Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health 19(1): 75-77. Fall 2004
"War Wounds "
by William R. Stimson
"What's stopping me? Why can't I write?" I might have asked myself on that day, like so many others. I got up from my desk in the back room and spread the mat on the floor. I flicked off the light, closed the shutters and lay down on the mat, on my back. This was many years ago. It was a technique I'd developed in those days to replenish my creative juices when I was "written out" and nothing more would come. Sometimes I did it several times a day. Each time was completely different. Usually I would put my arms close against my sides and slip my hands half-underneath my legs. That was just a position I hit upon that worked. It felt secure. I lay there immobile.
On this occasion I quickly relaxed down towards sleep, as I always do when I lie down like that. (I still practice a variant of this technique to this day.) There's a layer called the "preconscious" I read in some book way back then. That book associated it with creativity. And so, in those days, when I lay down like that on the mat I would vaguely aim at this layer of things half-conscious or vaguely conscious. The way I did this was to allow myself to drift peacefully off to sleep but to go slower and slower as I approached, until which point I became almost stopped in my drift just before sleep overcame me. Lingering thus in the "preconscious", I was able to luxuriate self-indulgently in the wash of deep, rich and strange things. I called this a "trance" and I called this work "trancework". I don't know if this is technically correct. I don't really know enough about these things except for my own experience with them over the years.
Usually what happens is in the way of imagery. Certain people I don't know appear and are saying things. It's as if they were right in my presence. They're so clear, so present, that it's the realization of what's happening that startles me awake a little and keeps me from falling into sleep. When I arouse a bit, though, the imagery vanishes completely, like the moon when the sun comes up. I relax again and go back down in. Oftentimes it's a landscape that comes to me -- even a panorama -- replete with trees and a beautiful clouded blue sky and all the awe and wonder of nature itself.
On this particular day nothing like that happened. I was drifting gently down towards the oblivion of sleep, completely unaware that anything was about to occur, not really intending anything specific, perhaps not even wanting anything. I was just tired, spent. If you practice something for a long time, though, it starts happening on its own. And as I lay there, unawares, I was suddenly hit by the powerful sensation that my whole body was squeezed in a place too narrow and tight. My arms and my legs and my torso were being crushed from all sides by successive waves of pressure. I was desperate to get out. I couldn't, though, because I was being held in. My way was being blocked by a certain "She" who was holding the aperture tight, the place I needed to get through to get out. Alarmed, I bolted wide awake. My eyes wide open, I lay there on the floor looking up at the ceiling, pondering the strange occurrence and the bizarre feeling of the culprit -- this "She".
As I lay there, sounds from adjoining apartments reasserted themselves: people moving, making noises, talking. The sound of a TV drifted in from somewhere in the distance. Someone far-off was vacuuming. A housedog barked repeatedly. A phone was ringing. It was my phone.
I got to my feet and stumbled into the kitchen to answer the phone. It was my sister. She was going on about something or other. "I just had the strangest experience," I cut her off, still a little dazed from what had happened.
"What was it?" she asked, concerned by the sound of my voice.
I related to her what had just happened to me. In the bookstores in those days were volumes on "rebirthing". I didn't know what it was and had never bought any of those books. But it seemed to me I had had some sort of experience along those lines.
The line was quiet for a while. Then my sister spoke. "Didn't mother ever tell you what happened when you were born?" she asked, incredulous.
"No" I replied. My sister had slept in my mother's room. The two of them had talked, apparently, about many things my brother and I had never been privy to. We'd had our own separate rooms.
"It was at the Shoemaker Naval base in California, during the war," my sister began. "Dad was overseas. Several planeloads had just come in with wounded troops from overseas when they were wheeling mother down the hall to a delivery room. All the delivery rooms were being used for the wounded soldiers they were operating on. 'It's coming!' mother cried out to the doctor, 'It's coming!'"
"'Just hold it in' he'd yelled back, as he'd dashed about frantically with the nurses trying to locate a free room. Finally they found one and wheeled her in."
My sister was quiet a second, and then continued, "Mother said she did just as the doctor had told her and held you in until they got her in that room."