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Talking the Talk, Walking the Walk

Posted: August 8th, 2007, 1:46 pm
by anna
Someone asked me what we personally had done in our own life to affect a change in our consciousness, besides reading and meditating and all the many spiritual exercises and "sports" that the seeker encounters on her path. I realized suddenly, in response to that inquiry, that we actually "walked the walk" of all that we read, and talked about, and realized at that moment, that perhaps that was why we were successful in much of our efforts. It is fun, easy, titillating, and distracting to read about transformation of consciousness, but it is quite another thing to actually DO the hard labor to bring that about.

In our own circumstances, in addition to all the study we did, we made a huge, and radical change early on in the process. We left the world of career, security, and predictability and moved into a cabin in the woods of Maine, built by our own hands, with our own sweat and tears, and there was plenty of both. We worked at menial jobs in order to sustain ourselves, never working toward a goal other than to obtain enough money to pay the bills and feed ourselves, and when we fulfilled that need, at that period of time, we would cease working until we needed more cash. We got our hands dirty and our knees scraped building a garden and a self-sustaining homestead, all in order to allow us the time, leisure and space to find God and ourselves in the midst of it. The key word here was "in order to" - our priority was time and space, and we arranged our life around that priority. There was plenty of anxiety, outright fear that we would not make it, enormous fear from time to time about our precarious and insecure position, frustration, sadness at letting go of the past, struggle to deflate the conditioning that our middle class life had imposed on us. Our old friends and family found us confounding, many probably laughed at us, many probably felt sorry for us. Certainly there were those who actually told us we were fools, and shook their heads at our brash walking away from everything that we were taught was worthwhile.

We were fortunate, we had each other, to keep each other honest and on track, to sustain one another when the struggle got particularly difficult. But throughout the process, we never swerved from our priority, which was to find out who and what we are. And during all that extra time that this change of the outer life permitted us, we immersed ourselves in new thoughts, new ideas, religious concepts and spiritual guides. We stripped the outer expression of our lives of the familiar and comfort of our conditioning, and in so doing, created a kind of vacuum which was quickly and easily filled with transformed concepts and a new life altogether.

I believe that the combination of going back to basics, simplifying one's life, and literally digging in the dirt was what facilitated the transformation of our closed hearts into open and wiser hearts. Certainly going "back to the land" in however limited a manner, or full manner, as the case may allow, was, in our life, of prime importance. I believe that this simplification of living, the de-mystification that occurs from living off the land, the sudden excess of time that this kind of life presents to the seeker, is invaluable. It also grinds down the ego, bit by bit, and eliminates so much bourgeoisie clap trap that interferes with clear thinking, and objective observation. I cannot emphasize enough how important this aspect of our life was to our own ability to walk the walk. It is true that you cannot serve two masters: and our own life was a classic example of how one set priority above all else, works, if all else is submitted to that priority and is directed toward the fulfillment of that priority.

Posted: August 9th, 2007, 1:09 pm
by Speculum
Anna is absolutely right in what she has written, and I agree with all of it. However, we need to emphasize that when she writes that our leaving the city life and moving to the woods “was what facilitated the transformation of our closed hearts into open and wiser hearts” (nice image, that), an operative word there is the pronoun our in the phrase “our closed hearts”. In other words, our experience, our path, has worked for us, but in no sense does either Anna or I mean to suggest – either here at Open Forum or anywhere else on TZF – that what worked for us will prove to be either necessary or useful for others.

Thus, please consider the following paragraphs from my essay on this general subject at TZF’s Consider This:

The spiritual texts of virtually every tradition are full of stories of men and women who go off alone -- to the desert, to the woods, to the mountains -- to live a spiritual life. But living a spiritual life is not about going off alone to the desert, to the woods, or to the mountains. That is, it does not have to be a literal “going off alone to the desert”. There is nothing special or particularly spiritual about any of those locales, and there are plenty of people in the desert, in the woods, and in the mountains, who are not living, and do not want to live, a spiritual life.

What is meant in the texts by “going off alone to the desert” is a complete turning away from the old ways of thinking about ourselves and about life and about God. Clearly, all of that is an activity which takes place nowhere else but inside our own heads and hearts, and therefore, in the final analysis, it must be done without others. And, for obvious reasons, it helps to do it where there are as few distractions as possible. Thus, a desert or an isolated mountaintop makes a good choice. But it can be done, and it has been done, anywhere. All that is really necessary is our willingness. Remember, God is the Teacher, and God is infinite; so, wherever there is a student, there is the Teacher.

