Monday, December 1, 2008

Estrogen dominance and environment

the following is an excerpt from an article written by doctors at the Women to Women web site (link below).

"Of all women experiencing symptoms of estrogen dominance, some with low levels of progesterone may do very well with progesterone supplementation, whereas others with normal progesterone levels may be better off focusing on changes that can normalize their estrogen or testosterone levels. How do you know where you fit in? The only way to really tell is to have your hormone levels checked and take action from there.

It is true that estrogen is often too high relative to progesterone. Most of us who have had PMS are familiar with this temporary form of excess estrogen. You can see by the chart above how progesterone levels gradually fall during the course of a regular menstrual cycle. In some women this drop may be more precipitous and cause symptoms of PMS.

During pre-menopause it’s common for estrogen levels to decrease slowly while progesterone levels plummet — a natural result of fewer ovulations, fewer burst follicles and less progesterone. This can cause many of our worst symptoms. (See our articles on menstrual cycles to learn more.)

Calling this state “estrogen dominance” is catchy but misleading. It implies there is one problem, which isn’t true; and not all women experience the condition anyway. And it implies there is one solution, which also isn’t true. Most of the tens of thousands of women we have treated for pre-menopause symptoms have suffered not from simple estrogen dominance but from a more fundamental disruption of the body’s ability to maintain hormonal balance. There are usually multiple causes, including stress, emotional factors, and the estrogen-like chemicals in our environment called xenoestrogens.

The truth is, healthy hormonal balance is complicated. It isn’t just a matter of not enough progesterone.

There’s no simple test for estrogen dominance. But if you have severe symptoms of PMS, pre-menopause or menopause that don’t respond to a program of increased support for your body within a month or two, you may have persistently higher than normal levels of estrogen. Let’s talk about why it’s important to pay attention to these symptoms.

What are the health consequences of estrogen dominance?

Another of Dr. Lee’s contributions was to raise women’s awareness of the profound connections between hormonal imbalance and health.

When estrogen levels are high in relation to our progesterone we experience many severe symptoms, among them anxiety, breast tenderness, cyclical headaches or migraines, irregular bleeding, water retention, weight gain and more. (Note that a number of these symptoms are also indicative of the exact opposite condition — a deficiency of estrogen — another example of why the concept of estrogen dominance is too simplistic.)

If estrogen levels stay unopposed, women may develop infertility, endometriosis, amenorrhea (skipped periods), hypermenorrhea (heavy bleeding), fibroids, uterine cancer, heart disease and stroke, and decreased cognitive ability, among other conditions.

And while we share many of the precepts set forth by Dr. Lee, we are less inclined to think of estrogen, even high levels of estrogen, as universally harmful. We believe every woman is unique, and what may cause harm in one may be fine for another. There have been studies and speculation for example about the connection between high levels of estrogen and breast cancer.

Estrogen has many wonderful qualities. It creates our fertility, protects our health in myriad ways, and serves as a powerful anti-inflammatory. But we are very concerned about environmental estrogens. They’re another story entirely.

Awash in a sea of xenoestrogens
For the most part, our bodies are amazingly resilient. We are hard-wired to resist threats to our equilibrium. What our bodies are not designed for is exposure to the many endocrine disruptors in our environment, among them the family of chemicals known as xenoestrogens.

Many of these xenoestrogens are proven carcinogens. They are also well known for their ability to damage the immune system and interrupt hormonal balance. Our cells can’t always distinguish fully between our own estrogen and xenoestrogens. Every cell has estrogen receptors that recognize and open to the shape of an estrogen molecular chain, regardless of where it comes from.

Pesticides are perhaps the biggest source of xenoestrogens. Most bioaccumulate, meaning they are stored in fat cells of fish, poultry and other food sources in increasing concentration until they reach the top of the food chain — where you and I consume them! They are highly estrogenic, and some experts estimate that the average American ingests over a pound of pesticides a year.

A second major source of xenoestrogens is the many growth hormones given to livestock and poultry, most of which contain fat-soluble estrogens. When we consume those animals or their milk, we ingest that estrogen. Organochlorides like dioxin (a by-product of chlorine when it is burned or processed), PCB’s, PVC’s, and some plasticizers are just a few of the many manmade chemicals that act like estrogen in our bodies. Many others have the effect of interrupting our normal endocrine function, hence the term “endocrine disruptors.”

Mainstream medicine is finally paying attention because xenoestrogens not only affect the cells of women, but those of men and children. Sperm counts have dropped by 50% in some studies, a significant factor in the epidemic of infertility. The age at which girls develop secondary sex characteristics (breasts and pubic hair) is also dropping. It is not exactly clear what role endocrine disruptors as a whole have in the steady rise of chronic diseases in children (at earlier ages!), but studies are underway to evaluate this.

taken from www.womentowomen.com artile on Estrogen Dominance

Monday, November 10, 2008

November by the lake and archives

I have been too busy with our recent move to write much on this blog, but I notice people are reaching archived articles and finding out what they need to hear.

That's the beauty of the blog - you can go on the titles or labels, and find an article that speaks to where you are, the questions you have right now.

I love hearing back from readers, like the one who posted a comment on an article about intuition and the menstrual cycle, from october 2007:

This is amazing. I was noticing during the past year or so, that my intuition was speaking louder to me and more clear at certain times in the month. It was like things became clearer to me during these times of the month. I did attribute it to my cycle but thought it was just my hormones making me believe things that maybe were not true. I was doubting my intuition. But now I am realizing that it was due to my cycle that I was able to get this clearer picture through my intuition about things that were happening in my life and that I was not just emotional due to my cycle. This is fascinating stuff. Thanks.

So I'm very glad that women find this informatio useful, and once I get my books back on their new shelves, and create a little more order out of the chaos of living in a house that is not quite finished being built, I'll post some new information for you.

keep in touch, and visit http://www.questinggirl.blogspot.com/ for musemother's brand of wisdom.

best
jenn

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ayurveda and Menopause

here is an article I found on the web that explains a natural approach to menopause.

