To be born in Tibet and to be swaddled in yak fur!—that was the dream that leaped inside me as I began to read this fascinating book. To be born into an extended family and a community that had blessed my path into life for nine months. Before that, to have been prepared for by a mother who had physically, emotionally and spiritually readied herself to bring a precious life into her womb. Even earlier—after my previous incarnation—to have been helped through bardo realms to find a new life in which I might be happy and in which I might awaken so as to remove the suffering of others. Finally, to be welcomed into life by a father who says, “My child, you have been born from our hearts. May you live a hundred years and see a hundred autumns, may you have a long and glorious life, overcoming all ills and enjoying complete happiness, prosperity, and fortune.” Then, how marvelous it would be to be raised in an environment where I am taught to value harmony with all beings rather than competition, and where I am shown how to hold a dead bug gently in my palm while reciting Om Mane Padme Hum.
As you can see, this book is not for parents—only! It is about nurturing, compassion and community, about growing up and helping others grow in relation to the sacred. To read how Tibetans engage with their children is to understand how one might live in awareness that each moment of life affects all of life.
Sanity, wisdom and love appear to pervade the seven stages of conscious parenting the authors describe. But shadow aspects of the culture are also present. The child taught to respect all forms of life might be told not to kill a bug because its mother might bite the child. Belief is on a spectrum that includes superstition, and the authors, well aware of this, do not recommend such practices as refusing meat offered by a childless woman, in order to avoid problems during labor. Such notions belong to a conditional reality in which unsanitary conditions are one cause for a woman commonly to give birth to fifteen children and have only nine survive.
Anne Hubbell Maiden and Edie Farwell have been involved with Tibet and its people for decades. The psychologist and anthropologist share a belief in Tibet’s wisdom and the power of its medicine. Both seek to offer the West alternatives to the usual childbirth experience and to preserve Tibetan holistic traditions at a time when large numbers of Tibetans live in exile.
The authors are as successful as one could expect them to be in a short book. Relating stories, religious traditions and medical practices, they integrate an abundant amount of material into each chapter. I find it difficult to do justice to the value of this book.
Readers of Inquiring Mind should be fascinated by the examples of how insight can be embodied and kept vibrant in everyday, nonretreat settings. The ground of this vitality is the Tibetan understanding that “Life is a continuation of other lives, and is part of an intricately woven web of relationships. The creation of a life is not an isolated event, but is a manifestation of a series of interrelated lives and beings.”
I thank Maiden and Farwell for showing so clearly what it is like to hold human life in the highest esteem.