Of all the unusual things I learned from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda about conception and pregnancy, this one caught people’s attention most. Probably because it was the one thing they’d never heard of.
Growing up in Texas in the 70s, we kids without two nickels to rub together only did about two things: if we had energy, we played in they sun; and if we were tired, we lay in the sun. Sun, sun, and more sun.
We’ve been told since that too much sun isn’t the healthiest choice (though I’m not convinced the pasty-skinned kids growing up today with eyes glued to a 2”-200” monitor have it better), but there are still few things I love better than a good 30-minute sunbath. That’s why it didn’t take long for me to come up with the perfect name for the following ancient Chinese precepts for pregnant women:
A pregnant woman carries with her the finest piece of jade (the baby). She should enjoy all things, look at fine pictures, and be attended by handsome servants. (I especially like that last bit. My husband got a kick out of that, too.) From Admonitions to Ladies
She should eat no odd-tasting food, see no ugly scenes, and listen to no licentious sounds. From Ladies of Virtue
And in the words of my Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor: Do not watch or listen to anything violent.
I first named this concept of avoiding negativity and violence: a Violence Fast. But though the concept was beautiful, that term itself was unpleasing and negative. And then it hit–the opposite of engaging in ugliness, absorbing violence and participating in hate was soaking in peace, love and happy vibes–like a sunbath…a Love Bath!
Nothing Exceeds Like Excess
It is incredible how the mind and body can acclimate to unpleasant or harmful things: the constant sound of sirens; foul odors emitted from factories; the feel of synthetic clothing; excessive use of alcohol, caffeine, sugar and salt; and violence.
But acclimated or desensitized doesn’t mean that it’s not affecting us in major and long-lasting ways.
Despite the evidence, I ran my own convincing test: I asked 25 people if they’d spent just two little hours of their life watching a movie called…
Every person asked had seen the movie and all of their answers were disturbing.
- One 26-year old woman who grew up in the Bay Area had seen it when she was 10. Immediately after seeing it, she was “terrified” of any body of water, including the bathtub. Ten years later on swim team in college, she “felt like prey in the water” and had to “focus not to have a panic attack” when swimming in the deep end of the pool.
- One 75-year old man who grew up on the water in Florida and spent his adult life in Cape Cod saw it when he was around 40. He said the movie “scared the heck out of him” and to this day his love for the water remains replaced with fear.
- Everyone who saw the movie as a child said it instilled a fear of water so great that it affected him or her in the bathtub.
- Everyone still has an increased fear of natural bodies of water.
That is an older and extraordinary example. Let’s look at a recent Pixar / Disney blockbuster. Did you take a child to see…
Toy Story 3
The opening scene is a “good guy” driving his spurred boot into the face of one of the “bad guys” who’s bombed a train full of orphans, blasting them off the tracks to their death in the canyon below.
A sympathetic theater manager gave me a refund when we walked out after five minutes, saying, “Yeah, the movie is pretty hard-core.”
Constantly absorbing images of violence and peril have spiritual, mental, and physical implications and leave an indelible mark on our behavior for a lifetime. How else could otherwise intelligent, water-loving adults still hear a grim theme song and have elevated heart rates just looking at a lake thirty years after seeing a 2-hour movie set in an ocean?
In adults, these images create a lifetime pattern of fear, phobia, and anxiety. Children, especially those under eight, are particularly vulnerable to even “pretend” peril, as they are yet unable to clearly decipher between pretend and real experiences. Children in utero are strongly affected by stress chemicals created by mother’s reactions, and it affects the development of the baby’s personality.
Marcy Nexus, Ph.D. writes in her article Lifelong Lessons From the Womb:
There are countless fascinating case histories in the literature to support the connection between experiences in utero and certain compulsions, repetitive behaviors, fears and fascinations in later life.
If the limited time we have for R&R (pregnant or not) is spent creating stress responses in the body, when does the body relax and heal? It is in time of repose that our bodies and minds regenerate, and that is impossible to achieve when constantly sending the body’s systems into shock.
How can we anticipate a kind and benevolent world when even children in utero are inundated with increasingly violent impressions, all in the name of “fun”?
My Path to the Love Bath
When planning to conceive and embarking on the Violence Fast, or Love Bath, I had already stopped watching TV about 20 years prior. I thought I’d eliminated most of the violent images to which so many people subject themselves. But when I began to consciously consider any film, book, or conversation, I recognized that many things I considered “artistic”, “moving” or “important” may have required some talent to create, but were simply playing on emotions of fear and anxiety.
As I replaced those negative sources and images with art, books, and conversation of a peaceful and loving nature, I realized that I, too, had been desensitized to the inundation of negativity. However, it was delightful to discover how consciously choosing to walk life’s sunny side of the road quickly brings a sense of peace and joy.
Many people are enchanted with the concept of a Love Bath, but I also heard comments such as: “Violence is a part of life. You can’t live sticking your head in the sand.”
Indeed, life itself could be considered violent. We’re all born to die, and with every meal we take the life of a plant or animal. Further, there are real dangers of which we need to be aware to protect ourselves. Those are life’s realities and we can call them violent or find peace in the cycle of life.
However, murder, gruesome battles, and macabre scenes are not a part of most people’s natural daily experience or the cycle of life. When people do experience them it’s called “trauma”, which is treated—often with extreme measures—to attempt to bring the person back to a state of balance.
Inundating ourselves with pretend trauma–or images of real trauma experienced by others–in the name of entertainment, relaxation, or being “informed” is something all together different and it has a price: our health and peace of mind, individually and as a society.
Soak In What You Want to Soak In
Those ancient Chinese doctors were on to something, and it’s as relevant today as it was then. If you’re looking for greater happiness and health, try a Love Bath. Soak in images of peace, happiness, fun and love. It’s not just pregnant women who carry within their bodies “the finest piece of jade”. We all do—our very selves.
And even better, unlike with a sunbath, we don’t have to limit ourselves. We can soak in a Love Bath 24/7.
Allie Chee is a certified Traditional Chinese Medicine Nutritionist
Copyright (2011) Allie Chee
About Allie Chee
Allie is a certified TCM Nutritionist and author of New Mother: Using a Doula, Midwife, Postpartum Doula, Maid, Cook, or Nanny to Support Healing, Bonding, and Growth