in this regard is not a thing, rather it is a verb, a state of relationship that is open, flexible, curious, full of energy and attention, a willingness to risk, to try and try again with absolutely no inner feeling of failure. There is wonder; meaning interested ‘not knowing’, humor, care with its implied affection and respect. All these qualities and more are active, present and available to meet the next unknown. Play is a state, not an activity.

The rules we call culture have none of these. We eat this and not that. We speak this way and not that. We wear this kind of clothing and not that. And each of us are compared, judged, punished and rewarded based on our conformity to the accepted pattern. Culture represents one paradigm and our innate nature, what Joe calls the Biology of Transcendence, is another paradigm.  And there is a battle between the two.

Again, looking closely, we find that our identity is etched as an adaptive copping pattern to the limitations and constraints imposed by culture. We have our embodied temperament and we have our personality, our persona, our particular social mask that we wear, must wear when dealing with the slings and arrows that culture represents. Temperament is largely biological. Personality is defined by society and that by culture.

The hero’s journey is and has always been traveling from the safe, the accepted, very limited, very constrained patterns culture imposes to the deep interior, far more authentic and vastly more diverse and dynamic and mostly unknown ground of our being. What we really are, not the mask.

Like a fish in water we can’t take off the mask in culture. Our very identity, our self-world view is defined by the water. And mask, which is all most of us really know, was carved precisely to fit in that particular pond. What now is the hero’s journey? It is giving up our very identity, who we think we are. More importantly the hero’s journey means negating the power ‘what will they think of me,’ has over our behavior and choices we make. Risky indeed.

To not be subject to culture’s approval brings a heavy price, that of being rejected, punished, even being abandoned by the culture. Mainstream parenting is based on this punishment and reward, comparison, judgement system. Parenting, mainstream compulsory schooling, law enforcement, the courts, church, prisons, the military, flag waving patriotism are all part of the same paradigm. Taking the hero’s journey implies bucking and then transcending this paradigm.

Joseph Campbell picked mythology as the framework for the journey. What is important to understand is that there is only one journey, that of transcending the limitations and constraints imposed by conservative-culture and thereby discovering and developing our authentic nature, which is boundless.

New human beings are born into their authentic nature. What Ashley called the ‘genius of childhood’ in Growing Young, is the free expression of our authentic nature. The goal of traditional parenting models, ‘eat another spoon of this crappy boxed cereal for mommy,’ is to domesticate children out of their authentic nature adulterating them as we are adulterated.

The only hope for ourselves and our children is for adults to take the hero’s journey, to see very clearly how conditioned and compliant we are, which as John-Taylor Gatto points out, is the goal of compulsory schooling and as an extension of the same paradigm, compulsory parenting, comparison, rewards and punishment. Deeply conditioned, adulterated adults have no choice but to deeply condition and adulterate their children. OMG! Now what? Welcome to journey. The next step to the right is the twilight zone.


But there are hints, helping hands along the way. Recall in the bible, ‘unless you become as little children you can’t enter the kingdom?’ The kingdom is your authentic nature which is nothing less than creation incarnate. You ARE made in the image and likeness of God, but god is not a thing. Culture took the Tao, living, moving, always changing creative intelligence and froze it, as in a comic book, in the form of a wrathful parent or domineering parent or vengeful Monarch. The true likeness is that of ‘creation,’ creative intelligence in action. That is what your child is and you were.

Your challenge, and the perineal invitation each new human being offers to the adulterated culture is to become once again as a little child. No, not spilling and slapping mud pies. Becoming as a child is to return to our authentic nature in a mature adult form which means transcending; reaching beyond the limitations and constraints we imposed on ourselves by accepting and reincarnating, moment by moment our social-cultural identity.  Right! How do we do that? Easy. Do what you children do naturally. Play.

Games? No, not football or golf. No winning games. Games are culture’s counterfeit for authentic play or what Fred Donaldson calls ‘original play.’ Unadulterated children may get frustrated but they have no self-image to compare, a prerequisite for failure-conformity. Imagine not having an image to compare, to get embarrassed, to be judged, bribed, punished or rejected. With no inner social image none of these limitations and constraints has any meaning. They don’t exist. Imagine it if were impossible to ever get embarrassed again. What would you do, explore and learn that you have self-censored for fear that someone might not approve? How much of your vast potential would you have discovered and developed that you have not? Welcome to the hero’s journey and what Transcendent Mentoring is all about.

If you are caught in comparison and judgment, feeling compared and judged, you have no choice but to pass this along to you children. If you get embarrassed, you will pass this phobia on to your children. Monkey see. Monkey do. In order to free your children form the limitations that our cultural identity implies you need to become free, innocent, as a mature caring adult. Let the genius of childhood be your guide, but you have to wake up early, or your conditioning will infect the children you love and they will become just like you.

What does it mean to wake up? Recall we said that play is a state not an activity. This is your key. Just as you have been deeply conditioned to live inside the image you created in order to navigate a judging, punitive culture, you can rediscover what it is like to be absolutely free of that image.

What does it feel like to wonder, to be really interested and not knowing? Wonder is a state. What you think you are wondering about is thought, memory which is different than wonder. What does being open and flexible feel like? Consider how it feels to be closed and inflexible as a feeling.  What does it feel like to be full of energy and attention, to be really attentive and curious before thought comes in and makes up a conclusion or reduces all that energy and attention to a word or concept? Imagine what it feels like to try, to risk again and again, like learning how to roller-skate or ride a bike for the first time with absolutely no inner feeling of failure. What does kindness feel like? What does trust feel like? Not the idea, the feeling? What does affection, care and respect feel like before these become words or ideas? Imagine meeting your young child who IS all of these, and relating to the world, the next moment and the next in this shared state, the child leading with their lack of experience and you from your years? The young mind points and gestures. The mature mind responds with wisdom. Together they represent the ever-newness that life is with the maturity that timeless wisdom represents. The transcendent mentor invites and models wisdom, kindness and appropriateness in the child while the child reminds the adult of beginners mind and ever-renewing innocence.

The key to taking the hero’s journey and along the way becoming a transcendent mentor for this and future generations is to understand the nature, quality and experience of authentic play. For the kingdom isn’t a place. It is a state. The state you are in as you meet any challenge defines the challenge and how well or poorly you will respond. Elite athletes know this. They seek the Zone, which is a calm, curious, fully attentive highly energized state, and from that respond to the next pitch. We need to do the same as parents. If being in the Zone is good enough for hitting a golf ball don’t our children and the future of humanity deserve at least the same? Is that asking too much? By the age of five the average child has spent over 5,000 hours staring at a dead screen, hardly the zone.

The majority of our time will be spent exploring what authentic play is and its cultural counterfeits. This will involve a number of video interviews and programs with Joseph Chilton Pearce, founder of the national institute for Play Stewart Brown, Fred Donaldson and Bev Bos.

With this as a foundation we will explore play ages and stages and how you can live your life more and more in this optimum state for learning and performance.  We will explore how doing so will eliminate the vast majority of conflicts most parents experience with their children, even with two year olds and teens.

Photo Shutterstock/Roman Tsubin


Expanding Human Potential by Supporting Those Who Care For Children
Expanding Human Potential by Supporting Those Who Care For Children
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The Birthing Zone: The Dance of the Inner Man – Part Three Of A Three Part Series Mon, 04 Jan 2016 10:45:54 +0000 (This is part three of a three part series.  Read Part One: Secret Men’s Business and Part Two: The Frog, The Turtle, The Rock) Whilst preparing my presentation for the Homebirth Australia Conference (see Part 1) and recalling my partner’s pregnancy dreams of the frog, the turtle and the rock (see Part 2), I unearthed further […]]]>

(This is part three of a three part series.  Read Part One: Secret Men’s Business and Part Two: The Frog, The Turtle, The Rock)

Whilst preparing my presentation for the Homebirth Australia Conference (see Part 1) and recalling my partner’s pregnancy dreams of the frog, the turtle and the rock (see Part 2), I unearthed further aspects of myself that assisted me in supporting my beloved in the birthing zone. After reading my birth story I became curious: was there indeed a male birthing god in any of the historic records?

Without much difficulty I found a male god from Egyptian mythology called Bes. Bes was a beastly dwarf like creature, ‘at once jovial and belligerent, fond of dancing and fighting’1. His main role was as guardian and protector of sheep, marriage, family, children, women’s toilet and expectant mothers, amongst others2. ‘He often appeared at birth’ along with the female birthing divinities; Taueret, Heket (a frog headed goddess!), Meshkent and the Hathors3,4. His role was to fight off evil spirits5.

