Emptying Your Cup

On the heels of my last entry, I wanted to talk about cups. I am not talking about your bra size, or even what you carry in your thermos on the way to a birth. I am talking about your emotional cup.

As a Christian, we can relate it to:
Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned: forgive, and you shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete in this way it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:35-38
Whether or not you are a Christian, though, we know how much our emotional cups affect our every day lives and the lives of those who are around us. Our cups are composed of our life experiences, our emotional selves of the moment, our knowledge and self accomplishments.

Our cups are, at times, completely depleted in a good way, and, at other times, completely depleted in a bad way.

Likewise, our cups can be positively full or negatively full. Being a mindful cup bearer will help us to be better doulas and better stewards in general.

Story time:
A long time ago there was a mind-full, accomplished, self-certain monk who arrived at a temple for training. The Master poured tea. The young monk gestured and gestured to stop pouring, but the Master kept pouring tea until the cup overflowed. Why?

The Master explained, “When you arrived, your cup was already so full, there was no room for new. Empty your cup. . .”

The “cup” represents your Heart, senses, or mind. At every moment, the Holy, Life itself, wants to pour Itself into you, into your “cup.” When your “cup” is full of your ideas, plans and judgments, there is less room to receive the Holy, the unexpected seeing, Light, or gifts the moment is offering. - All That Jazz
Before I arrive at a birth, I make the most of my drive to them to practice selectively emptying my cup. I prayerfully consider that which I should empty: expectations and judgments, feelings and perceptions from the homefront that might negatively impact their birthing time, and the like. And I empty that part of my cup.

This allows me to fill this portion of my cup with their needs and experiences. As I stated in the previous post, birth changes people. To attempt to dissuade birth from doing this by leaving our cups filled to the brim with our own expectations and judgments will result in over-pouring our cups - which can, in turn, result in a mess, or worse, a burn. When families invite us to their births, they are inviting us to share their cups, and I intend to drink deeply and allow myself the opportunity to learn and grow from what they will offer to me.

'Then why not empty it completely?', you might be asking. As doulas (or midwives, if that is your lot), we have been chosen by families to impart our wisdom, experience, and expertise to their birthing times. Just as they have offered their cups to us, so they are asking us to share our cups with them. I retain that which is helpful, that which is knowledgeable, but without judgment or personal bias.

This intermingling makes for a fragrant cup. Sometimes bitter, often earthy, many times sweet. But always filling. So, next time you are heading out to a woman's birthing time, take a moment to selectively empty your cup - freeing yourself to teach and be taught, both offer and experience.


Shannon Staloch, LM, CPM said...

love this post! thanks so much. i am getting ready to head back to birthing after a maternity leave. i often put my expectations from my own births on others (and my births are swift!). this is a wonderful reminder and inspiring to contemplate.thanks!

Jessie Tan said...

I think it's time that I empty some cups of my own. Anyway, thanks for this reflective post. Also, I am about to give birth to a baby boy a couple of months from now. I am doing my best right now to prepare myself physically, mentally, and emotionally for the red letter day to come.

Enjoy Birth said...

What a wonderful reminder! I do try to center myself while driving to a birth. I always add a prayer. I remember once driving to the hospital on a homebirth transfer, calling my DH and friend to pray for this mom and then just centering myself to be open to supporting her in whatever path her birth led.


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