I have copied the first half here, and you can click on the link below to read the rest. I have recently seen an Ayurvedic consultant and found it makes perfect sense, and doesn't involve hundreds of dollars of supplements. Knowing your own body type and eating correctly can make the difference. Read on....

"For over 5000 years, Ayurveda has acknowledged menopause as a natural transition, not a mistake of Mother Nature's that requires hormone replacement therapy. Maharishi Ayurveda reassures us that menopause can be health-promoting, spiritually-transforming and free of troublesome symptoms.

Experts today are affirming this positive view of menopause, stating that it is not natural to get weak bones, heart disease and rapid aging after menopause. Rather, osteoporosis, heart disease and other chronic health problems develop over a lifetime, resulting largely from poor diet, stress and lack of physical exercise. And hormone replacement therapy (HRT,) once heavily promoted as the medical solution to these problems, is no longer recommended for their treatment or prevention.

What is recommended for the prevention of major health problems after menopause is a healthy lifestyle. And, according to Ayurveda, healthy living is also the best way to ease symptoms of the menopause transition itself. How balanced, or overall healthy you and your lifestyle are when you reach menopause largely determines how smooth your transition will be. If you are "burning the candle at both ends" in your 30's and early 40's, you are more likely to have mood swings, sleep problems and troublesome hot flashes when your hormones start to change. Whereas if you are have healthy lifestyle habits and are managing your stress effectively, you are likely to breeze through menopause without any major problems.

Health problems at menopause represent imbalances in the body that were already growing in the body and are unmasked by the stress of shifting hormones. Menopause symptoms are Nature's wake-up call to let you know you need to start paying more attention to your health.

Age forty-five to fifty-five is a critical decade, according to Ayurveda. It provides the foundation on which your later health is laid. Just like putting money in your IRA, timely investing in your health can dramatically increase your "yield" of healthy years at midlife and beyond. Particularly if you have not been taking care of yourself in your 30's and 40's, making lifestyle changes now is critical to ensuring that you age gracefully without the burden of chronic health problems.


What You Can Do Now to Get "In Balance"

While eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise provides the foundation of good health for everyone, each woman's menopause experience is unique. Symptoms vary from woman to woman. Knowing precisely how your body is out of balance can guide you in selecting the key lifestyle changes you should make to relieve your symptoms.

Ayurveda describes that the type of symptoms you have depends upon which bodily principle or dosha is "out of balance" in your mind/body system. There are three bodily principles: movement and flow (vata or airy), heat and metabolism (pitta or firey), and bodily substance (kapha or earthy.)

And there are three basic types of imbalances relating to each of the three doshas. Easing your menopause transition can be as simple as "reading" your dosha symptoms and taking measures to get your doshas back in balance. The following symptoms and lifestyle prescriptions are indicated for each of the three dosha imbalances:

Ayurveda describes that your hormonal changes at menopause will be smooth and easy if three factors are in place.

Your mind/body system (consisting of three doshas) is in "balance."
Your diet is wholesome and rich in phytoestrogens.
Your body is "clean" and uncluttered inside so your hormones and body can "talk" effectively.

Did you know that your ovaries and adrenal glands continue to produce estrogens and "pre-estrogens" after menopause, providing your body with its own hormonal backup system? Ayurveda describes that this hormonal production after menopause will be optimal if your mind and body are "in balance," providing just the right amount of estrogen to prevent hot flashes and keep your bones, skin, brain, colon and arteries healthy without increasing the risk of breast or uterine cancer. Balancing your doshas, as discussed above, is the first approach to ensuring optimal hormone production after menopause, but Ayurvedic herbs can also help.

Indian asparagus root (shatavari; asparagus racemosus), thick-leaved lavender (chorak; angelica glauca- related to the Chinese female tonic Dong Quai,) licorice root, sandalwood, pearl, red coral, rose and others are used by skilled practitioners in balanced, synergistic combinations to help relieve hot flashes, libido problems, irritability, mood swings and other menopausal symptoms.

Hormonal Help from Plants--It's Not Just Soy!

Diet also plays a key role in balancing hormones during and after menopause. It is well known that Japanese women rarely experience hot flashes, probably because their diet contains large amounts of soy, a food rich in certain plant estrogens called "isoflavones." Soy products are not the only source of plant estrogens, however. Another equally healthful source of phytoestrogens are "lignans," compounds found in a variety of whole foods including grains and cereals, dried beans and lentils, flaxseed, sunflower seeds and peanuts, vegetables such as asparagus, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic and broccoli and fruits such as pears, plums and strawberries.

Common herbs and spices such as thyme oregano, nutmeg, turmeric and licorice also have estrogenic properties. It turns out that if you simply eat a varied diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dried beans you will be ingesting a rich phytoestrogen feast in your daily cuisine! Variety and moderation are important because just as too much estrogen is unhealthy after menopause, too much phytoestrogen may also be dangerous. This danger can be avoided by getting your phytoestrogens naturally from a variety of whole foods, rather than from supplements or concentrated tablets.

More serious symptoms, such as frequent hot flashes, continual sleep disturbance, and moderate to severe mood swings, are signs of deeper imbalances that, if left untreated, will persist to set the stage for later disease. For these more troublesome symptoms to manifest, the tissues of your body├▒your bones, muscles, fat, organs, skin, and blood├▒must be disturbed in some way. Ayurveda describes that stubborn symptoms are usually due to the buildup of wastes and toxins, referred to as "ama," in your body's tissues.

For example, hot flashes that won't go away despite herbs, diet, exercise, and perhaps even HRT usually represent a problem with ama. One of my Ayurvedic mentors explained it this way: When your body's channels are clogged with wastes, the heat from metabolism builds up in your tissues. Hot flashes result from sudden surges in blood flow as the body tries to clear the channels and dissipate the heat buildup quickly.

