The sunshine is streaming in through my window, cherry blossom branches swaying gently in the warm breeze. Spring has finally arrived in Germany and it warms my bones. Just last weekend I was in a very different environment, cold, grey but beautiful too, the cobbled streets of Vilnius was the background for my Understanding Babies workshop and despite the winter weather there was a heartfelt warmth that was created in our studio, fed by the deep commitment and interest of the participants and the nature of the work that was being discovered.
I love teaching, it demands my total presence and attention. Working with perinatal professionals ( doulas, midwives, children’s physiotherapists, obstetricians, baby group facilitators etc) with widely different trainings and experience requires a responsiveness to their specific interests and the ability to present the guiding principles of my work in a way that is clear and adaptable to a variety of contexts. It demands an ability to improvise, take my cues from the participants, create a safe and cohesive group feeling to hold the emotions that arise and maintain an intellectual rigour when answering questions and explaining concepts. It demands a lot.
I ask people in my workshops to do something many are unfamiliar with, to focus on the sensations within their bodies and to follow their impulses to move. I take them on journeys of the imagination, encourage them to connect to their visceral nature, their organs, their tissues and notice how it feels to be aware of their whole, how it feels to be a baby. This key skill, one we call embodiment is the cornerstone of my work. It is a resource for parents and for practitioners alike and a diagnostic tool when combined with a knowledge of the Developmental Movement Sequence and clear, non-judgemental observation. As simple as it sounds it is a profound act for many of us. Modern life is not exactly supportive of the idea of listening and taking your cues from your body and yet that is such a vital element of our lives.
Working from the idea that we model what we teach we explored the Developmental Movement Sequence from a psychological as well as a physical perspective and looked at how we might convey it’s importance to parents through movement and awareness exercises. We tried out different methods we could use in group or individual situations, from exercises in awareness and observation to specific parent and baby play activities.
We talked and shared - one of the discussions that has stood out for me was about crying - as release of trauma, as response to treatment, do we work through it? do we respect the response?
I was able to recount some of my experiences facilitating babies to release birth trauma and how this was a result of following the baby’s own initiation of the process. We talked about the baby’s maturing nervous system and the role of the parent in helping baby modulate their emotions and calm themselves after excitement. We investigated playful ways to help parents understand how to follow their baby’s lead and their self directed learning. We shared our opinions of the current ‘craz’ in former “eastern block” countries for baby ‘ gymnastics or ‘swinging yoga’. We talked to integrate the physical experiences and explorations we made..because the guiding principle was learning through doing and that we did!
It was a rich experience for us all and we ended by exploring touch - specifically cellular breathing one of the basic techniques of Body Mind Centering® the principles of which form the ground of my training. It’s a nebulous thing to describe- touching another person with complete awareness and openness and simply waiting to sense what happens at the point of connection. You put the concept out into the room and watch the ripple effect as scepticism is replaced by a deep concentration and innate understanding. I ask the group to imagine touching a baby with that kind of focus and talked about how I present the idea to mothers in my classes. The body speaks clearly to those who will listen and we are never more open to its messages as in those first months of life, the work really does speak for itself.
And so I am here, back in Berlin, preparing to teach the workshop once more in June, reflecting on structure, content and enjoying that kind of clarity that comes when you take your ideas out and inspect them in the clear Springtime sun. Thankful.