Midwifing

Fri, Nov 6, 2020 5-minute read

An expression of my commitment to my soul’s calling is to try to write in this journal every day.

However, I’m noticing the feeling of intimidation around trying to do justice to the pace, depth and breadth to the experiences that I’ve been exposed to. This is a fear-of-failure loop I’m often caught in, which is why I never put my nascent thoughts out into the wild. Now, I breathe deeply and remind myself that the practice of writing is also about learning how to surrender: surrender the instinct to use this journal to cover the territory with a map; surrender to the fact that no matter how tightly I grip my fingers together, learning is water passing through my cupped hands. It will flow through me, change me, and leave behind traces.

Yesterday, I was part of three beautiful gatherings, two online and one in-person: 1) High Pitch: Conversations in a New Key featuring six women (Bonnitta Roy, Nora Bateson, Ria Baeck, Miriam Mason Martineau, Schuyler Brown, and Ece Utkucan); 2) A meeting with my Kinship group of six companions involved with the course We Will Dance with Mountains (which I’ll need to dedicate time to unpacking in future entries); and 3) A socially distanced park hang with three dear friends from my Masters degree.

Although they were all sourced from different places, a through line was weaved through them: What must we cultivate in order to become collective midwives to the future not yet known?

The High Pitch conversation is a truly an oasis. It’s a group of women – many of whom are mothers – at the edge of systems thinking and embodied knowing, and listening to them speak gently, awkwardly, and generously with each other quenches a thirst that I didn’t know I had in the field of systemic design and leadership.

“I love to think of leadership these days as midwifing. When I was pregnant… the women who were gathered for that experience; there was no leader… but there was a process taking place that everyone was responding to, including the baby and me. Yet there were different faces and people I would turn to for different needs, and they had their own needs and experience, and it was what Nora always describes so beautifully as the whole system responding to each other.

-- Schuyler Brown

It’s looking at systems and the actors within it as a rich ecology of ever-evolving relationships. It’s looking at motherhood as the vital metaphor for living eco-systemic leadership: the work of gritting your teeth through the pain of giving birth with gentleness and patience, of living into the role model you want your children to be inspired by (even if it means you have to move away from the comfort of the known), of staying grounded and rooted in the midst of the inevitable chaos of endogenous and exogenous forces of change, of not knowing who your children (or the next generation) will be but learning how to become-with them .

We’ve substituted the false cognitive complexity of systems for the truly mysterious territory of life.

Several hours later, I joined my kinship group of six people, brought together by chance to explore the strange gravity of Bayo Akomolafe’s We Will Dance With Mountains Course (and the way his words come over us like gentle tidal waves). We’ve only met briefly twice, but there is already such a palpable sense of honest and loving… – well, kinship in the way that we’ve started sharing with each other. I’m always quietly amazed at when this happens: kinship as a kind of soft magic.

My fellow kin Barri, who is also a midwife, emanates grounded wisdom and brazen trickster energy. She describes midwifing as “being very good at doing nothing”, which is funny, and then, as: “having the radical patience to tell when something is stuck, and when it is taking its time."

Having the radical patience to tell when something is stuck, and when it is taking its time."

Sometimes, powerful words are shared in a way where it physically shakes me, and I know I’ve been changed by it. This is why I pursued an undergraduate degree in philosophy and english (to swim in and breathe beautiful words). It’s also why I feel so incredibly drawn to Bayo Akomolafe and the mysterious ways in which he moves me with his written and spoken words.

So now, I sense that my emerging more-than-human self is like a newborn calf, or a fragile new bud on a tree. I’m learning how to crawl out of a human “skin” that’s kept me sovereign and separate from the world: I feel incredible sensitive, senseful (credit to Bonnitta Roy), unsafe and groundless, overwhelmed by the intensity and vibrancy of the world around me. But in another way, I’m also sensing the truth that I’m crawling home. And that if I can just trust and relax into my more-than-human instincts – giving this new being some radical patience and time – I will follow the deep knowing within me, and breast-crawl towards what I need to live.

This is the time to burrow into the cracks, and nurture this intensity with gentleness and tenderness.