A similar phenomenon occurs when you have a heater set on high in an overheated room with all the windows and doors closed. To cool down the room, first you must turn down the heater (see Tips for P-Type above) but you also need to throw open the windows and doors (as in removing the ama) so the heat can flow out.

read more here: http://www.mapi.com/en/self_care/menopause.html

and at my favourite source of medical information on menopause:

http://www.womentowomen.com/menopause/ayurvedictreatmentformenopause.aspx

here's wishing you good health,
musemother

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wise women — repositors of information and wisdom

Have you considered the positive aspects of menopause? There is a strong cultural bias in the West towards 'ageism' or fear of aging. But in other cultures, as women hit menopause they are revered and looked up to:


Across indigenous cultures, from the Maori in New Zealand to the Iroquois Indians, post-menopausal women are community leaders with considerable power and status. To these people, menopause itself is the transition between being a member of the community at large to becoming a spiritual elder.

A common belief among traditional shamanic cultures — for example, Mayan women and the Cree women of Canada — is that women must enter menopause to access their shamanic and healing powers. Menstrual blood has the power to create life in the womb, so when women reach the age of retaining their “wise blood,” they cross the threshold into “wise womanhood” by keeping their wise blood within. At this point they become priestesses and healers — the spiritual leaders of their communities.

Wise women have earned this leadership role because women have greater “reproductive” success if, in middle age, we cease production of new children and focus on investing in our children’s children. This in turn impacts the population and success of the entire community.

information found on www.womentowomen.com web site

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Pill Are you Sure it's for You?

My friend Alexandra Pope has come out with a new book on the Pill and its affect on women's health, the menstrual cycle.

Here's the blurb and a description of the book. It's available in Australia for now, North American publication up-coming. You can find it on-line also.

The Pill: are you sure it's for you?
Jane Bennett and Alexandra Pope
(Allen and Unwin)
now on sale in Australia and also available from
http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=94&book=9781741750799

Written in a gentle, engaging style and full of real women's stories, our aim is to give women true informed choice about chemical contraception including the Pill, implants, injections, patches, vaginal rings and IUDs.

In The Pill we explore:
1. side effects such as depression and mood disorders, loss of libido, headaches and migraine, weight gain, increased risk of breast cancer and brittle bones
2. alternatives to chemical contraception that don't harm your health or fertility
3. natural ways to heal menstrual problems rather than masking these with the Pill
4. the fallout of the Pill in relationships (and the health of future children) and conversely how the menstrual cycle can be an ally to deepen your connection and sexual intimacy
5. the radical idea that having a menstrual cycle is really cool and can even be empowering, and, once experienced in this way is something you wouldn?t dream of eliminating with synthetic hormones.

7 great reasons to buy The Pill: are you sure it's for you?
1. You're a fertile woman needing reliable contraception that doesn?t compromise your health and sexuality.
2. You're a man who wants to share in the responsibility of contraception.
3. You're suffering from menstrual and /or skin problems and want to know how to heal them naturally
4. You're a parent of a teenage daughter wanting to support her in her contraceptive needs as she moves toward a sexual relationship and want to fully understand the health implications (many side-effects are of particular concern for teenagers)
5. You're a health practitioner and want comprehensive information on contraception and to learn more about womens? health.
6. You're a counsellor/psychotherapist/psychologist and need to understand the impact of the Pill on womens' psychological wellbeing
7. You want to learn about period power, how to leverage it for success and how the female body is designed for ecstasy.
Some articles and related newstories:

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24176816-401,00.html
If your love seems doomed, blame the Pill

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24193724-421,00.html?from=public_rss
Acne-plagued girl Tanya Hayes 'killed by the Pill'

musemother

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rhythm of Life

Rhythm, cycle, flow, moon phases: we women cannot escape the fact that our lives are run by energies and cycles flowing through us of which we are mostly unaware.

It's taken me almost forty years to understand my cycle, and now I don't have one. Or do I?

I think that even menopausal women are affected by their monthly energies, and even daily energy changing, shifting. Nothing stays up, or down, for long.

A recent article about the connection between bright city lights and breast cancer pointed to a little known fact: that our pineal glands, deep in the middle of our brains (and called the Third Eye by some eastern cultures) secrete melatonin:

"Both human and animal circadian rhythms are driven by the day/night cycle and are synchronized with natural geomagnetic electromagnetic fields. The major control gland over this natural cycle is the pineal gland which secretes the neurohormone melatonin. During the day, light falling on the eye's retina produces signals which are biochemically amplified to stimulate the pineal gland to reduce its melatonin output. At night the absence of light with sleep stimulates the pineal gland to produce melatonin."

Apparently even a light as dim as a nightlight in your bathroom can shut down melatonin production, and some researchers are looking for a connection between this lack and the rise in breast cancers in urban areas.

Just one little cycle that is disturbed by our modern lifestyle. Think of all the other ways we are not in touch with our women's bodies and their monthly flow. Look at the moon tonight, for instance, and see where it is (we just had a full moon on the weekend, so after the waning of the moon is done, we'll have a new moon again).

Our cycles wax and wane just like the moon. If we are quiet and give ourselves time to reflect on our emotional and physical state just before our periods, we may notice that there is a pull to withdraw, to have more alone time. If we give ourselves what our inner self needs, who knows, maybe the symptoms of PMS would ease up a bit....

just one more way we can attune ourselves to the natural rhythms, cycles, phases, flow....

jenn

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sex and menopause

Normally, I don't discuss my private sex life on this blog, nor do I often push products, but this one is an important 'ally' in my bedroom. Without it, we simply do not have sex, at least not in the way we are used to.

What is the miracle product that has saved our sex life? Sexy Ganja, a personal lubricant, as it says on the package, made from hemp oil.

I have tried the petroleum jelly kinds - the KY and the Astro Glide, and they all left me feeling too sensitive, a little burning sensation. I hadn't even considered looking in the health food store for such a thing, and was pretty much giving up on having sex, period, due to dryness and irritation.

This is a free promo for this natural product, and I'm not even being paid to promote it!