You can do this wherever you are, but, as Anna says quite rightly, it is our experience that you must be willing to walk the walk. Your commitment to the process must be earnest , even though at the outset you almost certainly will not know precisely what you mean by “the process”, and indeed your understanding of it -- of It -- will undoubtedly change and grow and evolve as you change and grow and evolve.

Also, in a thread at The Sand Box, the subject of surrender has been raised. Here, I would say that just as earnestness is a necessary ingredient, so is surrender. Like everything else along the way, our understanding of surrender grows, changes, and evolves, but in the beginning it must include at least (1) a willingness to acknowledge that “I do not really know what I think I really know” (that is, I could be wrong about everything I think I know) and (2) a readiness to welcome the unexpected, to use Nisargadatta’s wonderful phrase.

All of that said, the Fact remains that nothing can interfere with God’s Will. So, while earnestness and surrender and all the rest are surely important, when it is time for any of us to set upon the path, set upon the path we will.

Posted: August 9th, 2007, 8:51 pm
by W4TVQ
While I fully agree with what you both have written, I'd add this: one of the pitfalls along the path is (and was in my case) mistaking one station along the way for the end of the line. By that I mean getting sidetracked into one particular "religion" and thinking (or trying to think) that it is the only "real" path to the Light. This does not, of course, result in condemnation or in "failure," but it can certainly cause delays in growth and awareness.

Happily, Mother has Her ways of saying, "But how about this? Can you fit this in to your agenda, or do you need to open the door a bit wider?"

For me She accomplished that not by drawing my attention to anything religious or philosophical, but by drawing my attention to such things as Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity. In that context the old ideas don't fit. You know: God over there, me over here, God angry and demanding a blood sacrifice, me saying "Oy veh, for You I got nothing good enough." Because in the context of what science has revealed about the universe, there can only be God. Physics tells us that "when physicists calculate the minimum amount of energy a wave can possess, they find that every cubic centimeter of empty space contains more energy than the total energy of all the matter in the known universe!"
To me that says that the idea of a discrete "God" and other discrete beings who aren't God is a dualism that cannot exist in the known universe at all. And that is the universe in which we live, and move, and have our being. So ... as I read in "Consider This," "If God is infinite, who am I?"

All that is simply by way of noting that Mother finds ways to get our attention and bring us back to the path She wants us walking ... and, as you have said so well above, it is contingent upon us to actually do that walking.

Jai Ram

Posted: August 13th, 2007, 2:39 am
by jenjulian
I like what you all have said about walking the walk. I can compare to my experience in AA and in order to be successful, sobriety had to be number one, above EVERYTHING else.

I think this is what has been written about, that the spiritual life has to be the top priority. I very much like the example from the Bible that we can not serve two masters. I believe this very much.

What I experienced from AA is that when I put sobriety first, even above my children, I ended up giving my children the most. Have you experienced this in your journeys? I wonder, because I keep coming up against this nagging in me that says I'm being selfish. In sobriety, it is easy to see that without it, I would be worthless to everyone around me. I guess I'm having more trouble with the idea that not following my heart that is pulling me on the road would also leave me with nothing to give those around me.

Posted: August 13th, 2007, 2:16 pm
by zoofence
To me that says that the idea of a discrete "God" and other discrete beings who aren't God is a dualism that cannot exist in the known universe.

I suppose a “discrete” or personal god is necessary as long as we think we are discrete or “personal” persons. That may be why religions like Buddhism discourage the idea of a personal god because perceiving a personal god encourages the idea of our being a person. Yet, it is my experience that, for many, Buddha himself and the "other" buddhas become for all practical purposes personal gods themselves. And that figures, because those who perceive them (buddhas) that way do so because they still perceive themselves as persons. Thus, whatever path or tradition a seeker may be following, in the beginning, while he or she perceives himself or herself as a person, a personal god is going to be in the mix somewhere, in some form. In a word, we perceive “God” in the image we have of ourselves.

