Diversifying the Wellness Industry and Using Joy as an Act of Resistance with Latham Thomas favorite_border

Conversations from the Heart - June 26th 2020

Author: Rachel Brathen

Topics: Exciting Guests, Being of Service

Links: Apple Podcasts / Spotify

About the Episode

The past few months have given us a glimpse of what the world has the potential to be – a world where we work and commute less, where we have more time in our day to take care of ourselves, and most importantly: where justice is for all.

In a world that rewards you for putting work and the idea of success above all else, the pursuit of joy and the practice of self-care is a radical tool of resistance and liberation.

These are the words from this week’s very special guest, Latham Thomas (follow @glowmaven and @mamaglow on Instagram!).

This episode will provide an eye-opening look into the wellness field (where so much change needs to happen!), show you how racism weaponizes tools of consciousness, and give you steps you can take within your own community to look for joy while dismantling the systemic issues that keep others from finding theirs.

Latham-min

Key Takeaways

  • Having a daily spiritual practice where you pursue joy is a radical act of self-care and resistance in a world that does not value slowing down and taking time for yourself.
  • Spreading ‘love and light’ is not enough - and it weaponizes tools of consciousness. The system of white supremacy is not going to be dismantled by burning sage and wishing others the best.
  • If you find yourself brimming with emotion, do not try to stifle it. Instead, use your emotions to fuel yourself into action for your community.
  • Look around your community to see who is marginalized and see what issues affect them. Then lend your voice, learn to understand and align with their struggle, and help fight the issue at hand.
  • There is an ongoing maternal health crisis for Black women. Look into your local community of doulas and midwives and see how you can help support and advance education, tools, and professional development on an ongoing basis. How can you help protect Black mothers in your community?

More about Latham Thomas

Latham Thomas is a maternal wellness maven, Birth Doula, and proud mama who is transforming the world of birth and motherhood. Along with supporting women in optimal wellness and spiritual growth, she also finds time to advocate for birth equity and to bridge policy gaps in maternal health.

Latham is the best-selling author of two books, including “Own Your Glow” and she if the founder of Mama Glow, a women's health education brand that supports women through various stages of pregnancy and motherhood.

OWG BOOK COVER-min

Transcript

[0:03] Rachel: Hi, and welcome to a brand new episode of the Yoga Girl podcast, Conversations from the Heart. I am so excited to introduce our guest on this week’s show, Latham Thomas. Latham is someone I’ve admired via social media for awhile now, and who’s book Own Your Glow is igniting something really deep within me personally. She is a birth doula, maternal wellness maven, best selling author, and a proud mama who is transforming the world of birth and motherhood. Leading a revolution in radical self-care, Latham supports women in embracing optimal wellness and spiritual growth, and she advocates for birth equity to bridge policy gaps and maternal health. Please help me welcome this power-woman to the show, Latham Thomas!

[0:51] Latham: Hi Rachel: Thank you so much for that intro, I love how succinct it was [laughs].

Rachel: It’s a big intro, you have a really big bio, you know? I don’t even know where to, where to start, wow. So, this, this podcast, you know, it’s called From the Heart, and I like to lead with that, you know? Speaking completely from the heart in this moment, how, how are you doing?

Latham: I feel good today, you know. I make a practice of trying to keep my heart light, you know, like levity I think is so important, especially in the times that we’re living in. Yeah, I mean I think it’s been a really challenging year for everyone, right? But certainly the past few weeks have been really charged, and it’s just been, I think, a reminder that the reason that we have these practices are to meet moments like this, and to really lean into self-care, and really lean into joy as an act of liberation, joy as an act of, of self-love, and so that’s really just been part of my practice, is to, you know, find my way out of whatever is happening around us, and, and be in that dialogue.

[2:05] Latham: Just to kind of keep, you know, above it all, because I think it can be really, I mean if you turn on the news, it’s challenging. If you go outside and you see that, you know, there’s a lot of suffering, it can keep you in a place where, you know, that, that can lead to further despair. So I think that part of our practice has to be one fo the pursuit of joy, also while we’re on the front lines fighting, while we’re in the streets resisting, there has to be rest and there has to be joy as part of our resistance.

Rachel: “There has to be rest and there has to be joy,” I, I love that, and I feel like for, for a lot of people, those are the first two things that go.

Latham: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Rachel: I think especially…yeah, both of them, I don’t know which one. For me, rest goes, I think, out the window first, when I’m, when I’m…

Latham: Yeah.

Rachel: …struggling. But so, do you have a practice of, of, of getting to that place every day also when, when things are not challenging? Because I think for a lot of people, we reach for that self-care when shit has hit the fan, and then we go, “oh, I should have been doing this a long time.” What’s your, your rest and joy practice like, day-to-day?

[3:12] Latham: Yeah, I mean I think it’s so important to make sure that it is a daily practice, right? And that, that it’s not…because I think what happens, right, when we talk about self-care, we talk about it as like, like as a set of actions, but really it’s kind of like this moment-to-moment check-in with yourself, right, like, “what do I need in this moment? What would feel right, what would serve?” And really accommodating your needs. And it’s also anticipating your needs too, so there’s moments when, if you know, for instance, that you’re going to go protest, it’s like “how do I prepare for that moment and make sure that I’m fortified, I’m supported, I have what I need, and then how do I come off of that moment when I come home and back int my rhythm,” you know; “what is it like during a time of quarantine, do I emotionally sort of meet that moment, and then how do I find space for myself whether that’s outside, or that’s finding community even in a time of social distance or physical distancing.” You know, it’s just like, getting into a dialogue around what your needs are, and being really truthful about what those things are, and, and being in daily pursuit of that.

