Womb Prints: What Are You Carrying in Your Womb Space? (Part 1)

The origin of the word ‘pelvis’ comes from the words: basin, container, goblet, vessel, bowl and cup in various languages. The pelvis contains our pelvic organs and has a bowl-like appearance. It holds, contains, carries and protects the tender organs inside, including the womb, and our other reproductive/sexual organs.

The ‘womb space’ is another way I refer to the womb and pelvic area in general- in an energetic sense. Not all of us have uteruses and ovaries, but we all have an energy centre here. Like the pelvic bowl holding and containing our tender organs, the womb space holds and contains our tender feelings, creativity and sexual urges. If we are pregnant, it holds, protects and interacts with the baby. In relationships, it holds the energy of the bond and its intimacy.. 

What I call the ‘womb space’ is akin to the Sacral Chakra in Yoga. In sanskrit, it’s called Svadhisthana, meaning ‘in one’s abode’. The element of this pelvic energy centre is water. The emotions and sexuality are synonymous with water, as fluids are released when we cry, give birth, menstruate, make love or orgasm.

So, our pelvic bowl/womb space are essentially holding ‘water’ energetically. This begs the question: What is the quality of this energetic ‘water’ we are holding? Is it murky, sludgy and in need of release? Is it hot, boiling and frustrated? Is it warm, luscious and sensual? Is it cold or frozen? Stagnant or flowing?

I ask myself these questions on a near daily basis- when I do my regular womb check-ins and my yoga practice. In the span of one day, I may get different feedback. I may have weeks or months of general stagnation, or frequent bouts of hot and boiling. Like the ocean, my womb flows in waves and cycles. And it definitely is attuned to the moon. If you menstruate, you may find your cyclical patterns to be more attuned to your hormones than the moon- everyone is different.

At some point in time, many of us may experience symptoms related to an imbalance or blocked energy in our womb space. This may manifest as:

  • Lack of inspiration/creativity
  • Sexual frustration or overdrive
  • Sexual disinterest or shutdown
  • Issues with emotional or sexual boundaries
  • Repeated toxic relationships
  • Guilt or shame around sexual orientation, gender, identity
  • Pelvic pain, cysts, disease
  • Painful, irregular or heavy periods
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Infertility, issues with pregnancy and birth
  • Low self-esteem
  • Frequent financial issues
  • Lower back pain
  • Unable to receive pleasure/ excessive pleasure-seeking

When we have symptoms of imbalance, we are likely carrying energetic ‘water’ that needs to flow or be cleared. We may have attachments to others that are toxic or unhealthy, or grief to let go of.  We may have had traumatic or negative experiences that left an energetic imprint on our womb (we will explore this in an upcoming blog on womb trauma), that we have yet to work through. We also may have an inner conflict that causes stress. 

How can we heal the womb space?

Each individual’s womb space is completely unique and requires a personalised approach to healing. There is no ‘one size fits all’ method. This is why I like to focus on one-on-one healing sessions.

But for starters, we can begin to just give ourselves the time and space on a regular basis to ‘check-in’ with ourselves. If we have any of those symptoms listed above, our womb has already been trying to get our attention.  

The best thing for it, it to give it that attention. I like to do a little check-in I call  ‘Womb Listening’ as part of my practice, and with clients. 

How to do ‘Womb Listening’:

Take a moment alone, in a peaceful environment. Lie down or sit comfortably, place your hands on your lower belly, and just breathe.

Slow down your mind, and just tune into your womb space. Some people like to play relaxing music in the background, or light incense or a candle. Do whatever makes you feel relaxed, calm and focused. 

Feel your hands resting on your belly, gently moving with the flow of your breath. It can be very subtle. Let your thoughts quiet. Think of your womb space as a wise, truthful, living entity of its own, that really wants to communicate with you.  Then ask your womb ‘what do you need right now?’

If you feel pain, allow for the pain to ‘speak’ and listen for an answer.

The womb space may not communicate through words, although you may ‘hear’ words- it also likes to move, bring an image to your mind, sing, or make sounds. Allow for it to communicate however it wishes to. Just be open to receiving it. Give it expression. 

Take in a deep breath and let whatever sounds that needs to come out, to come out on the exhale. Maybe it’s a big sigh, or an ‘ahhhh’ sound, or a grunt, yell or even a scream.

Maybe it wants a massage. Maybe it wants to shake, dance or to be completely still. Do you best to give it what it needs in the moment. Notice how doing that changes how you feel. 

Some people find automatic writing revealing. Hold a pen in one hand, and place the other on your womb, and let it speak through whatever words flow through you.