The Protector
Why Dads Leave Cover
Bes seems to be one example of the male protector, he can be belligerent at times but can also dance with joy. He is a fighter, therefore a protector and guardian. This energy manifested for me perhaps whilst keeping the boundaries strong for Bronwyn and the baby throughout the pregnancy and birth. Mainly making sure that the negativities and fears of others didn’t reach them. Which was certainly a dance of diplomacy as well as slight belligerence in keeping our boundaries strong – not letting in any ‘evil spirits’. However, there was more to this role and I feel Bes doesn’t have it.

In the birthing zone as well as throughout the pregnancy I felt a huge amount of love and gratitude generating out of me for my wife and child. I felt very much that this love I was pumping out in great waves filled the house. And it served as protection: protection generated from love rather than fear. This might sound like a contradiction, however the ability to protect without fear is in fact the ability to nurture. Nurturing still has the element of protecting but it is fused with love rather an fear.

Months after the birth I saw a small figurine of baby Jesus nursed by Mary with the protective arms and cloak of Joseph around them both. It wasn’t at all as kitsch as most of these pieces are, so as soon as I saw it I connected completely to its symbolism, expressing exactly my experience; the capacity to love and nurture my burgeoning family through the nine months of pregnancy, birth and after. Bes may be ‘base chakra’, but Joseph is all heart. I realise now it was a fusion of both these energies that I imbued.

The Warrior
Another important energy that surfaced for me in our birthing zone was that of the warrior. But no ordinary warrior. The birthing zone has no place for weapons and armour. The warrior in the birthing zone needs to lay down his spear and take off his amour. He needs to become naked, leaving him with nothing but raw courage. However, raw courage on its own can be reckless; but infused into the nurturer, the lover, the protector, the rock, the ram and any other energies that were present, a dynamic self-empowering force was created for the process. But that’s only half of it. Don’t forget the energies that supported my beloved: the turtle, the frog, the lioness, all the birthing goddesses in history, her own naked warrior woman, plus all the other uninvoked energies that helped empower her!

I need to briefly clarify that these energies are not a difference of gender, because both men and women possess both feminine and masculine energies. It is more a difference of awareness and integration of these energies within each individual.

In times of emotional crisis (which is an opportunity for new insight and inner change) the contents of the psyche that are needed to help move through it will automatically come to the fore. The process of ‘surrendering’, or letting go, is to allow the other contents of the psyche that are not needed during the crisis to recede; or they will bar the way. To surrender, to let go of the energies that are not useful, is to become naked. Surrendering is not a weakness, but a strength that needs great courage.

Birthing is no different. Just as the body knows what to do to give birth, the psyche also knows what to do to help us psychologically move through the experience. Mentally we need to get out of the way of ourselves for this to happen, as Bronwyn did when she ‘lost her head’. I had a similar experience in that I was so present, so in the moment with her and myself, that the ego took a holiday and the qualities or aspects of myself that I truly needed came forth, automatically. All I had to do was get out of the way of myself – become naked. My beloved’s ‘crisis’ demanded my absolute full attention of mind and full presence of heart. The emergent energies within both of us were leading the way, doing what they needed to do to help carry us through.

In the birthing zone I found that I moved beyond empathy for my beloved. Beyond empathy there is a phenomenon called ‘attunement’. Attunement doesn’t ‘connect’ two subjects, as empathy does, it ‘enfolds’ them. They become one. Jung called this the metwelt – ‘that which holds neither, but holds both’. In our birthing zone I believe my beloved and I unconsciously drew upon the emergent energies of the other. We were held by them, led by them, moved by them. It was an ‘attunement’ of energies between the two of us, doing what they needed to do to birth a family. Ken Wilber writes about ‘harmonic empathy’, which he explains is, ‘the interior equivalent between two sentient beings: a type of felt resonance or mutual prehension’6, similar to a piano who’s vibrating string resonates in the same string of a neighbouring piano. When two people who resonate on the same level are present they are in a ‘duel field’, which, ‘in its purest sense… is a resonance that occurs without exchanges, just direct co-presence’7. In our birthing zone we were not just physically in each others presence, but with all these energies that had come to the fore, we were in this ‘duel field’. Not just two resonant piano strings, but more; from bass to treble clef.

I learned about the attunement of souls (the full keyboard) from my three month old daughter. Several times in the first three months after her birth I found her staring at me in a most unusual way. Her face was expressionless, but not blank. Her eyes were wide, yet soft and still, simply looking at me without want or need. The second time I saw her in this state I stopped everything I was doing and matched her gaze. Within seconds my egoic thoughts dropped away and I slipped into a space of stillness and spaciousness where pure and total love rose up through me. ‘I’ disappeared and the two of us become one. The moment this happened my daughter laughed, as if she had felt it too, and/or seen it in my eyes. I am sure she did. I got excited, which got me back into my head, but I quickly dropped the thoughts and easily slipped back into complete presence. At the exact instant when stillness and spaciousness filled me and soul rose within me, she laughed again. Around us I felt a greater force of energy holding us both. In this space we held each others gaze for some time.

This experience was the metwelt, where neither of us held each other, yet we were both held. The ease of our attunement was due to her having no ego driven fears that were resisting connection. Indeed, she is already ‘connected’ so there is nothing to resist. As I had also not developed any substantial egoic resistance towards her it was easy to step down, quite quickly, through three very subtle levels of fear to where there was nothing except pure divine love – so full and total in those moments. Complete nakedness. A priceless connection with this little treasure who will be this father’s daughter, forever. No matter what.

Please now excuse me as I switch metaphor from ‘harmonic resonance’ to dance.

The Dance
In mid-spring 2008 Bronwyn and I were married upon the tiled mosaic of a labyrinth, set amongst the apple tree blossoms of the Blue Mountains Community Gardens, witnessed by close friends and family. We’d been together almost three years. Alina was then 21 months old. The day was exquisite. Requesting nothing from our guests except their presence, my dear friends, Hilary and John James, who felt compelled to give us something, gave us a simple postcard that they had picked up on a recent trip to Bali. The picture on the front was of a painting of a Balinese woman and man dancing the ‘bumblebee dance’, a flirtatious love duet, supported by musicians and surrounded by the rest of the village looking on. With their own experience of more than sixty years of marriage the words Hilary and John wrote for us on the back of the card resonated with wisdom:

“Marriage is a dance. The movements you each make are unknown and exciting, strange and uncertain. Only total love will maintain harmony.”



Looking at the painting you notice that the dancing couple aren’t touching, but their eyes are in constant embrace. And even though they dance to the same rhythm, the ‘movements’ they each make are unknown to the other, sometimes strange and sometimes uncertain. Yet they are present, with harmony, in love. And it’s not just love: as John and Hilary point out, it’s total love.

becoming usMarriage is the symbolic ceremony of union between the masculine and feminine. It’s the movement of opposites coming into harmony, attuning to the universal life-force of love. With absolute trust and the ability to let go of all fears, two people become united in love. The Birthing Zone is about the masculine and feminine movements in the dance of relationship and the deep undercurrents of love that binds and maintains harmony between the two during the process of becoming parents – particularly for the first time. Becoming a parent creates a tremendous opportunity for the masculine and feminine dance to unfold even further, allowing the couple to fully feel the usually invisible foundations that support their union. This foundation supports everything, and most importantly the children who may come and the enormous psychological/emotional challenges that will arise. The health and strength of our children relies totally on the health and strength of our own relationships – and ultimately our own relationship with ourselves. As the dance of courtship changes through marriage it also changes when becoming a parent: significantly.

The nine month transition into fatherhood allowed me the greatest opportunity to trust and surrender myself to all the fears and anxieties that I felt about becoming a father. Fully experiencing what lay beneath those energies, seeing them for what they really were, enabled the heart to emerge; increasing intimacy, deepening relationship, and bringing relative harmony to my being. It is my dance, consisting of movements that are unknowable, un-seeable, unattainable until the moment they arise, changing and transforming as the present moment constantly unfolds before me.