[4:20] Latham: But then I would say the other piece is really focussing on designing a life that you don’t have to escape, right? You know, we talk about self-care, it’s like “okay, let me bubble bath away whatever’s going on,” or “let me try to, you know, have these beautiful moments on Instagram,” or “let me go to this faraway place,” or “let me take this vacation, or let me do this thing over here,” right, that is like sort of a, a reward for this sort of suffering that I’ve imposed, or this sort of commitment to an accelerated pace and hustle and a kind of disoriented way of living that we’ve all come to accept, and participate in, right? Which is sort of how we were functioning right before quarantine, right? Like it was really dysfunctional, and a lot of people are like, ready to get back to that, and I think now this is an invitation for us to think about like, “well, was it really that great commuting for two hours and sitting in a car? Was it really that great, you know, being in the subway for 45 minutes, trapped amongst people? You know, is it really that great working ten hours a day and being away from your family? You know, is it really that great not having payed parental leave, or sick days, or vacation,” like, I don’t know, I think we’ve sort of all bought into a way of living that’s, that’s really destructive, and, so if we think about what, what the future looks like, I think it has to be about designing a life that’s worth living, and that’s, that is about, you know, putting yourself in a position of taking care and preserving your wellbeing, so that you don’t get to a point where you’re like “oh, I’m at the brink,” right? I’m at exhaustion point, right?

[6:04] Latham: So, I think when we get to that point of like — they’re calling it “burnout,” right, which is now a diagnoses — we don’t have to get there, but it’s a choice, right? And so what we’ve, what we’ve done is we’ve allowed collectively, all of us, sort of this, this pace to get out of control, and I think what this time has done is sort of reset us, and it slowed people down, and put people in the house. And now we’re doing work of the home, and, you know, we’re cooking, and we’re with family, and we’re cleaning, and we’re together. And that I think is really a gift, for those of us who are in homes where we have safety, and we have food security, and we have, you know, a roof over our heads, and we have access to resources — it can be a transformative moment, right?

[6:53] Latham: And so I think it has to be about switching this dialogue about, you know, what we’ve come to know as “normal, is really kind of dysfunctional. And so if we can think about how do we start to design for the future that centers wellbeing as one of the most important things, right, then I think it will change a lot. And so for me, that’s really how I think about moving, right? Like is, do I feel well? [Laughs] You know what I mean?

Rachel: Mmm.

Latham: Do I feel good? Is this, does this feel good to do, and, and I think the beautiful thing about this moment is that, you know, I haven’t had to like, rush out the door, and be late to get to someplace, or had five different things to do in one day, or overpack my schedule with, with activities or events, or you know, I think it, it sort of, it allows you to sort of re-pace. And also rethink, like a lot of these things can be remote, some things, you know, are going to feel good again in person. And then also we’re going to probably show up in a different way when it comes to being in public space together, or communing together. I think there’s going to be more people in homes, and doing more sort of interpersonal connective gatherings, which also are really fortifying.

[8:11] Latham: And so that’s been something I’ve been looking forward to, and certainly my practice is day-to-day just checking in and seeing whether I need, which is now always the same. And so that could be like from gardening, to, to meditation, you know, going for a run, I had like a really beautiful season of just, like, running, you know, and now I’m probably going to get back to that, probably this week. And sometimes it’s a nice walk with my son, other times it’s like cooking, or repotting some of the plants, and, you know, singing. Whatever that could be, you know, I just feel like it’s, for me, one of those things that I just check in with myself, and I just see what the moment calls for, and then I respond, you know? And I think thats that’s the discipline that I would love for all of us to be considering how we can be in service of ourselves in that way, and be like obedient; if our bodies ask for certain things, that we actually listen and yield to, to what that is…

Rachel: Right.

Latham …so that we protect ourselves. I think that would be such a, a powerful way to learn more about how we can, you know, and people talk about maximizing and productivity, like, I mean you can get a lot of productivity out of yourself, if that’s your desire, if you start to pay attention to your needs.

[9:24] Rachel: A hundred percent. A hundred percent. And I think it’s such a, it’s so interesting that this is such a radical idea, that, you know, when we get tired, to rest [laughs].

Latham: Right [laughs].

Rachel: It’s been “ooh, I’m tired, ooh, I need a pick-me-up, I need a coffee,” or, “ooh, let’s go, you know, do all of these things and rally now that I’m feeling this way,” versus just “oh, I’m tired, okay, well, there’s a couch over there, I’m going to go lie down” [laughs].

Latham: Right.

Rachel: It’s been such basic things that I think a lot of us are realizing have been really destructive. And what I’m, what I’m contemplating now is, how challenging it is to actually make this shift to, to living a more purposeful, slower life, and keep that up, even as the world starts to change, even as things open up again. And I had this moment of, of actual, genuine fear, actually, when the borders are opening here in Aruba where I live, and our yoga studio is open, and things are just moving again. And I had a moment of fear, of like, “everything’s going to go back to what it was.”

Latham: Mmm.

[10:27] Rachel: How do you think we can, we can really anchor into that as a sustainable, long-lasting change? Because no one rewards us. Society doesn’t really reward us for, for baking, for gardening, for resting, for doing nothing with our kids, you know? There’s no big societal reward at the end of that.

Latham: Yeah, I mean that’s so powerful. I think a lot of people are also sitting with this feeling of anxiety because they’ve gotten so used to being in quarantine, and used to this time, and now it’s like we have to go back outside, have to go back to work, right? What does that even mean? You know, what I think though that’s really important for us to be thinking about too is, yeah, you’re right, like this is not something that is rewarded, or celebrated in our sort of dominant culture. It is something, though, that if you’re in pursuit of liberation, if you’re in pursuit of optimal living, if you’re in pursuit of, of joy, that this has to be a part of your sustainability practice, right? And your conservation or preservation practice for yourself.

[11:37] Latham: Because otherwise, what ends up happening is you’re the one who’s burn out. And so I think that, you know, if…when I think a out it like this, right, if in the time that I have on this planet, you know, I can do many things, I can do many things with the day, and the choice that I have to make always has to be one where, you know, “does this thing tire me or inspire me,” right? You know, obviously there are things I have to do, all of us, which, that I can’t avoid, right? There are things I can’t delegate, there are things I must do myself. And so, I have to allocate that time, but in these moments where I have the, the freedom and the capacity to, to dream, or to have time to myself, like what do I do with that time?

