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I am Su Barber and I like to add a touch of ancient magic and inner wisdom to my life with labyrinths xx

By Su Barber, Sep 28 2017 11:44AM

The other night as I was driving to a client for a Birth Story Listening session, I became acutely aware I had begun a labyrinth-like journey.

It started out easy and gentle enough, on familiar territory, roads I know like the back of my hand and then...

I was into a place of not knowing, the rain had started and the light had dimmed into the shady-ness of dusk driving and I started to feel a little anxious as I reached for my trusty phone with the directions that google had texted to me.

I stopped at the station and stared at the phone blankly I could not access the directions. Frantic phonecall to my partner, (my guru on all things technical, who is also frantic trying to deal with children, homework, screens and cooking.) Together we manage to access some roaming web signal and I can get back to google maps… but I am lost.

It is dark now, raining, lights are dissolving into bleary streaks, wind-screen wipers are resembling my frantic-ness within, as I twist and turn and double back, and stop and breathe and text apologies for running late to the client, patiently waiting.

I know I am so close to her, the map tells me so, but I am driving back and forth unable to find the road.

I text again.. Literally “help.. Can you give me a clue please? ….” and as I write these words and return in the gloom to the lit up map on my phone, I see it, it is obvious the road I am looking for is not a road, it is a footpath. I have to go right round to get to her home, the centre of this labyrinth.The relief is intense and immediate, the cortisol drops and an oxytocin smile cracks across my face, I am going to get there, it’s not too late and I have work to do.

It was a beautiful session and it made a difference. However for me, my learning came in that moment that I asked for a clue.

The word “Clew” is the name of the thread that Ariadne gives to Theseus in the myth of the Minotaur, who is imprisoned in a Labyrinth-like underground building. The whole story is very multi-layered and complex story of desire and shame, hubris and heroism, lost and rediscovered children, love and compassion, death and grief. (Writing this up soon.)

In that moment of for-going the shame of being lost and asking for compassionate help, a part of my brain lit up and came to the rescue. Ariadne gave me the clew in my hand, so I could re-look at the map and find my way through the maze of streets and find the centre of the labyrinth I could then access the brave hero part of myself, become Theseus and take action. Only when you have the “Clew” and you weave it through the many pathways possible, can you create the labyrinth path to the destination. The labyrinth in this myth is made up of the thread, if he loses the thread he will be lost and unable to return easily. It is why sometimes looking back, things make sense because you can see how one thing flowed into another, why one decision helped to make things go in one direction or another. It is why you can find your way back to source if you need to and why you must not beat yourself up for any decision made in the past, which you did based on what you could see or feel in that moment.

We are all feeling our way in the dimness and sometimes we need to ask for help, to ask for a “Clew” to be able to move forwards again and take action.

Try it next time life feels overwhelming and you feel lost, ask for a “Clew” so you can hold onto that thread and not get lost.

*Clew : Klu n.s… a ball of thread; a guide, a direction, because men direct themselves by a clew of a thread in a labyrinth….

From Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Tongue.

By Su Barber, Sep 19 2017 02:02PM

Lying In Period? What’s that?

This blog comes from a recent talk with my lovely Monday Morning Mothers & Co group in Shrewsbury.

The “lying in” period is an ancient practice of taking care of a mother and her new baby, after a birth - in China it is called the “Sitting in period”, in England, America and Europe it was called the lying in period (up until about 100 years ago), In India, some midwives still practice seeing the new mum each day for baths and massages, and feeding for a while, till her strength is back. The beautiful “Closing the Bones Ceremony “ from South America, offers the mother similar reparation time with a spiritual element as well as physical healing.

The things they all have in common

Few visitors, just the bare essentials

Aim to return the heat to the core of the woman, through massage, hot drinks and food.

Resting time with baby to help heal any physical wounds

Ensuring breastfeeding is going well

An understanding of the massive life changing, life giving event that the woman has just been through

Compared to our modern assistance for new mums,we have a similar care plan in Britain to the US, with ten days of daily visits by Midwives, one off visit from a Health Visitor and then the six/ eight weeks health check. As Dr. Jones says ”This is a tottally ridiculous plan…”

Dr. Kirtly Jones, on The Scope

“ In the U.S. women are often given an appointment to see their OB six weeks after the birth of a child. That six-week idea was made up as the time by which women should have her pelvic organs back to normal. This is a totally ridiculous plan. By six weeks, new moms have either sunk or swum on their own. If they're suffering postpartum depression, they're already well into it. If they have a bladder problem, they've been suffering for over a month. If they're not breastfeeding, they may by already pregnant because they can ovulate at four weeks. And 50% of women resume intercourse before their, "postpartum" visit.” (wow really!!)