I used to dance with my attention solely on myself, which only kept me isolated and lonely, unfeeling and resentful. Sometimes I would dance with my attention completely on my partner, but I would lose myself. I had no idea who I was or how I was supposed to dance. Modern man in general is a mixture of both of these; lost in confusion, deeply lonely, isolated, and greatly frustrated. It is to the detriment of society that modern life supports this disastrous situation men have put themselves in. Unable to seek support, unable to talk, listen and to feel what lies in each others hearts is the saddest situation imaginable. But it is changing.

We are at a point now in society where men are becoming more open in allowing their feelings to rise and their hearts to speak. This inner awareness develops the vital relationship we need with ourselves. This inner relationship is also unknown, uncertain, strange, scary, and, if embraced and experienced, unbelievably exciting and transforming. It’s the dance of the inner man, which then creates the spontaneous dance of the outer man who is able to be himself, living authentically in the moment as much as he can. We are at a time now on this planet where we, as men, must do this dance. On a global scale, in a world where our planet’s ecosystems are dying and so many people are hurting, we men have been emotionally absent and out of step with the women, the children, the earth and ourselves for far too long.

(This is part three of a three part series.  Read Part One: Secret Men’s Business and Part Two: The Frog, The Turtle, The Rock)


1. New Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology, (pp39), Hamlyn, London 1959.
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
4. Tresidder, Jack. The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature (pp70), Duncan Baird Publishers, London 2004
6. Wilber, K. (2007) Excerpt C: The Ways We Are In This Together, Shambala Publications.
7. Ibid

The Bumblebee Dance” painting by Anak Agung Gede Sobrat of Ubud.

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The Dangers Of Refusing To Answer The Call Of The Hero’s Journey Thu, 12 Nov 2015 00:47:18 +0000 Pre-order your on-demand virtual retreat with John Breeding Now! Available 2016 – What Is A Virtual Retreat? Subscribe to Kindred’s E-Newsletter to Join Dr. Breeding’s LIVE CALL In January as well. Dear Kindred Reader, I am honored to be included in Kindred Media and Community’s nonprofit educational series on Parenting As A Hero’s Journey. It is […]]]>

Pre-order your on-demand virtual retreat with John Breeding Now!

Available 2016 – What Is A Virtual Retreat?

Subscribe to Kindred’s E-Newsletter to Join Dr. Breeding’s LIVE CALL In January as well.

Dear Kindred Reader,

I am honored to be included in Kindred Media and Community’s nonprofit educational series on Parenting As A Hero’s Journey. It is wonderful to be a part of Lisa Reagan’s terrific work in support of parents who realize not only how important it is to care for our children well, but also that it is very hard, and we all need as much help as we can get.

I am blessed to be the father of three emerging adults, two by my blood and one by virtue of having taken on another epic, though common, challenge—a blended family wherein I met my youngest, now twenty-two, when he was nine. My own, main credential is 30 years of being a parent. My feeling of privilege in being a part of this series is that this is a group that understands that the biggest challenge of parenting is not our children but ourselves. We are better parents to the extent to which we are willing and able to face that fact and work on ourselves. I call it “parenting as emotional healing,” and the great myth of the hero’s journey most definitely applies.

In this essay, and the accompanying podcasts, webinar and email nuggets, I will do three things. First, I will briefly summarize the hero’s journey; perhaps I should use shero, or s/hero, but I am using the term hero for simplicity’s sake and to be consistent with the ancient telling—hero is intended as a gender-neutral term, and obviously in general women do a great deal more parenting than men. Next, I will address the danger of refusing the call to be heroic, and will present three areas in which that regularly occurs in our modern society—drugs, education and technology. Finally, I will present a few of the gems, referred to in this series as wisdom nuggets, that have been particularly helpful to keep me on course.

— John Breeding, PhD, author of The Wildest Colts Make The Best Horses


The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is an age-old mythology. In 1949, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces was published. This remarkable book documents the fact that cultures throughout our planet’s geography and history tell a story of the hero, a story with universal similarities. It is what Campbell refers to as a monomyth, a story that reveals profound truths about human nature. All of us are called at times in our lives to face some great challenge, usually seen or felt in both our inner and outer worlds. The hero is one who answers this call and undertakes the arduous hero’s journey. The truths of this journey are as relevant for each of us today as they ever were in any ancient culture.

Withdrawal-Initiation-Return: this is the hero’s journey. As with, for example, Hades yanking Persephone by the ankle into the underworld, we are forced to withdraw from outer world demands and go through an intense initiatory ordeal before we are allowed to return and use the gifts we have gained for the good of our community. One of my books is called The Necessity of Madness and Unproductivity.  In our society, an overwhelming value is placed on productivity, and “madness” is anxiously suppressed, mostly with drugs. Hence, the space for withdrawal and initiation is minimal at best—doubly so when you have children, as any parent can attest! Yet unproductivity is exactly what is necessary to undergo a hero’s journey, or in plain speech to take a step back and look at yourself, and do a little inner work. Unproductivity is necessary to step out of the rules of productivity and move into personal transformation.

What about madness? Carolyn Myss, medical intuitive and best-selling author, begins her tape series, Energy Anatomy, with the provocative assertion that madness is an absolutely essential stage in the attainment of spiritual maturity. The reason for this has to do with the fact that we are all necessarily, inevitably and thoroughly initiated into the beliefs of our tribe, or culture, from the time of our conception onwards. These beliefs thoroughly impregnate our body and our psyche, largely at a non-verbal level. We are all tribal members, loyal to tribal law, way before we even begin to approach the idea, much less the experience, of becoming an individual.

When we question and contradict the beliefs and values of our family of origin, for example—the ways we were parented—and decide to do it differently, we are betraying our tribe and that is judged as “madness.” It is also often experienced as madness in that we go through periods of anxiety or depression in the face of our uncertainty and insecurity.  When we take a close look and realize that our parents did nor really see us in some ways, or treat us very well, we may be left with the troubling feeling that we ourselves were betrayed. Madness and unproductivity are necessary ingredients of deep change, yet they are discouraged and often punished in our society, very often with labels and psychiatric drugs.

Another writer, P W Martin, amplifies Joseph Campbell’s teachings through the works of Carl Jung, T.S. Eliot, and Arnold Toynbee. Martin makes this transformational journey very real for anyone who cares to undertake the arduous task of self-realization today. These two works, by Martin and Myss, are useful to consider our true nature, especially as it applies to the process of personal transformation in general, and to parenting in particular. I will use their teaching to illustrate a little of the journey below.

“The hero is the waker of his own soul.” – Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

This teaching is about responsibility. Most of us are confused about responsibility, conditioned to feel it as a burden and a source of guilt and pressure. I believe this is because our parents and teachers were themselves conditioned to believe in a view of human nature as flawed, defective, sinful, irresponsible. If we view children as naturally irresponsible, our job becomes that of teaching them to be, making them, responsible. This attitude leads inevitably to efforts to control and shape the target of our concern, to guilt, shame, pressure. This is, in fact, one of the most frequent concerns I hear from parents. How do I teach, get my child to be, “make them,” responsible?

Psychology and education tend to answer this question by supporting the basic position of this last question; various subtle or not-so-subtle versions of behavior modification (reward and punishment) are offered. This validates the underlying assumption of children as naturally irresponsible, similar to the way a yes or no answer to the question “Is my child ADD?” validates the erroneous assumption that there is such a “mental illness” as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Instead, I respond first by probing the question and leading the parent to consider that there is no need to “make” their child responsible. The child, as all humans, already is responsible. It’s her inherent nature.


I often demonstrate this with two arguments, both of which involve looking at young children. The first point comes from what we know about the effects of child abuse. A child who is abused inevitably carries a heavy load of guilt and shame that comes from the certainty that “If I am abused, I must be bad. It is my fault (responsibility) and I deserve it.”

Children naturally conceive of themselves as responsible centers of the universe, when abused, they take responsibility for it. This point is well understood by anyone who has worked on healing early traumas and explored the depths of their own conditioning; those who do not know themselves at that level often have difficulty comprehending this truth. They may, if they have observed young children, still be able to consider my second point, which is simply that little ones absolutely love to help out and be given responsibility. They delight in it and are so enthusiastic. We are born responsible. It is our nature.

We do not need to “make” our children responsible. We do need to provide appropriate opportunities and guidance for how to express responsibility at different levels as they learn to master themselves and the outer world. For the interested reader, I discuss this issue at greater length in my book, The Wildest Colts Make The Best Horses.