Here, my experience has been that God permits us even to "mix and match". That is, for me God is sometimes impersonal (It and The One) and sometimes personal (Mother). (For a bit more about that, please see the article here.) Which is which depends upon what are my needs at the moment, and God does not seem to mind.

That's the Beauty of the Universe, isn't it? It conforms to our perception of ourselves, and manifests Itself accordingly. Or, in personal god terms, God so Loves us that He gives us Himself and the world in any form we like.


I keep coming up against this nagging in me that says I'm being selfish.

The way I see it is, you cannot give what you do not have. So, in order to give to your children (or anyone else), you must have whatever it is you wish to give them, which ultimately is yourself, isn't it? If so, then it is important, even essential, that you not be fragmented, scattered, eroded, etc. etc. because in that condition you will have no self to give, or at least no self worth giving.

So, attending to yourself and your own (spiritual) nourishment is not selfish. Rather, it is self-ful, or self-fulfilling. With a full self, you have much to give, and much that is worth receiving.

Posted: August 13th, 2007, 9:49 pm
by zoofence
An afterthought re the discrete or personal God: In Hinduism, one of the names of the Divine Mother is Durga. About Her, it is said that She nourishes the poor, She dispels the demon of ignorance, and She bestows the blessings of wisdom and love on those seeking God-Realization.

Very nice.

But notice that among Her functions, there is not included the "bestowal" of God-Realizaton. Why not? Because being a discrete, personal God, She resides on "this side" of the veil, and God-Realization is beyond the veil. God-Realization, by definition, is the absence of any sense of discrete, personal self, godly or otherwise. Clearly, it can be granted only by the One as the One.

So, while Sri Durga is a wondrous ally, everpresent protector, and dependable friend for a seeker, the bestowal of God-Realization is outside Her Territory.

Posted: August 13th, 2007, 10:09 pm
by zoofence
One of the pitfalls along the path is mistaking one station along the way for the end of the line.

You're right.

In Ibn 'Arabi's wonderful book "Journey To The Lord of Power" whose sub-title is "A Sufi Manual on Retreat", he describes the steps along the way. And as he does so, he says repeatedly, "And if you do not stop with this ... ".

In other words, each step is just a step, not a destination. Indeed, there is no destination, for when we are There (when we Realize We Are There) we are no more.

Posted: August 14th, 2007, 2:07 am
by Gulliver
each step is just a step, not a destination
Thank you. That is good advice for me.

Posted: August 15th, 2007, 12:19 pm
by W4TVQ
Sometimes it seems to me that a huge barrier to "walking the walk" is squatting on the path in front of me. It's like the troll that guards the bridge, waving his big club and growling "This far, no further."

It's one thing to "know" mentally, intellectually, what is true, and quite another to "be" mentally/intellectually what is true, I find. I know, for example, that what I read in The Door of Everything is so: " 'emptying' of the surface mind is essential to your ability to realize and experience the perfection of my cosmos." That surface mind seems awfully clogged up, but continued flushing only seems to result in more backup. The driving force below it, the "sub-conscious" or whatever it may be called, doesnt "get" what the Teacher said about the lilies of the field

A case in point: hurricane season. There is in my mental/emotional makeup a totally irrational but powerful fear associated with hurricanes. Having gone through Hurricane Wilma, with its accompanying stay in the horrible hurricane shelter and a year of struggle with insurance companies and contractors getting the house put back together, and having read Last Train To Paradise (wish I had not read that), this anxiety invades my days and my nights, and now with "Tropical Storm Dean" heading our way it is troublesome to say the least.

Yes, the answer is trust, as ACIM says, "trust would settle everything now." Yes, the answer is surrender ("Fear of the will of God is one of the strangest beliefs the human mind has ever made"). But rooting out a deep-seated phobia seems to be a challenge I am as yet unable to meet. Surrendering sounds good, but it ain't no piece of cake; it's still hard to work around the apparently deep-rooted idea I held for so long that "faith is believing what you know ain't so."

Anyway, thanks for listening.

bodhi svaha

I don't know why I'm posting this, except to vent, and to organize my confusion (Panic A comes before, not after panic B). Maybe a reader out there has dealt with something like this and can point a direction. Maybe we just slog along in the mud hoping to come out on a dry path.

Posted: August 15th, 2007, 2:42 pm
by zoofence
Yes, the answer is trust, as ACIM says, "trust would settle everything now." Yes, the answer is surrender ("Fear of the will of God is one of the strangest beliefs the human mind has ever made").

