Welcome to Birthing Ayurveda, where we follow one woman's pregnancy experience week by week—from a positive home pregnancy test all the way to delivery.
The intellect (buddhi) part of the mind is likely the most emphasized part of our mind in today’s society. From a young age, we put our young ones in special preschools and buy special books or videos that are supposed to make our children “smarter.” And this is all great and important since it is the faculty of our minds that help us achieve, make contributions to society, solve problems, and make a living.
But it is also important to realize that the intellect is just a tool and I believe that a huge problem in our society is our inability to use it as just a tool. In the Vedic tradition, the purpose of the buddhi is to process, discriminate, and analyze information. It commands the senses and the mind based on this discrimination (much like the captain of the ship). Balanced consciousness, or the Self, sits behind this captain and its navigator, the ego, guiding the two with purpose.1
Instead, our ego and intellect tend to control us, overriding any true awareness and consciousness. The buddhi is at the whims of personal desires and inclinations rooted in the ego and emotions, directing the mind and senses without true purpose. Our ego often becomes identified with our intellect and how “smart” we are or, in the case of parenthood, how “smart” our child is.
And so as I entered this month, aware that this is the month of the development of the intellect, I wanted to do what I could to help Charlie’s (what we call the baby) intellect develop—with balance.
- Stay engaged. I see many mothers-to-be pulling away from work or other activities because of fatigue. I also have experienced being treated with sometimes too much TLC because I am pregnant. While the sentiments are greatly appreciated, I feel that staying mentally engaged at work and with other activities and people in my life has kept my mind active. Doing so engages the baby’s molding mind in a similar way. If you do not work, do riddles, puzzles, and other activities to challenge the intellect.
- Read. I love reading and I have avoided less engaging activities like watching T.V. and movies. Read about inspiring people or thoughtful passages. Read poetry, which stimulates the mind in different ways and where there is often rhyming (like in young children’s books).
- Listen to music. Music is important and especially playing music stimulates the brain.2 Further, we all have heard about how classical music can stimulate the mind in unique ways.3 What is unique about classical music (as opposed to pop music, which I do very much enjoy as well) is that the music is not predictable. There are pauses, crescendos (where the music gets louder), and decrescendos (where the music gets softer). This keeps the mind engaged in the music and its variations. By week 25, the baby can readily hear sounds from the external environment.
- Appreciate touch. Feel different textures while cooking or when you are out in nature. Spend time rubbing your belly everyday.
- Stay away from unhealthy habits. Smoking (tobacco or otherwise) constricts blood vessels, decreasing blood supply to the baby. Nicotine can even affect neurodevelopment. Alcohol and other toxins can also cross the placenta and harm the development of the baby’s nervous system.
Activating different senses and emotions in this way activates different parts of the brain. But remember to keep it all balanced.
- Stay stress free. We now know with research that high stress and stress hormone levels can impact the development of the baby and even their I.Q.4
- Though the intellect is developing at this point, don’t forget to stay connected to your deeper Self, the ultimate guide. The intellect is just a tool.
- From the awareness of the Self, be aware of the ego, when it is helpful and when it is not. Be aware of its dramas, and when it is steering you away from purpose, harmony, purity, and clarity.
- Appreciate the talents and gifts of people that have not gotten them fame or admission into Ivy League universities. If you show that you value these gifts that do not necessarily give people the label of being “smart” or “highly achieved,” so will your child.
Interestingly, the baby will really start to build the fatty tissue layer (meda dhatu) during this month. In Ayurveda, and as we are learning more about this in western sciences, meda dhatu is very important for the nourishment and protection of the brain and nervous system. Make sure that you are eating healthy fats (plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, ghee, avocados, hemp seed, flax seed) in adequate amounts. Look at yourself for these signs of healthy meda dhatu to see if you need more of this nourishment.
- Appropriate amount of body fat
- Skin and hair are well lubricated and shiny without being excessively oily
- Skin looks marble-like, taking on a “glow”
- Voice is melodious and soft
- Strong sense of love and compassion
- Joints are lubricated well without excess cracking, popping
- Eyes are shiny and bright
- Groundedness without lethargy and inertia
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1 Rajmani Tigunait. Seven Systems of Indian Philosophy. Honesdale, Pennsylvania: The Himalayan Institute Press, 1983.
2 Gwen Dewar, "Music and intelligence: A parent’s evidence-based guide", Parenting Science, November 19, 2015, http://www.parentingscience.com/music-and-intelligence.html.
3 Nikhil Swaminathan, "Fact or Fiction?: Babies Exposed to Classical Music End up Smarter". Scientific American, November 19, 2015, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-babies-ex/.
4 David Laplante, et al, “Project Ice Storm: Prenatal Maternal Stress Affects Cognitive and Linguistic Functioning in 5 1/2-Year-Old Children,” J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 47, no. 9 (2008): 1063-1072.