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Tibetan Knowledge on Birth, PPD, Motherhood, and Childcare

October 14, 2009

This week on BellaOnline I reviewed The Tibetan Art of Parenting, and while I focused on the Buddhist-oriented knowledge in the review, what really interested me was the info on mother’s and children’s subtle energies and energy systems. As some of you know I have an interest/obsession in the sacral or 2nd chakra, and have written before on its relationship to childbearing and raising (among other things.) Along those lines, here is some of the information I found the most intriguing, and thought some of you might also (and none of this is meant to be a recommendation of any type, although I do have great respect for certain aspects of Tibetan culture):

– Keeping a mother warm just prior to, during, and after childbirth is considered essential, because it is believed that giving birth takes up so much of a mother’s lifeforce that she doesn’t have enough left to keep herself warm. Although the book itself doesn’t specifically mention chakras (some Tibetan lineages utilize chakra techniques and others do not), this little tidbit was interesting to me because the kundalini, or energy that rises through the chakras when they are open, is often called ‘heat’, and many people experience an energetic heat when doing chakra techniques. So a deep or chronic coldness is never just physical, but also energetic, and can indicate blocks or lack of energy in the chakra system and associated subtle energy channels.

Tibetan mothers are kept warm with blankets and warm broth during childbirth. Of course, in most Western hospital settings, the temperature is frigid and birthing mothers are not allowed any food, even broth. This shocked one Tibetan mother who gave birth in the U.S. As she put it, “I told the nurses I was cold and thirsty and they gave me ice chips!”

– Tibetan medicine does recognize post-natal/post-partum depression, and views it as a “deficiency of life-sustaining winds”. First off, it is interesting to find PND/PPD recognized at all, because there are those in homeopathic/holistic medicine communities here in the West that view PND/PPD as a uniquely modern Western condition, exacerbated by the ‘alienated’ way we birth and raise children, as compared to the past or other cultures. But Tibetans generally have strong family support systems, birth naturally, often at home with family attending, nurse, sleep in a family bed, etc. all methods that some believe lower the incidence of PND/PPD. And they absolutely may help, but clearly the fact that this ancient medical system recognizes it shows that it has been with us for some time, and there is a lot more going on.

The ‘life-sustaining winds’ are essentially kundalini/life force (lots of different terms for referring to this in different traditions), and upon doing some further research on Tibetan views of PND/PPD (beyond this book), I found that it’s believed that in cases of PND/PPD either the mother’s energy was depleted prior to birth more than normally for some reason, was blocked because of energetic issues prior to becoming pregnant, or was not sufficiently recovered after giving birth. In other words, for whatever reason, so  much ‘heat’ is lost during birth that it is the last straw, and the mother can’t recover her own energy enough to meet her own physical and psychological needs. The Tibetans use herbal treatments, energy practices/rituals, massage, acupressure, steaming and other methods as treatment.

I do know some yoga teachers that specifically advocate kundalini/chakra work for PND, particularly teacher Gurmukh (whose pre and post natal yoga DVDs I used in both my pregnancies and loved) but hadn’t really come across it within an alternative medicine system before. For me, it really supports my belief that the 2nd chakra is of special importance in women, the seat of their entire personal power really, and requires special care. (And for the record, I personally utilize both mainstream Western and alternative medical methods for myself and children, so this is NOT meant to discredit or judge the use of hormonal treatments for PND, as I know women who have benefited greatly by this.)

– In Tibetan medicine, when a nursing infant/child is ill, the mother is often treated with herbs, energy cleansing techniques and rituals, even if she is healthy. It is believed that both herbs/medicine and energy streams are transmitted through the mother’s milk to the child. This includes a mother’s moods and any external energy influences. In other words, the mother’s entire state is transmitted to some extent to the nursing child, especially young infants.

