No, not the same as Born Again

At Linda’s request, I’m going to tell my rebirthing story. Now, don’t be confused. “Rebirthing” is nothing at all like being “Born Again.” And, from what I’ve been able to read on the Net, the current methods of doing “rebirthing” are nothing like they were when I did it.
Let me preface this story by explaining that I have always enjoyed experiences that lead me to more self-discovery. Like most people, I find that I fool myself even better than I fool other people. Like most, I’ve gotten pretty good at denying, rationalizing, ignoring, blaming etc. etc. So, every once in a while, I need to find a way to hold up the mirror of truth to my own soul. Of course, being a dedicated dilletante, I don’t just find one system for doing this kind of introspection and stick to it; I like to try out new ones all of the time. Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, Chi Quong, Tai Chi, guided imagery, self-hypnosis, sacred psychology, feminist spirituality, poetry therapy, active imagination, rebirthing…….. Basically, they are all ways of getting oneself out of usual patterns of “thinking” and allowing one’s natural intuition and wisdom to find a way through all of the nasty noises of our conscious and critical and constricting minds.
So, for a while I took a lot of workshops. I took so many that I got so good at some that I started to give workshops of my own — a kind of hybrid of feminist spirituality and guided imagery and active imagination and poetry therapy ……. Someone once said that you teach best what you most need to learn. How true. How true.
O.K. Rebirthing. I went through the process almost ten years ago, but from what I remember, this is how it went. I went to an introductory meeting and made the decision to commit myself to a three consecutive 10-hour days of a rebirthing workshop. I was paired with a buddy, and the agreement was that we would help each other through the process, which took place over a weekend. The process involved long periods of meditation — some guided, some not — and, of course, “sharing.” That was pretty much what we did on the first day. On the second day, after more and deep meditation and increasingly emotional sharing, etc., we were guided to to re-experience our own births — to feel ourselves in our mother’s wombs, listening to what people were saying about us, feeling the physical sensations of safety and warmth being violently disrupted, etc. etc. I don’t know what happened on the third day, and here’s why.

I arrived on the second day feeling feverish and on the verge of coming down with something. As the day wore on, I felt like I was burning up, but I went through the actual “rebirthing” anyway, and I went through it in a kind of delerium because (while I didn’t realize it) my temperuture was climbing toward 103 — which is what it was when I got home that night. What was interesting was that, as I lay there in a fetal position, all covered up in the blanket I was told to bring, and being held by my buddy, I did let myself imagine my birth. I heard my mother and other relatives talking. They were so excited that I was coming. I was the first grandchild on my father’s side of the family. I was warm and sleepy. I just wanted to lie there, drifting in some sort of half-aware state. Instead, I felt myself being forced, forced — but I knew that I would be welcome, so I strained toward the light at the end of the tunnel. I could barely stay awake by the end of the day.
I was exhausted. I was burning up. Of course, the workshop instructors insisted that my fevered state was just a part of the process — I was burning up my old self and forging the new me. (yeah, right!) Somehow, I managed to drive home and collapse into bed.
My buddy called the next morning to make sure I was up and ready to roll. I course, I wasn’t. I couldn’t lift my head from the pillow. I asked him to tell them that I was really sick. By then I was retching as well as moaning. His job, of course, was to not let me back down on my commitment to complete the workshop, but he finally gave up and agreed to pass along the fact that I was flat out in bed.
The phone calls started and didn’t stop all day. One instructor after the other, calling to insist that I be there, that I was just afraid to complete the process and I had to get over it, that something frightened me and I had to work through it with them, that they would come and get me if I didn’t want to drive. Finally, after I was able to muster up enough anger and tell them off, they left me alone.
It turned out that I had food poisoning. But I don’t think they ever believed that. And I learned a lesson I needed to learn: I don’t need to prove myself to anyone but myself.
Several years later, I saw some television program (maybe Law and Order) about a problem teenager whose mother took him to be “rebirthed” and the “therapist” wrapped and held him so tightly in the blanket that he couldn’t get out and he suffocated. I think something like that actually happened. Maybe that’s why the process is so different now. Now they call it “breath work.” Heh. Just another variation of the meditation theme.
I don’t take all those workshops any more. But I’m glad that I took them when I did. I always learned something important about myself. And I even had an long article published in the Spring of 1990 in Voices: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy. It was an issue that focsed on “Psychotherapy and the Mythic Journey,” and my therapist/shaman friend asked me to write about mine. So I did. I told my very personal story. (I quoted some of it here in my old blog. in the post “Weaving Cody’s Thread”.)
I suppose that piece of writing prepared me for blogging. We tell our stories. This was my rebirthing one.

3 thoughts on “No, not the same as Born Again

  1. Yeah, it really did happen to an 8 year old (I believe it was, but it might have been even younger) in Denver CO two or three years ago. The therapists were stripped of their license to practice and even had to do jail time (the amount of time escapes me now). Some major changes were made in the types of therapies allowed on certain age groups in the state. They had even talked about charging the parents with child endangerment, as the child’s mother was in the room at the time and made no move to stop what they were doing.
    Thank you for sharing your story with us, Elaine. I will miss you during your absence but I will check in periodically to see if there is anything new. I know for me, I’ve been way too busy with the new school year to even gather my thoughts to blog. As soon as things settle down, I have some stashed thoughts to regurgitate. The frustrations of being a “returning” student/mom/wife/etc. have been stretching my patience this week.
    Take good care of yourself and may the Muses bless you in all your endeavors!

  2. thanks for the story.
    I’d just like to clarify that as Elaine herself points out this ‘Rebirthing’ is not the same as the ‘Rebirthing’ others are familar with – which is a breathing technique.

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