Let’s be real

Sometimes first time mothers are in such a place of shock that getting out and about, back in the real world, seems absolutely impossible to do for quite some weeks.

I give you permission to treat yourself gently, do not rush to return and conform.. But do reach out for help and assistance too. Do not isolate yourself too much. Sometimes the shock is so great, that new mums can throw themselves at anything going, as life-lines, doing something each day until they realise they are ok, just to be with their babe as themselves, no fancy tricks needed.

Second time mothers (or more), well it’s not really an option usually, after the first two weeks, older children need to go to preschool, play dates or school, the pull of the timetable is heavy for you, but try and take time to rest, get help if you can or let the house get messy. Shit will get missed for sure, so just do the essentials and gently weave extra stuff back in, only when you can truly handle it. This can take years.

I remember very clearly being at my first ever Birthing From Within session with Pam England and she told us all that when we birth we enter a labyrinth, going into the centre of the labyrinth might take minutes/ hours but the usual time to return from a birth takes about 2 and ½ years. Yes! That made sense, my son, my first born was just 16 months and I still felt I was wandering lost in a new world.

As Pam England says so clearly in her book “Labyrinth of Birth”

“ The return is a vitally important part of the heroine’s journey; It cannot be rushed. Do not expect to give birth, turnaround, step into your old footsteps and walk back into your old life. Birth changes everything. You not only gave birth to a child and you gave birth to yourself as a Mother (or Father)... The person you were when you begin this journey is not the same “you” who will return.

This is what we need to grieve about once it truly dawns on us, if we have not been prepared for this before the birth. We need to grieve and let it go and re-build ourselves as this new woman/ Mother and honour that transformation even if only in a small way.

Lucy H. Pearce in her book “Moods of Motherhood” also clearly tell us that

“Old normal doesn’t exist anymore. That’s the reality you’re running from. …

The only way we can heal is by first finding safety. Soothing safety to allow our bodies and minds to be sustained from the panic and fear. Safety so that we can unfreeze. ...Only then can we unfurl. Only then can we find a new normal - creating a new normal - really begin. A normality that integrates our new reality… but in order to get there we cannot force. Rather we must do the opposite - surrender. Fully. Give ourselves permission to surrender to our new reality, our new selves, exactly as we are now.. Not how we wish it would be.”

This I believe is the moments after the birth, at the centre of the birthing labyrinth, in the precious, scary silence before the baby cries it’s presence into our world, and the weeks of solid round-the-clock caring afterwards, this is when we need to feel safe and cocooned as we transform, it is not immediate, it takes time and we have to give ourselves that time to find out who we are again and who we have brought into the world, as well as heal ourselves fully.

Time is so precious these days, we fill it so full that sometimes we forget to breathe and wonder.

This is what I feel the “lying in “ period should be about, gentle loving kindness to the new mum and baby, return of health, taking time out. Not forcing anyone to be in bed, or indeed staying in, but gently letting the new mum know that the quick return to old self and old world is not going to happen, no matter how many extra things you do, let the integration of old and new be woven together with the new threads of life adding change and difference.

You are not the same, your life is not the same, you may return to some degree to some of the old things you used to do, but they may never feel exactly like they did, and you will have so many new things you never thought you would ever care about, that suddenly become a passion. (Thinks football - due to first born son).

Also a heart-felt plea that as a new mum YOU ARE ENOUGH for your baby, you are exactly what they need, do not feel the pressure to exhaust yourself going to all sorts of things for your baby’s sake, they honestly will not care, as long as you are there (or other close carer) your face, your voice, your smell, your touch are what they love. By all means go to the groups to meet other mums and feel like a human being again, if they help you do to that. If they feel like competition or make you doubt yourself as a Mother, then just stop going and find something else that does make you feel good about yourself.

Go gently, sweet Mothers, go gently …

“The threads of the old run through this new reality in small ways and big.. The comfort blanket of your old reality is here after all. Just freshly washed in the laundry of life by Big Mama without your permission”

Lucy H Pearce. -Moods of Motherhood.

By Su Barber, Sep 18 2017 02:04PM

Embracing Menopause with Love
Embracing Menopause with Love

Peri-menopausal Queening and Teening Pains

After a recent high octane, high pitched, hair raising time with my son ( aged 11) I began to realise bizarrely how my time of life and his time are so similar.