Psychiatry undermines responsibility by labeling those who embark on the hero’s journey as “mentally ill” and then duping them into accepting, or forcing upon them soul-crunching, brain-damaging biological “treatments,” such as psychiatric drugs and electroshock. The usual result of this approach is a demoralized individual whose capacity for self-awakening has been seriously impaired. Genuine support respects and encourages the truth that no psychiatric authority can do for others what they must do for themselves, that when it comes to transformation, everyone is her or his own authority. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Only those who have helped themselves know how to help others and to respect their right to help themselves.”

“The first stage in the process is the realization that ‘there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand.’ Without this realization, nothing happens.” — William James

Generally speaking, as long as we are comfortable and happy with where we “naturally stand,” we will tend not to undergo the rigors of transformation. False pride and the need to avoid self-examination can be an obstacle; until we experience humility we will resist change. Simply put, the teaching is that we are motivated to change mostly through frustration and dissatisfaction. The thought or feeling that there is “something wrong about us” is a catalyst for growth. Psychiatry calls it a “symptom,” and by “diagnosis” and “treatment” enforces an understanding of this as literal, concrete evidence of defective biology or genetics. Genuine support responds with appreciation and encouragement for the discontent that signals the beginning of the self-renewal process.

“The first work of the hero is to retreat from the world scene of secondary effects to those causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside.” – Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

PAHJ John Breeding QuoteThe conventional unwisdom being what it is, my perspective is that retreat from the world scene truly can be a heroic act. Retreat is a betrayal of our society’s prime value, namely productivity. For example, we still tend to follow the fast-food school of grief where one is encouraged to get over it in a weekend and get back to graduate school. The truth is more like in fairy tales where the widower covers himself in animal skins and ashes, and lives in a hollow tree for seven years.

Psychiatry is more and more geared to support society’s demand that people should and need to be always working. Not only do people on the “journey” not work, but they consume much less. None of this is good for the business of psychiatry or the economy. What would the effect of “withdrawal” on a large scale have on the stock market? A large part of the work life of corporate America is boring, repetitious, not at all inspiring and purposeful to those who do the work. The ubiquitous use of coffee to get going and the coffee breaks to keep going are essential to the enterprise. And now we give stimulant drugs to millions of our school children as well. It seems to me the rat race is getting rattier.

What would happen if America decided to face its addiction to stimulants, and the workers gave up coffee? Slowing down means having space and time to think, ask questions, explore your life. This is dangerous and threatening to the demands of an economy based on incessant “growth” and productivity. And it feels very scary to those who keep their own inner demons and dragons at bay by constant activity.

To quote Wes Nisker, a writer for the Buddhist journal Inquiring Mind, “Slowing down in this culture may be the most difficult tantric exercise ever conceived. Mindfulness may be the ultimate speed bump.” 

I realize this must sound like a discouraging Alice in Wonderland pipe dream to people in the throes of intensive parenting—hence the basic, fundamental truth that parenting is hard not because we are dong anything wrong, but because of the harsh reality that our society is not set up to support parents and families—I call it parental oppression. So my goal is to call forward compassion for ourselves as parents. I do think that on a small ongoing scale, we must find ways to slow it down and to step back and do a little inner work. Many of the teachers in this series have methods for doing this. I will offer one below in the section on parenting as emotional healing.

“There are those who go searching for an artesian well and come instead upon a volcano.” P.W. Martin, Experiment in Depth: A Study of the Work of Jung, Eliot and Toynbee

Many of us are moved by inspirational writings or sermons that tell us of the beauty and glory of God’s kingdom, of the joy of “walking in the Light.” Perhaps we get an experience, a glimpse of greater love and joy, and we naturally want more. So we become seekers, and we tentatively follow the teachings to go within, that the kingdom is within. And we look for the light, and we fall into dark places inside of ourselves. One client of mine tells me that she lived for ten years in what she calls “the cleft in the rock,” experiencing joyous connection with the spirit, through Jesus, in her prayers and meditations.

Her life circumstances changed, and she fell into what she calls her “bloody pit.” Suicide attempts, psychiatric hospitalizations, drugs galore, and electroshock followed in the next two years. She found me years ago and has done enormous, intense personal work; it has been a profound ordeal. Her life remains challenging, but on a most definite upward trend. She is now beginning to feel that spiritual connection again.

There are many others, of course, who come upon a volcano without any searching. Regrettably, many of us, including myself, have come upon that volcano in the context of parenting. It s tragic to me, for example, to see a new trend of pregnant and new moms taking antidepressants (Breeding & Philo, 2011). The point is that great difficulties do, indeed, reside in the deep zones of the psyche.

Psychiatry has abandoned these very zones from which comes its name; Psyche means soul; a psychiatrist is by root definition, if not in practice, a doctor of the soul. Instead, they favor a belief that life experiences calling for a “time out,” a period for reconsidering one’s place in the world and the meaning of life, are the result of a biological defect. Genuine support for someone going through a transitional period can only come from those who know and respect the opportunities and risks inherent in this process, have confidence that positive growth can result, and stand ready to help if help is wanted.

“The parent is in the role of Holdfast; the hero’s artful solution of the task amounts to a slaying of the dragon. The tests imposed are difficult beyond measure. They seem to represent an absolute refusal, on the part of the parent ogre, to permit life to go its way; nevertheless when a fit candidate appears, no task in the world is beyond his skill.” – Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Just as a basic teaching about dreams is that we are not only our dream ego, but all the characters in the dream, so we are not only the hero in our parenting journey, but play all the parts at various times. Holdfast is the archetype of the parent or any entity whose prime directive is to maintain the status quo. According to Holdfast, resistance is pathological and cooperation is insight. Genuine support, however, validates the individual’s struggle for self-realization always and in all ways, even when he or she challenges society’s core beliefs and practices, so long as in doing so the rights of others are not violated.

“The returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world.” – Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Just as withdrawal and inner work are fraught with peril, so is the return. Newborn growth and awareness carries with it a great vulnerability, and our society can be harsh. Those who are satisfied with their place in the social order perceive the returning hero as a threat. If the hero is right, they must be wrong. And if they’re wrong it follows they should change. And that is when the sparks begin to fly because people don’t like change. It may be the product of eons of conditioning, just plain inertia, or a combination of both, but people will do just about anything rather than undergo a change, especially one that involves self-examination. To paraphrase the great philosopher and writer, Hermann Hesse, for most people, nothing is more distasteful than taking the path that leads to oneself.

The presence in the community of a hero, a self-evolved individual, has that kind of effect on people. Psychiatry plays the role of keeping out or removing individuals who are shaking us up. If they are able to return to the community after being labeled and treated by psychiatrists, they return as damaged goods, unlikely to frighten or inspire others about the need to change. Genuine support entails easing the way of the hero upon his or her return. This might mean offering moral support, camaraderie, material assistance, or political protection (e.g., just be known as having some local friends can help prevent private or governmental sanctions). And if one is unable or unwilling to help, then the important thing is to stay out of the way.

“The deeds of the hero in the second part of his personal cycle will be proportionate to the depth of his descent during the first.” – Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

“Madness” is necessary for the process of transformation, necessary in order to become spiritually mature. This quote further emphasizes that the “descent” is not only valuable to the individual, but also a treasure to the community. Many believe that “dropping out” of external work is dangerous because they profoundly distrust human nature. Genuine support starts with an understanding that it is part of our nature to be responsible and to be of service to others. There are times, however, when because of unresolved problems or owing to the dictates of a higher imperative, inner work is the priority. Respectful, above all respectful, and compassionate attention and assistance can be crucial to the individual so engaged, and can lead ultimately to important benefits to the community once this phase of the renewal process has been completed.

Refusing the Call

The idea is that we are called to do the hero’s journey. Very occasionally, the call is epic and has all the drama and flavor of the ancient myths. More often it is not so dramatic, but even then the basic model of withdrawal and return applies. I think that sometimes the intensity of the ordeal is proportional to the extent to which we have, consciously or not, resisted the process of stepping back, and taking the time and the responsibility to face ourselves and do some inner work. In the dedication to my book, The Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses, I wrote:

To my children, Eric and Vanessa, for the intense demand of their spirited natures which has forced me, kicking and screaming to transform myself and my life in ways I could never have imagined, again and again and again. . .

I have learned that, when I get triggered, I either face myself and work on it, or suppress my children. In this section, I will take a short look at three institutional forces that play the role of Holdfast, suppressing our young people, and creating, promoting or allowing opportunities for parents to refuse the call to parenting as a hero’s journey.