– Children are believed to retain past life memories to some extent up until the age of 8 years old. They are also considered extremely intuitive and sensitive energetically until this time. Children under 8 are believed to have a purity and openness of mind (regardless of their past-life karma) that connects them to energetic sensations and spirits that most of us lose after this. Young children’s intuitions and sensations are taken extremely seriously – both positive and negative experiences. On the negative side, there are 24 ‘spirit disorders’ that children are believed to be especially susceptible to, from night terrors to various levels of possession. Tibetans therefore use a variety of ‘protective’ methods for their children, especially before this age, and Lamas are consulted if disturbances are recurrent.

– Formal schooling usually starts around 6, and schooling outside the home has long been a part of Tibetan culture. In Tibet, this was a major function of the monasteries, and part of the reason they flourished there. I was interested to find that in the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, most of the schools are now Montessori schools. I stumbled upon Montessori quite by accident with my own children, and have loved it, partly because many of its tenets meld so well with my own beliefs on consciousness that have been shaped by my own spiritual journey. Upon researching Montessori more, I discovered that founder Maria Montessori was very involved with the Theosophists, and was asked to come to India and found several Montessori schools there, and as a result, Montessori is very popular throughout India. (And as I noted in an old post on Indigo/Crystal children, Montessori is also one of the recommended education methods for them. BTW – my own views of the Indigo/Crystal theories has been undergoing a shift and perhaps I’ll post on it again soon…)

– In family units and in relations amongst children, harmony is emphasized above individual feelings. Although I hate to stereotype, I do think this is a distinction that holds for most Eastern cultures vs. Western ones. Here in the West, a lot of parenting philosophy orients around respecting individual children’s feelings, and acknowledging and respecting all party’s feelings when resolving disputes. But in Tibetan culture, there is usually some kind of judgment made by whatever adult is around regarding which child is the one causing the disruption, i.e. who is responsible for the lack of harmony, and the problem addressed that way. So if a child takes a toy from another, or won’t share, he/she is made to give the toy back or share, no discussion. This is a very basic example, but interesting to contemplate when you expand it out to other scenarios. As the authors of this book put it, “In Tibet, demanding your own rights is not valued, because it doesn’t fit into the concept of being a part of the family.”

– Tibetans spank, and the Dalai Lama was hit with a switch by his parents. I have to admit, I was thrown by this one. I am pretty anti-spanking, especially in our hyper-violent culture, and this didn’t seem to fit with a culture where children are taught to delicately carry spiders and other insects outside when they get in the house. But Tibetans consider discipline essential, and spanking to be a suitable punishment for them. Interestingly, it is often carried out after dinner, much after the event instead of at the time, which at least means it is not just done out of anger in the moment. Overall, I think it reminded me that in parenting perhaps technique and philosophy is less the issue than intent and relationship, which is something that has come up over and over in the last 2 weeks (my karma perhaps for my judgmental mini-rant of parents who drug their children for ADD/ADHD??) And along those lines, if you have not yet read Mon from Holistic Mama’s post ‘When I See a Mother, I Will Assume‘, check it out.

As always, I welcome all thoughts and questions regarding any of these topics….

28 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2009 8:53 pm

    Interesting to see the term post-natal depression used instead of post-partum. Is that the new term these days? One of the two most shocking results of childbirth for me was the onset of a massive amount of crying when I returned home with my baby. The other shocker occurred in the hospital when my milk came in and my breasts began to throb with pain. I hope I can remember to take a blanket to the hospital when my daughter delivers in May. It makes sense that mothers need warming more than cooling. Also, I’ve always felt that the most natural position for delivery is squatting, with something to hold onto. Did your research reveal delivery methods used by Tibetans?

  2. October 14, 2009 9:15 pm

    In the Western medical world, we call it PPD, Post Partum Depression. I enjoyed reading about treating this with kundalini/chakra energies. Wish I had known that when N was born almost 4 years ago. Still, I suffered from PPD (long story), and will have to say I am intrigued at the wind deficiency theory. I do believe there was a dying spirit in me. In some ways, I sunk to the lowest, darkest places I have ever gone in my life around that time.

    When I emerged, I found Buddhism and many other Eastern/alternative modalities of healing, and feel as if my own life force is gaining back all that lost energy. My daughter’s birth and my suffering were sacred, and I will always hold this with the utmost reverence.