[12:29] Latham: And what people are doing now is scrolling Instagram, or watching the news, or…you know, like doing things that further take them down this road of anxiety, of tension, of pain really, right? And so what I’m asking us all to think about too is like, we, there’s a way to engage and be fully committed to the shift in consciousness that this world needs, and also be in an act of self-preservation. You know, I think that we have to meet, we have to also consider that, that joy is part of a liberation practice and, and is also part of resistance, right? Because we are in a world, like you said, that does not value the pursuit of joy, we are in a world that does not value life, right?

[13:19] Latham: And then we’re also in a moment where we’re looking at the disparity in Black life, as we look at a global movement that is spotlighting the inequity, systemic racist, you know, these, these systems that have been in practice and operating on us even before we were born, you know, for centuries, that part of that is, is to slowly whittle us down. Whether someone gets shot in the street, or whether someone is living with this experience of chronic stress that’s connected to the lived experience of racism. Like they, like the pursuit has to be in opposition and in the face of all of that challenge, we have to have joy. We have to have the pursuit of self-care, we have to have these practices. And so when I think about what we do, whether it’s yoga, it’s meditation, it’s prayer, it’s healing practicing, practices, like all of that has been cultivated, all of the things that I’ve learned and that I know, all of what I’ve been endowed with through my ancestry is for this moment, right? Is to meet this moment, and to meet this moment and know that I can be soft and that’s strong. Know that I can use a different approach that is going to actually soothe my nervous system versus charge it up. That I have tools to combat this moment.

[14:50] Latham: And so I think of it as, you know, we have to be armed with weapons of consciousness, and we have to use that and protect that, and it doesn’t matter if anybody values it, right? We have to see the inherent value of our own lives in this moment, and know that like nobody is going to fight for our, for our joy, nobody is going to fight for our freedom but us, right? And part of liberation is being able to live a fully expressed life, right? And so, it’s like if I’m in, if I’m focussed on whether or not society is aligned with that, then I’m going to stay in this sort of rat race, right? But if I’m focussed on like, you know, my son being able to move through the world freely, and pursue the things that he loves, and, then I have to also model that, right? And I have to also show that there are boundaries in place to protect me that I put there, right?

[15:46] Rachel: Mmm.

Latham: Because I know society won’t do that, so I have to put those boundaries in place to protect my own energy, my own wellbeing, physical, spiritual, emotional and otherwise, I have to put that there. And so that’s really the invitation, is to, is to model for the future how we want to be treated, is to model for the future how we should be moving together, and to, and to protect this space, because it’s so precious, the time that we have on this planet, and embodied in this way. And if we are to be here, I want to be fully embodied and fully expressed, and be able to expand my capacity, to be able to expand who I am. And to, you know, take up more space in the world like my ancestors would’ve loved to. I, I have to do that as part of my mandate in this incarnation of who I am, right? And so that’s what I feel like is the answer, you know, is that in defiance of what society is asking us to do, that we, that we move in a way that is in accordance with who we are in our truest nature, right?

[16:52] Rachel: Mmm. No, absolutely, and you share that so beautifully. And this is something that I’m, I’m contemplating a lot, being a White woman in the wellness field, and knowing that, that the wellness field is so, so problematic, and doesn’t have the inclusivity, the diversity, the open, welcoming arms that it should have for the Black community…

Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: …who need these tools for self-care, self-preservation more than, than any, any other part of our society right now. What do you think are some changes we can make, you know, for anyone who is in the wellness industry, I guess, or the wellness field as a yoga teacher, or healer, or speaker, or coach, or therapist, to help do the work to make this field more inclusive right now?

[17:37] Latham: Yeah, that’s such a great question, and thank you for even, you know, being in a space of inquiry like that. I think that there’s a couple different things that come to mind. I think, you know, one: everyone, so this is a several billion dollar industry, wellness, right? So, and we look at this industry, and then we see that what has been sort of platformed, celebrated, has been a particular body type, a particular phenotype, right? A particular, you know, socio-economic background, right? Like the accessibility, we see that there is sort of, almost like an archetype for who is sort of allowed and welcomed into certain spaces, and who products and services are designed for, right?

[18:30] Latham: And so when I go through some of the conferences that I’ve spoken at, or panels that I’ve been on, and over the years, I’ve seen such a lack of diversity, and, you know, this is like, I’m like two decades of being a practitioner in this space, and I’ve always known that there was amazing healers who were never acknowledged fro what they do. You know, this is a space, obviously, that’s not intergenerational, and so we see like, you know, young people who are like, nascent in their wellness work are lauded, and you see people who are like, you know, some of our ancient folks and our elders who have been doing this for, for years, who are not celebrated. So there’s this ageism that’s, you know, part of it. I think that there’s also this, needs to be a reckoning around the fact that like a lot of products as well as services have been built on the backs of traditions and rituals that have come from Black, Indigenous, people of color, and that those things have been stolen, or appropriated, repackaged, and sold back to people, and they don’t even look like what they started with, right? They don’t even look like, they’re not even recognizable sometimes these, these incarnations of what once was, right? And so…or there’s no acknowledgement that, you know, this ingredient comes from this region of the world, and there’s, and it’s tied into a tradition, right? Or practice.

[20:04] Latham: And so I think that’s something that we have to examine, you know, like how, you know, how to honor these traditions, how to involve the people who you’re sourcing from, especially when we see that many practitioners and many brands do not necessarily have a sustainable and fair trade sort of model, in terms of how they do business, what they are resourcing from communities that many times are economically depressed. So, I think it’s really important to, you know, do that work to look to see where along any aspect of your journey in this space, that you’ve been a part of a system that’s perpetuated harm to people and to their ancestors. And also to see like, where you can make a difference, and that could be using the power of your voice, that could be looking at where you have actual privilege and how you can, you know, reallocate resources and, and tools that are accessible to you, right?

[21:11] Latham: So, if I have a conference, right, like I should be looking to see like, “wow, okay,” like I was at something, I’m on this board, and I went to this conference, and I could count how many women were speaking, I could count how many people of color, and I was like “this is ridiculous.” And so I said something, and there was all this defensiveness, I was like “there’s not really a reason to be defensive, it’s like, this is actually an opportunity for you to now go and look at all the amazing people that you can bring into this conversation,” right? And so I think that there has to be, you know, leadership that’s diverse, right, when we’re having boards and when we have organizations that are bringing people in to do work to examine how they can be better, put some new people in positions of power, right?