Ladies, menopause is a time of major changes. Some of us breeze through apparently, but every single one of my friends in their late 40's and early 50's has shared some or all of the same symptoms as me. I put up with hot flashes (found a herbal remedy made with red clover), insomnia, (eventually went away), nerves & mood swings (motherwort tincture) and general brain fuzziness (haven't mastered that one yet), but this one put a serious dent in my love life, with ramifications for our relationship greater than all the others combined.

I have tried other long term solutions, drinking herbal teas (oatstraw for libido), and herbal supplements (for adrenal fatigue) with varying success (I mostly don't take them consistently enough). But this jelly does the trick. And it's quick.

So without going into further detail, let me just say that according to my doctor (and Dr. Christiane Northrup on Oprah last week), the only thing we can do is "use it or lose it". There are multiple ways of thinking and being orgasmic, and even a few chi-gong exercises you can do to direct loving energy from your 'high' heart to your 'low heart', as demonstratsed by Dr Northrup on national tv. But if you just want a quick fix, try some sexy ganja.

(Smoking the stuff may do the same thing, but I haven't tried that lately.)

Enjoy your sex life, think sexy thoughts, be your own best pleasuring buddy, and bottom line, don't give up! You are still a sexy red-hot mama!!

nameste,
jenn

Saturday, July 19, 2008

10 SIGNS YOU ARE IN OVER 50 TRANSITION

10 signs that you are in your over 50 transition

1. You can’t shake the idea that you’ve just passed a milestone birthday.
2. Your present career plan has reached a plateau and you are questioning the value of your work.
3. You are excessively irritated by new rules and regulations at work, and find such things as commuting in traffic intolerable.
4. Things that previously motivated you at work (having power or being competitive) no longer seem so important to you.
5. You want to read a book for pleasure and not think of it as an action project.
6. You focus on things you aren’t doing in life, and long for a better work/life balance.
7. You want to spend your time doing something that has meaning and purpose.
8. You feel an urgent need to explore your creative side, reconnect with long-lost friends and family, and focus on having a healthy lifestyle.
9. You want to overcome self-limiting foibles and finally discard the demons that have held you back.
10. You no longer want to postpone acting upon your dreams.

Adapted from Smart Women Don’t Retire - They Break Free: From Working Full-Time to Living Full-Time by THE TRANSITION NETWORK and Gail Rentsch.

found at http://www.notjustthekitchen.com/health-beauty/10-signs-that-you-are-in-your-over-50-transition/

Monday, June 30, 2008

Brain fog and Menopause from Anita

Anita at Cool Jams Blog has offered to trade posts and link to my ms menopause site, so I am posting one of her helpful blogs here for you:

Brain Fog and Menopause
This week I went to my doctor and the official word was that based on my blood tests I’m in the thick of menopause. Some of the main symptoms that I’ve experienced over the past year are night sweats, headaches and brain fog. I’ve spoken to many women who agree that as we age, the memory just doesn’t work the same.

According to my doctor, this so called “brain fog” is fairly common among menopausal women.The trigger to this fuzzy brain issue seems to be the decreased estrogen levels during menopause. As our ovaries slow down on estrogen production, our internal thermostats keep trying to readjust. This is actually a confusing time for the body, so no wonder we end of with “brain fog”, night sweats, headaches, hot flashes and a host of other menopausal symptoms.

Some researchers are saying that the “brain fog” is actually a sub symptom of night sweats and other menopausal sleep issues. Simply put…if you don’t sleep well, your brain doesn’t function well, thus the “brain fog”. The good news is that you can do some things about the sleep issues.

There are lots of natural remedies available to help combat menopausal symptoms. I’ve had success with yoga, exercise and wicking pajamas to help with night sweats. Additionally, to help with the "brain fog", I encourage women to learn new things to help stimulate their brains.

Studies have shown that as baby boomers age, they can keep their minds sharp by exercising their brains, just like they exercise their bodies. Why not try learning a new language, learning to play an instrument or taking up bridge or crossword puzzles.

Not only will you be able to enjoy a new skill, but you’ll keep your brain sharp and fit.
Posted by Anita M. at http://coolnewsforwomen.blogspot.com/

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sacred Journey of peri-menopause

"When a woman stops doing she must learn how to simply be. Being is not a luxury; it is a discipline. The heroine must listen carefully to her true inner voice. That means silencing the other voices anxious to tell her what to do." The Heroine's Journey

When we decide to live differently, to listen to the voice within instead of the pressures without, when we decide to live authentically and be true to ourselves, there is bound to be friction, conflict, a feeling of being left behind. We fear letting other people down by not volunteering for every new project that comes our way, as if our commitment to Self was selfish. We feel lost, unsure, on a quest.

But the price we pay for not listening in, is too high , and often involves physical injury or chronic pain. In my case, it was a neck stiffness and shoulder ache that refused to leave in spite of osteopathy and physiotherapy treatments. Only when I made a difficult decision to stop 'doing too much' and let go of a major volunteer commitment did the neck pain ease up. I decided the major house renovation project (one year long) was taking up 50% of my time and energy and deserved my full attention (aside from writing, singing commitments, women's circle, household and teen management tasks).

A friend of mine was on a leave from work for burn-out, and was considering a career change during her time-off. At the end of the leave, she had a few ideas of what to do next, but nothing firm, and decided she still needed the income from her marketing position so she returned to work part-time. Not only was her employer not giving her key assignments, but her joie-de-vivre and pleasure in her former position was gone. A short while afterwards, she had a car accident on her hour-long drive to work and broke her collarbone. This put her back on sick-leave and allowed her to pursue her other options. She ended up taking a correspondance course in herbology, and is now finishing up. She seems much happier now that she's doing what she loves.

In the period it takes for us to 'transition', to discover where our joy is and what will truly allow us fulfillment in work or artistic endeavours, we may feel like we have lost our way. It may feel like the paths are criss-crossing in labyrinthine form, and often, our journey involves a descent or dark night of the soul where we question everything we are doing. It may feel like depression, or at the least, a time to be isolated, alone, leaving the upper world of external values to find our own ground, our own intuition, our own feminine values.

