Our brains are meant to seek patterns. One reason why I thought this book and the community design spoke so much to me was because I am trained animal tracker. My husband and I spent years studying wilderness education, eventually becoming members of the Vermont Wilderness School community. I ran a nature-based preschool and kindergarten there when my children were small called Makin' Tracks. Essentially, we lived outside, and I built a relationship with the sky, wind, forest, and well, the patterns of nature. Our teachers there supported a patterned way to study approaches to nature, combining it with indigenous knowledge and story telling (an original way to teach). They felt their job was to bring a systematic way to recognizing the patterns of nature and human behavior. Jon Young, the charismatic leader of the wilderness educational platform, worked very hard for many years to create a language out of this approach that supports the whole human. Learning was about recognizing how our brain can work in so many ways to recognize the patterns around us and within us. I feel that everyone is speaking about the same thing. We are creatures of habit and can get stuck in ruts. We are in relationship with our environment within and without. Nature is alive and has so many patterns that one can see if one has the training to be able to see, and feel. It is about building relationship and connection with the natural world, with each other and with ourselves. All the senses come into play. Jon Young and his teams of mentors had ways of helping young people (and sometimes old) come into relationship with what they called "original instructions" (Haudenosaunee cultural perspective) on who we are meant to be as a species. Jon Young now runs the 8 Shields institute and offering online courses, events and mentoring.
Now, many years later, I am teaching about recognizing earliest patterns in our babies and families for support and healing. There is gap in our culture around babies. While many people (and our culture) see them as not having the capacity to understand and take in our adult world, I see them as exquisitely sensitive and intelligent, and that they have the capacity to communicate. I am not alone in this regard (see for example, John and Anna Chitty, Ray Castellino, Myrna Martin, Suzanne Zeekyk, Lise Eliot, Michael Trout, and see birthpsychology.com). We also know that babies are very sensitive to their mothers, fathers and their early family life. Yet, somehow, we miss what babies are saying. It is a profoundly nonverbal, right brained language. Babies will tell you if you are willing to listen, and you need to listen with all of you: Ears, eyes, their nonverbal gesture, and your feeling tones in your body. Overwhelming states from a baby's perspective are often connected to survival. As practitioner, you have the capacity to be with survival states (fight, flight, freeze). This is what you learn when you come to study. Babies communicate with movement, crying, gesture, and gaze. Practitioner Matthew Appleton calls this Baby Body Language and babies will tell you about birth from their perspective.
First steps are always to see the health of the person you are with (see the link, a talk by Biodynamic craniosacral instructor Margaret Rosenau). With babies, we teach to see their spiritual essence and how they are connected to their families. We listen deeply to the mother, partner/father and feel into the space in between them. It is an art form of listening, wondering, following, holding, teaching. It employs practitioner skills as taught by the Chittys: Presence, Relationship, Listening, Recognition and Conversation.
It is harder with adults because they have built up layers of adaption and experience. Whatever was started before conception, during pregnancy and birth, and after birth lies in the body and therefore is somatic and implicit. It is not hidden really; it is a pattern language often spoken quite loudly especially during stressful times or when conditions that were present at the original wounding are ongoing. There are many times in an adult's life when these early patterns make themselves known; they come up for healing in other words. One of them is when the we become a parent; the baby within speaks louder. Another time is during transitions, like going to bed, going out the door, going to college, ending a job/relationship, moving house, and so much more. The baby within the adult speaks in a somatic pattern language. Here are some more examples:
- Preconception patterns have to do with intention and also family histories. My midwife co-teacher, Lois Tresize and I call these Maternity Ghosts and Trauma Echoes. We listen for the influences from the families and the early times of the client. We "feel" them in the space. We encourage awareness and the principle of choice.
- Egg and Sperm Journeys: This notion comes from our pioneer teachers William Emerson, Frank Lake, Graham Farrant, but you see this pattern in the yin and yang, or the polarities that seem natural in our lives and in nature. These are moments of slowness and quickness, rest and movement, big and small, spacious and compact. The pattern is there.
- Conception: Overwhelming moments in conception show up as feeling alone in a very shocking way, but the somatic health or blueprint is one of union and choice.
- Conceptus Journey: In this pattern, there is a feeling of being held, waited for, expected, and the tone of "someone is watching over me." It can also feel like being alone in a vast world.
- First trimester: The patterns here have to do with feeling wanted, making a home, a sense of belonging and so much more. In this trimester, we make our bodies. There is much to track here, many patterns to see/feel/sense.
- Second trimester: Patterns that emerge here have to do with feeling felt. If the mother is stressed, many other patterns can emerge in our neurodevelopment that might not show up for years.
- Third trimester: This is when we gain potency to be born. Patterns here include when the baby gets stuck, so double binds can magnify here. Double binds may show up in every layer. Positive aspects are feeling the intention to do something in the world. David Chamberlain, co-founder of the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health identifies how claustrophobia may be connected to this time in gestation.
- Birth: There are many patterns that come from birth. It is where we encounter our complete sequence of intention, preparation, action, follow through and rest that corresponds with the birth actions: Inlet, midpelvis, outlet and skin-to-skin. There are so many levels of meaning here it would be a disservice to name them, but with training, you can discern the patterns. You "feel" them as practitioners and your skills help your client become aware of and integrate them into their current adult state.
- After Birth: Patterns here have to do with how we rest and integrate, and how we make connection. Many of us had separation from our mothers here.
- First two years of life: How we come into relationship is supported by experiences here. Additional experiences such as family event, medical issue, and surgeries may influence earliest trauma patterns here and show up in a variety of ways, most of which can be seen through autonomic nervous system response.
Latest research from the Fetal Brain Institute really shows how we need to support girls and women to feel good in their bodies as a template for healthy human neurodevelopment during pregnancy for the fetus. The first environment for the baby is the mother. The researchers' reports of the epigenetic impact of stress on the developing brain were dire: Autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, and other major nervous system and mental disorders can stem from this early time. We can also recognize patterns of resilience and adaptation sequences that may not really serve us now but certainly did at one time. In therapy, Anna Chitty calls this "being in two time zones," that is, the present and the history that wants to be seen, held, shifted and integrated. Stan Grof called this Condensed Experiences or CO-EX. This CO-EX is commonly taught when one studies prenatal and psychology. In Integrated Prenatal and Perinatal Dynamics, we teach how to recognize earliest patterns and help families and adults.
We can develop a somatic "pattern language" for helping families, babies, and adults, and for practitioners to learn. As said above, recognizing patterns as "languages," we can articulate and communicate in a variety of designs within a system that bring coherence. We need this now more than ever before. Data show that countries that are highest premature births are also highest for addiction and depression (China, India and the United States). At the Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Programs, we have a plan to help train practitioners to recognize earliest patterns, and also help families. Research and patterns already exist that show interventions and support during this time change birth and health outcomes.
For more information on our training and information programs, see ppncenter.com.