Wise Woman Menopause & Beyond is for spiritually minded women who want to approach their midlife transition as a rite of passage, a spiritual rite of passage that has the potential to bring healing and empowerment to their lives. It is also for women who have crossed the threshold into the Wise Woman years and wish to continue to explore their feminine energies through mind/body practices and spirituality.
It's because of my own experience with healing during menopause that I wanted to create this website and offer women undergoing their own midlife transformations some insights and tools for the journey.
When I think back, my journey into menopause started out rather smoothly. What I remember most were the night sweats that would get me up out of bed to change my pj’s. To be honest, I enjoyed these early middle-of- the-night bursts of heat. They made me feel special, like I was about to embark on an amazing adventure. Little did I know then how amazing that adventure would turn out to be…amazing and challenging.
As it turns out, for some women the years of perimenopause (the 8 or so years before the menstrual cycles cease) can be a time of profound healing, a time for throwing off some of the emotional baggage we’ve been carrying during our menstruating years so that we might enter the Wise Woman stage feeling lighter and less burdened. If we’re not able to unload this baggage through the ups and downs of our monthly cycles—by working with the challenges of PMS—by the time we hit midlife we’re likely to find our systems overloaded, resulting in all sorts of mind/body upheaval. Hot flashes, cold flashes, sleeplessness, anxiety, episodes of panic, burning mouth, feelings of electricity in the body, intense trembling, whistling sounds, even feelings of outright madness—these are just some of the mind/body challenges a woman can find herself faced with during her midlife transition. Depending on the amount of unprocessed energies being released, for some women this time of midlife transformation has the potential to turn into a true healing crisis or, as described in Transpersonal Psychology, a Spiritual Emergency. I was one of these women.
Fortunately, in my search for healing I was able to find a wonderful mind/body therapist and soon began immersing myself in every mind/body healing practice I could fit into my budget and schedule-- Yoga, Qigong, Contimuum Movement, creative writing, hypnosis, talk therapy, group therapy, Reiki and Tarot. Each of these forms of therapy helped me to release some of the emotional baggage I was carrying and, in time, find my way to a place of wholeness and empowerment (and no more hot flashes). My experience with mind/body healing was so profound that it inspired me to complete the requirements for an MA degree in Transpersonal Studies/Spiritual Mentoring and write a memoir/research project about my midlife healing as my Culminating Project for that degree. Today, I’m nearly 10 years post menopause and feeling pretty darned good at 62 years old!
If you’d like to learn more about my midlife meltdown, please refer to my sister website Menopause In Crisis where you’ll find information about Spiritual Emergency and menopause along with links for purchasing my memoir. You can also check out the rest of this website where you’ll find various articles and radio interviews about menopause, childhood trauma/sexual abuse, and mind/body healing as well as information about the services I offer~~ Tarot and Spirit Card Readings, Reiki, Wise Woman Menopause Sessions, and Guided Meditations. The most important thing to keep in mind about the menopausal journey is that it is a transitional stage, not a permanent one so it WILL pass! Before you know it, you’ll be entering the Wise Woman years feeling ready to plunge into this exciting next stage of life!
Please refer to my article on "Mindfulness In Menopause" below for more information on menopause as a healing journey.
So often when we think about menopause or, more specifically, about perimenopause (those eight or so years before a woman’s periods stop), we think of something that is happening only to our bodies. “It’s my hormones,” we cry when a hot flash or night sweat drenches us for the umpteenth time. And although many of us may feel like we’re losing our minds (you know those moods swings that range from anger to grief to outright terror, all within just a few minutes), we still put all the blame on our hormones, on our bodies—those physical aspects of our being that, for many of us as women, we continue to do battle with throughout our lives. We’re either too fat or too thin. Our breasts are too small or too large. We’re either premenstrual or post menstrual, prenatal or postpartum and, just when we we’ve begun to get the hang of all of that, we suddenly find ourselves perimenopausal! Egads! It’s enough to give even the burliest of men a hot flash. (Can you even imagine?) But I digress…
So what, you may wonder, could perimenopause and all of its hormonal havoc possibly have to do with mindfulness? Can we simply wish the entire experience away with our minds—the hot flashes, the insomnia, the lost libido? Well, not quite, but before we get into all that, let’s first take a look at which parts of the mind we’re talking about and what role each part plays when using mindfulness as a way of dealing with perimenopausal challenges. (It is because menopause is a natural life transition and not a disease that I prefer to call the “symptoms” of perimenopause challenges, keeping in mind that the word “challenge” is often defined as a test or a call to special effort.)