It may not happen right away. It may take days or weeks of practice, but eventually, it will speak and you will hear what it is trying to say. This is where the healing begins!

 

 

What is embodiment? What does it mean to be ‘disconnected from our body’?

Our relationship with our body is a complex thing. A lot of us doing embodiment work use the word ‘embodied’ without much thought- as though the meaning is obvious. It’s the opposite of being ‘disconnected from our body’. But what does that mean?  I like to say that my services teach ‘embodied self-care’. Ways that people can get in touch with their inner needs, take care of their body’s needs and live in a way that is empowering and honoring of themselves as a whole. But what does that look like in real life?  

Embodiment is about our mind, body and feelings being in an ongoing conversation, and attempting to work together.  Kind of like being in a band- each musician works in harmony with one another- contributing to the whole. Likewise, In order to be embodied, there must be a balance and harmony between mind, heart and body. It’s about developing an awareness and curiosity about our experience while allowing ourselves to be in the experience at the same time. 

I could be doing a yoga class or a heavy workout and still be mentally disconnected from my body throughout it!  If I’m doing something physical, but my mind is busy replaying a conversation from yesterday, I am anxiously thinking about an interview tomorrow, or I am forcing a mental  ideal that my body cannot safely do, I am not fully present in my current physical or emotional experience, and therefore not moving in an embodied way. In this state, I can miss cues from my body, and may move in a way that causes injury or strain.   

It’s not about your mind calling all the shots, but it’s also not about your physical desires or discomfort calling them all, either. It’s about learning to differentiate between pain and discomfort, and being curious about the feedback your body is giving. Being a witness to your physical experience. 

I often used to say to students ‘listen to your body’- which is a bit overly simplistic and doesn’t take into account the complexity of the feedback our body can give us. We don’t necessarily need to avoid things things the body feels a resistance to, nor is it necessarily healthy to always do what the body wants, or else I would probably try to live off of chocolate and spend 15 hours a day in bed. Being embodied can mean to just take in the feedback the body is giving us, and be curious about it and experiment . So I now often say to students now “get curious about…”

Notice the sensations and adjust when necessary. Sometimes we need to just move into that comfy, familiar place. Sometimes we need to step out of it. It’s about presence and awareness of the here and now- and keeping an open conversation between mind, heart and body. 

 This is easier said than done. To help the mind and body to communicate, we often need to slow down and get curious

Take a deep inhale.. Exhale.. Now get curious about the sensations in your left foot. Is it cool or warm? Wriggle your toes. Alternate between pointing and flexing. How does your ankle feel? Try rotating it, make a few circles with your foot. Now try flexing the foot as your inhale, and pointing your toes as your exhale. Notice how your left foot feels different from your right foot. 

Even now you are a bit more embodied than a few seconds ago! And maybe you feel like moving your right foot now, for balance. 

Take a moment to reflect on your daily routines. How often are you curious about what your body is saying? Do you take time to fully feel your emotions?  Do you allow time and space for that? Why or why not?

Why is embodied self-care important? 

 We can miss important cues from our body or feelings that are informing us to make a shift in our lifestyle to preserve our health and well-being. Maybe we haven’t processed some old grief or allowed our anger to be expressed. This can be stored in our body, and subsequently limit us from moving forward in our lives. We feel blocked. Maybe we develop pain. Embodied practices can help move that emotional energy locked in our body, and ease pain. Embodied practice can alert us to imbalances we have and prevent them from becoming worse or manifesting illness. 

 Trauma may be stored in the body: Perhaps we feel ‘numb’, depressed or anxious. We may ‘space out’ doing certain activities, or generally feel disengaged from things we used to enjoy. We may feel our body is not a safe place to reside, due to previous trauma or unresolved emotions. Embodied practices such as yoga and mindful movement in conjunction with talk therapy can do wonders for healing trauma. But it does not happen overnight and should be facilitated by a trauma-informed practitioner. Being embodied with trauma history can take a lot of practice and require an extra dose of self-compassion and support from others. 

What can I do to live in a more embodied way?

One thing to remember is that no one is living in an embodied way 24/7! 

It is normal and natural to be in a dynamic relationship with the present moment- we often vacillate between pain & pleasure, numbness & feeling, attraction & repulsion, and in between. This is normal. 

