Welcome, Ariel!

Ariel Brantley-Dalglish, CNM
MBCP Instructor

I could not possibly more excited to announce that Mindful Birth PDX is welcoming a second instructor, Ariel Brantley-Dalglish! Ariel and I attended nursing and midwifery school together at Oregon Health & Science University and have collaborated on numerous projects together in the past, from academic to professional.

Head on over to her new bio page to learn more about her mindfulness and midwifery journey. She is leading an online MBCP class that starts on Wednesday, June 3, and spots are still available. I am so thrilled to have such an inspiring co-instructor to partner with as we work to make MBCP more accessible to families in the Pacific Northwest!

Summer MBCP Series Launches June 23,2020!

We’re excited to announce our first official full-length Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting class series will be launching on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. This class will meet for nine sessions, with a day-long retreat between classes 6 and 7. There will also be a postpartum retreat, to be scheduled by the cohort.

Due to Covid-19, we’ll be offering this class as a fully online series via Zoom.

Find all the class details here, or send us a message with any specific questions.

Op Note

Exploratory surgery went well.

No major organs were removed, no malignant tumors visualized.

Began with sharp dissection, but the lines drawn with the scalpel were

too precise, too reliant

on a duality of open or closed.

It could only touch the surface.

So, turning to blunt dissection instead,

tissue toughened over years was gently massaged

with the fingers, slowly separating fascia from muscle,

creating weak spots that eventually gave way.

Layer upon layer of muscle was loosened in this way

until the glistening organ showed itself

pulsing and quivering with aliveness.

The room was quiet, the clattering of instruments stilled.

There was just the breath

in and out

and a silent meeting

of the hand and viscera.

Just to see it in the light of day was a miracle.

But of course, one cannot walk out into the world

with the wound gaping open.

So sutures were placed, closing the layers,

tissue well approximated,

hemostasis achieved.

Coming out of the steady silence of

meditation, the wound is a bit tender,

but it will heal well.

And when that silence is encountered again,

the scar will know how to give way,

how to reveal the tender mass

of hurt

with a little less resistance.

written during Rohatsu Sesshin, December 1-8, 2019

Dharma Rain Zen Center, Portland, OR

Universal Instructions on Cultivating an Empty Field

The garden of your life silently illuminates

the neglected patches where the weeds grow thick.

It will be impossible to disentangle them.

Start instead by gently loosening the soil.

Go easy.

Say a prayer.

Place the wet, wriggling worm

on a different path.

Keep loosening more soil.

You’re looking for the tap root.

The little ones that pull up easy

are a distraction.

They’ll make you think you’re

on to something.

Don’t be deluded.

Dig deeper.

Pull in the direction of least resistance.

Find the direction the root

is growing and follow.

A trowel or spade may help,

but don’t forget the tender

power of your two bare hands,

able to feel when the root

finally exhales and starts to give,

just a little.

When you finally reach the tap root,

marvel at its thick, functional sturdiness.

It did only what roots know how to do:

grow deeper, in search of water

and ever darker, more expansive dark.

Feel around it, reaching down as far as you can.

The moment it snaps,

let the shock of separation reverberate through

your body.

Let it shatter everything to

a hundred thousand pieces.

The fragments of your heart/mind

will cleave together in the loosened soil,

now more porous, softer,

able to let in the silver light

of the half moon.

That’s the first weed.

Now let your hands find the next one.

written during Rohatsu Sesshin, December 1-8, 2019

Dharma Rain Zen Center, Portland, OR

The Question

Attempting to ask the question

is like grasping for fish

with closed fists.

Perhaps it is more clearly

heard if their supple

silver bodies

are allowed to slip

through open fingers,

yielding to the ripples

of no trace.

the questions will ask and answer

themselves in the

articulate silence

of soft sitting.

written during Rohatsu Sesshin, December 1-8, 2019

Dharma Rain Zen Center, Portland, Oregon

Retreat

photo courtesy of Dharma Rain Zen Center, Portland, OR


I’ve never been on a formal meditation retreat before that’s longer than a few days, but this Sunday evening I’ll be participating in a week-long sesshin, or Zen meditation retreat. We will wake at 4:30 the morning in Noble Silence to begin the first of eight total hours of silent zazen, or sitting meditation each day. There will also be kinhin, or walking meditation, work meditation, as well as formal meals in silence called oryoki. There will be chanting and bowing, a time for rest or exercise, and time to ask our teachers questions about our practice in a private interview process called sanzen. Each evening a Dharma Talk is given by the abbot of the temple, followed by a tea ceremony; an evening vespers chant wraps up the day before lights out at 10pm. Then six and a half hours later, the bells will ring and we’ll wake up and do it all over again, for the next seven days.

At this point you might find yourself asking, “Why on earth would anyone want to subject themselves to the physical and potential emotional misery of sitting silently with their thoughts and sore back all week, with a bunch of other people also sitting silently?!”