The first part of the mind to be considered when talking about a “mindful menopause” is the conscious mind. That’s the part of our mind we’re most in touch with for the busy-ness of our lives. It’s that part of our mind where we think things out, make logical decisions (if only!) and plan the details of our days, details like what we’re going to wear, where we’re going to shop, and what we’re going to cook for dinner. For the deeper aspects of ourselves, things like our habits, our dreams, our likes and dislikes and yes, even our perimenopausal challenges, we’re dealing with the subconscious. That’s the part of our minds where our emotions come from, not only our joy and elation but our anger, our grief, and our fear. (I can see a connection between the subconscious and perimenopause already, can't you?) The subconscious is also that part of the mind where our autonomic bodily processes are controlled, processes such as our internal climate control (remember that hot flash), our pulse rate, blood pressure (both of which may be elevated in perimenopause), and let’s not forget our blessed ability to fall asleep and stay asleep—that too is something that happens only in the subconscious. (Ever try to consciously make yourself fall asleep? Wouldn’t that be divine?) So, considering the many ways in which the subconscious is in control of the deeper aspects of our minds and bodies, it is easy to see that there is indeed an intricate link between the subconscious and the challenges of perimenopause.
But, what exactly is it within the subconscious that, for some women, can cause such emotional and physical havoc at midlife? Keeping in mind that it is from within the subconscious that our emotions arise, it is important to also keep in mind that it is within the subconscious that, if not appropriately processed and released, our emotions and their related memories will be stored. The junior high breakup you never really cried over, the missed prom, the infuriating boss you could never let loose and swear at—all of the emotions from these events are stored as energy within the subconscious, energy that once perimenopause rolls around, begs to be released. For some women, this stored energy can become even more disruptive during perimenopause when events such as an unreported rape, unrevealed childhood sexual or physical abuse, or an abusive partner remain hidden within the psyche. When this is the case, for some women, the resurfacing of energies during perimenopause may be so intense as to result in a true crisis, one with physical and emotional challenges that may be too difficult for a woman to manage alone. At times like this, it is best to speak to a gynecologist who may offer suggestions regarding, psychotherapy, transitional counseling, and/or other menopausal guidance.
Whatever the magnitude of the life events, any emotions which have not been processed and released will be stored as energy within the body through the subconscious. For most women, we’ve been able to keep these stored energies at bay for years, even for decades, our wonderfully bountiful supplies of estrogen and progesterone calling us to do precisely that—steering us toward raising our families and building our careers, activities driven more by what external forces require of us. Certainly, there isn’t anything wrong with this time of outward focus. It’s all just part of the amazing cycles that are so uniquely feminine. Some of us may even have had glimpses of our deeper stored energies earlier in our lives when we would experience physical and emotional challenges quite similar to perimenopause during our menstrual cycles in the form of PMS. Knowing these challenges would pass once our menses arrived, however, we knew we could ride out the sadness, the anger, the fear, the sleeplessness. Once our stores of both estrogen and progesterone begin to dwindle on a more permanent basis during perimenopause, these emotions and energies that we’ve been able to keep neatly tucked away in our minds and bodies are no longer willing to be denied. All of a sudden, we find ourselves overwhelmed with mind/body challenges so severe we have no choice but to turn our attention inward and begin to heal.
