Space before the baby comes

Midwives, doulas, everyone who works with pregnant women will tell you that two weeks before the baby is due you should start your maternity leave. Cancel all your appointments, stop working, stop making plans. Make space. This includes space to connect with the little one and making space for it to come through you and into this world. The belief is that if your mental and physical space is too cluttered, the baby won't come. Or the birth will be rocky. Or you won't feel ready.

Part of me wants to say that's not true. While I significantly cut back on teaching, the day before my son was born I was still at the studio working. It felt good to still be doing a little something instead of just sitting around waiting. I believe I consistently created space throughout my pregnancy. I spent a lot of hours meditating, connecting inwards, chanting and doing a gentle Asana practice. Plenty of sacred space to go around.

The other part of me sometimes wonders if my birth was so tumultuous and fast because I didn't slow down enough shortly before. (And no, quick is not necessarily easier). Some would say that it was.

This pregnancy is different for many reasons. For one, I already have a child and my work has changed a lot. I have next to no spare time and I have to stand up for my space.

The slow down message

The other day my midwife said to me: “You know, when you realize you're not as quick on your feet any more, accept it and allow yourself to slow down.” I blinked. Slow? If there's one adjective that doesn't describe me, it is slow. I have to admit that I haven't allowed myself to slow down in the last thirty weeks. Ever since the nausea stopped.

Maternity leave is looming over me. That means I'm trying to wrap things up at work so that I can actually go on leave once it's time. Most of my days are packed with teaching, admin work and meetings. And of course, I'm already a mom, juggling household chores, play dates and grocery lists. I'm so used to being able to do this with my body, or to my body. I know my batteries just keep up and patiently wait to be recharged when there will be time.

Then again, it is certainly no coincidence that I have now been sick for weeks. It took all this coughing and sneezing for me to finally get the slow down message. And it is not just because pregnancy takes its toll on the body. It is also about the fact that we do this once, twice, maybe three times in our life (at least, I assume that's true for most of us). This is the ultimate creative process – creating and carrying life inside. Do we really want to spend this time worrying about deadlines and to do lists?

Cluttered space

Pregnant or not, this is the time of year when we are all rushing to get things done. I find it interesting that under such circumstances our yoga practice is the first item we cross out on our to do list, when it is the very thing that would create space. My personal practice – and that could be anything from meditation to chanting to spending five minutes in a restorative pose – has become far more than a workout over the years. It is my appointment with myself. A way to make space and declutter the mental space. When the outside can calm down, what's inside can be heard. What needs to come through, can emerge. For me, sometimes that's an idea for writing. Often it's inspiration for teaching. These days it's feeling baby kicking as I slow down. Funny how they hardly ever kick when you're rushing, only when you're resting.

I believe this applies to every creative process. It cannot happen without us tuning in, without a moment's pause, a lull. Inspiration can happen while your riding on a crowded bus. Creation needs space to come through to you. If the space is cluttered, it's impeded.

My impulse when I'm tired or overwhelmed is often the opposite. Isn't that interesting? I tend to want to binge-watch TV series or read Harry Potter for the umpteenth time. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it clutters the mind instead of making it spacious. Yet, I don't feel like making an effort. I want to disconnect instead of feeling connected. But then, thank goodness, something happens to turn me around and point me in the more satisfying direction.

Finding space again

I was never particularly attracted to Kundalini Yoga. But my friend gave me Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa's prenatal yoga book “Beautiful, Bountiful, Blissful.” Plus, my writing mentor swears by Kundalini Yoga to stimulate the creative mind. It seems that a lot of people who work in the creative field use Kundalini for that specific purpose. It is after all called the creative force.

So to connect with the life growing inside me, I started reading Gurmukh's book. Even after just a few pages, the book changed my mood. It inspired me to sit down again, to become quiet, to take the time to practice. I chanted again. I vacuumed the room where my altar is and set out fresh candles. I remembered that my practice is not just another item on my to do list, but something wholesome I can do for myself. Inner space that is always accessible even when the outside feels jam-packed.

Let your intention be spaciousness

My writing mentor teaches this technique of setting your writing intention as part of his yoga for writers method: Before you start your practice, you think of what you need next in your writing: A good title, a brilliant plot twist, a closing to your chapter, a catchy abstract for your article. You think about it and then let it go. In other words, you ask, but then you make space for something to emerge. You move out of the way.

In my experience, what you asked for always comes through. Most often not during the practice. If you're lucky if something surfaces during Savasana. In most cases it bubbles up when you're doing something completely different later in the day or the week. But it works. Like magic.

Writing is a creative act. Like creating babies. Like creating art, stories, music, recipes, shared memories, connections, intimacy and love. But creativity cannot take shape if doesn't have space.

Maybe the midwives and doulas are right. Slowing down and preparing the space can be conducive to the birth experience. If it's like that in nature, it must be true for every creative process. Time and again, I observe that we all need to create in some way to feel satisfied and for our life to be meaningful. Maybe your creative act is to decorate your Christmas tree or to write a card to someone you haven't seen in a long time. Maybe you create solutions for big companies or maybe you create a new card game for your kids. All of these creations are meaningful. What matters is that we don't forget to have space for them.