Rachel: Right.

[22:01] Latham: In your companies, you know? Have co-founders that are people of color, have folks that are, you know, I think when we talk about the wellness industry and the opportunity to expand, you know, a lot of these business that are really struggling, that are founded by people of color, you know, because they can’t get capital to advance their companies, you know. We know that like a very small amount of, of capital, you know, whether it’s private equity or, or certainly not BC money, goes to people of color. And so you have like all these barriers, right, for growth and things like that, and so you have people who are doing amazing work, but that it feels like it’s in a silo because it can only reach a certain number of people, or…you know, things like that.

[22:44] Latham: So I wish I would see people, what I hope more people will do is sort of reach back and see like, you know, who are some people that they passed on, you know, that were really good candidates for, you know, to invest in in terms of companies, you know. Who were some really great businesses that you can support just on a day-to-day, you know, follow them and then go sign up for their newsletters, buy their products, gift their products, you know. Who are some people that can speak on panels, and at retreats, and for, you know, consulting, and things like that. Like really diversify and see how you can, you know, make these spaces more integrated and integrative in terms of approach, right? Because you’re just going to get different, different energy, you’re going to get solutions to problems, because you have people who are super close to the solution because they’re super close to the problems, so you have systems thinkers in a space where you can get more done, right? And so, diversity in leadership is always so wonderful, but it can’t be something that people do as a way to check it off a list, right? That is has to be like, you know, not just like, making space, right? But like…

[24:00] Rachel: Yeah.

Latham: …making room. The difference is, right, like making space would be like, “oh, okay, let’s pull up some chairs to the table, right, these people want to be included, let’s pull up some chairs.” Making room is, “I know you’re coming, I make a place setting. I ask what your dietary needs are. I ask…” you know what I’m saying? Like I…there’s a place card for you, and your seat is, you know, designated.

Rachel: It’s intentional. Yeah.

[24:26] Latham: Right? It’s different than just, like, “okay, pull up a chair now, okay, you’re here, you’ve been accounted for,” right? It’s different. So, so think about how you can make room, and think about what it means also to not be at the helm of everything, and also what it looks like to just support people and step out of the way. Because that’s also a choice, right? That if you do help other people, if you do, you know, engage with them, that, you know, they don’t necessarily…there’s an idea that like, “oh, I’m going to go help, and now I wanna like, you know, put my imprint on everything,” no. Just like, maybe, do something kind that was asked, and then step away, you know? Like you don’t have to, you don’t have to create more work, or more complication for people, but just know there are very simple actions that can be done to help.

[25:19] Latham: And I actually, I did this takeover with Gwyneth Paltrow on her Instagram, and I shared ten actions, which I can share with you if you wanna share with folks too, but I think this is a critically important conversation, especially right now, because I think a lot of people have felt the, you know, the brunt of being excluded from spaces. And I know for me, personally, you know, I’ll get like invites to stuff where it’ll be like, “oh, you should come as a guest,” I’m like, “oh, my God, these are my peers. These are people who actually look up to me that are speaking, and you’re asking me to attend…” [laughs].

[25:55] Rachel: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Latham: “…something,” or, you know, amongst my peers it feels like, it’s insulting, right? And so, but I think people don’t, because they don’t always see, you know, people of color as, as, that they can learn from them, right? And so actually think about, like, challenge your ideas of who could be teachers, you know?

Rachel: Yes.

[26:15] Latham: Challenge your ideas around who you can learn from, because that’s also part of the problem is that people see only what they see. You only can see a certain way, if you’ve only seen a certain type of person as a possibility of, of a teacher, then when I come into space, or someone else comes in the space, it’s like “well, who are you?” And then we’re like having to prove ourselves and jump through hoops and stuff, which I don’t do. But, that’s what it feels like, and it’s like, to, you know, to have to be in a space where we’ve been invalidated for so long, I think it’s, I think it’s like an exhale for many people right now that, that there’s now this moment of people realizing “wow, there’s all these amazing teachers, all these amazing practitioners, all these amazing healers, all these amazing products and services that I’ve missed out on because I was so focussed on like, you know, maybe this one type, this one person, or this one group or area of…”

Rachel: Yeah.

Latham: “…of wellness, and look at all of this.” And so, like, it opens up an entire, like cornucopia, you know, of options for you as well for learning, and, and also for unlearning.

Rachel: Yeah, and I think also not just taking it for what it is, which is something I realized that I did for a long time.

[27:33 — Commercial Break]

[29:04] Rachel: When I started unpacking my own, my own bias and things I had to really unlearn, also especially as a yoga teacher in terms of honoring the roots of, of yoga, you know…

Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: …which is something that’s become this very White-washed practice all over the world. And I was questioning, you know, “how and why did I learn all of these things without examining them?”

Latham: Mmm.

Rachel: And then the answer, of course, was that all the people I learned that from, they were all White people, you know?

Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: Teaching a, a culture and practices that isn’t inherent, or wasn’t inherently theirs.

Latham: Yeah.

Rachel: And I went, you know, “but those were the people who were presented to me, and those were the teachers I had, and of course, if there were teachers of color, I would have loved to learn from them, but they did not exist in that space.” So it’s my responsibility to seek them out.

Latham: Yeah.

Rachel: And not just say, “hey, there’s no, there are only White teachers at my studio, so that’s what I get.” Okay, well, there are other studios, you know.

Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: Maybe you have to go a little further, or, or explore something new, or, you know, actually make the effort to go find those teachers, because they are out there doing amazing work.

Latham: Yeah.

Rachel: And I think, I think White folks have been very comfortable with “this is what it is,” you know? “I’m not a racist but, you know, this is, these are the options that I had,” and that’s not necessarily true, I think.

Latham: Yeah, mmm.