There are a number of great writers on the subject of education as a suppressor of children’s true nature; my own favorites are John Taylor Gatto, John Holt and Chris Mercogliano. The main idea for me is that children are inherently brilliant, imaginative, zestful self-directed learners, and that the schooling system works as an institutional force to dampen their spirit and render them more submissive and obedient. I will just briefly refer to three aspects of the educational system as illustrative.

One, the environment is set up mostly as a competitive enterprise, consistent with our society’s claim to virtue about the great goodness of competition.

Two, young people are often put under extreme pressure that is quite detrimental to learning, joy and well-being. Parents all too often get caught up in this as they become worried about their children “falling behind” and such nonsense. Coming from a place of fear, we parents then all too easily get caught up in further machinations that actually make things worse, such as the third institution of biopychiatry that I address below.

Third, it seems that schools have moved more deeply of late into a posture of “zero tolerance,” another face of fear, and one that echoes a general trend in our society, which may be construed as part of that general disastrous epic called the war on terror. In any event, what it means is rather than young people enjoying the attention of relaxed, thoughtful adults who help them when they are having a hard time, the response tends to be police-like, harsh and punitive.

To stand back and allow this, even worse to actively collaborate or support this kind of attitude and behavior toward children is to refuse the call to be a hero and face your discomfort around challenging school authorities, or your fear of emotion, or failure, or judgment, or your internalized feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness. The hero’s journey is a call to face both outer authorities and inner demons and dragons, and dealing with our education systems is one that no parent can avoid, without paying a very heavy toll.


We are no doubt in uncharted waters regarding technology whose role in our lives, and our children’s lives, is incredible. It did not take long from the advent of television for thoughtful adults such as Jerry Mander with his Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, to send out warnings about the dangers and deleterious effects of TV. Since then, the uncharted waters have become tsunami waves of screen time for humans, most definitely washing over the lives of our precious children with not only TV, but all kinds of computer, video games and telephone screens.

As a society we are clearly refusing that call to be heroes and protect our children, especially our young children.  As individual parents, this is another huge place where we are called to defend the natural adventure of life and resist the pseudo or virtual experiences that are offered as entertaining, stimulating, yet pathetic substitutes. As a counselor, I have too often seen what happens when parents yield to the convenience and quiet that comes from allowing children to sit in front of a TV or video game or other electronic screens, and thus refuse the call to set strong, proper limits on screen time for their children.

The consequences of this short-term benefit typically show up when the parents realize that their child is avoiding responsibilities missing social and outdoor experience and play, isolating from the family and such, and decide they need to intervene.  Such efforts to curtail their child’s screen time are usually met with resistance and sometimes the parents end up feeling like they have “created a monster.”  I have seen occasions when it really was horrific, ending in violence. More often it is a lesser form of conflict and unpleasantness, but the outlines of a hero’s journey are always present as there is a necessary withdrawal from the “productive” activities of life into an initiatory struggle involving all kinds of emotional and relational ordeals. For those who endure and survive, the return to the natural adventures of family life and living is a gift.


Biological psychiatry, biopsychiatry for short, is the model that drives our mental health system. The theory is quite simple, and goes something like this:

  • Failures in adjustment (a child’s problems in school, for example) are due to mental illness.
  • Mental illness (such as ADHD) is due to a biological (chemical imbalance theory) and/or genetic defect (bad gene theory).
  • Therefore, biological treatment (drugs).

The theory can be expanded, but that is the gist, which provides the claims to virtue that justify using toxic and addictive drugs to control children’s behavior by calling it the prescription of medicine to treat an illness. To offer just one illustration, parents who resist stimulant drugs for their children who medical or educational authorities want to label ADHD are made to feel guilty with statements like, “If your child had diabetes, you would give them insulin wouldn’t you?” The end result is that millions upon millions of our children and adolescents are taking powerful psychiatric drugs, many of them taking a few or several at once. I have written extensively on this topic, much of which is available on my website at

One recent article describes some of the many difficulties in working with an adolescent boy on a pharmacological cocktail (Breeding, 2015) Just three of these difficulties are the fact that being on psychiatric drugs tends to suppress emotional expression, undermine responsibility of all involved, and add an array of complications related to drug effects and withdrawal. As a hero’s journey requires free expression, a high level of responsibility, and all of one’s wits, I hope this provides a small glimpse of the problem.

Here is a last glimpse into this terrible domain, a brief decoding of the three-part theory of biopsychiatry presented just above:

  • Failures in adjustment are multicausal. Sometimes it is because there are inherent problems when one is asked to adjust to a situation that is oppressive to our true nature. See the topic of education as one of our three examples of institutional forces of Holdfast.
  • Mental illness is a metaphor. As hard as it is for many to accept, no problem routinely seen by psychiatry has been scientifically demonstrated to be of biological or genetic origin. That is why there is no objective test or indicator for any so-called mental illness, including, for example, the ubiquitous ADHD. “Mental illnesses” are diagnosed strictly based on behavior, and, simply put, behavior is not a disease.
  • Psychiatric drugs are toxic and addictive, and have a wide range of deleterious effects. For example, the stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall typically used on our children, controlling for dosage and form of administration, have an effects profile virtually identical to methamphetamine (crystal speed) and cocaine. Psychiatry calls it medicine for mental illness. I call it poisoning our precious children.

Parenting as Emotional Healing

The hero’s journey begins when we are yanked into the underworld of the deep psyche, and parenting definitely has an ordeal aspect in this regard. A wide array of our children’s behaviors can be excellent triggers for unresolved feelings of hurt, fear, shame or anger. Disrespect, disobedience, defiance, aggression, whining, crying, lying, almost anything that somehow touches a place where we were hurt as children can be such a trigger. Many of the teachers in this series have methods they recommend to help, and here is a simple formula I find useful as a way to begin working with this idea of parenting as emotional healing; K. Lavonne, author of Tomorrow’s Children, taught it to me.

Step 1) Recognize that you are out of your loving with your child. This does not mean out of your permissiveness, but out of your loving and neutrality; it means that you are emotionally triggered. This usually looks like either an urge to punish or to give up and withdraw. It generally means that you are not able to think well about your child, and have forgotten that they are doing the best they can, and that their “bad” behavior is an effort to get your attention on a place where they have some distress and need your help.

Step 2) Ask yourself, “Who am I in this situation?” This means exploring your internal state when you are triggered. It might be, “I’m an angry woman who wants to throttle my child.” Or “I feel like a hopeless, defeated little boy who just wants to curl up and disappear.” It might be one of those humbling situations where you recognize, with a sinking feeling, that the precise words that just came out of your mouth were those of your own mother’s, in just her tone of voice: words you had promised never to use with your child.

Step 3) Ask yourself what behavior or quality in your child are you reacting to. Perhaps you can’t stand his whining or her defiance, or lying.

Step 4) Ask yourself how you are in relationship to this quality inside of yourself. This is the inner work of self-discovery and emotional healing. One place to work on this is in the area of lying. The work of personal transformation requires great honesty; my friend, Brad Blanton, has a bestselling book called Radical Honesty: How To Transform Your Life By Telling The Truth. His whole premise is that your personal growth is limited only by your incapacity or unwillingness to be honest. He says that we’re all liars, and getting honest is a big work for all of us. The great task of parenting is to do our own work because we can effectively help our children only in areas where we are relatively free of distress. If your child has trouble making friends, and you have a similar pattern, the best way you can help your child is to go make friends for yourself. Similarly, the bottom line with lying is that if it is a problem for your child, the very best way you can help your child is to do the courageous and difficult work of getting honest in your own life.

We need to be absolutely honest with our children and especially with ourselves. Blanton talks about three levels of honesty, in ascending order of both subtlety and difficulty: honesty with the outer facts or circumstances, honesty with how you feel about these circumstances, honesty with the deeper conditioning (distress) that lurks behind all this. I would say that a necessary first step is to completely surrender the illusion that there is any justification whatsoever for you to blame, punish, or otherwise be out of your loving with your children; it’s all your distress, your responsibility.

Step 5) Do the inner work related to the difficulties you have in the area of distress. This might mean personal counseling, talking with friends, journaling, whatever support helps and is necessary.

Step 6) Be grateful to your child for being your teacher and pointing out to you the place you need to grow.

