Hakim Archuletta is a healer in the true sense of the word. His knowledge of human nature on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level is profound. To read more of his extensive bio, click here. We are blessed to know him, and thrilled that he agreed to share his thoughts with us on women, birth, and pregnancy. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did! Many thanks to Hakim!
1) Tell us, in general, what you have learned about women through your work. The thing that I have seen most through the many years is the courage that women have and the strength that they have that they are often not aware of. More recently [I have seen], the willingness, the kind of enthusiasm for change and growth that they seem more connected to than men. So it seems that they more easily can make changes and are able to change with this goal and understanding that growth is part of their natural life force, and it demands a courage to face oneself; I’ve learned over the years that they do this more easily than men. Along with that, generally speaking, the strength that women have is inherent in their woman-ness, or their femininity, or whatever term. They are closer and find it more easy to be real and on the ground and grounded and connected than men. The other thing I have discovered is that they have taken up the slack that has been left by men who have not taken on the responsibility in the world for being men. So this strength that I have seen in women is more evident that in men. Men really have a fear of this strength. That fear is very often hidden and creates the need in men to control and to dominate. Woman’s kind of generosity in knowing that in many cases—and managing it anyway—is remarkable. And the patience and the tolerance that woman have for the weakness of men is part of the qualities they have as women.
2) Do you think women understand that they have this inner strength? Sometimes
they do, sometimes they don’t. They do unconsciously in many cases. They have the wisdom to know they can’t command their husband to do something. They can’t be “in charge,” but sneak the information in so he doesn’t know they are actually teaching him. The other thing I’ve learned is that cultures have not been—across the board whether they are Muslim, Arab, Pakistani, American—cultures are really off balance, and the real place of women even in this country is not really in place for the most part at all. And mostly that is because men have not stepped up to bat in the modern times. Rather they have let it go.
3)What kinds of issues specific to women do you feel affect their births? I think this basic configuration that I just described affects women deeply. They have not learned in many cases to trust what they know—and what they know in a more biological way for starters by being connected and grounded and real. Biological intelligence. And so they have been taught to believe that their knowledge is not real, that their emotions, for example, are their weakness according to cultures, whereas their emotions are their strength and force and foundation of knowledge. They don’t trust that; if they trusted that, everything would be better for them, including their birth. We are an unhealthy society top to bottom—education, politics, health, and finally in terms of our deaths—and all of this is not being addressed, little pieces, yes, but changing the whole kind of juggernaut in this world is daunting. My prayer is that Allah does not heal us with calamity and disasters like He heals individuals. Individuals are sometimes healed by disaster, calamity, grave illness, and so on. So childbirth should be completely re-thought. The hospital is not a healthy pace in terms of energy, in terms of everything a newborn needs, in terms of touch and smell, natural environment, air, light, energies. Traditionally, the advice that the hakims gave to pregnant women—and I have pregnant women who always ask me what to do you advise: First of all respect and honor what you have in terms of your natural mammalian capabilities in you. And if you give them their proper due, you want to have a setting that is safe. Every mammal does this. The closer they get to the birth, [they acquire] this need for the security of place. The traditional hakim is saying is during pregnancy, you surround yourself with good people and spiritual people and things that bring inspiration to you. Going to the awliya and having good energies surrounding you during the pregnancy is more important than any multi-vitamin for sure. Also, my advice when you are pregnant, is to be sure that you bring things to the table as a couple and address the unresolved issues as much as you can. You want love to be the primary nourishment for the child in the womb. Love is going to be the most valuable nutrient that it will get. Love, passion, lots of touching, lots of closeness, all those things that enhance the biological being, and singing … I love the tradition of an African tribe where the mother, each month of the pregnancy she composes a new line, she adds a line each month, until she has nine months of a song. So the child has a song, and when the child gets sick or hurt, she sings the song to him. The community as well sings the song to the child. Imagine the impact of this on the child, his nervous system, etc…