  3. October 14, 2009 9:43 pm

    My parents were immigrants and I was born in America. My mother suffered from PPD. She had a severe case and in some ways, never really recovered. Whenever she talked about it, she said that what was shocking to her was how giving birth in this country is such an isolated event. There was no sense of community gathering around to help the mother which was common in my mom’s original country. So in some ways her beliefs were like Hillary Clinton in that “it takes a village” to really raise a kid properly.

    When we lived in India, there were many Tibetan refugees in our village and it was cool to observe how everyone did what they could to help one another. Actually, it was not just Tibetans but everyone else was of that nature. Kind of cool how different cultures outside of the West really value the communal aspects of life while in the West we value our independence so much.

  4. October 14, 2009 10:38 pm

    This is all really fascinating. I think my favorite part was learning how they believe that past-life memories last all the way up to 8 years old. I would think the connection would be severed much sooner, around age 5, but that’s based on my interactions with 5 and 6 year olds from our society. Perhaps they retain their memories longer because there is no cultural bias against it?

  5. mommymystic permalink*
    October 14, 2009 10:44 pm

    Brenda and Mermaid – Thanks for the note on using the term post-partum depression (PPD) instead of or in addition to PND. I added it to the article so it is clear. I’m not sure why I used the term post-natal depression or PND, it’s what I was used to but not sure why??

    Brenda – yes, the ‘crash’ after birth was a shock for me too, although I guess it is not considered PPD unless it continues after two or so months after birth (before that it is just the normal ‘baby blues’)…either way, it is one of those things (along with the sometimes painful difficulties of nursing) that most parenting books do not prepare mothers for! I think way too many parenting books make it seem like everything will just come ‘naturally’ and you will revel in the bliss of motherhood, so women feel like there’s something wrong or they are failing in some way when it doesn’t go that way for them…Your daughter will be lucky to have you there for her…Also, re: birthing position, in the book they mentioned hands and knees, but I’m not sure if that was universal or not…

    Mermaid – So many women I know felt something along the lines of this ‘dying spirit’ feeling you describe…I didn’t officially suffer from PND/PPD but certainly was stunned by the energy shift/loss and the time and care it took to recover a sense of my self and my own energy field during this time, while still maintaining a healthy bond with my children…I think there is a lot more that needs to be covered in this area…I am cheered to find doctors such as yourself that combine this knowledge with Western medical knowledge…

    Nadia – yes, I believe it definitely ‘takes a village’, and that is something it is sometimes hard to feel here in the West…although I think both cultures have pros and cons…Although I haven’t been to India, in Japan the tremendous sense of communal pressure cut both ways – people felt a sense of community identify and safety, but also sometimes felt constrained by it – it was difficult to express themselves independently or to go against the grain…so it does cut both ways…especially for women of course, because traditional Tibetan attitudes towards women are one area that is difficult for me to accept (and things are changing in that area, it seems…)

  6. mommymystic permalink*
    October 14, 2009 10:47 pm

    Jay- that’s exactly what I was thinking. I also was expecting it to be 5-6 years old, or even younger, and thought I had read that elsewhere. But maybe it is a cultural thing, because here in the West kids are made to ‘grow up’ faster, and also we don’t encourage these kinds of memories or sharings. And, to be clear, by ‘memories’ they mean vague senses, maybe dreams, preferences, etc., not necessarily full-blown past-life visions and such.

  7. October 15, 2009 12:09 am

    I felt my whole child birth experience was like a fast food experience.
    Have it dealt with quickly and get over it quickly.
    I gave birth after having been in a new country for over one year, with no family support and still not many close female friends.
    I got through it like if it was a MCDonalds meal, really.
    I now can see how different the whole experience could have been, how this independence and doing things fast with as little interuption of life as possible, can be so detrimental to the richness of our experience and our health as well.
    To take the time, to nurture the whole process and all involved, to have people around who care is so precious and will of course make the whole experience wholesome. And when things are not going that well, it will be picked up sooner too by caring eyes.
    It is the same with the children, let them slowly adjust to this earth, do not rush and yet we do of course.
    Lovely reminder of how things can be done differently, it sure struck a cord with me.
    Love Wilma

  8. October 15, 2009 7:56 am

    It’s not a poem!!!! lmao it’s so funny I didn’t even think others would see it that way.