Some easy practices you can take into your day:

  •         Notice the Breath: A basic way to become more embodied is through becoming more aware of your breath. During the day, if you are waiting in line, or sitting on a bus, or reading an email, try taking a moment to just bring your awareness to all the sensations of the inhale and the exhale. What parts of your body expand as you inhale? What happens in your shoulders as you exhale? Try with your mouth open. And then try with your mouth closed. How do they feel different? Don’t overthink it. Just be curious. 
  •         The Feet. Our feet are most often touching the ground. But how often do we really get curious about that sensation? Wiggle your toes, get the blood flowing. Feel the floor or ground underneath. If you sit a lot, a hard ball or foot roller or squishy mat can help you stay grounded and connected to your body through your feet. Give your feet massage breaks. They will thank you!
  •         Mindful eating: Mindful eating is incredibly simple and yet, many of us don’t habitually do it. Next time you are eating something- slow the process way down. Take a very small, intentional bite.  Bring all of your attention to the sensation of lifting the food to your mouth, the sensation of it hitting your tongue, the taste buds activating, saliva, the reaction in your stomach, overall body, emotions. Put off chewing as long as you can. Take your time just feeling it in your mouth. Then make each chew very slow and fully experience it! Notice your feelings and emotions in relation to your experience of eating different foods. 

 The more curious you get about what is going on in your body, the more ‘in tune’ your mind and body will be. The less stress you will feel, the more accepting of yourself you will be. The more you will have a deepened sense of ease and flow in your daily life.

 

Ancestral trauma, gifts & wisdom: Healing our tree

My Memere passed away this past fall, just shy of her 99th birthday. She was my last living grandparent. Born in October 1919 in St.Leon, Manitoba, she gave birth to 6 children, one of which died as a baby. Her and my Pepere worked hard, making a life out of a stubborn plot of land through the harsh prairie winters. They hunted, fished, trapped and farmed more or less their whole lives, raised their kids, made the best life they could with what they had. They faced life’s challenges with a buoyant sense of humour, and devoted spiritual faith. They gave my mom life, and therefore made it possible for me to be here, and therefore my daughter, and so on.

When my grandma passed, I got a bunch of her old photographs, genealogical records, and some funny collages she put together. She was quite the scrap-booker. She was very thorough with recording every birth and important life details of her life, her ancestors and her descendants. On top of that, the church also has kept excellent records so I have a lot of info about my mother’s lineage. More on that later.

One of her writings I came upon made me think about a subject that is often on my mind, part of my own healing journey and the work I do. Intergenerational trauma, healing- and the sacred feminine.

I am not the best at french-english translation, but roughly, she speaks about how important recording our geneaology is. Because how else would we be able to know about our ancestors’ accomplishments, or their struggles? It also keeps us accountable. Once we have children, our name is remembered, and with that so are our faults and good qualities. Our actions have repercussions; You never know how your bad behaviours can manifest or what repercussions they may have; and equally, you never know just how far the good work you do will reach down the generations- all the work you did to make the leaves on the family tree beautiful to be enjoyed by those down the line.

You may have read the articles floating around about how on a biological level, we hold imprints of the memories of our grandmother simply from living in her womb. Our mother carried us as an egg in her ovaries while developing in grandma’s womb, and so, we were in grandma’s womb too. Our genes can mutate based on our foremothers’ experiences.

And so, we must ask ourselves, what are those imprints? What traumas and gifts are being passed down to us? And, are we making the family tree more beautiful and healthy with our actions in this life? Or are we weakening it?

The legacy of our ancestors includes traumas, but it also brings us gifts, and wisdom. We need to use the gifts we were passed down and the ones we cultivated ourselves, to heal ourselves and our line.

I have seen spiritual healers about my endometriosis and done my own spiritual investigations on it. For me, it’s a lot of past life imprinting and generational stuff passed down, rather than events from this life. There are studies that show that women with endometriosis often have a history of sexual abuse or assault.  One could argue that most women have this in their history- either their own or in their lineage, yet they don’t all have endo.  Endo also begins in utero, long before birth. There’s more to it than what happened to us in childhood. 

There are many health issues that are more likely to manifest when there is trauma history. As the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test scores show, common illnesses we experience today are traced back to how many of these childhood traumas are in your background. My ACE score is fortunately, pretty low. But ACE tests don’t factor in past life stuff, nor intergenerational or collective wounds.

Most women struggle with their relationship with their femininity, or their reproductive organs in general, so perhaps not only personal trauma, but the collective feminine wound can manifest through illness in many of us.

To be clear: I don’t support the mindset of there being a spiritual cause of disease- because it does more damage than good to a lot of us- it negates the very structural, biological nature of the disease which is laid down in utero. We do not choose, or cause disease to happen. It happens to us, but our work is to heal it through whatever means we choose or have available.

