Birthlight Christmas message 2016

‘tis the season of good will, well-wishing and happy tidings. As we prepare gifts and plan special cheer, the festive season unwittingly opens our hearts and draws us to celebrate the end of a cycle and the opening of a new one at the winter solstice. Last week I had the privilege to stand under a clear night sky in Italy, watching in wonder the majestic spread of the milky way. I felt connected to my indigenous Amazonian friends who watch the south night sky near rivers now and follow the movements of the stars to guide their seasonal activities. For a moment, against all odds, the experience of peace and beauty on our small planet was just that: peace and beauty.

Certainly, there are many expressions of this cosmic wonder if we look around. Our Birthlight activities take us close to magic instants when parents connect with their babies before and after birth, when babies show their enjoyment of massage or yoga, or when fathers relax playfully with their babies in water. We do not try to bring these experiences about artificially. We just know they are possible, and that with a little “undoing” of anxiety and tension, they are more likely to happen. When they happen, they bring with them positive ripples and even cascades of wellbeing all around, in the short and long term.  

At a time of growing uncertainty and precariousness in the world, we need greater personal centring within circles of connection that can support and nurture us in community, both face to face and virtual. The successful outcome of the solidarity around Standing Rock, even though it’s still fragile, is one of several recent examples of the power of joined human voices to oppose destructive forces. During our international Light in Water conference in Cambridge last September, the urgency of preserving not just access to clean water but sites of “live waters” came to the fore. We are happy to be able to send a small Birthlight donation to support women’s activities around Standing Rock, thanks to speakers who waived their fees at our water conference, most particularly our keynote speaker Michel Odent. Our conference site is still live www.lightinwater.org for more information.

Our tiny petition to uphold best British and international industry standards in the teaching of baby swimming (or, as we now say in Birthlight, “water parenting”) has been successful thanks to the backing of the STA (Swimming Teachers Association). Birthlight’s renewed partnership with STA has been a highlight of 2016 and we look forward to further collaboration in 2017.

Regarding maternity care and the “primal continuum”, the latest evidence across various fields of research irrefutably supports practices that can enhance the mind-boggling orchestration of hormones and neuro-transmitters at play in early human development. In its current phase, the WHO (World Health Organisation) endorses the part played by community practitioners, traditional or not, to complement and support health care provision in hospitals and promote health in its widest sense as “well-being” within society. Our Birthlight collective offers simple (and fun) practices that innovate from tradition, following cutting edge research … and common sense. Yoga, within Ayurveda, with its very ancient mapping of the human body and its immense set of traditional body-based practices related to neuro-endocrine functions, offers a rejoinder to new understandings of  human physiology and the body in movement. In 2016, research has peaked showing the therapeutic effectiveness of yoga in its diverse forms. Stimulating exchanges and new initiatives among training tutors and teachers around both aquatic and land-based practices are strengthening Birthlight’s dynamic profile in the light of new findings.  We evolve to better respond to women, new parents and babies’ needs at the grassroots.  Our social enterprise model acknowledges and even celebrates our differences to support our holistic approach across local, social and cultural differences.

The human values that bring us together in Birthlight to uphold the special time of pregnancy, birth and babyhood towards what William Blake called “Infant Joy” are close to the spirit of Christmas, a time when we are reminded to nurture the roots of life.  Beyond all the amounting evidence, we know in our hearts that more of this is urgently needed. While indigenous people suffer unprecedented assaults from greed-led extractive projects and their social sequels, they are gently teaching us how the ways of being-in-the world that they are trying to keep or retrieve matter for all of us.

Together with the team that works indefatigably behind the scenes, Sylvie, Valerie and Renata in our little office and Helen and Jeff outside, and together with Sally and all the Birthlight training tutors I wish you, your families and all your loved ones a new year filled with harmony, abundance and trust.

Françoise.

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