We need to remember the importance of this journey, this task, to find the lost pieces of our selves, to find our way to a place of knowing within.

Allow yourself the time you need to figure it out, to feel your way through, and pay attention to your inner urgings - it may not seem rational or logical, but you will save yourself some pain and suffering if you listen well.

nameste,
musemother

Monday, June 16, 2008

Poems for Menopause

Leisure
by W.H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
and stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Otherwise
Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
mik, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

both poems taken from
Good Poems by Garrison Keillor

best
jenn

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Menopause and Power

"There is an enormous elemental force at work in women's bodies that is both intensely intimate and universal - ecstatic, creative, restorative and full of love. We experience this force at menstruation (and also during pregnancy and giving birth).

The post-menopausal woman, who has understood and lived the journey of the cycle, fully inhabits this power." A Woman's Quest, Alexandra Pope

Monday, June 9, 2008

Connection to the feminine

Some books speak to me more than others. Marianne Williamson's The Age of Miracles, Embracing the new Mid-life, for instance, was a total dud in my opinion. Two of my women circle friends agreed. No meat in it, nothing new to mull over, no real useful information or inspiration.

Other books reach out and grab me on a visceral level: The Heroine's Journey by Maureen Murdock (http://www.photowords.com/murdock/) is one such book. She describes the urgent yearning women have to reconnect with our own wisdom, with our bodies and souls, not just our minds. The desire to find our own power, to cherish our female bodies and embody the 'feminine' through 'conscious nutrition, exercise, bathing, resting, healing, lovemaking, birthing and dying."

There's a clue there to what the connection to the feminine is, and I feel some part of it resides in the female body, and our care of it:

"The female vulva was once an emblem of beauty and holiness and transcendence. All humans come into the world through the gateway of our body."

Compare that to the discomfort a lot of women feel with their bodies, if not outright self-hatred. All our bodily changes at puberty, pregnancy and menopause leave us feeling out of control. We celebrate it, yet are embarrassed by the exuberance and abundance evident in our female bodies.

What if we blessed our body parts instead of cursing them? Why do we have such a love-hate relationship with our breasts/thighs/hips/bums/arms/legs/feet?

What is the connection to the feminine and how do we regain it?

Some women seek it in ancient goddess mythology: " Because female history has been so shattered, women are reaching back to prehistory to find elements of the woman's mythology that existed before the Greek division of power into mulitiple gods." The Heroine's Journey.

Some of those images can be found across many cultures: the Virgin, the Mother, the Crone, the spider, snake and bird. The grail, cave, mountain, water, ocean, vessel. Images of the feminine have been used to evoke much more than sexual attraction and fertility: as creator (Tiamat), destroyer (Kali), as giver of compassion and mercy (Kwan Yin).

But it's not all in the ancient past. Our modern mythic women are embodying the feminine as they build networks, join women's circles, create healthy communities to live in, work to protect the weak, the young, and the elderly. The Tend and Befriend impulse in times of stress is an aspect of the feminine. The environmentalists seeking to protect green spaces and preserve forests and streams and wildlife are connecting to the feminine.

Wherever there is moistness, new green life, flowing rivers, cascading waterfalls, in the creative impulse that springs forth on its own. In the desire for peace.

Nourishing, feeding, caring for babies, building hospices for the dying, acting as agents of change and transformation, architects of the compassionate cities of the future, engineers of safe, non-pollutant forms of transportation, conscious bio-dynamic farmers, astronomers studying the stars, computer programmers unveiling the web of connection between human beings all around the planet......

What is the feminine for you?

nameste,
jenn

Monday, June 2, 2008

More than just hot flashes

I met some women from a book club I used to belong to over the weekend and mentioned a few of the things I'd noticed during peri-menopause. We all had a good laugh when we realized these were all things we'd experienced, and not had a clue were part of menopause.

The symptoms were subtle, and I was not sure they were connected until I read more about it.

My anxiety levels seemed increasingly volatile, sometimes triggered by relatively minor events. Once I was in the shower and felt my thoughts spirally out of control, but was able to calm myself down. I wondered if that was what a panic attack felt like - heart racing, breathing quickly.

Other symptoms include heart palpitations while lying down, not after any strenous exercise, joint pain, hair loss, dry skin, fuzzy thinking, vaginal dryness and urinary issues, feeling overwhelmed, digestive issues, these are all listed as symptoms on the http://www.womentowomen.com/ web site, an excellent source of medical information from doctors who work in the clinic in Maine started by Dr. Christiane Northrup.

So if you're feeling something is out of whack, it may or may not be connected to your peri-menopausal journey. Check it out at the website above; chances are your doctor doesn't know yet that symptoms of menopause can last 7-10 years before you stop having your period, which for some of us means in our early forties we are already having symptoms.

You are not going crazy, it's temporary and there are several good herbal sources that help immensely. Susun Weed's book New Menopausal Years the Wise Women Way is an increasingly valuable source of information for me. Nettle tea, for calcium absorption and nerves, motherwort tonic for heart and nerves, Oatstraw for lack of libido and dryness, there's a ton of remedies and good advice in this book. Most of which begins with the number one thing you should do when confronted with a symptom: rest, and see if that is all you need.

have a great day,
musemother/jenn

Friday, May 23, 2008

Emotional Turbulence and Menopause

More than the night sweats and hot flashes, what really changed for me at menopause is my emotional landscape.

I'm not sure what the cause is, but I am becoming hyper-sensitive. I cry easily at movies, can't stand to watch car crashes or violence on screen, flinch or jump at loud noises, and am generally more anxious than I remember being, especially while driving.

I would never have related this to hormone imbalance or menopause, if I hadn't read the following on the http://www.womentowomen.com website.

Here's an excerpt from what I found there:

"Let’s start by looking at the root cause of anxiety — the destructive effect of stress on hormone balance.