Any place where we get restimulated and reactive becomes another portal into the fires of personal transformation, and our children are the catalysts who provide both the stimulus to feel the fire, and the motivation to stay with it and endure the ordeal of countless ego deaths. If we are fortunate, these are deaths of those negative memories, feelings and habits which keep us out of our loving, and awakenings into greater space for acceptance, tolerance, compassion and clear thinking about our children and ourselves. I wrote about one of many personal examples in a chapter of my Wildest Colts book; the chapter was titled “About Eric,” but in retrospect and consistent with the teachings herein, I am clear that the title should be “About John!”  A short version of the story is that my son was angry much of the time between ages 4 and 7, or so it seemed to me. No doubt he had reason, but it is also true that young children do get angry a lot as they face inevitable insults and injuries to their big desires and great imaginations. And if they are given free reign to express themselves, they are often quite dramatic. In any event, Eric was young and powerful and expressive, and his mother and I joked that his ego was so much bigger than ours. I certainly felt and thought that his personality was very different than mine; fact is back in my mid-20’s I had been tagged by at least one good friend as “the ultimate rational man.” I was logical and stoic, and in fact pretty shut down around anger.

So faced with my son’s intense anger, I was faced with one of those big points where, as I said in the dedication to my book, I either suppress Eric, or distance myself and withdraw, or…. allow the intense demand of his spirited nature to force me, kicking and screaming to transform myself and my life in ways I could never have imagined, again and again and again. . . One great thing about being a parent is that having a child is about the strongest motivator on the planet toward overcoming resistance to look at ourselves and change. I was determined to do whatever it took to hang in and stay close with my son, and so I did the hard work of facing my anger, and hanging in there with his. I went to counseling, I did men’s groups, I did play groups, and I changed, and I stayed close with Eric. I brought back the gifts of being more powerfully in touch with my own righteous anger, and more relaxed and confident in the face of my son’s.

Eric’s mother and I accepted the call to resist the three potentially oppressive institutional forces cited above. Our boy was not interested in reading until after he turned eight. He loved to be read to, but when I tried to get him to read Hop on Pop, he threw it at the wall. Imagine how that would have gone over in school! We enjoyed an occasional video, a favorite being Lady and the Tramp, and he was into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a while, but mostly he played, indoors and out. I imagine that many of you readers can imagine some of the judgments we got about ourselves, and our boy, during those tumultuous times of attachment parenting and free expression. More than a few folks were on occasion of the opinion that I ought to consider a psychiatric consultation for both Eric and myself.  We were operating largely on faith and principle at the time, so I offer my own now emerging and young adult children as encouragement to those of you still in the fires of intensive parenting. Eric is living a big life in the epicenter of the art world with a great job in a premier Manhattan gallery. Vanessa, now 25, is in graduate school at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Our youngest is 22, back in Austin after graduation in May from Hampshire College. He is a writer, among other interests.

Three Parenting Keys

Part of this Consciously parenting includes a series of “wisdom nuggets,” which will be sent out regularly during the three weeks of my segment. I will conclude this initial essay with a small sampler of three ideas that have been of value to me. The first is in my view the big kahuna!

To see your child through the Eyes of Delight is the greatest gift in the world you can give to your child and to yourself.

This should be our lodestar by which we navigate the great sea of parenting. If we see through these eyes most of the time, all is well, and we can handle the rough spots. When we are seeing this instead through eyes of judgment, rejection, hopelessness and such, we can know we are off course and do whatever it takes to reclaim our eyes of delight. That would be the work. Here is a valuable corollary:

Remember NOT to trust the thinking of anyone who sees your child through anything other than the eyes of delight. There really are no “bad” children. Your child is completely good and delightful.

Here is a humbling and important teaching about respect. Adultism is the systematic mistreatment of children and young people simply because they are young. The overall conditioning against emotional expression is laid down through adultism. The pattern is one of massive disrespect. To test whether or not you are acting as an agent of this oppression, apply the following question to any action you take toward a young person: Would you treat another adult the same way? Since we are all thoroughly conditioned to treat children a certain way, we must make every effort to challenge our conditioning. Complete and unqualified respect is and must be the foundation stone of any mutually satisfying relationship, and must be the basis from which we enter into relationships with our children. Without it, we all inevitably end up in humiliation and disgrace. The way to teach respect is to give it. The only way your child will learn the true meaning and experience of respect is through being consistently treated with respect.

My third and final offering for the moment is a reminder about perspective. The environment that matters most is not the one we construct for our children; it is the one given them by nature. Nature contains us and, borrowing a Native American expression, each of us is born with a capacity to experience awe and wonder for “All my relations.” Our task is to reclaim or redevelop this natural capacity and to protect and nurture its reality for our children. From this place flows an enduring and abundant spring of clear, clean motivation as we live in our natural state of connectedness, of caring, of compassion, of love and reverence, knowing beyond any doubt that all life is sacred. Take some time now, and later, to play and explore outdoors with your children


Featured photo Shutterstock/AlpaSpirit

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The Birthing Zone: A Father’s Birth Story Mon, 02 Nov 2015 11:42:25 +0000 The Graceful Turtle Our pregnancy was fantastic. My wife was fit and healthy and had no complications in the nine months. The baby active and well positioned. Only in the last month did Bronwyn experience some discomfort as the baby began to engage, which is normal. The nine months for me was different. I found […]]]>

The Graceful Turtle

Our pregnancy was fantastic. My wife was fit and healthy and had no complications in the nine months. The baby active and well positioned. Only in the last month did Bronwyn experience some discomfort as the baby began to engage, which is normal. The nine months for me was different. I found myself going through waves of fear about whether I could provide enough for the future and meet expectations. However I dealt with these as they arose through self-inquiry methods and realised that these fears were ill founded. I really had nothing to worry about.

As I cleared each fear that arose and made sure I didn’t take on other people’s fears, I found I was able to stay close and be more intimate with Bronwyn and the baby during the pregnancy instead of being distracted by unnecessary fears. I was frequently in a space where I could just simply be with them, with my heart, in love. I felt I was energetically supporting them, my love radiating out from my heart enveloping them in a transparent bubble. In fact the bubble seemed to wrap around the entire house. In this bubble of unconditional love that I was consciously holding, Bronwyn and baby were able to simply be with themselves knowing they were safe and held on their journey. This was where I discovered the deeper levels of the traditional male role of supporting and protecting.

I’ve read other men’s birth stories where they couldn’t connect with the new child until perhaps six months after the birth. I am grateful that I connected with our baby almost immediately. Upon finding out we were pregnant I lit a candle, symbolising the baby’s soul, and welcomed it into my heart. I cried deeply with love and gratitude for hours. From that moment I felt the baby’s presence almost always.

The pregnancy was brilliant in helping us realise, again, how much society is run on fear. We were absolutely confident that all was well with the baby in utero, and we trusted deeply in the process. We wanted no interference, no ultrasounds nor any other electronic gadgets. We trusted that everything was as it should be. We didn’t need to know that there might be a one in five hundred thousand possibility of something or other happening, and we weren’t interested in testing for it.

We began our pregnancy support at the local hospital. Our first appointment was the compulsory meeting with the obstetrician, which was a nightmare from the start. When we told the doctor that we didn’t want any ultrasounds or other electronic testing he launched into a half hour rant telling us that we were putting our baby’s life at risk and that we, ‘weren’t living in the real world’. There was no room for discussion. I managed to get a couple of reasonable questions in but this fuelled him up even more. I also witnessed Bronwyn slipping quickly into the role of becoming a, ‘good girl for the doctor’, nodding at everything he said and ready to hand over her entire birthing power to him and the system. At the end of his tirade, very quickly and quite arrogantly, he lay Bronwyn on the table for a check up. Palpations we thought. But before we knew it he was holding a dopler machine on Bronwyn’s stomach and the beat of the baby’s heart filled the room. I was irate and could have hit him. There was no way I wanted this man anywhere near my labouring wife.

We left the hospital stunned. Walking home we ran into a friend who was eight months pregnant with her second child, who told us of her first home birth experience. We had been thinking about a home birth but still hadn’t decided. With renewed enthusiasm, we raced home and began finding an independent midwife. Sonja visited us and in a few weeks we made the decision to have her support us in a home birth. We quietly extracted ourselves from the hospital system.

