Transition is a stage of labor that is characterized by emotional volatility including anger.  It is the stage between the “passive” phase of allowing the cervix to dilate and the “active” phase of pushing the baby out.

Over two decades ago I was a childbirth educatorpregnant and a doula.  During this time I also gave birth to my daughter.  After a couple days of labor and using traditional methods to stimulate labor (walking, castor oil, etc) it was determined that I was “failing to progress” and I decided that moving to the hospital for an oxytocin drip was in order.

Oxytocin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that stimulates uterine contractions.  It is responsible for menstrual cramps, nipple sensitivity, and the “bang” in orgasm.  When administered by IV it can induce strong, demanding, and uncomfortable contractions.  Pregnant women that take this route to induce a labor find the contractions come back-to-back, are strong, and frequently unbearable.

My reaction?  I went to sleep.  Apparently I went to the hospital to get a good nap after a couple days of slow and uneven labor.

A strong contraction woke me up from my slumber.  I was confused and angry.  I demanded the doctor shut off the drip. I was impatient while she considered my order.  (Of course I could have just flipped the switch off myself, but somehow it seemed that only the doctor had the authority.)  I was very irritable.  I felt someone had snuck in and turned up the oxytocin drip way up while I slept.

Another contraction was upon me and I jumped out of the bed and headed the three feet to the in-room toilet.  Although my last cervical check had me only 70% dilated, with the next contraction I began pushing propelled by my anger.  I was hoping no one would notice, since I had not been given permission to push yet.

It is interesting to be knowledgeable enough to suspect I was in transition and also be completely swept away by the disorientation of the transition stage of labor.  The somewhat predictable emotional reaction that women have during transition (which lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half) is intriguing.

This last week or so I have been experiencing a great deal of anger and general hostility arising.  I could not put my finger on what the source was when the idea of transition popped into my mind.  It has been my experience that emotionally uncomfortable periods are frequently followed by a lighter and more pleasant emotional climate that feels like a breakthrough.  I had thought that the uncomfortableness was simply stuff arising to be released.  When the releasing was done, I was left in a clearer space.

Perhaps that is what is occurring in transition also, or maybe my previous interpretation of the discomfort was inaccurate.  Could it be that just the change process itself leads to emotional funkiness?  Maybe I am not releasing previously held anger, but instead anger is simply arising do to the change process.

This insight suggests a different line of questioning:

  • What can I be to change with perfect ease?
  • What am I resisting letting go of that if I did let go of would allow me to create a completely different reality?
  • What do I know that I am denying that I know?
  • What can I choose today that will facilitate greater awareness?
  • What am I choosing that is keeping me trapped?


Mid-Life Crisis

I was 32 years old when I had my “mid-life crisis”. It was at that time I had achieved, or nearly achieved, everything I wanted in my life.  My foundation seemed complete and everything else was on cruise control.  This plummeted me into an emotional place where I could rally no happiness or contentment.

My August 1, 1997 journal entry:

June/July were very difficult.  I was doing 5+ meetings a week; treading water, not feeling any relief.  I was without words to accurately describe it.  Sometimes it was strong emotional pain without a current cause to explain it.  Then I was feeling dissatisfaction.  I was walking around saying, “I have everything” and not feeling the way I expected.  I expected joy to happen when I had everything.

What I was reacting to, with my depression, was the realization that my outside circumstances do not make me happy.  What is outside me is transient and even if something gives me pleasure it is a pleasure that does not last.  On the path to enlightenment this would be considered the first step.

I would not have sought to end my suffering with a spiritual solution if I had not realized first that the material world could not provide me with satisfaction.  My depression was simply a reaction to the loss of that illusion.  If I had not so strongly thought that getting a stable home and the community I was looking for could bring me happiness I would not have been so pained when I realized it was not true.

It wasn’t until a decade later that I “discovered” that the Buddha taught how to find everlasting peace and joy.  Perhaps, my dark period would not have been so difficult if I had know there really was an alternative.  I was told I had to accept life on life’s terms.  While that is good advice for finding peace in the moment, the Buddha taught how to take control and change life to create a “perfect” world.

This is coming up today for me, because on Sunday, September 7th I will be teaching the first class in the Asian Classics Institute Course 1 – The Principal Teachings of Buddhism.  It is with great joy I share with others how to change their world and create eternal bliss.  I am looking forward to being with people that also want to end suffering.