It now seems the norm for women to be “maxed out” in all directions. Most of us work, and the workplace has gotten more demanding. Most of us raise children and help care for aging parents. We often have relationship issues that create stress too. And we are conditioned to put ourselves in last place on the list of priorities.

The type of stress is just as important as the amount. So much of the stress we experience is constant — it never goes away. The human body simply isn’t designed for constant stress. When that occurs, our ability to cope with stress can be overwhelmed. If you inventory the stress in your life you may realize that much of it is unremitting. This can give rise to a serious condition known as adrenal fatigue. It is also a cause of chronic anxiety that is often diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.

The estrogen dominance common to perimenopause probably adds to this “anxiety response.” In a normal menstrual cycle, estrogen dominates at the beginning of the cycle, and progesterone rises in the second half. The progesterone has a calming, relaxing effect. But in perimenopause we have more cycles in which we don’t ovulate, so the progesterone level stays low. (Also see our article on irregular periods.) For some women, anxiety attacks are their major symptom of perimenopause."

Add to all this the bad habits we have of jumpstarting our bodies with caffeine and eating poorly when stressed, and you have the recipe for higher levels of anxiety.

I know many women in the same boat, with aging parents and teen-agers, full-time or part-time jobs, or sick family members that need care-taking, and very little time to care for themselves, let alone eat a healthy meal and get to bed early every night.

So don't be surprised if you feel a little raw, or as if your nerves are exposed. Susun Weed, in her book The Menopausal years The Wise Woman Way says this is also because of neglect.

"You may think your feelings are out of proportion, too sharp, quite irrational, possibly insane. But, I assure you, they are only raw from neglect. Receive them without judgment, nourish them, and your 'uncontrollable' feelings during the menopausal years will lead you to the deepest heart of your own secrets.

If you cannot tolerate those about you, leave. Go to the sheltering space of your cave. Claim your Crone's Year Away."

Something else you can do: write about your feelings in your journal, get in touch with your buried feelings (anger, grief, loss); Sing the blues or dance it out with some salsa music. Get more sunshine - not too hard in spring and summer. Move your body out into nature and take a long, healing walk. Get a massage - you'll be surprised what emotions well up sometimes while you are lying on a massage table. If tears come, let them. Find a homeopath to help you find a remedy. There are several for emotional upset, overwhelm, feelings of depression or wanting to be left alone.

And finally, go on a retreat - you may not be able to take a year off (!) from your life, but you can certainly take one or two days. Find a woman's retreat by googling it, or look in your local health food store or yoga centre.

Nameste,
musemother

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sanctuary & Self-Nurturing

How do you replenish yourself and find a centering calm? hiking, yoga, naps, reading, music, gardening?

How do you come home again to your body?

"Each major life passage entails emptying and refilling." The Silent Passage, Gail Sheehy

The transformation of menopause can leave you feeling exhausted, until you discover what fills you up again.

For me, yoga and meditation are great for grounding me in the body and breath. They keep me feeling alive in the present moment and provide an anchor for my galloping sails.

Take this 'pause' as an excuse to start a new life. Turn over a new leaf. Dare to be the You you've always wanted to be. Welcome the tumult as Gail Sheehy calls it, and discover what positive aspects of this Change may be hiding under the symptoms of dis-ease.

I have been finding the most relief in creating mini-retreats for myself- a deliberate time-out when no-one else can disturb me, a time alone, time off, and time to go inside, be with me.

I light a candle, do some yoga on the floor, listen to soothing music, then write in my journal or use my cards to uncover some wisdom I need to hear.

Usually, it's about trusting myself, trusting that I can give myself what I need. To find balance, to ground myself in the stillness before running off into busyness. To rejoice in the simplicity of one breath in, one breath out.

I learn to pay attention to the unseen, to new ways of knowing, and be aware of what I need to feel whole, to feel myself.

I learn to embrace my need for this emptying and refilling, this sanctuary, this peace of mind.

Do something to nurture your self today, something simple, something to feed the inner self.

What are you hungry for?

musemother

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Biology as Destiny?

The old 'new' way of thinking about women's cycles is that it's a nonevent. Puberty, pregnancy, menopause - just breeze through it, keep working, keep your chin up and all will be well.

However, many of us are flumoxed at the raging hormones surging through us, affecting our emotional stability, our moods, our performance at work, our sleep, our relationships. Our spouses are afraid to come near us at the PMS time, and during pre-menopause, my PMS lasted up to 2 weeks some months.

"Menopause isn't an event at all, but a process that takes place over five to seven years and as as many profound metaphysical, social and sexual layers of meaning as the passage of menarche, which ushers in a woman's fertility....The polemicists ....are often women frozen in an outdated era of feminism. Ignoring a host of new data that demonstrate some clear gender differences stemming, at least in part, from variations in male/female biology..." from The Silent Passage, Gail Sheehy

We are different, and stuffing our mood swings into the closet will not help us 'deal with it'. What I think we're missing is an understanding of the huge transition this end of our period brings up for us. We need to mourn certain things, grieve a little for what is dying, let ourselves lay low in the cocoon while we are changing, and celebrate the new self that is being born. It is a time to come to terms with past traumas and hurts, to make peace with our ghosts, with our selves. We learn to treat ourselves with compassion and kindness, as we would treat others. We learn to move more slowly because multi-tasking is no longer working for us.

Mostly, we learn to listen within. The needs of the inner being can no longer be ignored. A woman's cycle is something to get to know. Your inner workings are something to get close to. The ancient rituals and ceremonies surrounding Demeter and the Eleusinian mysteries were connected to the cycles of Mother earth, and of women. Our bleeding was once sacred. Our need for alone time was once respected and valued. Journalling, keeping track of your cycle, watching the moon's cycle to see how aligned you are, are just a few ways you can do this.

