In this day and age campfires are something that are associated with some kind of literal camping experience. Many of you may never have experienced one firsthand. Our phylogenetic ancestors understood on an intuitive level that at the end of the day, sitting around the campfire, singing, dancing, drumming or telling stories reversed the physiology of stress. Indigenous societies still engage in this practice. The therapeutic effects of a campfire as a de-stressor has been lost for us.
As you well know, infertility is itself a stressor of major proportions that rides on top of the stresses of daily living. How can we create a virtual campfire thereby reclaiming its restorative benefits? A virtual campfire can be anything that totally absorbs our attention, making it difficult for negative thoughts to intrude. Creative endeavors such as baking, making curtains or painting a room a bright color serve this purpose particularly well. As long as the activity has a strong enough lure, it can disable the tendency of the mind and body to intensify frenzy and upset which disrupt feelings of well-being.
When you’re in a funk, if you “do” something engaging and distracting you will reap the benefit and feel relieved, if only for a short while. But generally, those in a fertility quest are in no mood to take find the discipline to take care of themselves in this way. This is understandably, as the demands of life and medical treatment take up all the discipline you can seem to muster. Yet discipline is the key word. When you least feel like it, if you behave counter intuitively, you can disengage from the siren song of negative expectations.
There are times when it is necessary to dive under the turbulence all together—a time when “doing” doesn’t work. If it feels impossible to settle on something engaging enough to hold your focus—letting yourself just “be” distracts from the demands of infertility. It might feel even harder to accomplish this disengagement, yet as an option it has even more power to achieve a reversal of the relentless stress of infertility.
How is it possible to let go of the worry that accompanies the infertility journey and just “be” by creating a virtual campfire? Here is just one way—a way that is less demanding of the discipline it takes to develop meditative skills. In fact it is incredibly simple:
Light a candle. Stare at the flame. Bring just enough conscious awareness to this experiment to facilitate breathing easily and freely. Now simply notice the candle. Let yourself be curious about the way that the flame dances. Is the window opened or closed? What is the flame responding to if there is no obvious draft? Why does it become so still and at other times seem to dance with joy? When the flame is still, can you mimic that stillness within yourself? When it dances, can you allow yourself an inner effervescence? And if there is a draft, what can you learn about the way the flame moves in response to air currents? Let the candle be a metaphor that transports you in a mindless way to the recuperative powers of serenity. You stand to learn that you can let go and—and you can feel better. Therein lies your power.
Helen Adrienne, L.C.S.W., has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1979. Although a general therapist, she has specialized in working with ob-gyn referrals, particularly the women, men and couples who struggle with infertility. Helen is trained in mind/body therapy and clinical hypnotherapy and conducts mind/body stress reduction classes for women at the NYU Fertility Center. Helen is a charter member of NY City Resolve™ and has presented at many of their conferences. She also educates mental health professionals on the parameters of infertility at national and international conferences. She has authored many articles on infertility, which can be found on the "Baby Manifest-O" blog on her website, www.mind-body-unity.com. Her book On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility is a valuable resource for infertility patients and those who want to understand them.