Kindred New Story Ad Child Pointing V2A month before the ‘due date’ the baby’s head began to engage into the pelvis. One night at around this time Bronwyn had a dream. The dream involved a turtle. A turtle symbolises slowness, strength, patience, endurance, and stability; just the qualities that are needed for labour. I recognised that Bronwyn’s psyche was preparing her for the labour and the birth – as it should. She had another dream a few nights later where some men were carrying around a huge rock. This symbolised a different type of strength to that of the turtle. A male strength was being brought into the process. To help integrate these energies into her consciousness more I bought Bronwyn a slab of clay and she made two turtles from it; one a mother turtle and the other a baby turtle which, for some unknown reason, didn’t yet have a head. Un-fired she mounted them both on the alter in the living room in front of where the birth pool would be. She placed the mother turtle on a rock she had found at the beach. A few days later the mother turtle’s head fell off. Unaware of the symbolism Bronwyn then transferred the head onto the baby turtle. The baby was now fully formed. The mother had unselfishly given a part of herself to the baby for its own sake. Soon after this our labour began.

I had an idea that the energies of the turtle and the rock would be useful during labour, but I didn’t know how useful until we were deep into the process.

The contractions began on the stroke of midnight as Capricorn gave way to Aquarius. Slightly at first, like period pains, then they became steadily stronger. Bronwyn lay curled up in bed and held my hand tighter with each increasing pain. By 3am I was timing the contractions at 50 seconds long coming every three to four minutes. I inflated the birth pool and began filling it, then called Sonja our midwife, and left a message for Janet, Bronwyn’s mum. They would be with us in a couple of hours.

By 4am Bronwyn had entered the pool. I kept filling it with buckets of hot water to bring the temperature up. I stayed on the outside of the pool for a while, then got in when I felt I needed to be closer.

Bronwyn’s contractions were getting stronger and stronger. She repeatedly breathed out long breaths. Janet arrived at around 5am and made herself busy in the kitchen. Sonja arrived at twilight, checked we were OK and simply sat near by, observing. From the sidelines Sonja supported us in our process, clearly it was going to be the two of us, just as we planned, with Sonja coming in when needed. She gave us our space to do what was needed, which is rare, and from our viewpoint, valued. Our main plan for our birth was for as little intervention as possible. We were confident and trusted in the process. No checks were necessary. All the natural signs were good. Everything was going accordingly. The sunrise out of the lounge room windows was amazing as it filled the room with golden light.

It was some time early in the day that the contractions all of a sudden slowed, then stopped. I massaged Bronwyn’s Spleen-6 points on her legs but the contractions kept stalling. Sonja suggested that her and Janet’s presence was interrupting the process, so they excused themselves from the house. Bronwyn said later that she had felt some pressure to ‘perform’, particularly with her mum’s presence. So the subtle stress of having to perform upset her natural rhythms and halted the contractions.

With only the two of us in the house now, Bronwyn could relax. The contractions returned and became stronger. Her long breaths now turned into moans. Each new contraction was more intense than the last. Her moans became louder and deeper. Throughout, Bronwyn squeezed my hand more and more tightly. For the entire labour I was just simply there, next to her, being 100% present in the moment with her. The nine months I’d spent looking beneath my fears and being in the moment prepared me for this moment. In this space of stilled mind I could intuit what needed to be done; massage her lower back or head, gently stroke her face, pour warm water over her body, offer her a drink of water, but mostly just be there with her. We spoke very little, however, occasionally I would offer encouragement with words that came from my heart, not my head. I know when I’m talking purely from my heart because in the next moment I can’t remember what I said. What I do remember is the feeling that the words and intent were just right. What I offered were words of belief and trust in the natural unfolding of the process, and words of praise and admiration. I became her rock to which she could hold onto to stay grounded in what ever she was experiencing. I trusted so deeply and was so immersed in the process that I never took on her pain or felt I needed to ‘fix’ anything. This helped her to trust in what we were doing just as deeply and to lean on me 100% when she needed to.

In turn I drew on Sonja’s strength and experience. All I had to do was look at her and see in her confidence and calmness that everything was as it should be. This supported my own confidence and calmness. I trusted Sonja and through this Bronwyn trusted me more.

Sometimes between contractions, when I was alone with Bronwyn, I had to get out of the pool zone and do domestics; boil pots of hot water, fill the drinking cups, or grab some bananas. Through the entire labour Bronwyn lived on bananas, yoghurt, and water mixed with Gastrolyte, a glucose and electrolyte powder I bought at the chemist, which is far better than lollipop water like Gatorade or the like. It was a bit frustrating not having the backup of the others, but I did the domestics fast enough that I could be back in the pool well before the next contraction.

Sonja and Janet came back in a few hours. Again the contractions slowed and stopped. After a while Sonja suggested I do some more massage to get things going again. I massaged the Spleen-6 points and stimulated the nipples a bit too. Within a few minutes she was back in the flow.

The day progressed slowly. Twice more the contractions stopped and twice more we got them going again. Although Bronwyn appreciated a break from the pain, for me there was a fine line between her resting and her avoiding. When she was avoiding and not wanting to go back into the pain she would ‘disappear’. She’d have a distant look on her face as if she wanted to be somewhere else. We both knew there was no way out except to go straight through it. I had to remind and encourage her to stay with it.

At about 1pm Bronwyn was losing energy and becoming upset. She sobbed deeply and wanted it all to be over. The pain of the contractions wasn’t what she expected. The contractions stalled for the third time. After a while Sonja gently asked her if there was some fear about anything in particular. Through tears Bronwyn soon admitted that she was afraid of the changes that would come. She didn’t know if she was ready. Soon after this fear was aired the contractions began again, becoming stronger and stronger.

In the mid afternoon Bronwyn wanted to know how far she had dilated. She wasn’t interested before, but now she wanted to know. Sonja checked with Bronwyn to see if she really needed to know. What would she do if she hadn’t progressed as far as she’d hoped? Bronwyn decided to take the risk of being further demoralised and asked Sonja to check dilation. Sonja reported that she was between 7 and 8cm. This was pleasing news and gave her more confidence.

The fourth and last time the contractions stopped, about five in the afternoon, Sonja and Janet left the house again. Bronwyn had split to some other planet and I coaxed her out of the pool to get her moving. ‘We’ve got to get active darling’. She reluctantly laboured out of the pool, staggered to the toilet, emptied her bladder, had a contraction, squatted in the shower and had another contraction. Her moans were getting louder and louder. I thought she might give birth there and wondered if I should put the plug in and fill the tub. The hot water on her back was good. After half an hour or so she stood up and staggered back to the pool.

I can’t remember exactly when Bronwyn began to make the really loud sounds but it was probably about now, in what was to be the last third of labour. She was moaning the roof off. Always placid and serene I watched her layers slowly come off as she moved to a deeper space inside herself to let it all out. Bronwyn later told me that making those sounds was more helpful than the breathing. Even though breathing was good at first it was the sound that got her through the peaks of pain. It was an anxious and excruciating hour and a half for the last two centimetres.

Since Sonja and Janet had left for the second time I had a deep feeling of abandonment. I thought there was nothing in the kitchen to eat, as labour had started when we hadn’t expected it (eleven days before the ‘due date’) and I hadn’t done the shopping. Now Bronwyn was going through hell and needed all of my attention I felt angry that I had been left to do everything. I got out of the pool to get some food for us and found the fridge packed full of all the food we needed for a month. Good on Janet. I laughed and felt foolish. They knew what they were doing and Sonja trusted me to support Bronwyn. I cleared my projection and got back to the job.

At 6.30pm we finally reached full dilation. We’d been going for 18 and a half hours. Bronwyn was exhausted. I had found two hours sleep somewhere in the mid morning but Bronwyn hadn’t slept at all. In fact she hadn’t slept since the night before last, almost 36 hours ago. I felt some relief in reaching full dilation. Bronwyn felt the need to push but was still uncertain that she was fully dilated and worried about an anterior lip. I called Sonja. She and Janet had gone to get some sleep. She was back in the house in ten minutes and reassured us that all was good and to go with the urge to push. During this transition time Bronwyn looked to Sonja for some confirmation that the pain wasn’t going to go on for much longer. Not wanting to discourage her Sonja wisely answered, ‘it’s up to you sweetheart’.

Bronwyn said to me through sweat and tears that she now understood why women take pain relief. This was as close as she came to asking for any. She knew that there wasn’t any in the house, not even an aspirin and heading to hospital didn’t even enter our minds. I remember telling her that I knew she could do this. These words look a bit weak on the page, but from the heart said with love it was the thing that picked her up and helped her carry on. I was the rock supporting the turtle.

