My teenage brother is a free-spirited artist with a particular affinity for buddhist thought. He likes to create collages with magazine clippings, so I decided to give him a book full of empty cardstock pages to unleash his creativity upon. I gave the gift a personalized touch by decorating the front cover with a collage of my own. I love how it turned out!
While flipping through my old magazines looking for materials for my collage, I found a little snip-it of an article with this headline: “God takes the pain away.” It shared a bit of research (by Amy Wachholtz, PhD) about how spiritual meditation can impact our perception of pain. Study participants were instructed to either 1) Do relaxation exercises, 2) Mediate on phrases such as “I am happy,” or 3) Meditate on phrases such as “God is love” for several weeks. Afterward, participants’ abilities to withstand pain were tested. Those who had practiced spiritual meditation demonstrated the highest pain thresholds (Click here to learn more).
Amy Wachholtz has also studied how spiritual meditation can impact migraine sufferers. She found that “over the course of the intervention in comparison to the other three groups, those who practiced spiritual meditation had greater decreases in the frequency of migraine headaches, anxiety, and depression, as well as greater increases in pain tolerance, headache-related self-efficacy, daily spiritual experiences, and existential well being” (Source).
Now all of this got me thinking… How might a prenatal practice of spiritual meditation impact a woman’s childbirth experience? I’ve shared before that meditation can boost the body’s melatonin levels which in turn facilitates the labor process through synergy with oxytocin (see here). So I feel confident that a meditating woman would have a far more efficient labor pattern. I’ve also shared before that using Hypnobabies may have helped me experience a near-painless fourth birth experience (see here). But neither of those posts address spiritual meditation. And Amy Wachholtz’s research seems to indicate that spiritual meditation is far more powerful than relaxation or non-spiritual meditation, though I’m sure even those would provide considerable benefit.
Most of what little I know about the spiritual practice of meditation has come from my good friend and collaborator, Felice Austin. She has been meditating regularly for many years now, and she is a strong proponent for meditation’s spiritual, physical, and emotional healing power. She has explained, “By pondering on a loving God, regulating the breath, repeating a mantra, holding a mudra (or however you meditate), the mind accesses the Theta state and the new thoughts/intention are able to bypass the critical mind and reprogram the unconscious scripting without resistance” (Source). Felice folded 1000 paper cranes and meditated through her pregnancy with her daughter. Of that experience, she wrote:
During this time, I received much strength from within (perhaps literally from within my womb), but the rest came from God, and my ancestors. . . . My daughter was born healthy and beautiful, with all the wisdom of a thousand years in one tiny body. I know that she is as happy and as gentle as she is because of the time I spent during my pregnancy, transforming our lives through quiet communion with God. (Source)
Women’s minds and spirits are more open during pregnancy than perhaps at any other time. We read magazines and books about the logistics of pregnancy and childbirth, we may take classes on how to cope with labor through a variety of means, but it is rare to find books or resources for spiritual childbirth preparation. As I mentioned above, spiritual meditation far surpasses relaxation and non-spiritual meditation in studies of pain, stress, and anxiety. What a powerful tool most of us are missing!
I got a small glimpse of that power this past weekend. As some of you are aware, my baby was ill last week. Our doctor directed us to the E.R. on Thursday evening, but we never did find out for sure what was causing her symptoms. Meanwhile, my momma heart was so full of fear and anxiety that I could hardly breathe, despite repeated assurances from God that she would recover and be well again soon. Because my own faith was so weak, I called out to my Birth Faith facebook friends as well as my real life family and friends, asking for prayers and help. (Thank you!)
My daughter began to show signs of improvement through Friday and Saturday, but then the words of the E.R. doc kept coming back to me: “Because she’s not vaccinated, she’s at a great risk for several serious illnesses, you’ll want to watch for these symptoms … and come back immediately if you see any of them.” Saturday night my baby had several coughing spells that sent me spiraling into deeper fear, becoming more and more convinced that we were watching the progression of whooping cough. Every cough was like another injection of fear into my heart.
In my church, we usually set aside the first Sunday of every month to fast. Because I’m nursing (and have been feeling concerned that I’m not eating enough calories to keep myself and my baby healthy), I knew I couldn’t fast from food, so I decided instead this past Sunday to fast from fear. It’s much easier to make sure you don’t put food into your mouth than it is to make sure you don’t let fear into your heart, but I did my best. Whenever a fearful thought entered my mind, I replaced it with a faith-full thought from a list my husband and I created together:
- God is making my baby whole.
- With God nothing is impossible.
- God is a God of miracles.
- Peace, be still.
- If we exercise faith, we can see miracles.
- I believe.
As I let go of the fear and replaced it with faith through spiritual mantras spoken over and over, I felt a mighty change in my heart. And as I pondered that mighty change, I came to realize that perhaps the greatest miracle I was witnessing that day was not the healing of my daughter but the healing of my heart. God took my fear and pain away.
I am now more convinced than ever that there is more power in spiritual meditation than we could ever imagine. Have you seen that power at work? Has God ever taken your pain away? Do you think a practice of spiritual meditation could dramatically reduce childbirth pain?
p.s. My daughter is doing great!