[30:20] Rachel: And the wellness, you know, the wellness field is, it’s such a — and I’m thinking about this more and more — how important of a role this part of, of this little world of ours, this mega, you know, billion dollar world that feels like a little world…

Latham: [Laughs]

Rachel: …is to us because the tools are here, right? The tools for healing are here, the tools that White people need to really do this work on the internal level to make the change, they are also here. And the tools that the Black community need to heal from this, from these centuries of trauma, they are also here.

Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: There are so many layers to this, where there’s opportunity here to really accelerate and be of service, but it has to be accessible, has to be made available.

Latham: A hundred percent.

Rachel: So there’s a lot, there’s a lot for us to [laughs] I think for, for White leaders in this community to do now, to really dismantle this. But also to get away from the idea of “love and light, and peace, and oneness,” which I think is such a, such a hurdle. Do you hear that a lot, being in this community, that “shouldn’t we all just get along,” and “there’s, there’s no problems if you just look within,” and…[laughs]?

[31:29] Latham: Yes! Yeah, I think people are starting to, many people who have been saying that all along, and who now have also been affected by what’s going on in the world are starting to be like, “you know what?”

Rachel: [Laughing]

Latham: “Maybe I should…” right? Like, “maybe I shouldn’t tell people just, like, go within.” But I think the interesting thing about that that is so important that you pointed out is that that is also weaponizing, right? Like to use a tool of consciousness, right, of us to think about like, how we can, essentially those who are living in conditions that are insurmountable and that are, I mean impossible to even imagine, that you would just say, “well, you know, all you have to do is just think your way through it,” right? It is not that simple; there are certainly, you know, like I always say, you know, there are systemic barriers, and there are systems that are operating on us from the time we are born, and I am so clear in the work that I do also, at Mama Glow, and as a doula and educating doulas in understanding that these systems are already at work even before my clients get pregnant.

[32:45] Latham: So this is real, right? Like these things that, these forces are real, and there’s not amount of like, sage-ing, and loving, lighting it away that’s going to make it disappear. But what will be helpful is people acknowledging and validating the realness of it, and using their bodies, their consciousness, their resources, their tools, and their privilege to also do something about it. And so I think that part of it has to be that acknowledgement, like those people also have to see, like, this is real. And that we’re not saying that, you know, it’s the only thing that exists, but what we are saying is that it makes it really challenging to live a fully expressed life if you are oppressed, right? Like oppression is the opposite of expression, right? Like I cannot be fully expressed, I cannot expand, I cannot breathe if somebody’s on my neck, right? And if a system is operating on you for 400 years, and your people for 400 years, like, you know, there, it’s like, it’s beyond loving, lighting it away, right? Like we have to actually take action.

[33:53] Latham: And so these tools that we employ for self-care are for survival. They’re actually to reverse the maleffects of systemic racism and oppression, right? They are to reverse that, and actually transmute that, so that we have an energy that moves through us that is light. Like I spoke at the beginning that I’m, that I’m living in a place of like, my heart being light; like that’s a choice, it is a practice, right? And it is something that I have to constantly be in engagement with so that I can be well, right? Because if I stay in the news, and if I stay, you know, in feeds where people are like, “love and light,” and pretending that this is not happening, and operating on very specific people on this earth, then I could be really cynical, or I could be really upset, or I could be really ineffective in the work that I’m supposed to do.

[34:48] And so I think also what that weaponization of that, of that practice of “love and light,” the other thing about it is that denies feeling, right? Because if you just say to someone, “oh no, it’s okay, just like, you know, peace and love,” like I’m not allowing what’s coming up for you, which might be rage. I’m not allowing what’s coming up for you, which might be, you know, trauma. I’m not allowing what’s coming up for you, which might be joy. If I just try to blanket it with a statement and a sort of consciousness that all things are okay, no, there are moments where we need to allow things to come to surface so we can feel them, and in fact that’s part of the human experiences to have emotion, and that emotion can spark change. And we have to be in relationship with our emotions. And for those who are feeling something today, feeling something right now, you know, those who are tuned in, whether it’s through, you know, their social media feeds, whether it’s through learning and books, whether it’s watching, watching videos, podcasts, all these things that are now brimming inside of them this effervescence of action, right, like “I need to do something,” like that is important. And we don’t want to stifle that, and we don’t want to tell somebody, “oh, no, it’s okay, you know, everything’s cool,” no. We want people to use that as fuel to do the change that they can do in their own lives, right? To be actionable in the ways they can in their own lives. And so, I want to also underscore that that’s yeah, absolutely, I think people are using that a lot, but now I hear it less because people have gone into those spaces and been like “um, actually….”

[both laugh]

[36:30] Latham: And so then there’s a dialogue around correction that a lot of people have been doing. But I do think it’s something that, you know, it is part of the sort of spiritual bypassing that has been so prevalent in wellness and spiritual spaces for so long, and it is really important that your spiritual practice is grounded in action, and grounded in activism as part of, you know, a practice that’s about liberation for all of us. And if it’s not, then it’s really not real, right? Because it’s not grounded in what’s happening around us, and if we’re thinking about what yoga really is about, what, you know, what connection, what intention is really about is about being rooted and grounded in the moment that we’re in, and finding connection, finding relationship with everything else. And if I’m in relationship with you, and you are in pain, and I am turning my head, I am part of the problem.

[37:26] Rachel: Hmm. Absolutely, absolutely. Allowing and honoring the reality for what it is.

Latham: Yes.

Rachel: And also acknowledging that “okay, if my reality is so peaceful and great and love and light-y that I can’t acknowledge the suffering of other people, then probably my spirituality is scratching at the surface, I’m not really here.”

Latham: Mmm.

Rachel: You know, I think it’s impossible to be truly here and anchored, and not feel the pain of what’s going on. And once we feel the pain, there’s no other, you know…we have to take action, there’s not standing there, watching this go by.

Latham: Yeah.

[38:00 — Commercial Break]

[39:28] Rachel: What about, you know, feeling our feelings, which is a really big theme for, for this podcast overall, and a, and a big theme in my life, always trying to find new ways to allow for emotion, to hold space for emotion, to actively release emotion.

Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: My voice is hoarse constantly now because I do this meditation practice once a day where I scream, a lot.

[both laugh]

Rachel: Regardless of what the day has brought. Even if it’s a happy day, it’s a mundane day, it’s a whatever day, I try to let myself get to a place of just acting out whatever has been lingering there. Do you have a practice of, of a conscious practice of, of, of holding space for feelings in a specific way? Because not a lot of people do.

[40:13] Latham: Yeah. First of all, I just, I love that that’s your practice, and I was going to say that I love the, the raspiness of your voice.

Rachel: [Laughing]

Latham: It’s like your pillow voice, it’s so sexy. So…

Rachel: [Laughing] It’s not my normal voice, yeah.

[both laugh]

Latham: I love it actually, so it’s nice that this is, like, a voice that you’ve manufactured…

Rachel: [Laughs]

Latham: …through your practice.

Rachel: It’s like my whiskey, like my whisky voice…

Latham: Exactly!

Rachel: …but it’s my…[laughs].

[40:36] Latham: It’s so awesome, actually. Yeah, I mean I love that that’s, that’s your, that you’re anchored in that way. You know, are you a Taurus? What’s your sign?

Rachel: I’m a Libra, with a Leo moon…

Latham: You’re a Libra! Amazing.

Rachel: You’re a Taurus.

Latham: I’m a Taurus, but I have Libra Rising. Yeah, so, okay. Because I was wondering, “what’s the energy?” Okay, so this is interesting because I’m a Taurus, and we rule the throat. And so when you talked about this practice of, of opening up your throat, and the yelling, and the screaming, it felt resonant. And so I have a similar practice, it’s not screaming, but, you know, and I live in New York, right? So if I start screaming, it’s gonna cause…

[both laughing]

Latham: You know, so I can’t really do that, but I have a practice, a vocal practice, which is a meditation, and I do vocal toning, and, and then singing, which is really more like music melody…it’s more like, I should say, a medicine melody, which I just open my mouth and throat, and just sort of let whatever comes out. I usually use, like a shruti box, you know, to, you know, create the drone that will kind of like get me into a place that’s meditative. And, you know, that can create a rhythm, you know? And I’ll do that, and what I find, like my son loves it too, cause he’ll come and he’ll just like listen, maybe lay down for it. And I don’t do it intentionally for like a sound bath or anything, but I do do it intentionally for the reasons I think that you probably do, which is to sort of reset the nervous system.

Rachel: Mmm.

[42:08] Latham: It’s a massage for the organs, which a lot of people don’t know, that when you open your mouth and throat, it’s also connected to, hardwired connection to your cervix and pelvic floor, so you actually release, right, in this area of your body too…

Rachel: I heard that. Yeah.

Latham: Where we hold so much tension. And then also…yeah, so that’s powerful, especially, you know, for those of us who, who are carrying so much in our pelvis, you know, in terms of trauma, and pain, or discomfort. So that’s an awakening, you know, that, that can happen. But also, you know, the vagus nerve is connected to every single organ in your body, it innervates every organ, and so when you open your mouth and throat and you actually shout, or yell, or scream, or sing, or tone, then that actually creates this vibration throughout all of your organs, and it’s like an internal massage. So for those of us who have been lacking touch, right, because of COVID-19, who have been lacking connection, this is a way to create almost this internal connection through sound. And so I use it for that purpose, and also to awaken my voice, and also to remind myself that, you know, my voice is an instrument, and it’s a tool for change, and that I have to attune my voice so that it’s ready at any moment to speak truth. I had a thing when I was was younger which was like an affliction that if I didn’t speak, like if I had something to say and I wouldn’t say it, then I would lose my voice. And I was so clear that that’s what it was because every time that something would happen, and I would have the opportunity to speak up, whether it was for myself or for someone else, but it was mainly for myself, like something would happen, I wouldn’t have the courage to speak in the moment, or wouldn’t have the words, and the next day my voice would be gone.

[43:56] Rachel: Wow!

Latham: And so I learned…yeah. And I learned that that…

Rachel: What attunement, yeah.

Latham: …was a spiritual affliction, that I was supposed to speak. And so this practice has been deeply healing for me because it reminds me, every day, that my voice is a tool for transformation, a tool for healing, and tool for self-advocacy, and it is a tool for, for resistance. And so I, I do that practice to engage in this way, and to remind myself of this privilege that I have, but also to soothe and nourish my body. And so I think like we’re on the same wavelength, you know, to be using our voices as part of our self-care and liberation practice. Yeah.

[44:37] Rachel: Yeah. There’s something so powerful about that. And I, I remember now, when I was pregnant, it was one of the, I can’t remember, I read like 30 books on pregnancy, and midwifery and all the things doula-hood [laughs] when I was pregnant. One of them spoke about the connection between our, our throat and cervix, and…

Latham: Yes!

Rachel: …communication, and opening. I would love to touch a little bit on your work as a, as a doula, because for me, this is such a fascinating, fascinating, fascinating area, and also so important in terms of healing, accelerating the healing that we all need right now, supporting mothers on this, on this journey. How many births have you, have you held space for?

[45:16] Latham: Oh, my God, hundreds.

Rachel: Hundreds!

Latham: Yeah, it’s been…I started off doing like three or four a month, which was ridiculous…

Rachel: Wow.

Latham: …with a partner, yeah. And so, in our first few years, it, like, we were like, doing a lot. But I’ve since slowed down…

[Both laugh]

Latham: …and I don’t, I don’t ever recommend doing that many at once, but what I would say is, you know, what feels good for me now, is, is, and nourishing for me, is teaching and doing a few births a year. So I do way fewer, but most of what my doula-ing has become, has been really about, you know, being a vision doula for, for doulas who are coming into practice, and supporting them, and creating a pathway for them professionally, and creating a community for them, so that’s been, like the sort of new iteration of my birth work, but…

[46:11] Rachel: If someone listening doesn’t know exactly what a doula does, would you mind sharing in case…

Latham: Yeah!

Rachel …in case there’s someone’s there who…

Latham: Absolutely. And I think everyone should know, Rachel had an amazing birth with a doula, so…

Rachel: Yes!