Some schools of thought in our victim-blaming culture like to take these resonances between trauma and disease- which aren’t our fault, and assign them as emotional or spiritual causes which then puts shame and pressure on individual women to fix their ‘issues’ and ‘emotional problems’ because that’s the root of why they are sick. But blaming young women (endo shows up at puberty for many) for the personal traumas or collective wounds they may carry, or for simply having a physical disease does not help anything, in fact it does more harm. It gives the already patriarchal medical system an excuse to not take our disease seriously enough to invest in it, and feeds into the archaic yet common ‘female hysteria’ notions that I do not support in any way.

Trauma and illness are often connected, and I believe past lives and heritage can also be involved. But sometimes they aren’t and self-blame doesn’t do any good.  Personal responsibility for taking steps towards healing ourselves, and social & governmental responsibility for doing the research, funding, and giving us the supports and medicines required is key. We’re all in this together.

 Trauma and illness are things we must accept, and work through for those we leave the planet to after us- whether they are our blood descendants or the next generation. Because what we don’t heal, we pass down. And, if you believe in re-incarnation, you just might end up paying for your mistakes in your next life as your own great-granddaughter!

Healing ourselves heals those who came before and those who come after us.

Collectively, women are suffering. But they are also healing and shaking things up. Women are working together, now and through time, working on our own healing, and that of our foremothers.  We are collectively nourishing our trees by waking up to our own self-worth. We can’t spend our time blaming others, or blaming trauma as something outside ourselves. We need to take what we are given and work through it. We can only do our best with what we have at any given time. We need to be compassionate to ourselves, find the right supports and remember that our foremothers were resilient as f*ck and that’s why we are here!

I think about my great-grandmother- my memere’s mom- who had 16 children and several did not make it to adulthood. I think about the losses she felt and how that was imprinted on her womb, and on my memere’s, my mom’s, mine.

I think about her grandmother, who was of Ojibway-Scottish descent, born in Michigan, first married a Metis man and then a voyageur, and moved to LaFontaine on Georgian Bay, Ontario. She and her husband were part of a Metis settlement there. She later in old age picked up her life and moved to St.Leon Manitoba with one of her sons and died there in her 80s. She spoke french, english, cree and michif.  Her son continued to raise his children in Manitoba, a devout catholic, musician, a man with hope for the future.  I think about colonisation, and how it lives in my blood. Cultural and spiritual suppression and erasure, white-passing, internalised guilt and shame. My settler history- Scottish, English and French, their struggles, their ignorance, their racism (internalised and externalised), the things they did to survive. I have so many questions for them.

I think about the mothers fleeing war-torn countries while pregnant, and grandmothers who survived the Holocaust. Mothers who took their own lives, mothers and grandmothers’ silent struggles that we now can put a name to, and recognise.

I think about my Scottish great-grandma (pic below) on my dad’s side, born in Glengarry, ON. who died of Spanish flu at the age of 24, the very day her husband came back from the war, leaving their two young sons motherless. Her husband put his sons in an orphanage, because that’s what fathers did. He too, was raised in an orphanage with his brother because he lost his mother. Suspiciously, both his mother and his stepmother mysteriously disappeared. They have no death certificates. What kind of imprints did that leave on our tree?

Paternal great-grandparents Charles William Oakley and Sarah McGillivray

Nobody’s family tree is all light and love and thriving. We’ve all got some nasties eating away at the leaves, rotten roots, old, broken branches and maybe a parasite or two. Whatever tree we are part of, we can only do our best with the branches and roots we are given. How much energy we give is up to us. Some of us may feel the weight of a sick tree more than others. But we must remember that we are all connected- here and through time. And all our trees eventually connect, somewhere.

As for the Sacred Feminine, I feel that my body, my womb and my heart, holds grief that isn’t even mine. I feel the lost babies and supressed dreams of my foremothers- who were creative, wild, and spiritual, having to make the necessary sacrifices to survive in a patriarchal world and make it possible for me to be here. They obeyed their husbands, accepted their limitations, paid homage to God, the priest, the church, the establishment. They did what they had to do, and their faith got them through. They found things that brought them joy, levity, laughter and strength. I am grateful to their sacrifices which brought me life, and for their resourcefulness, independence, devotion and resilience too.

But my healing lies in reclaiming the wild, creative and spiritual lifeline that they left un-tended. Moving through the constricting pain, guilt, and shame that was passed down helped me very clearly know and appreciate my freedom, my sensuality and my shamanic, direct-to-source spiritual inclinations.  I am pruning the tree, to create pathways of freedom where there weren’t before. And I don’t do this alone. My whole generation does this with me.

 

There are roots I need to tend and cut, re-direct, water, and nourish. Over time, the tree may, hopefully change, so it’s healthier for my daughter, my nephews and all those of the generations to come.