As I drove to join a group of other birth workers at the Crossing the Threshold workshop in Seattle in October, I found myself feeling apprehensive about what lay ahead. This was partly because I lacked a clear understanding of exactly what we would be doing over the weekend. The introductory emails had been missing the detailed topic outlines that I had come to expect from the many birth-related that trainings I had attended. And, honestly, because of the number of trainings that I had under my belt I held some doubt as to just how much new learning I would really be doing.
As I settled into the circle of birth workers, the experience took on a certain familiarity, but what followed was anything but typical. Immediately we were called into a space of authenticity with an intimate greeting of our fellow attendees that pushed the limits of what I expected to do at a professional workshop and left me feeling open and vulnerable. Then we dove directly into a conversation about our real experiences in birth. There were no right or comfortable answers; we began to name what has been difficult to witness in birth as well as the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that feel taboo to speak about.
From this beginning, the weekend continued to excavate my deeper feelings and experiences about birth that I had been pushing aside in favor of maintaining a strictly professional demeanor.
At one point I sat across from a woman who I had only met the day before and looked into her eyes while she slowly peeled back the layers of my social identity for me to experience myself in a deeper and deeper way. While saying very little out loud, I felt truly witnessed by her, which allowed me to witness myself in a new way. Experiences like this are rare. Just being in that space with someone else inspired a powerful transformation: having been seen and accepted so deeply, I felt free to be express myself from a more soulful and true place.
Throughout the weekend, we experienced many of the processes that we would later be learning to lead for our own clients and mentees. Doing my inner work through these processes, I reached a new level of awareness of my own feelings of power and vulnerability. This awareness allowed me to begin to bring my authentic self into the work I am doing as a mentor.
I felt that my authentic self was finally being woven in with my professional identity.
I struggle now to articulate this because it was an experience that, like birth, can be explained and pointed to with words, but becomes known in a very different, deeper way when actually experienced rather than just conceptualized.
At the end of the Crossing the Threshold weekend, I stood in front of the labyrinth at our closing ceremony and found myself contemplating one of my own core emotional wounds. But in the supportive space that we were holding as a group, I held strong to the intention of letting go of all the ways I experience guilt as I crossed the final threshold of the weekend and stepped into the labyrinth. It seems like a simple, direct action, but to carry it out evoked a sense of enormous risk and uncertainty. As I walked the path of the labyrinth, I had to face this aspect of myself and how it lives within my approach to my work in order to grasp how it could be transformed. Even the awareness that guilt was such a huge burden to my work as a birth professional was new and surprising.
As I stepped back out of the labyrinth at the closing ceremony, I stepped into the larger metaphorical labyrinth of my life journey and role as a mentor. Instead giving me of a piece of paper stating my credential, the retreat had excavated a deeper layer feeling and experience in me, helping me to connect my personal life journey with my professional work in a powerful way I felt called to step into my power and authority as a mentor. This step can’t be taken half-heartedly. It will require the wisdom that I have gained from all of the other thresholds that I have crossed in my life.