First, as you already fully realize, there is no easy answer to this dilemma. As long as we perceive ourselves as “I am me, and you aren’t me”, fear will be an integral part of our lives – fear of insecurity, fear of separation, ultimately fear of death. Why? Because the separative, egoic perspective is Contrary to Fact, and somewhere within us, we know that, and it makes us uncomfortable.

There is no “this world” solution to fear. Fear is not a condition like mumps or measles for which we can take a few pills, and be cured. Fear is the fundamental, underlying, inescapable symptom of the egoic separative perspective (again, “I am me, and you aren’t me”). So, although our fear may look like fear of poverty or fear of disease or fear of hurricanes, in fact it is simply fear. It only appears to manifest in one or another way (fear of loneliness, fear of flying, fear of spiders, fear of whatever), but that is just an illusion. Thus, suppose, for example that we feel ourselves suffering from fear of poverty. If we then win the lottery, will our fear disappear? Yes and no. That is, our fear of poverty will dissipate, but we will immediately find ourselves in fear of something else – disease, disability, old age, even inflation! There is always something in our lives to be fearful of. Ultimately, I suppose, it is fear of death, which is the quintessential fear of the egoic, separative perspective. After all, death is the one thing for which there is no solution – even Self-Realization incurs death, the death of the “I am me, and you aren’t me” personality (“Where I AM going, you cannot come” – because there is no “you” There, only “I”), which is why the ego struggles so vehemently against the spiritual process. Why else do you suppose we crucify the Teachers among us, other than that They threaten "me" – again, the mother of all fears!

So, what do we do? As I see it, we have no other choice than to accept fear as an aspect of our lives (surrender to being human). Struggling against fear only strengthens it. But what we can do is simplify our lives as much as we possibly can so that fear has less and less fertile soil in which to plant itself.

What “simplify” means varies with every seeker. For Anna and me it has meant, quite literally, to disengage ourselves as much as we possibly can from the entanglements of life. That is part of what we mean when we say we consider ourselves to be monks. Thus, over the years, we have examined our lives to determine where and what are the things (material and otherwise) the loss of which might threaten our equanimity, and to the extent that we have been able to do so, we have gotten rid of them. Here, the principle is, if you don’t have it, you won’t be afraid of losing it. There are lots of other good reasons to “simplify”, but this is surely one of them.

Does this eliminate fear? No, because as I said earlier, nothing we do can eliminate fear, any more than a fish can rid itself of water. To escape fear we have to escape ourselves, which is what the spiritual process is all about. But if it does not eliminate fear, it does help to make it a little more manageable.

While we are doing all of that (and it is not easy), we can pray for guidance and encouragement and commitment. If we are serious in our effort, they will come, because it is in the Nature of the Universe to support us.

As you wrote, ACIM says, "trust would settle everything now". Notice that it says “would”, not “does”. As I see it, that’s because trust would settle everything now IF we were free of the separative, egoic perspective; but until then, all that developing trust can do is turn down the volume of fear. It cannot eliminate fear.

And as regards the statement “Fear of the Will of God is one of the strangest beliefs the human mind has ever made" (is that also from ACIM?), it seems to me that fear of the Will of God is actually the most logical belief the human mind has ever made, precisely because it is the Will of God that the separative, egoic condition (what each of us means by “the human mind”) has never existed and never will exist. From the perspective of “the human mind” (“I am me, and you aren’t me”), the Will of God is the Divine Eraser! Little wonder that the egoic human mind fears It.

Finally, you wrote, Sometimes it seems to me that a huge barrier to "walking the walk" is squatting on the path in front of me. It's like the troll that guards the bridge, waving his big club and growling "This far, no further”.

Good image that, to which I guess I would say, let the troll have the bridge. Walk around it. Here, "turn the other cheek" means, remove the value from, and release our attachment to, the apparent offense (the troll's blocking our passage). Again, we only fear the troll because his presence seems to threaten something we think we want (passage over that bridge). Will it be easy? No, it will not be easy; in fact, sometimes it will be very difficult. Will there be other trolls? Probably, even certainly. But if we will keep walking around them, and keep praying for guidance and encouragement, eventually, the separative, egoic personality will tire and dissipate, we will ripen, and be Plucked Off The Branch. Or so the Teachers all promise us.