So don't get conned into thinking because we have equality in working status (in most areas), and parity on a salarial level, that we should just shut up about our bodies' needs at this transitional time, and keep on keeping on. If you are feeling exhausted, wired, overwhelmed, irrational and emotional, give yourself a break. Find out more about this peri-menopausal shift, this journey towards the self. There are many good books listed on this blog, but a very good overview is Joan Borysenko's A woman's book of life, or Dr. Christiane Northrup's Wisdom of Menopause. A little information and a lot of inspiration will make you feel less 'insane'. You are not insane, you are just finding a new balance. The old one won't work anymore.

Right now I am reading, The Change by Germaine Greer and The Silent Passage by Gail Sheehy. A new book, just arrived today, is Marianne Williamson's The Age of Miracles, Embracing the New Mid-Life - more about these in a future blog.

Let yourself breathe a little today. Just for today, accept how you feel, and breathe into it.

Embrace the power of doing nothing, if that's what it takes to make you feel better.
That's where I'm at this week, making little sabbaticals as I go,

musemother

Monday, April 28, 2008

Why can't I sleep?

"You won't sleep well during the short part of your menopause when you may be swept by waves of volcanic heat, shiver through arctic chills, have sweat rivering through your bedclothes, and feel powerful surges of emotion. There may be times when your mind and hormones and memories make a crazy quilt of your dreams and days. Surely you wouldn't expect to sleep peacefully through that.

"Inspiration may shake you awake before dawn. Be ready to receive the gifts of this Change, whether awake or asleep. Be ready; what you thought were walls are veils...."

Grandmother Growth, from Susun Weed's new Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

It would be nice to have the luxury of napping whenever and wherever we feel the urge to catch up on lost sleep. Especially for those of us who work during the day, a little power nap would be great, if we could allow it for ourselves.

Sleep is one of those things you just can't do without, yet it doesn't come when it is bidden. For pregnant or nursing moms and hormonally challenged menopausal women, sleep is elusive. It is the one thing that makes you feel crazy if you don't get enough of it. And yet, sometimes it's the first thing we skimp on to make room in our busy lives for more 'activity'.

What if we saw more sleep not as a lazy person's habit but as a spiritual practice?

I was shocked when I read this in The Woman's Quest by Alexandra Pope, that sleep is "a powerful spiritual practice and the most powerful of all for overworked women." She goes on to say it works wonders for our being at all levels. Especially around the time of our period, and during the Pause. It could be the extra dream time we need, or a time of rest and repair.

If we look at the menstrual cycle as our inner guidance system, then it would make sense that when you feel sleepy, you let yourself sleep. Consider it an ally, and a way to be kind to yourself. Make an effort to get to bed at a regular hour every night, and find time during the day to have some down time, which may not be a nap but just a chill out time of doing less.

Somewhere, somehow, we need to nurture our need for sleep. Countering the 'productivity' machine is not easy, but in menopause, our bodies are clamouring for self-care. Slowing down while you eat, moving at the pace of your body instead of the pace of an overactive mind, taking cat naps wherever possible, writing down your dreams if you do wake up in the middle of the night, all these are ways of listening in to the Feminine.

enjoy the spring rain, take a nap!

musemother

Monday, April 21, 2008

Coming home to who I am

"I feel as if I am becoming who I was meant to be. After all the years of outer-directed energy, I am coming home to the Feminine...coming home to myself. I am allowing myself to become a mature woman in the truest and deepest sense.

Sometimes, as I sit listening quietly within, it seems as if the very air in the house has been transformed. There is a hush of tranquillity, an attitude of devotion filling every room. I feel a sense of connection to the self that I have been at other times in my life...to the girl and maiden from the past, to the developed woman of adulthood ... and to the older woman I know that I shall someday be.

As I allow myself to mature, I find that I must do things the old, slow ways...perform my work so quietly that some part of me can always be listening...listening for the deeper sense of my life. Those few brief moments each day... I set aside to listen are no longer enough for me."
from I Sit Listening to the Wind, Woman's Encounter within Herself, Judith Duerk

This morning I created a mini-retreat for myself after my regular meditation. I lit a fragrant candle (rose incense), did some yoga to some wonderful music I bought at Kripalu. Then made a note of all the postures that felt good, from cat and dog, to downward dog, pigeon pose, and yoga mudra: to open hips and shoulders, stretch the spine and legs. I lay down on my bed afterwards in corpse pose, and listened to the drone of chanting while I rested, and let myself go to feeling what was there in my body, wrapped in a fluffy blanket in the stilled room.

That was all I needed today, to remind myself that I need to slow down and listen in. Part of me is always wanting to rush into the home office next to my room and get on the computer, read my emails, check the blogs I love, connect with others. Or attack the list of calls to make, things to do around the house. We are selling our home and renovating a new one, so there are lots of those kind of things to do.

What struck me this morning was the need to get close to my inner feeling; the emotions swimming in my belly were calling out for healing. I didn't put names on them, just felt the fluttering and soothed it by breathing into it. Peace and groundedness are my priority for this moment. Even reading the new books I just received on The Change felt like too much 'outside authority' for my inner self this day. I felt a real quest to find my own wisdom, my own healing modality. What is it I need for myself today?

Every moment, there is information available to me. Every moment I can check in, breathe deeply, stretch my body, find out how I am feeling, and how close I am to my well-being.

Wellness of being, well of being. Is it full, or empty?

Can I give myself what I need?

I repeat the mantra often, the one I need to hear: I am OK. I have everything I need.

blessings,
musemother

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fatigue and menopause

Fall into my arms and sleep, offers Grandmother Growth. You don’t have to make this change happen; it will happen on its own. Let me hold you. Let go. Don’t resist. Rest. You are in the midst of the labor of giving birth to yourself as Crone. Of course you are tired. This is hard work.

Let the pushing energy of your uterus move your energy up to your crown, rather than down and out, as with menstrual blood and babies. This birthing of your wholeness is something you’ll retain, not something you’ll birth and give away. Rest in my strong arms. Take courage.”
from New Menopausal Years, Susun Weed.

Dialogue with the Great Mother about exhaustion:

Bring me your tired women” she said, “your weary and weak.”