Latham: …which, yeah. So, I would love for you to share a little bit about that too, which I’m sure you’ve shared with your community, but just with me.

Rachel: [Laughs]

Latham: So, a doula, for those who are listening, is a non-clinical care provider who shows up to offer emotional support, physical support, education, advocacy tools for you to navigate the birth process, and partner support, if there is a partner present, so they can participate at their level of comfort, as well as tools, like, for energy. If you think about how you want the room to feel, who you want there, how you want to navigate the postpartum period; all of these things that, like, nobody considers, a doula is there to help navigate with you. And so, one of my clients calls it like, “having a producer for your birth,” right? Like someone who’s thinking about all the…

[47:20] Rachel: [Laughing] “Producer for your birth.”

Latham: Right? Right? Like having about all the details and like, you know, lining up everything for you, and also thinking about things that you don’t have to think about, helping you to really be in the space, also, of confidence, and a space of, you know, just like of knowing. Because I think one of the things I find so disheartening is that people will say, like, “nobody told me, I didn’t know,” you know, when they recall their experiences, a lot of it is that they weren’t meant to feel empowered. And so much of what we are here to do is to remind you of your power, and to remind you of your voice, and help you to unearth your voice, so that you can mother yourself, right?

[48:05] Latham: And, and so…and to witness you in that transformation, and, and it’s being denied so many people, this, this experience of empowerment, you know, in our current medical model. And so we’re here to educate about all birth options, including out of hospital birth options for people, so they can choose what’s best for them, and then we’re there to support whatever it is that you decide, right? Some people are very clear, like, you know, “I want an epidural,” that’s what it is, I mean I’m not here to negotiate with you, or argue with you, I’m here to support if that’s the pathway you’re taking. If you are like, “I’m doing this with, you know, no pharmaceuticals,” you know, whatever it is. Sometimes there’s planned Cesarians for any number of reasons, right, and I’m there for that. And then there’s people who had a very clinical and medicalized experience that want something maybe more natural. And I don’t mean natural, like all birth is natural, meaning more like at home, and in their own sort of natural environment versus captivity, right?

[49:11] Rachel: Right.

Latham: And so I’m there for that too, right? So it depends whatever your desires are, we’re here to help you meet those needs.

Rachel: And it’s such a, a, for me, having a, having a doula there, present, I’ve only given birth once, so I don’t have anything to compare it to…

Latham: Girl, that’s not an only situation, like I…

[both laughing]

Latham: …I did it once too.

Rachel: Once was a lot, once was a, was plenty.

Latham: [Laughs]

Rachel: But I just learned of this story, which I just have to share. So, so I started this podcast, the first ever episode I recorded was my birth story, and my daughter was one week old, so this podcast is exactly as old, as old as my daughter. And my doula, her name is Kelly and she’s a dear friend of mine, and when we manifested this podcast so quickly, I texted her and I said “hey, I have Latham Thomas coming on the show,” because I know she loves you.

Latham: I love her too.

Rachel: And she said, “oh,” and she said, “oh, do you, did you know the story I have with her around your birth?” And I didn’t. And I went “what do you mean?” [Laughs] So apparently, we were here in Aruba, you know, we don’t have, there’s one tiny little hospital, there was one single midwife who supported a home birth in our whole country, and I had a doula planned that I was working with from Sweden, who had flown here to deliver with me, and then I was so overdue, she had to go back home. Like I was 42 plus two or something, and she had a flight back home, and she had to leave. So Kelly was here with me who was a, she’s an interior designer, she was designing our studio, so she was kind of like, doing everything at once. And then I don’t know what happened, she had a moment when she got really nervous; I think it was my best friend left, and this other doula had left, there was a lot of people leaving my space. And I think she felt like “man, I’m the only person, you know, left to kind of hold this space right now.” And it was my first birth, and it was her third, like she was very I think new to, to doula-hood.

[51:05] Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: And she said she wrote you, even though she didn’t know you, she was just inspired by you, and that she wrote you this email of like, “hey, I’m panicking, I’m nervous about this birth.”

Latham: [Laughs]

Rachel: And she said that you called her up, out of the blue, and had this long, long, long, epic pep talk with her, and that it completely changed, like, the whole birth, and that totally changed, you know, the whole scenario, and basically, you, you know, helped doula me through my doula. So you were present for my birth, kind of [laughs].

Latham: I love that! Oh, my God, that’s so beautiful to hear, I’m so glad that we’ve just come full circle in this moment, that’s amazing.

[51:44] Rachel: So, so full circle. And she said that there was one sentence that you said in that, in that pep talk that, that changed, she said, the whole, that whole week for her, which was that “babies come in their own way.” And she said, “that helped me realize that Lea Luna was, she was going to come her own way, she knew how to do this, and I’m just here to, to hold the space for that, to support along the way.” And then everything was really smooth and beautiful, so thank you for that.

Latham: Oh, wow, I love that, what a joy.

Rachel: Mmm.

Latham: What a joy, what a joy.

Rachel: Oh, I love this full circle of, of everything, and I feel like I could go another hour with you. I would love to visit your garden, I’m so jealous of your rooftop garden…

Latham: I’m so jealous of your island life, are you kidding [laughs].

Rachel: Come visit us! When the borders are all open, come, come kick your feet up, lie on the beach, and, and, and hang out. Would be lovely to see you.

Latham: You’re right to keep your borders closed, because I would not want anyone coming right now.

Rachel: Yeah, we’re a little nervous about it. It’s opening in a week or so, we’ll see what happens.

Latham: Wow, wow. Amazing.

Rachel: Mmm. So for all of our listeners who are here, present with you right now, how can we be of service to you today?

[52:56] Latham: Such a beautiful question, and thank you, Rachel, for that. You know, I think what would be really amazing is if all of us could look outside of ourselves and our immediate needs, and look to see who’s around us. Are those friends, family members, folks in our community, who are on the margins, and, and look to see what are the issues that are affecting them right now? And how can you lend your voice, even if you’re not a part of that community, how can you align with that struggle? Even if you don’t know where to start, how can you be in dialogue around understanding? And how can you activate yourself in a way that can lend a voice, but also can lend fuel to whatever that issue is? And so, I’d like to speak to one issue in particular that is of importance to me, and that I would love to see more support around, really globally, but especially as we think about the United States, and that is the maternal health crisis in this country.

