Mother as Container My personal experience on relocating to the Northwest is that “Mother” for me has increasingly become the forests, the mountains, rivers and ocean. I enjoy a sense of being held by Her. How different this is from my mother of origin.
I was born in England just after the war. My mother, who had already raised four children, had been enjoying her newfound freedom and peer companionship in work outside the home. She was in her essence a healer, not a mother, but had been frustrated in her desire to train as a nurse. She resented having a new baby to care for and returned to work shortly. I was ignored or tormented by relatives and other caretakers and did not have a safe container. My learned survival skill was to isolate myself and find some measure of control on my own.
But a strategy that saves your life one time may betray your life later on. About a year ago, I had a near death experience on a boat trip in the Bahamas. I had gone for a week of relaxation and to swim with the wild dolphins. I had silently asked for healing through a release of armoring in my first chakra. It is said, wisely, to be careful what you ask for. I had envisioned a kind dolphin swimming up to me and zapping me with her ultrasound—a sweet and painless release of deeply imprinted fear. Well, so much for my projections. What actually happened was that the dolphins came and drew me into stormy waters and strong currents. I nearly drowned, and experienced a turning point in my life. I knew in that moment that I was possibly not going to make it and that, if I continued to struggle to gain control alone— my unconsciously adopted childhood survival strategy—I would probably drown both myself and the man who had swum out, ill-equipped but well-intentioned, to help me. I knew that my survival in reality depended on my being willing to surrender to the support that was offered. So I told my body to relax completely. I went limp and drifted in and out of consciousness. After a number of surreal moments, my rescuer got me back to the boat. The Great Mother had held me, and taught me to trust in being supported by another.
This new strategy is now imprinted cellularly, I can assure you. And this is important, for it is not just an idea but an experienced reality. I now have a new choice—relation instead of isolation. In fact I know that my life will sometimes depend upon it, as it did in those waters.
It has taken all these years and a new birth through near-death to re-pattern this. I grieve for my old self who could never trust myself with another in complete vulnerability. And it is not that others will never let me down—at times they will, due to their own overwhelm. Betrayal is part of life, for we all still struggle with our humanity, our unconscious agendas, and poor communication. The point is, I have learned to trust myself in relationship with another. I can surrender control knowing that, whatever happens, I am safe. I have faced death so now I can face life.
Mothers who truly hold space give the gift of this knowing to their children. If we are not received into a safe and supportive container of parental presence upon being born and in those early years, our experience of terror, abandonment and betrayal as we lose contact with Source, with the womb, remains with us as a core belief that we must have done something really bad to deserve this. In effect, it is a casting out of paradise into hell. This core shame is archetypal and deeply held and leads to unconscious behaviors which keep us separate.
In trusting another with my life in the water I trusted the cycle of life and death itself and changed the basis for choices in my life. Later, I chose to return to be with those I love and who love me, instead of returning to Peru where I was deeply held by the land but isolated. Walking through the old growth forest at Breitenbush a few days later I had a sudden sense that maybe I really had died and gone to heaven—for this was paradise. Here I was, surrounded by the smells of the cedar and fir trees, the sound of the swollen river rushing through the gorge, a double rainbow cast in the white clouds by the sunlight, and the company of a dear friend. What was more, despite an old voice in my head telling me I should leave, I knew now that I could choose to stay in paradise, to know in fact that I had never left, was never cast out.
What does it mean to be a woman? One of the things it means is to hold space—to hold a safe and constant container of relationship within which others can go to meet core fears and beliefs in order to heal them so that they can become empowered. Let us as women and men once again value this role and the energy it takes to simply be there, to support, to hold the center, to hold sacred space.
I give thanks to all the healers who have held space for me over the years, for this is the work of a true healer too. I give thanks to the community at Breitenbush for welcoming me back and allowing me to stay while I really got it in the cells of my body that I was worthy to be in paradise. I give thanks for the opportunity through stewardship of the sacred land and water at Oregon House and through my healing work to offer this gift of holding space to others. And I give thanks to all the mothers who are remembering and honoring their vital, life-giving and life-sustaining role at the center of family and community.
Melita Marshall has a practice devoted to healing trauma and life-shape re-patterning. She is the founder of Oregon House, a retreat center on the coast near Yachats dedicated to empowerment through purification, healing and spiritual alignment. Oregon House is available year round to individual retreatants as well as to families, businesses, healers, artists and groups of all kinds. Call 541-547-3329, or visit the website www.oregonhouse.com for information.