It’s a fair question to ask, though I don’t know that I can fully answer it in a way that resonates with what I feel in my body when I think about the experience. What I do know is that I have rarely, if ever, given myself the permission to just be without having to do for such an extended period of time. So much of my identity is wrapped up in what I think, do, achieve, create…particularly in a professional context. Most midwives talk about their work as a calling or vocation, not just a job. We think it of it as an intrinsic part of who we are.

But for the next week, no one will care at all about my work as a midwife. Nor will they know the extent of my time as a graduate student, earning two different master’s degrees. They won’t know anything about my family, the various political causes I think are worthy, the satisfaction I take in knitting and sewing, or the pleasure I experience in mastering a new chord on my ukelele–some of the things that in sum, I’ve come to believe are me.

Everything that we think of as “personality,” or “identity,” or “the self,” will be gently set aside for the week and perhaps I might experience for a brief moment the Zen concept of non-duality. One of my favorite Zen koans, attributed to the Chinese Chan Buddhist monk Huineng, asks “What did your face look like before your parents were born?” Another translation offered says, “When you’re not thinking of anything good and anything bad, at that moment, what is your original face?”

My heart skipped a beat when I first heard this koan. As an adult adoptee, I’ve never walked through the world looking like anybody else I knew. It wasn’t until my son was born that I had the experience of looking in another person’s face and seeing my eyes, my cheeks, my nose. It took my breath away. The question, What did my original face look like? sat quietly beside the longing I have felt my entire life to experience that physical immediacy of looking like at least one other person in the world. Upon encountering Huineng’s koan, that longing loosened its grip and slipped free. I took comfort in knowing that I will never know my birth parents’ faces, or their parents…nor my “original face.” It is larger than any one human DNA lineage, species of plant or animal, or element of matter. The self is always transforming and will continue to do so even past death. This body I inhabit will eventually cease living and slowly decompose, becoming the soil and trees and animals. I’m just in this particular human form for a short period of time.

It’s both disorienting, but liberating also, to know that I am not my thoughts. They certainly dictate a good portion of my day and are a source of pleasure, satisfaction and deep connection, but also sometimes grief, anger, and resentment. When I can take a moment to pause and notice that I’m thinking, it gives me an opportunity to observe how I am relating to my thoughts. Am I ruminating on something in the past or future that I have no control over? Am I replaying a conversation I wish had gone differently? Am I telling myself the same story about why x, y, or z plan isn’t possible and will never work out? As a humans, we are a story-telling species; we tell stories to create meaning of the events of our lives. But stories are slippery: they can be our prison just as easily as they can be our healing or our liberation.

I’m grateful for this seven day space I’m giving myself to experience what happens when I pause the stories and listen for what else might emerge. I have no idea what will unfold, which makes me both nervous, but also curious. If there’s anything I’ve learned about being a parent so far, it’s the mileage you can get out of loosening the grip on the story in your head and just staying curious to the moment and child in front of you. So many times, it’s turned out I was nowhere near the mark of what was motivating my son to do, think, or say whatever it was he did, thought, or said. It is my son’s fearless, loving curiosity that will be my inspiration, strength, and guiding light as I embark on this sesshin.


Welcome to Mindful Birth PDX!

Mindful Birth PDX has had a long gestation period, but I am excited to finally be able to launch this new childbirth and parenting education series to the Portland community. The seeds were first planted around six years ago, when as a pre-nursing student on her way to midwifery school, I stumbled upon Nancy Bardacke’s book, Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond. I remember reading it at the time and feeling a deep, full body resonance with the way she wrote about the transformative power of birth and the potential benefits of cultivating a daily mindfulness practice to support the parenting journey.

The book sat on my shelf all through my three years of nursing and midwifery school, and sat mostly untouched even during my own pregnancy in 2015. It wasn’t until 2018 that I once again stumbled upon the MBCP website and noticed that they were about to start the 2018 Teacher Training Cohort. Even though I hadn’t thought much about it in the past few years, I immediate knew it was time to do the training. My son was now three, I was settling into my midwifery practice and I knew I needed something to help keep me rooted to my original intention and vision for becoming a midwife. I had just taken a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course earlier that year and it had reawakened my long-dormant meditation practice. I was already seeing the benefits in my personal life and I was excited to bring this curriculum to Portland. There are only a handful of MBCP-trained teachers in Oregon and I feel deeply privileged to be one of them.

To celebrate our launch, I’m excited to share that I’ll be leading a free online Solstice Mindful Practice session on Saturday, December 21, from 4:30-5:30pm PST. This hour-long session will be held using Zoom Meeting. The great thing about Zoom is you can choose whether to show your video or not and you can mute yourself. So if you just want to show up and have a calm voice help you reconnect to your body and breath during the hectic holiday season, you can do that, in your pajamas, with your baby crying in the background. Of course, I always love to connect with you as well, and I hope that as our weekly online Mindful Parenting Circle gets started in January 2020, that folks will feel a sense of community as they get to know one another, even over video.

I encourage you to explore our site and offerings and please connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. While I have chosen to have accounts on both platforms, I plan to keep the postings to a minimum, to simplify all our lives. I will be announcing the dates of our first Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting series sometime in the next few weeks, and in the meantime, sign up to get on my mailing list for (infrequent!) future updates.