At least, so it seems to me.


Another afterthought re the discrete or personal God considered a few posts above. Vivekananda writes, A round stone with special marks is the emblem of Vishnu, the Omnipresent, worshipped in the shrine. Each morning a priest comes in, bathes the image, clothes it, and puts his own Divine Spirit into it to "make it alive". Then he worships it with flowers and other offerings, waves incense before it, and finally puts it to bed, apologizing to God for worshipping Him in that way because of his inability to conceive Him without the help of an image or some other material object.

Posted: August 15th, 2007, 4:16 pm
by enigma
I have been reading a lot, but this is my first post. A few days ago I saw this quotation on the internet,
Faith is, at one and the same time, absolutely necessary and altogether impossible.
Maybe that is what we are all feeling.

Posted: August 15th, 2007, 11:27 pm
by jenjulian
ZF has written some great stuff, I need to read through it a few more times to let all of it sink in. I also like the quote about faith Enigma. I do know it states how I often feel.

W4, I relate A LOT to what you're saying. Maybe I'm reading it differently but what you have written, about the troll on the bridge expresses quite well where I am at right now. I have studied a little differently than most of you, so I may see it differently or maybe it is just a matter of the terms I use.

This point of feeling like a huge block is in front of me has been here for the last year. It preceded the loss of my teacher and is here now. I have read The Dark Night of the Soul by St John of the Cross, and he seems to describe this point the best for me. There is a part that talks about purifying the soul, then there is a stage that is deeper than this and it is about pulling out the roots. This is exactly how it feels right now. As ZF stated, it is all about the ego fighting for survival and I think these roots are the roots of the ego that have been there for a long time and all of the different fears we have come down everntually to these deep places. As I've faced some of these fears/feelings/ect. it has felt that if I try to yank out these roots I will yank mayself into pieces. I think I will, because I think it will shatter the ego-Self and that is the dark night of the soul. SHedding as ZF said.

This is the scariest time of my life. There is no way to go back after you reach a certain point of awareness of Truth and going forward feels like suicide. Thats my take on it. :shock:

May you stay safe.

Posted: August 16th, 2007, 12:51 pm
by W4TVQ
I see what you are saying, ZF, and I am glad to have another way of looking at the issue of fear. One thing manifesting many ways, like H2O manifesting as steam, ice and water, looking and feeling different but really the same thing.

"Death" is not really one of my bugaboos, at least not at the surface level, though it may be lurking down there as a reserved fear ("Don't remind me of that, please"). It's the struggle of facing this or that challenge without being conveniently dead that is the "troll" on the bridge. I can sense the ego down there, wide-eyed, peeking out of a curtain saying "Please don't hurt me." I am starting to suspect that much of my problem is spiritual laziness.

I am gaining much from reading Ruby Nelson's brilliant little book The Door of Everything, which pursues this idea to the max. It contrasts the "web of appearances," in which we believe firmly but which does not in fact exist, with the creations of God (same ideas that ACIM teaches, but more accessible). I love her image of the Grand Cosmic Being, who is the Christ, and who is manifested as us, so that once we untangle ourselves from the web of appearances we have created, we become the Grand Cosmic being ourselves... i.e., the HE without the Thou.

THE ACIM quote concerning the "fear of the will of God" can be seen two ways: you are right, that that fear is natural to the ego and therefore imminently logical. But I think there is also the aspect that we (I) fear to surrender to the Will of God because we have been conditioned to expect severity, hardship and suffering as "the will of God." The very word "Father" brings up such images to me; that is why I more often, now, appeal to Mother. The God Who demands blood sacrifices, kills anyone who touches His ark, and commands the annihilation of entire nations of people is not a figure who, IMO, invites trust and confidence. Of course, He is not like that, regardless of what Moses might have written about him. But that is the image we got in Sunday School, and it sticks like flypaper. Breaking down that image, which itelf is a barrier, is a needful step in finding freedom. I'm a-workin' on it.

It is scary, as Jenjulian notes: really, really scary, but worth the struggle to emerge finally as the butterfly, the Grand Cosmic Being. To soar across the universe on wings of Light unbound by space and time. Cool!

