Sunday we said goodbye to the monks and drove back to Toronto. The group was MUCH chattier than the drive down, and I could tell that we had all become much closer because of the experience. I also thought it was interesting that the content of the talk driving back to Toronto included a lot of teasing. Teasing can a very good thing--indicating a kind of shifting of power relationships. It's a moment of negotiation with our young people that I welcome.
I however, was feeling rather ill. I got a cold at Holy Cross. I just hope I didn't give it to any of the kids (or my wife, for that matter). Precautions have been taken.
I was feeling under the weather Monday, but had no choice except to receive a delivery of two face chords of wood and start stacking them. It's a LOT of wood, but I have no doubt we'll burn through it this winter. Took some Nyquil and went to bed early!
Tuesday--Trad Com in the morning (BCP Eucharist). I was still feeling under the weather, but no fever, so I went ahead and celebrated the mass. Theoretically you aren't contagious once the fever is gone (or, so they told us when I worked in a hospital). But as an extra precaution I didn't actually touch the host, I simply gestured to them during the Canon and then held the patten and asked people to take host for themselves. I wouldn't try this technique on a Sunday morning, but on a weekday mass with a handful of people it was fine. Surprisingly, I had a nice little extemporaneous homily in me! Lunch afterwards with the faithful was good. One well-meaning lady insists that I drink lots of orange juice everyday to prevent a future cold.
In the evening Betsy and I had our first childbirth class. The midwife who teaches the course has done so for many years, and started off by establishing mutual expectations about what would be covered and what wouldn't. Interestingly, these days they no longer show a birth video as that practice reflected a day and age when people didn't have access to shows like "A Baby Story" and "Desperate Midwives." She said is simply takes more time than it is worth to show a birth video is class, however we were welcome to check out a DVD.
Another difference from what people assume: not a lot of specific techniques for breathing or massage will be taught. In the experience of these midwives, there is little sense in teaching people a bunch of techniques that they probably won't even have a chance to use. Instead they want to give us a broad foundation of stuff that really will be helpful to know.
Not surprisingly, pain came up a lot. In response to this the midwife explained that there is a split in opinion among childbirth educators about whether it is a good thing to discuss pain in childbirth with expectant parents. The problem is that anticipation of pain will often lead to a great perception of pain. In other words, if you think it's going to hurt, it will. On the other hand, having a good understanding of the pain may help prepare for it. "I really don't see my job as 'Pain Management,'" said the Midwife. Pain in childbirth is simply part of the process and totally normal. There are even benefits to body experiencing pain.
The important thing to understand about pain such as what happens during contractions, is that nothing is wrong. Nothing is being damaged by the contractions. They are not harming the baby. In this case, pain is not about something being wrong. And understanding that truth allows one to perceive the pain very differently than one might experience a broken arm or appendicitis.
Then she went further in her discussion of pain, "You have to ask yourself, 'what's so terrifying about pain?'" This really impressed me. Rarely have I heard someone take such a tack with patients/clients. But she is right, of course, pain is a sensation like any other, and can mean many things. Maybe it even means something good and positive!
As she was talking my brain was going three places at once. I was present and listening, but I was also thinking about some things I've learned about meditation over the years, and just how interesting the experience of pain can be, and what opportunities for transformation and growth are there. Then on a third level I wondered how a masochist experiences the pain of childbirth. I know... I'm strange.
The other couples seemed very nice and chatty. When I was alone with the guys at one point we all seemed to collectively realize we had a lot in common!
Today was the Contemplative Eucharist in the morning. What a lovely group that is. We have great conversation afterwards about scripture and meditation and spiritual stuff. Then as the day progressed I became more and more overwhelmed by all the STUFF I have to get done. I'm not sure, but I think the projects that have been piling up on my desk(s) are starting to breed and multiply when I'm not looking!
The feeling of being overwhelmed got so bad that I realized I had do something before an afternoon appointment to give spiritual direction--so about half an hour before my meeting I put down everything and picked up an Anglican Rosary. I put a chair in front of the tabernacle and said some prayers with the Rosary (one made by Br. Charles, OHC) and felt much better. Came back to my office and was in a nice space for my spiritual direction session!
Now I'm getting ready to take off and do some other things. the work never stops...