    This reminds me of how COLD I felt afterwards (c-section). So much pain and so damn cold.
    Makes sense to me, this loss of energy. It seems also that if the birth was traumatic in any way, that it would exacerbate this loss?

    “Young children’s intuitions and sensations are taken extremely seriously”
    For me, this is where the Easterners have it. This respect of our intuitive aspect. Not always that of children, depending on the culture, but at least in general. It’s one of our greatest Western losses.

    Not surprised they spank, although yes that the Dalai lama was! But yes, discipline and often strict at that, is usually important in similar cultures.
    What I’m surprised at, is that a wise monk somewhere hasn’t come up with a non-violent solution.
    I’m still very against it, but I do know what you mean, and agree. While specifics in parenting are certainly worth examing and re-evaluating, it’s only the surface, the depth is still about the Love.

    “harmony is emphasized above individual feelings”

    I come from a culture where this is also the case. Or, more accurately, it’s similar. I’m somewhere inbetween – recognising the individual’s needs as long as it works with the unit. But that it doesn’t work, is not enough to dismiss it, but it requires dealing with that too. What I mean is that although the unit doesn’t opress the individual, it ought to support it too.

    This approach is something I struggle with in dialogue with radical unschoolers. I find the child takes centre-stage in that philosophy, which if it works for them, fine of course, but it doesn’t sit well with me. A child being the centre of your heart is not the same as the child being the centre of the family – everyone has value, and the unit has the uppermost value. To me.

  9. October 15, 2009 11:00 am

    This stuff is deeply fascinating. I remember shivering from head to toe right before the last push, and the accommodating Western (British) midwife put several blankets over me and rubbed my icy hands. I find the whole thing about “not recognising” PPD slightly dangerous, as it definitely exists and can be dealt with as long as there is a lot of help and compassion, and most importantly reassuring the mother that she is not some kind of monster for not immediately bonding. Having forced Utopia upon my two children – be harmonious, or else – harmony being emphasised makes a lot of intuitive sense. And finally, I smacked each of my children once. My daughter’s greatest idea of a joke when she was two was to run into the road in front of traffic, particularly when I’d just advised against such a rash course of action. After the third time in a row, I placed her sideways and gave her a very firm spank, along with an extremely clear prohibition against running into the road. There were a few tears, and I had my doubts, but I was desperate! I was convinced she would kill herself; I was beginning to consider the dreaded Toddler Leash. However, she never ran into the road again. My son, I hate to admit, I slapped very firmly on his little head when he was only three months old; he was breastfeeding, and had grown some upper and lower teeth seemingly overnight which I had no idea about. He bit my nipple so hard my eyes watered. Purely on impulse, I slapped his head – quite hard. He didn’t cry; in fact, he never even let go of the nipple; he looked up at me as if to say, “What the hell was THAT for?” and continued feeding. So, I understand spanking, without anger, when they’re so young that reasoning is impossible. Those Tibetans – very wise. These Westerners – just as wise, with little appreciation! Nice to catch up, Mommy.

    Love, Suzanne

  10. October 15, 2009 12:39 pm

    Like Brenda in the comment above, I was shocked when, three days after my second child was born, I was up in my hospital room getting dressed and burst into tears for no reason. Fortunately for me, my understanding OB came in while I was still mid-jag, looked at his watch, and said, “Oh. Third day. Yes, you’re due for that,” and explained to me what was happening. I also bless the lactation consultant who also told me what was happening when my milk came in and my daughter couldn’t latch (my firstborn was a preemie with a lot of digestive problems and had to be fed mostly via IV for a good two months, so I didn’t get to nurse him). A good pump to get rid of the excess took good care of that. Without her, I’d have likely given up.

