The main message I try to pass on to my prenatal yoga students is that mindfulness practices, such as conscious breathing, yoga and meditation, are invaluable in supporting and serving their unique needs as they grow into motherhood. So I was very excited to find out last month that one of my favorite writers and teachers, Susan Piver, has edited a new book, The Mindful Way Through Pregnancy: Meditation, Yoga and Journaling for Expectant Mothers, which includes an essay by yet another favorite, Karen Maezen Miller. I immediately ordered a copy, eager to see if this could be a resource I would want to recommend to my students.
The Mindful Way Through Pregnancy contains six essays, with topics ranging from Nurturing Your Body With Yoga, to Bonding With Your Baby, to Calming Fear. Coupled with each essay is a specific mindfulness practice, among them Basic Breath Awareness, Journaling, and two different meditation practices. Accompanying the book is a CD of four practices, beautifully led by Susan Piver (whom I love for the wonderful guided meditations she offers through her Open Heart Project.)
In her introduction, Piver writes that "mindfulness doesn't necessarily mean peacefulness. It refers instead to the willingness to be with ourselves as we are from moment to moment, whether that self is the picture of blissful maternity or of something a bit more, say, cranky or fearful. The material in this book is about embracing the experience of pregnancy--and as with all embraces, it begins with an opening, which is a synonym for mindfulness."
This theme of opening up to the experience of pregnancy, whether happy or fearful or just plain miserable, is one that runs through the whole book, and is a message I would have benefited from greatly when I was pregnant with my son. My experience of being pregnant was so far from what I had hoped or expected it would be: I didn't feel blissful or happy, but mostly cranky and achy and struggling deeply to make or feel a connection to the little bean growing in my belly. I wish I had had this book to walk me through my first pregnancy. When I despaired that my experience was far from the deep spiritual one I'd envisioned, I would have loved to read Anne Cushman's words: "What makes pregnancy a spiritual practice is not the kind of pregnancy we have. It's how we open to it, moment by moment, breath by breath." When I couldn't imagine what our baby would be like and didn't feel a loving connection to our child, it would've been a balm to read that "if we can stop second-guessing ourselves and forcing ourselves to feel whatever we're conditioned to believe we ought to feel, bonding will simply happen," as Celia Strauss expresses. I've underlined several passages from Karen Maezen Miller's essay, Preparing for Childbirth--which is in itself worth the price of the book--and have already been reading them out loud to my students in class. The following excerpt sums up nearly everything I've learned about mindfulness and motherhood:
There is an unexpected end to every pregnancy. The end is birth itself, and whether early or late, easy or difficult, every birth is unpredictable and astonishing. Pregnancy prepares us as all of life prepares us. It prepares us to let go of how we thought it would be, and to focus on how it is. It prepares us to dwell solely on what appears in front of us, instead of on the anxious, fearful ruminations in our head. No matter how you think or feel, you can literally see how prepared you are, and you can trust it.
I was initially a little disappointed that the book itself was so slim, but I soon realized that its small size is in fact one of its greatest strengths. Being pregnant, especially with your first baby, is an overwhelming experience of learning, researching, and swimming in a veritable sea of new information. Between figuring out how to live in and support the new reality of your shifting and expanding body, to weighing options for the birth of your baby, to trying to decide on which strollers, car seats, and diapers will suit your lifestyle, there you might seem to be little space available to learn how to meditate, especially if it means reading thick volumes on the subject. This is the genius of The Mindful Way Through Pregnancy: with its short essays, and CD of guided practices, it will fit nicely into the whirlwind, and provide a safe place to land, find some grounding, and begin to develop those mindfulness practices that will serve you as birth draws nearer, and once your babe is in your arms.
Holding this book in your hand, you will have all the foundation and guidance needed to get you started with several different mindfulness practices, specifically geared towards expectant mothers, which will serve and nurture you through your pregnancy and beyond. I am so grateful that this book is out there, and I highly recommend it.
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I am so thrilled to have a copy of the book to give to one lucky reader! Please leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing! I will leave the comments and the contest open until 11:59pm, Central Time on Monday, October 29th . I will reveal the winner on Tuesday, October 30th, when I'll share a very special treat with you: an interview with Karen Maezen Miller!
Disclaimer: Shambhala Books is providing the giveaway copy, at my request. I purchased my own copy of the book. My opinion is, now and always, entirely mine.