[54:15] Latham: Right now, we’re in a, a crisis as the U.S. is the last nation in all sort of so-called developed nations, ranking last in terms of maternal deaths. This is a huge problem in a country that spends so much money per capita on healthcare, and has so much technology, and all of the things that we have in terms of insurance, all of these advances, and we still have women dying in childbirth. Black women and Native American women in this country are four to five times more likely than White women to die during childbirth, or due to childbirth-related causes. And there are many issues that connect these dots, but one of the major issues that we don’t have metric for but that we know exists is systemic racism, intrinsic bias, people going into medical spaces and feeling neglect, being under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed, not having consistent providers, not having access to quality insurance, you know, being micro-aggressed, having their needs dismissed; all of these things are factors that can, can lead to poor maternal health outcomes.

[55:35] Latham: And these things are usually compounded by co-morbidities like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, placental disorders or blood disorders, things that that, that can also be attributed to some of our communities, and there’s systemic factors that actually connect those dots, right? Which are also part of a larger conversation around the, the sort of fabric of this, of this nation, and how it’s deeply bound by racist systems and, and oppressive systems. So what we see is critically important, is to eradicate this, right? We really need to reverse this, because Black women, we’ve seen this 25 year increase in Black maternal deaths, but there’s only really been a three year spotlight on this issue.

[56:31] Latham: This has been something that medical communities have known for a very long time, but we just see now in, in terms of the PR, you know, we see in terms of a lot of news channels, and, and New York Times, and ProPublica did a really powerful series of pieces around this, especially in 2017 when it sort of almost put this on the map as an issue. And now we see tons of doulas feeling inspired to show up and, and become doulas, right? We see many people showing up that want to help in, in some way. And so, a couple ways that you can help would be to contact your local officials, our public officials need to have maternal health on their agendas. We need to understand what are going to be, what will be their plan to address the maternal health crisis in this country, specifically as it related to Black and Brown people.

[57:31] Latham: We want to also see that we improve legislation, that makes it impossible for out-of-hospital birth, right? In some states, it’s actually illegal to have a midwife deliver your baby, right? We have actually built systems against midwifery in this country, so we need to make sure to restore midwifery as a practice, which it’s a, it’s an ancient practice, right? Like, you know, our, you know, midwives, there were grand midwives who were Black women who delivered babies from the time of slavery, during chattel slavery, and, and sort of helped to create this pathway for modern obstetrics before it was even a respectable form of medicine, they were there teaching doctors before they got systemically pushed out and scapegoated, and there has been propaganda that has been going on for years about midwives. And if you ask normal people, they would probably tell you they don’t even know what a midwife is or does, right? And so we need to change that, midwives are incredibly skilled, and they are incredibly necessary, and are a great option for people who have a low-risk birth, right?

[58:47] Rachel: Mmm.

Latham: We should have access to midwives, and we need to make sure that we remove the barriers for education, so that they can, we can have more people doing this practice, especially more people of color so they can go into their communities to do this work. And we also want to make it, we want to advance doulas, and make sure that doulas have access to practice, that they have access to the tools that they need to advance in terms of their professional development. And so we’re really committed to that, and we would love the support that anyone wants to contribute, whether it’s actually becoming a doula, whether it’s supporting the education of one through sponsorship, and you can do that by searching for any number of organizations and seeing, you know, what their values are, if they align with you, and then maybe donating to their doula education fund. We certainly have one at Mama Glow, if that feels aligned, we welcome your support, but definitely look to see what’s in your community, like, “who’s in my community doing this work, and how can I support them in a meaningful way, and on an ongoing basis? How can I make this my issue?”

[59:53] Latham: Because people have to to know that, you know, this is a human rights issue, maternal health in this, in this country, in this world, is a human rights issue. We have to protect the safety and sanctity of childbirth for every person who moves through that process. We cannot have people dying. Not in 2020, this cannot be a reality. And, and we have to protect this experience, and make it safe so that, you know, everyone who’s going through this process can be thinking about it the way you thought about your birth, the way I thought about my birth, right? We want to make sure to restore this as a, as a positive and transformative life event, and not one where we’re fighting for our lives.

[60:34] Rachel: So powerful, so much injustice there, and I know there are so many mothers who listen to this show who are listening right now just holding their hands to their heart. And a lot of people are not aware of this issue which is, which is mind blowing to me. The statistics are so staggering…

Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: …that how is this not in the news every single day, front page, you know?

Latham: Yeah.

Rachel: What’s more sacred, more important than protecting our mothers and our babies, you know?

Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: It’s the source of everything. So, thank you so much for, for sharing, for, for the work that you do, you change people’s lives every day just doing the work you do, being who you are, it’s a blessing just to follow along from afar. And I, I, for all of our listeners, find Latham, all of her work at Mama Glow, you can follow @glowmaven on Instagram, follow @mamaglow on instagram, and do that research around what is available in my own community, because that’s where most of our work needs to be centered, in our own…

Latham: Mm-hmm.

Rachel: …in our own spaces, because…

Latham: Yes.

Rachel: …that’s where the change can happen.

Latham: Yes.

Rachel: Thank you, thank you, wow, wow. So powerful. Thank you.

Latham: Thank you Rachel. Really, and truly. I appreciate this invitation and, and this time together, I feel charged, I don’t know about you [laughs].

Rachel: Super charged. You know, we have a dust storm here today, it’s very apocalyptic, so before this conversation, I was feeling a little, yeah, a little anxious, and now I feel really charged, I feel, yeah, ready to do some work, really. Thank you. Thanks for coming on the show. And I hope to see you in person soon, it would be lovely to meet you.

Latham: Absolutely. Absolutely, I’m coming hun, this…

Rachel: Come on over!

Latham: People invite me one time, and I’m on my way.

[Both laughing]

[62:15 — End of Episode]