  11. mommymystic permalink*
    October 15, 2009 2:29 pm

    Wilma – Yes, exactly. And to be fair, things are being done differently in many hospitals (and then of course there are an increasing number of midwife-assisted and homebirths.) My experience with my first was quite nice, in a decorated private room from start to finish, no separate delivery room, and lots of blankets, music etc., and they had me make a ‘birth plan’ with preferences the month before. With the twins I had a c-section, and that was very clinical (since the hospital required an OB and separate pediatrician for each baby, plus the nurses and anaesthologist, I think there were something like 9 people in the room!!) So I do hope things will keep moving in the first direction.

    Mon – Ok, changed! (But why ISN’T it a poem?!) Yes, re the traumatic birth, I think this would have to increase the changes that even more energy is lost. And depending on where the woman is starting from, that could really take things over the edge. The group harmony/individual one is the big one I am trying to balance right now, especially with 3 so close. We have to have certain boundaries/rules for the house to function in that regard. And although I don’t know any unschoolers, what you describe is what I have sometimes seen in some Alfie Kohn fans in my area (he lives around here and has a lot of fans.) I love his ideas, but when interpreted a certain way it seems to just turn into ‘do whatever you feel like doing, regardless of how it impacts others’, which makes no sense to me. And this is how some Indigo/Crystal advice comes off to me too, in the guise of ‘honoring’ their exceptionality. So it’s a tough balance to strike.

    Suzanne – It’s interesting you mention the toddler/traffic incident, as I just had one this week (actually I guess she is a preshooler now, at 3) and it definitely triggered a stronger reaction in me than I would have liked. I grabbed her and swooped her up in a very uncomfortable position and really laid into her. Not yelling but very harsh tone of voice, not what I would usually do (and other mothers around me were definitely looking shocked!) I felt bad after, but also felt I had to shock her – she knew she wasn’t supposed to do it and was laughing as she did. So there are times when perhaps a shocking response is all that will work.

    Linnea – You were lucky to have a good doctor and lactation consultant. All too many don’t have the time to explain, even if they wanted to. So I hope there are more places like that! My first experience (see comment to Wilma below) was actually pretty good all the way around. But it was STILL a shock, so I can only imagine without any good advice what it would have been like.

  12. October 15, 2009 5:32 pm

    I can really identify with the coldness, too. After my son’s homebirth, I was taken by ambulance to the hospital b/c the placenta wouldn’t birth, and I had lost a lot of blood. After losing consciousness, I woke up in a frantic emergency room, freezing cold. I think my life-force energy was almost completely depleted, and though it wasn’t a near-death experience, it took a long time to fully return to my body. Acupuncture really helped me with this … “reintegration” I suppose you could call it. I still suffered from post-traumatic stress, but not the depression.

    Re: discipline ~ I think this is a really important discussion. I am a big Alfie Kohn fan, and yet … I absolutely believe that limits and boundaries create safety for children and harmony in a home. I struggle daily to walk that fine line between respecting my son and maintaining reasonable limits.

    With crystal children especially, I think this is imperative. They have such a sense of personal power about them, and we need to help them learn to use it wisely and not abuse it.

    With discipline, like you and Mon said, it’s about the intent. I would also add that it’s about the delivery. If I’m angry when I’m insisting on a particular limit, then I’ve given my power away to him and he knows it. I don’t really want to think of my son as an energy-hogging, power-grabbing being, but… call a spade a spade. He feeds off of my energy, whether it’s positive or negative. I don’t want to give him fuel for pushing the limits, I just want him to respect them. That means I have to manage my own energy in all of my interactions with him. I have to set the example. I fail miserably most of the time, but as I’ve grown in my awareness of the importance of this, I’m getting a bit better.

  13. October 15, 2009 5:33 pm

    And I can’t wait to read what you have to say about crystal children. 🙂

  14. October 15, 2009 6:40 pm

    Was thinking about the energy loss (completely forgot I almost died on the table – how could I forget?!)

