"Menopause is a metamorphosis, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly…One of the most important things you can do during menopause is to take time for you. Go into your cave, go into your cocoon, go into your room and shut the door. " Susun Weed
My hottub got me through perimenopause. Once, twice, even three times a day, daytime or evening, I would ease my way into the warm, comforting water. I’d sit there gazing at the huge coniferous trees and the flowering bushes, feeling the air on my face, and listening to the birds. Something was going on inside me, but I wasn’t sure what. It was as if I was waiting for something to happen.
It was a slow time, a time of being, rather than doing for the most part. I was very discriminating about how I spent my time. There was pleasure in being with close family and friends for short periods, and I felt satisfaction helping the women in the transition house where I worked. What I really yearned for was to be alone. I was turning inward…slowing…pausing. I was waiting, listening, for a voice within. I now realize that I was doing this on both a conscious and unconscious level. I was preparing to be a crone or wise woman.
For years I’ve sensed that this time of midlife turmoil is a call to deal with our unfinished business and to move forward into something new. Christiane Northrup, MD agrees. The physiological ‘circuitry update’ taking place at this time changes us in physical, emotional as well as in spiritual ways. Our very identity can be affected. Intuitive abilities increase. Perceptions and moods are influenced. Many women have powerful, unusual dreams. As a result of all this many of us begin to look within.
We suffer fools less gladly as we enter these years, often having less patience with familiar people and activities. Sometimes I felt like I needed to leave my family and live in a solitary cabin in the woods. But that felt like abandoning my family and I was unable to give myself permission to do it. So I withdrew when I could, taking solitary walks and spending time reading, journalling, watching television and munching on cookies. Perhaps not the ideal solution, but it gave me the time alone that I craved, time to just ‘be’.
I’ve met many women who just soldier on, becoming increasingly exhausted and numbed trying to carry out the myriad duties and obligations that are part of a woman’s job description in our diligent, energetic society. They are seem unable to give themselves permission to make changes. I am saddened by this.
So when we’re speeding along in the fast lane how do we slow down enough to listen to the wistful internal voice? And - a pet peeve of mine, (and apparently Northrup’s)- how do we give ourselves permission to honour this time of change in a society that ignores and devalues what’s taking place in us? Our society tends to view menopause not as a right of passage, but as a hormonal issue. . . a medical concern. And as products of that society, we often ignore the small, nagging voice that tells us there must be more to this experience, often just ‘getting on with it’ and sometimes medicating the flood of angry and confused feelings arising from somewhere deep within.
Some ancient cultures acknowledged women near or past menopause by naming them a crone. A woman who calls herself crone is willing to be identified by her age, wisdom, and power. I had the privilege of working with Judith Duerk, author of A Circle of Stones over a period of several years during my perimenopausal time. In her retreats, Judith creates a safe community where women can descend into a deeper, truer part of themselves. Her books also speak of communities where women in various life stages are supported, nurtured and understood. These are extremely powerful concepts. My annual retreats gave me an opportunity to explore deeper within. They helped me to believe in myself more and they nurtured my dual needs to be both contemplative and in community with like-minded women.
During the time I worked with Judith, I had a very powerful dream, which Judith told me represented my unconscious. In the dream, I descended downward over large boulders until I emerged in a large underground stone cavern. Women sat along the side walls on stone bleachers. At one end was an altar with flowers, beautiful hangings and rugs. There was a pile of soft blankets in various colours. Women could come to the altar, put a blanket around them, be seated and receive solace.
This place was, and continues to be profoundly healing for me. So compelling and forceful was my dream, that as I sit here writing about it now, I am back there. I feel the essence of the cavern, I see the women in their beauty and I envision the scene at the altar. I smell the fecund scent of the cave. My dream self created a very personal, internal women’s community for me. It’s a place I can go whenever I desire. When I am there, I am slow and calm inside. I am centred deep within myself. I am connected with my spirit.
How we nurture our spirit at the perimenopause time is a very personal quest. A few small changes often make an enormous difference. The weekly women’s group I began in my small community, modelled on Judith’s circles, spoke to many of us over time. The group offered us an opportunity to pause and relax. We listened and/or participated in the meditative sound and feel of drumming. Then we spoke in turns, without self monitoring or feedback, about what was true to us in that moment .
We are all capable of discovering our own unique ways to take time out. Some women might prefer the ritual of coffee or tea with close friends. Others may retreat privately for a time. First we must be willing to pause long enough to hear that small, still voice from deep within. It is a wise part that we all have inside us. It takes time, patience and nurturing, but if we choose to do this, we will be rewarded with clear answers, answers that come from our inner wisdom. So breath deeply and begin the process.
“The menopausal pilgrimage is about returning to that place, that sacred land at the core of the soul, called home. " Kristi Meisenbach Boylan
Ellen Besso, M. A. , R. C. C. has spent 25 years helping women deal with life challenges. As a personal coach, she mentors women as they identify what they long for and release the beliefs that hold them back from achieving this life of joy.
You can reach Ellen at: 800 961 1364 or email@example.com or http://www.ellenbesso.com