It is important to keep in mind that the stored energies of perimenopause can manifest in any number of ways, not only as the traditional hot flash or crying jag but in a whole host of other physical and emotional conditions as well. In her book, The Wisdom of Menopause, Dr. Christiane Northrup advises readers that “We attract precisely the illness or problem that best facilitates our access to our inner wisdom…[and] though this is true throughout our lives, it hits us harder and more directly during perimenopause and menopause…The wisdom of this system is very precise”. In other words, each perimenopausal woman will be faced with whatever challenge has the most potential to draw her attention inward to her own needs. Whether it’s severe hot flashes, a fibroid tumor, or a complete breakdown (or is it a break through?), at perimenopause, a woman who is not living her truth or who is not living to her highest potential will manifest a condition that will demand that she begin to “mother” herself and tend to her own long-awaited healing and growth. In her book, The Seven Sacred Rites of Menopause, Kristi Boylon talks about the need to “throw away the baggage” of our lives while in The Wisdom of Menopause Dr. Christiane Northrup talks about “coming home to ourselves”. Whatever the words you chose to describe it, perimenopause can be a time of profound healing for the many women who are challenged to do so and one of the best ways to begin that healing is with an intention of mindfulness.
So, what exactly is “mindfulness" and how can it help with a hot flash? The dictionary defines the word mindfulness as awareness or presence--simply being in the moment. Offering a more in-depth definition, in his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks of mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non- judgmentally”. What this means is simply having the tools and taking the time to look inside to see what’s there and, expanding on Dr. Zinn’s definition, using that information to help us heal and grow. During perimenopause, this is the most crucial element in a practice of mindfulness—that a woman use it as a way of accessing her inner wisdom to help heal the wounds of her past and light the way to her future. What this asks of the perimenopausal woman is that she not make any judgments about her challenges, that she not view them as “bad” or something she needs to immediately put an end to, but instead to simply be with them, to allow whatever energy is rising to do so and to then “ride each wave all the way to the shore”—in other words, to allow the energy of perimenopause to help guide her in her healing. While this may not always be easy, the rewards of such an attending to the inner self are tremendous, allowing a woman to get to know and appreciate herself in ways she may never have before and in ways that might just help her to live a more authentic and fulfilling life.
Getting back to the different parts of the mind and their respective roles in creating a “mindful menopause”… it is within the conscious mind that a woman must make the decision to work with her challenges instead of against them. It is where she decides to accept her challenges as “wake up calls” which are inviting her to heal. The work that the perimenopausal woman must do within her subconscious lies within the challenges themselves—in acknowledging their energies and emotions and whatever it is that each challenge is trying to communicate in the moment, whether it’s dissatisfaction with one’s current job or a long forgotten episode of abuse. Once the issue has been acknowledged and its related emotions have been deeply experienced, the long- stored disruptive energy can finally be released, leaving space in a woman’s mind and body for the healing and growth that will lead the way to her second half of life.
Now, you may be wondering, does creating a “mindful menopause” mean I don’t have to worry about diet and exercise? Not by a long shot. One of the first things perimenopause will demand of a woman is that she begin to love and nurture herself in this very fundamental way— by offering her body and mind the very best foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Some of you may also be wondering, does it mean I can’t use hormones or appropriately prescribed medication? Here again, the answer is, of course not. If a woman is beginning to experience midlife challenges that are becoming overwhelming for her, she should always speak to a doctor, preferably one who has an understanding of menopause as a natural life process and a healing journey. It is in this way that she will be able to gather all the information she needs to make those choices that will be truly in her best interest. Some women may even find that using a combination of traditional and complementary tools may be the best way to manage the challenges of perimenopause. Just because a woman opens the door to one healing modality does not mean she must close the door to all others.
Whatever route a woman in perimenopause may choose to take, make no mistake that she is standing at a crossroads where the paths of past, present, and future are converging and inviting her to heal and grow. Whether her transition is as smooth as silk or as rocky as a jagged cliff, her life is changing in a very real and tangible way and she should take every opportunity to make the best of this time as it is through this process of midlife upheaval and change that each woman has the potential to transform her every essence—body, mind, and spirit—into the Wise Woman she is already well on her way to becoming.
Resources: The Wisdom of Menopause, Dr. Christiane Northrup The Seven Sacred Rites of Menopause, Kristi Boylon Wherever You Go, There You Are, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn
*Please keep in mind that the services and information I provide are not to be used as a substitute for medical or psychological assessments and treatments offered by a licensed professional. They are to be used only as a form of "self-care" and as an adjunct to professional treatment.