    Anyway, was thinking about this later and wondered about the energy loss for the baby. I’m referring to a traumatic birth.
    The flip-side was, where does this enegy loss (from the mother) go? Could it possibly transfer to the baby?
    If the birthing is traumatic for the baby, would the mother be more likely to suffer energy loss as she subconsciously (or really, spiritually/energetically) makes the transfer sensing her baby is distress?

    Just thoughts….

  15. October 15, 2009 7:30 pm

    Great discussion, ladies. My birth experience was pretty awful. I was held the whole night before in the hospital before they were going to induce me. I was cold, hungry, and alone the whole night with nurses tromping through. Yipes! I remember being very cold after the C-section as well and the morphine certainly didn’t help me feel warmer. It’s good to read about what would really help in that situation.

    I belong to a group of women who come together in the Native American tradition of Moon Lodge and I really enjoy the female bonding. I know I’d have more community around me now should I choose to have another child and the whole experience would be different. One of the ladies had a baby last year and we all helped–visited her, delivered home cooked meals, and babysat. It was great. We need to come together more in that way.

    Thank you for sharing this article, MommyMystic.

    And Alexis–I can relate to a powerful child (maybe Indigo or Crystal–I don’t know). I just know that he likes to test me all the time and push my limits. The more I’ve meditated and gained my own confidence, the better our relationship has become because I hold my own. I don’t let him run over me.

    I have boundaries and you know what really helped me with that? (Well, besides meditation and spiritual growth!) I have taken a parenting series called Redirecting Children’s Behavior. I took it when he was 2 years old and at 4 years old. He’s six now and I’m thinking about taking it again. It helps you understand why your child does what he does and gives you peaceful ways to handle it. It’s all about creating peace in your household and who wouldn’t want that? Hope that helps.

    Here’s a website of someone who teaches this parenting course if you’re interesting in finding out more.

    Thanks again ladies for the great conversation!


  16. mommymystic permalink*
    October 15, 2009 8:27 pm

    Argh!!! just lost a long reply to the last 3 comments…ok, breath, breath…I will see if I can recreate…

    First off, thanks ladies for all your sharing – very, very helpful and welcome…

    Alexis – wow, your post-birth experience sounds very scary…I think it was very lucky that you were already hooked into various energy healing techniques like acupuncture, or I wonder how much longer it might have taken to recover…and interesting that it was a homebirth, huh? The best laid plans and all that…the universe will always upend our expectations, whether it’s a birth plan or this generation of kids we are raising! I can totally relate to what you are saying about the power dynamics with Lucas and the need for boundaries. All three of mine (Leo moons) have a very strong sense of personal power and self, which of course is, um, challenging at times…and a drive that both astonishes and puzzles me…it really does feel like they have a ‘mission’ at times, which is one of the traits I do relate to in Indigo/Crysal descriptions…And I think you are spot on and very honest about how this power dynamic works between them and us…how do we encourage/model respect and boundaries (energetically and otherwise) while fostering their individuality and self-expression in healthy ways?