Jai Ram

Posted: August 16th, 2007, 8:44 pm
by zoofence
Jenjulian, I truly hope you are not really so afraid as “This is the scariest time of my life” sounds!

I cannot imagine that you need to be that afraid. Your spiritual undertaking has put you into no danger, and no harm will come to you from it.

As for “yanking out these roots and yanking myself into pieces”, my first reaction is, your Inner Teacher will not let you tear yourself into pieces. And my second reaction is, unless you are being specifically guided by a True Teacher to “yank out these roots”, I would urge you to consider a more gentle, evolutionary approach to your path. There is no urgency, and there is no reason for it to be unreasonably terrifying or painful.

Remember, spiritual growth is not something we can induce. Being harsh or hard on ourselves does not speed the process. In my experience and observation, quite the contrary is the case. The most and the best we can do is (1) encourage the process by joyfully and enthusiastically putting ourselves and our lives into God’s full care, (2) welcome whatever unfolds in our lives, (3) call on God repeatedly and firmly when we are afraid, (4) thank God frequently and consistently for everything that occurs, (4) acknowledge God as the Source of Life and accordingly depend upon God for all our needs, and (4) remind ourselves constantly, but gently, that the reality we perceive is an illusion based on our own misperception of ourselves, a misperception which God will Heal when the time is right. If we will do all of those not just once a day, but throughout the day, and not just in “church” but wherever we are, in line at the supermarket, waiting to pump gasoline, watching television, brushing our teeth, we will perceive results in ourselves and from there in our lives.

Here’s a nice line from ACIM (Text, p. 441): Behold the great projection [that is, our perception of reality, or what each of us calls “me” and “my life”], but look on it with the decision that it must be healed, and not with fear.

I don’t know whether you are familiar with the Bhagavad Gita, sometimes referred to as the “New Testament” of Hinduism, but I recommend it. There are numerous translations on the market, in hardback and paperback; our favorite translation is Nikhilananda’s, first published in 1943.

Nikhilananda’s version includes an excellent commentary based on the Teachings of one of India’s – and the world’s – clearest and most inspiring Teachers, Sankara. He is perhaps best known for his comparison of the “reality” in which the separative ego lives, to a length of rope mistaken in the darkness for a snake. It goes like this: In the darkness, we come upon a length of rope lying across the road, mistake it for a snake, and react with fear. The "snake" exists only in our mind, and is created entirely by our own imagination (we impose the thought "snake" upon something, a piece of rope, that has nothing whatsoever to do with snakes); still, it induces real fear, even as if it really were what we take it for, a snake. Then, when we see it in the light as simply a length of rope, our fear is gone, never to return.

Anyway, here is a paragraph from the commentary to verse 9:22 in Nikhilananda’s translation. I like it so much that, long ago, I copied it onto a piece of card, and carried it with me for many years. I urge others to consider doing the same.

The Lord promises complete protection to those who love Him with all their body, heart, and soul. A devotee, totally absorbed in the Lord, may forget his (her) own safety and security, but the Lord never forgets him (her). All men (women), no doubt, receive from the Lord what they need; but as long as they themselves think of their own welfare, they must earn it by their own effort. But the Lord Himself carries the necessaries of life to those who, lost in the thought of Him, cannot take care of themselves. (The italics are Nikhilananda's.)

While I love every word in that paragraph, my favorite is "promises". The Lord promises .... It's not an offer, not a suggestion, not a negotiating position, not a possibility, not even a probabilty. It's a promise. Count on it. Lean on it. Embrace it. In this context, "surrender" means, Let God be God.

Here's a line from an article at TZF's Consider This: "I alone am God," God tells us, never in wrath, always in love. "I alone can do wondrous things for you. I want to do wondrous things for you. Please, for both our happy sakes, let Me be God."

Posted: August 17th, 2007, 12:49 am
by jenjulian
Perhaps what is scared and is feeling that she will be yanked apart is the ego, because the road I'm on is sure threatening the ego. I know the quiet part of me will always be okay. I assume you are past this time, but the ego part of me, which you label as an illusion is rearing up its head in the final battle to survive. I understand this to be what St John is speaking of. He calls it the old man. The years of conditioning, habits, reactions emotions (gosh, W4 had a good list of these from some religions) that wrap up the ego crust that covers my Light. I have found this process to be painful. Much like birth is wonderful but painful.