Bronwyn pushed, and pushed, and pushed. For four hours she pushed. And of course the contractions were more intense than ever.

She needed something to push against, to help her push the baby out. The edge of the pool was too soft, so she used me. Before, in our moments of intimacy in between contractions we would put our foreheads together, as if our third eyes were kissing. We always do this. It is our habit of affection. Now, in the pool with our foreheads touching another contraction arose. Bronwyn began to moan and push her head against mine. I had to push back with equal force. Stripped bare of all dignity she heroically bore the pain in all her primal rawness and sounded herself out to the world. She was using me for physical, emotional, and energetic support and I had to give her everything I had.

For over three hours we were connected at the forehead. The energy between us was incredible. She was in the height of labour pushing against my forehead with a strength generated by all the birthing goddesses in all of history. I had to match this by tapping into my own universal male energies. I needed to draw upon an equal amount of energy to support her through this. I not only brought in the energy of the immovable rock but I also brought in the energy of my Aries ram. My forehead locked onto the forehead of the lioness. If there wasn’t a male birthing god in existence before this moment, then one was created that day in our living room.

After three hours of pushing, Bronwyn could see no end. Both Sonja and Janet were now fully present, closer to the action, and helped with encouragements. Bronwyn despaired that she could feel the baby move forward through the canal and then move back. One step forward, two steps back. Sonja confirmed that this was normal. It eases the vagina open and helps to stop tearing. But for Bronwyn it was compounding frustration.

After three hours of pushing there was some fear that something might be wrong with the baby. I don’t remember how it started, perhaps by some talk that the baby was not moving. Bronwyn couldn’t remember the last time she felt it move. I remember visualising the cord wrapped around the baby’s throat and it was being strangled and it couldn’t get out. Fear rose up inside of me for the first time in the whole process. I suggested to Sonja in a weak and uncertain voice that perhaps we should check its heartbeat. I meant that she use her dopler machine, but, as she knew our sensitivity to them she thought I meant the pinard and said that the baby was too low in the womb to hear anything. I was too much in fear to notice the misunderstanding. What seemed like half an hour went by and the tension in me only escalated. Finally Sonja suggested strongly that we should use the dopler machine. We all agreed and Sonja placed the probe in the pool, next to Bronwyn’s pelvis. Nothing. I felt horror as my heart leaped into my throat. Then she moved the probe a few millimetres to the right and there it was, loud and strong. There was no stress, only a beautiful rhythm telling us that it was patiently waiting for the gates to open. We all cried a sigh of relief. The sound of this precious heartbeat lifted us all and motivated us back to work.

In the fourth hour I felt it might be best to get Bronwyn to stand up, to let gravity assist the baby’s descent. All fours in the pool wasn’t working so we tried standing several times. She didn’t have much strength left so I held her up by the arms. Janet then lifted her skirt up and stepped into the pool, standing behind Bronwyn to help hold her up. This was working. The baby was progressing more easily, two steps forward, one back. After a while we couldn’t hold her up much longer. My brain began to think. I said that we needed a birthing stool. Sonja replied that we didn’t have one. I thought laterally for an alternative. ‘A bucket, grab a bucket’. To my surprise Sonja grabbed a bucket and submerged it beneath Bronwyn. She sat with part of her weight on the bucket and the other part still held up by Janet and myself. It was working and Bronwyn was pushing. Three pushes later we were encouraging her into the fourth when she exhaustingly said, ‘I think the baby’s out’. We lifted her off and there in the bucket was this little blue grey alien thrashing around like a fish. She had come out all at once in that one last push.

Sonja reached into the bucket and lifted the baby onto Bronwyn’s chest as she fell back exhausted against the side of the pool. As it came out of the water we heard it take its first breath, a quick small cry, and it rapidly turned pink. It was 10.29pm. In shock and amazement Bronwyn exclaimed, ‘it’s a little human!’ I noticed Bronwyn immediately change. All the pain she carried of the last 22 and a half hours simply disappeared. Now she expressed shock, joy and amazement. I was amazed and full of joy myself. We’d done it!

We sat in the pool looking at this little pink slimy creature staring back at us with its huge clear black eyes, glancing between mother, father, and the dimmed light on the ceiling behind us. It was silent and attentive, fully aware and fully awake. It was so incredible and precious these first few moments of discovery, for all three of us, and granny Janet too. Despite all the commotion going on outside the womb it was as if the baby had entered the world with absolute patience and grace.

It was some time before we realised we hadn’t looked at the baby’s gender. During the pregnancy we intuited that it would be a girl, but weren’t fussed what sex the child would be. We had no attachment to one or the other. This non-attachment to gender helped us to fully appreciate and love this little being that had made such an incredible journey earth-side. It helped us connect to its soul, which is deeper than gender and beyond all social expectations. When we remembered to look we lifted the baby up. In the dim light I mistook the umbilical cord for a penis and announced, ‘it’s a boy!’ On the second look it had none. My brain had to work a bit harder but it finally figured out that no penis = girl.

We soon climbed out of the pool, dried and lay down on the futon next to the pool. The next few hours were spent marvelling at this little miracle, letting mother and daughter bond, and waiting for the placenta to birth itself. Three hours after the birth there was still no placenta. It was now 1.30am and we all needed to get some sleep. We agreed that we would sleep on it and Sonja check first thing in the morning.

When she checked at 7am the placenta was still inside Bronwyn. There were two possibilities. One, that the placenta had let go and was just sitting in the birth canal, and a gentle pull would help it out, or two, it hadn’t let go and we might have to go to the hospital to get it surgically removed. This second scenario would have been a complete downer after such a beautiful and successful homebirth. Just in case the placenta was still attached to the wall of the uterus Sonja injected syntocinon into Bronwyn’s thigh. Then she pulled ever so gently on the cord. The placenta easily plopped out and at the same time the baby farted. Sonja affectionately said to it, ‘so it was you who was holding on’. More sighs of relief.

During the day we agreed the baby’s name would be Alina Grace Caganoff. She weighed in at 6 pounds 3 and a half ounces.

We proceeded with our planned lotus birth. Salting the placenta after 24hrs of draining it, then re-salting it every 24hrs until it came off four days later. We were sitting at the dinner table that evening chatting away, Bronwyn had Alina and the placenta bag on her lap. All of a sudden we heard a thump on the floor and a cry from bub. The bag had fallen onto the floor and pulled the cord off at her belly. After the three of us got over the shock of it we then doubted that the bag had simply fallen. Perhaps at that moment Alina discovered that there wasn’t room for the two of them anymore and kicked the placenta off? She had a perfect belly button.

A week or so after the birth a friend read Alina’s palm. Oblivious of our turtle story she calmly explained that Alina’s characteristics would be strength, patience, endurance, and longevity. I laughed; so it was Alina in the dream, making herself known in the form of a turtle. Indeed, mother and daughter had worked together harmonising with the same turtle energies to ensure the least traumatic (but still quite dramatic) entrance into the world. Bronwyn gave so much of herself for Alina to be so complete. She is a calm, content, happy, active and aware little girl.

Despite the stalled contractions and the late birth of the placenta, we had a very successful, uncomplicated home water birth, which gave us the opportunity to go where couples rarely go: beyond ego into a place where you can both surrender to love, surrender to pain, and surrender to the magnificent creative and destructive forces of the universe.

I wish to thank Sonja for the dedication she has to her profession and offering us her experience and guidance during our process. I wish to also thank Janet for the dedication and support for her daughter and granddaughter and for taking a risk and following us out of the cultural comfort zones in order to birth our child on our own terms.

As a man, and now a father, I wish to express my love and admiration for Bronwyn and baby Alina, for passing through this momentous ‘rights of passage’: Alina’s graceful passage earth-side and Bronwyn’s courageous journey through the unknown darkness into the sunlit, and sometimes thunderous fields of motherhood. It was an absolute honour to be the main support for my beloved. It was truly the most incredible thing I have ever seen and been a part of.

Lastly, I would like to gratefully acknowledge all mothers throughout history for bearing the pain of childbirth, and to all midwives for their experience and knowledge handed down through countless millenniums of birthing ritual.

Read Gary’s other articles on The Birthing Zone

Photo Shutterstock/Vitalinka

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