    Mon – I do think it makes sense that a traumatic birth would impact the baby’s energy too, and maybe make it harder for them to settle into their bodies, which is a process going on for the first 6 months or so, I think. That part of your comment reminded me of something I forgot to mention from the book – they believe that a full-term birth is in general a completely non-traumatic experience for the baby, that the baby is more than ready to get out and excited to be born. I thought that was interesting because there is so much Western psycho-spiritual thinking that seems to assumes that birth is always traumatic to some extent, and that the baby ‘misses’ the womb terribly. In Tibetan thinking, the baby is considered excited to ‘get out of its cramped quarters’ and ready to go. I know that’s not relevant to your particular birth, but I did think it was an interesting difference.
    As for your question on a mother sending a baby energy, I say definitely yes, and I think it would happen to some extent whether she was conscious of it or not. And that would impact her own energy health also. I think it’s just the nature of the mother/child energy bond. It’s just like our physical bodies sending nutrients to the baby first when we are pregnant. And we keep doing this energetically, especially during early childhood (I am wondering if around 8 is a marker for this after reading this book.) If our children are sick, or troubled, or we are worried about them in anyway, more energy is going from us to them. And it’s just not the same for Dads, no matter how involved they are, which I think is one of the big shifts that occurs in relationships once a couple has children…and I think it also applies to mothers who adopt and full-time nannies/childcare workers. And it is such a hard balance to strike, and we all feel that. If we hold back too much, it impacts the child, but if we don’t keep enough for ourselves, or have enough things in our lives to replenish ourselves, that’s a problem too. And women don’t really like to think in these terms, because it doesn’t seem fair and flies in the face of some feminist thinking (I had someone unsubscribe and email re: this after my 2nd chakra series, actually), but I think it is just an energetic fact that has to be taken into account (and I don’t think it has to mean anything re: working or staying at home, and the mommy wars and all that, it just has to be considered and ‘compensated’ for, if that makes sense….)

    Melinda – your Moon Lodge sounds wonderful. I think blogging has actually become a kind of moon lodge for me! And thanks for the link, this looks like an interesting program…

  17. October 15, 2009 11:11 pm

    This is fascinating Lisa. My bloke knows quite a bit about Tibetan practice having spent time in Tibet and being involved in Tibetan communities here in Australia, and he has mentioned some of the practices around childbirth. It makes complete sense to me. I was freezing after giving birth, but thought that it was just me (I really feel the cold at the best of times).

    I’m quite fascinated by Montessori (wish I could have gone there as a child). I don’t yet know what to make of the whole Indigo/Crystal thing. I’ve been told a number of times that I’m an Indigo person, but I tend to be very skeptical about labels. I’m trying to keep an open mind.

    If we ever have to send The Moon back to school, we’ve pretty much decided that we would go for a Montessori education. We’ll see what happens.

    It is quite confronting that the Tibetans spank their children, but perhaps it’s tempting to idealise a culture that represents so many of the peaceful ideals we hold up. And perhaps this has something to do, not only with the fact that they are a Buddhist society, but aso with their perceived role as victims (of the Chinese govt), as disenfranchised people. Every society and culture has its inherent contradictions doesn’t it? I don’t know if that makes sense, and I don’t want to write an essay here on your blog!

    The idea that children can remember past lives before the age of 8 does resonate with me, as I had a lot of what could possibly be described as that when I was little. Memories, dreams and apparently conversations that I have little or no memory of that would throw people. Who knows what this really was/is, but it’s something that interests me. And when my own little girl was 3 she described in some detail her “other mummy” before me. Shrug. Could be imaginiation, or…

  18. mommymystic permalink*
    October 15, 2009 11:56 pm

    DW – I’m glad you brought up the romanticization/idealization of cultures issue, because I almost mentioned that but the post (as usual) was just too damn long already. Tibetan culture does have many things that bother me, treatment of women especially, both within the monastic system and in layperson life. For example, this book mentioned that woman who cannot or choose not to have children are considered ‘bad luck’ or even evil!! I could go on and on about that one, and other related things…But the spanking especially threw me because from my own contact with the Tibetan community in NY they really were very physically gentle with each other and all beings, and everyone from the smallest child up really did go out of their way to save insects and such, and had a reverence for life and for the Buddhist precept of ‘doing no harm’ that was so pronounced. But I guess in this case they do not consider spanking to be ‘doing harm’, and with such an emphasis on unit harmony, discipline is considered essential, and this is acceptable discipline.
    ‘Other mummy’, huh? That’s interesting. Wouldn’t you know it, here I am practically begging for this stuff from my own kids and they don’t come up with anything nearly so good. Personally, I think you should write it down, as she might be interested when she gets older, you never know…

  19. October 16, 2009 8:45 am

    Quickly… just wanted to support you on this…

    “women don’t really like to think in these terms, because it doesn’t seem fair and flies in the face of some feminist thinking (I had someone unsubscribe and email re: this after my 2nd chakra series, actually), but I think it is just an energetic fact that has to be taken into account…”