Peri-menopause marks a transition period from the “Mother” period of our lives, to the “Queen” time, as we step into a different level of power and recreate ourselves. (“Mother” time of our lives does not necessarily mean becoming a mother, it can be any creative outpouring in our life between 25 years and 45 years old)

Moving into adolescence also marks the transition from childhood into young adulthood, from 10 years to 20 years.

Seems to me that they are both times of great confusion, lots of confusing information and knowledge, internally and externally.

Sleep patterns change, sometimes dramatically or erratically. Young people tend to start sleeping in longer, as their bodies and minds are growing. As perimenopausal Queens often we seem to lose hours of sleep, or it is all broken in pieces again, similar to when you become a new mum.

We both start to sweat, a lot more at random times, sometimes embarrassingly so, we have to step up on the personal hygiene levels again.

Anxiety levels start to rocket, as the brain starts re-shuffling and becomes often overwhelmed as the hormones do a merry dance with our bodies, easily flooded with cortisol, adrenaline pumping, nerve jangling stuff.

Every day you notice something has changed, what used to be comfortable is no longer, everything seems to be changing shape. You are changing subtly, parts of your body start to ache, (growing pains or arthritis?)

There are the random hairs appearing for the first time, a change in your pelt for a new season of life, wanted and unwanted, they mark a shift inside externally.

An inability to concentrate or stay focussed, as one woman called it recently “the Fog”. We seem to both lose our words, our way, sometimes and look a little lost.

Both of us stand upon a threshold, different from each other, but both know we are at the point of change and yet we know this will take time, it is not so quick a change as birthing, or as dramatic, but over time we will be able to look back and see how we have changed. Now we are both walking in a mist, a time of mystery, sometimes misery, feeling our way forwards with anxiety of the new ground, wondering where this will take us and who we will be by the time we get there.

I hope we will have each other’s backs during this time, that we do not forget others in our lives as we delve into this period of introspection. So many people suffer intensely during these moments of change in their lives, depression rates for peri-menopausal women are 16 fold the rates at other times of a woman’s life* and young people can suffer terribly too during adolescence.

Until the fog begins to clear again. Let’s not lose sight of each other during these important turning points of our lives, these pivotal twists in our path, do not always go straight forwardly, during these testing times.

*(stats from http://www.mamamia.com.au)

By Su Barber, Sep 8 2017 12:36PM

I am stuck!

In so many ways… I am waiting for the next turn in the bend in the labyrinth of my life..

I am stuck

In, waiting for the carpet fitters to come and put down a new carpet in my front room, so I can move forward in offering people a safe space, to be heard and be creative. Really can’t wait to have my own space that is warm and inviting x

In my bedroom as the only place left to sit down in the house, as everywhere is covered in bits and pieces from the aforementioned front room, seriously chaotic.

watching the water in the sink not disappearing down the plug hole - always a physical sign for me of things being stuck, lacking energy to move forward.

In my mind waiting news of being shortlisted for a big life changing job- fingers crossed…

With mailchimp trying to activate a love labyrinths little course on line for the first time - hair pulling out time

Watching my son go off to senior school, wanting independence, needing independence returning a little shocked by the reality of it all.

Feeling decidedly impotent, a little overwhelmed, anxious and frustrated, on my own with it all, as partner away for next few days….. I realise I have to do something before I whirl around till exhausted (again)

So deep breath and again and again, feet on Mother Earth (while hanging out clothes), then I am inspired and find myself drawing a life labyrinth on the patio/ yard. It makes me think bigger than myself, the pattern being so ancient that I then find myself marking out the seasons on the labyrinth, seeing the twists and turns in the year, the long days of summer, the curling inwards to winter, it all makes sense.

Then I can translate my place in this labyrinth, where am I right now?

It is either at the threshold about to jump into a whole new adventure, but I am hesitating to begin or I need to clear some blocks out the way to get into the flow.

Or I am at a twisty bend that I cannot see round yet, feeling my way into the unknown, having faith that the path will make sense again soon

Or I am in the centre dizzy, after the tight whirling of the summer holidays, trying to take a moment before returning again to normality..

Does it matter where I am exactly, in a moment I will move forward as surely as time moves forward, but having drawn and walked my labyrinth, with the intent of finding a moment’s peace, I find I can now face it all again, and the internal whirling has calmed down

So I sit and write this all out, to make sense of this moment.. I’ll let you know how it all spirals forwards…

Let me know if drawing a labyrinth and working out your position within your labyrinth helped you to see your situation from a different perspective.

Just taking that moment to do something different can change things xx

By guest, Feb 17 2017 10:25PM

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