3. You have experienced home birth as a father. Can you tell us what that was like for you? I delivered my first son—following that I kind of had the realization that there is an energy that women have and that men have and that the birthing event is best conducted by women. Birthing belongs to the realm of women more than it does than to the realm of men. And so I actually tried to encourage women to take part in the births of my children as much possible, although I was present in many cases. I think if it were a homebirth, the sense of empowerment I think it has more do with recognition on a man’s part, the ability for him to recognize and on some level to grasp to some degree the awesome event of a birth. We have a tendency to abstract, and birthing drives home very dramatically that this is a life coming into being—because it so dramatic and so powerful, I would pray that insha’Allah men would have that ability without necessarily being present at birth. The best births tend to happen at home, and if there are women around that are supportive and they are reciting Qur’an and singing … my wife was doing the hadra right up to the birth. This is a very powerful thing to do in terms of preparing for birth. She would have half-hour labors. My daughter had two-hour labors. I asked her what would you attribute this to; she said childbirth is not hard, it’s easy because it's so natural. Yes, there is pain, yes, there is struggle, yes, there is stress … she actually uses that term, easy. The biggest thing is not buying in to the misogyny by men that describes childbirth as “the most painful thing that a person can go through.” That’s part of what I said in the first place. Men have a fear of woman. They love their mothers, but fear the power of women. The power to create—that’s much more than we men can ever take part in, the majesty of that. So keeping them [women] as these passive servants is an antidote for that. Making childbirth hard, all that comes in the same bundle of misunderstanding the strength and power that women hold ….
4. I have seen that hospital births have the potential to disrupt early bonding between mother and child. Meanwhile, it seems that much of the trauma you see originates in the relationship between mother and child. Can home birth play a preventative role? It is pretty clear to everybody that initial bonding, that intital touch,
establishes the foundational principle of resilience, and the ability to have a sense of security. That lack of security is one of the causes for so much emotional illness and physical illness in the mdoern world. Looking back historically there were times they would take child away from mother, there was a time that the colostrum of the mother was believed to not be clean, that baby should not suckle. All of these bizarre distortions of our basic nature. So bonding, genuine presence of mother and father, is the key to healthy stability in the persona and the development of resiliency of that child, the strengthening of the nervous system. Allah is generous so he gives mother-ness in many forms in his creation, even if the mother was not able to have the contact that they wanted with the child. The birth practice the more natural it is, the more pleasant the surrounding, there is beauty present. We cannot underestimate how important beauty is in our lives. Take the hospital, how it looks—already you are in trouble. Beauty is a real thing. It's not just aesthetics. This is something we lost, we have this idea that these things are not important to us in terms of our well being. So beginning with the birth process, this establishes our resiliance and ability to feel safe in the world, to have the nervous system function fully is important to our spiritual well being.
5. Can you recommend any somatic exercises that might help women prepare for birth? The more present one can be in body from the very beginning is important. This naturally wants to happen in pregnancy anyway, so the body will do things to make you present. Birthing is actually a somatic demand to be present, isn’t it? If I was giving advice, the exercises of awareness would be the first exercises [I would recommend]. These exercises establish their sense of standing on their two feet, of their legs carrying the weight of their body. [The are about] learning how to stand and establishing standing or re-establishing a sense of standing. Number two, becoming aware of the body's responses to everything the person encounters. How do you feel when this happens, what happens in you body when you walk into a Wal-Mart, when you walk into a rose garden? Become more aware of the standing in your body with your consciousness in the world. And then the awareness of breathing and the ability and development of this awareness, along with the flexibility of movement during the pregnancy. So the breath is full and complete. All of that breath and oxygen is free to travel through the body as fast as possible. There are more specific excercies that have to do with flexibility and presence that can enable one to relax so there is an easy letting go of the cervix and dilation that one can have …
In summary back to some of these things I started with. Women: learn to trust what you know inherently. Find how you can reach those things, trust them, and use them to live by. They call it women’s intuition, but more than that, it’s what Allah gave them. Its our inherent biological system, our nervous system, on mammalian level, a human level.
Picture Credits - Hakim Archuletta from www.islamondemand.com
Ethiopian Woman - babasteve flickr.com
Father and Baby - modenadude flickr.com
Sultan Ahmet - rmx flickr.com