    I agree it’s an energetic fact.
    I’m one of those fully Feminine-embracing ‘feminists’. 😉

  20. October 17, 2009 12:24 am

    Thanks, Melissa, for the resource. I’m familiar with RCB but haven’t actually taken a class. I live in San Diego, so I’m surrounded by RCB teachers. Guess I should check it out one of these days, huh? 🙂

  21. October 17, 2009 12:31 am

    This is a wonderful post! I have been very interested in Tibetan culture since studying anthropology many moons ago and I also live according to some core Buddhist principles so a very interesting read for me…thanks!
    Re the feeling cold after birth, I had a water birth and the water in very warm water and after my little one was born we floated together in the warm water for about 30 mins so I never experienced this cold sensation…could this be another plus for water births?? Just a thought 🙂

  22. mommymystic permalink*
    October 17, 2009 4:25 pm

    Glad you liked the post…Definitely think it’s a plus for water births, although as I mentioned, my own hospital experience was fine, lots of warmth, etc. but I know from others that I was lucky to be at a hospital with some progressive ideas…

  23. October 19, 2009 11:20 am

    Hi Lisa – thanks – this was a very interesting read. I thought your idea about parenting being more about intent and relationship than philosophy was interesting. Thank goodness more people are opting for water births and home births and the like these days, in the west.

  24. October 19, 2009 6:15 pm

    “Children are believed to retain past life memories…”

    Here’s a kind of western equivalent – from Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality ode:

    Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness,
    And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
    From God, who is our home:
    Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

  25. October 19, 2009 6:41 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed following all the comments on this post. Paul’s contribution today brings me back to say wow and thank you, Paul, for adding this beautiful piece of poetry to the discussion. ‘We come from God, trailing clouds of glory, Heaven lies about us’. Very beautiful and touching words. 🙂

  26. mommymystic permalink*
    October 19, 2009 10:31 pm

    Hi Robin, yes I’m glad things are changing re: birth too. Although the stats on maternal and infant deaths due to infection in rural Tibet prior to the Chinese occupation brought home to me the benefits of Western medicine too. Apparently, these deaths have plummeted in Dharmasala (where the Tibetan exile community lives) now that there is access to antibiotics for those births that warrant it. That was something I meant to mention in the article in the interest of being balanced, but forgot. So it is interesting – here in the West many think we are overusing antibiotics (and I have to say, that does seem to be the case amongst some pediatricians in my area) and then in Dharamsala (and of course other parts of the world) antibiotics are still new enough that they are practically a wonder drug, and no one benefits more than women and children.
    And re: the parenting thing, yes it is very easy to get overwhelmed with info re: parenting approaches, and in the area I live, I see ALOT of different approaches used, and people feel strongly about them. But so far, from the outside (which is always tricky to judge, I know) the ‘philosophy’ doesn’t seem to be the salient factor in kid’s overall happiness and well-being (also tough to judge I know). That’s a bit of a generalization of course, I don’t mean to say it doesn’t matter, but so far (and obviously I am still very early in this parenting experience!) I do think the parent/child relationship matters more than anything else, and any philosophy can support or erode that, depending on the context in which it is used, and whether it is approached rigidly or fluidly.

    Paul/Brenda – lovely from Wordsworth, thanks for that. I know many American authors/poets, especially those associated with the Transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau, etc. – your neck of the woods, right Paul?) were heavily influenced by classics from the East, especially ancient Indian texts such as the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita…I wonder if the same was true of any of the English poets of the time?

  27. advaitalifestyle permalink
    October 22, 2009 1:44 pm

    Hi, I have read your article, I just want to say thanks.
    I will check your site every week for new articles.

    If You are so much interested in Yoga, I advise You to buy new Acupressure Mat – Pranamat.
    Please visit this site to learn more about Pranamat. This is so simple in use acupressure mat and is made from 100% natural materials.


  1. Discovering The History And Concepts Of Different Branches of Yoga | All about Yoga

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