The women were very tired – they were tired of working fourteen hour days; they were tired of schlepping children to daycare at 7 am and picking them up at 6 pm, of fighting over homework and of never having a minute alone with themselves, let alone their husbands, tired of changing toilet paper rolls and of picking up puppy poo, of being the only one who walks the dog and feeds the cats. They were tired of PMS, hot flashes and sleepless nights.

They were tired of driving their kids to karate, tae kwon do, brownies, cubs, guitar lessons, hip hop and ballet classes. They were tired of sore necks, bursitis and tendonitis from typing all day. They were tired from doing laundry at midnight and making breakfast at 5:30 a.m. They had tried physiotherapy, acupuncture, osteopathy and chiropractors. They had taken supplements, joined a gym, cut out carbohydrates, walked and jogged and step-classed themselves to even greater fatigue, and Great Mother, all they wanted was to lie down on the floor and rest their weary heads….

Yes, even the hair on their heads hurt, and their ears were sore from hearing Mommy I need this by tomorrow or I’ll get a detention….

And Great Mother replied…

Dear dizzy, busy daughters of Earth – yes, you do need to rest – you need to lie down on my grassy breast, or float in my salty waves – you need to give yourselves a break before you break a leg – or crack up in a nervous break-down.

Why can’t you rest? Why can’t you press the pause button? That is why I created meno-pause.

You’re not paying attention – listen carefully please – you were not created to Do It All Alone – there are no super moms or superwomen out there – Listen to what Ishtar, Queen of Heaven invented many thousand years ago – a Sabbatu, or heart’s rest at the full moon (when she was bleeding). This is your time to take a day off.

Long ago, a sacred day of rest was created – the Sabbath- on the full moon, a sacred day, a day to refresh and renew your energy, a much needed, blessed rest, once a week – from there you can reset your clock, your energy and give out again to your family, your job.

Come home to me. Receive my gift. You may have all the gold in the world, but without peace in the heart, you will never feel fulfilled or at rest.

My peace I give to you – make yourselves a sacred space, a space of quiet, without distraction, in nature or in your room:

light a candle, run a hot bath, or sit quietly in meditation, walk in the woods or listen to a babbling stream, take a nap, put on some soothing flute music, stretch your muscles in yoga, or lie in corpse pose on the rug - but these you must do regularly to feed the heart’s need for rest.

Find/make your own Sabbatu, for the body is your temple and the heart sits on its throne. Hearth and heart need a space to call Home,

My blessings always,
Queen of Heaven.

I open my heart in compassion and love to those I meet.
Knowing that I too, shall be loved and comforted in my turn.

Prayer from Kwan Yin, Buddhist goddess of compassion

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ordinary Women can change the world

Judith Timson has a great column in the Life Section of the Globe and Mail (www.globeandmail.com) today. She asks the question, how can ordinary women change the world when they are so tired? It's true that women of a certain age are wanting to step out of their lives and do more for others. And that we are exhausted from trying to juggle all our roles. It must be menopause.

Dr. Joan Borysenko calls this stage of life the Guardian Years. We want to share our knowledge and wisdom, protect the vulnerable, help grow the world into a better place. We are also learning how to speak up and be true to our own needs.

Maybe before we save the planet, women need to stop trying to do it all the way men have done it for years, subsequently dying from overwork and heart-attacks. Why are so many women experiencing stress or burn-out, usually women in the caring professions of teaching and nursing?

Approximately one in three people is sleep deprived, complaining of exhaustion and trouble holding things together. We are an anxious and worried culture. Between 1990 and 1997, the number of doctors’ office visits for anxiety increased by 31 percent.

Unfortunately, many of the people who suffer in doctor’s offices are the health-care providers themselves. Some are so stressed that they have proceeded to the advanced state of exhaustion called burnout, which is a condition of mind, body and spirit that is distinctly different from stress.”
(on Beating Stress & Burnout at www.joanborysenko.com)

In mid-life, our energy stores can become depleted. Our bodies start giving us messages about the need for self-care, often disguised as illness or fatigue. Often, we haven’t developed the habit of taking care of ourselves. That would be selfish.

I don’t think of self-care as selfish, but that’s because I learned the hard way, by breaking a leg, that I needed to ask for help. In mid-life I am learning to speak up about what I need help with. I ask my teenagers to cook once a week or at least help with supper and do dishes. I ask them to take care of their own rooms and laundry. I need help walking the dog on days when I work outside the home. Women with ailing parents have the double bind of working, caring/ cooking/shopping and cleaning for their parents, while keeping their own houses tidy and cooking healthy meals for their families. No wonder we’re tired.

My theory is that to restore balance, we need to honour our feminine life cycle. And of course, not only for women, but for weary men, too. Reinstate the Sabbath, a quiet reflective day once a week to let spirit revive us, whether through Church or synagogue, yoga or relaxation. Find more down time, less busy time. Lose the fear of ‘not being productive’ and rest more. Take daily naps. Get outside and watch the geese returning. Take a walk around your neighbourhood and smile at someone you don’t know.

Mid-life women are wisening up. Too pooped to cope anymore with everybody else’s ‘stuff’, we are turning to our own need for balance. On the airplane, if the oxygen mask suddenly drops down, it is suggested that you put one on yourself first, then on the vulnerable ones you are traveling with. Don’t wait for burn-out. Find out where you are on the 'dry well' scale - empty, half-full?

Do something good for the planet now, and take care of your heart. Find the sabbatu or heart’s rest, which in ancient times the Queen of Heaven took on her bleeding days. We have lost touch with the feminine art of rest and receiving. We can regain balance by toning down the ‘do it all today or die’ syndrome.

My personal effort to restore balance is to stop striving, resist the ‘perfectionist’ in me who is never satisfied, ignore the voice that wails, ‘it is never enough, I am not enough’. Breathe in, breathe out. Find balance and presence, find the center in the chaos. That will help the world. Give the world the gift of your presence.

Your children, your parents, your co-workers and friends, will all drink from the well of your plenitude.

be well,
musemother

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's Happening to me?

"The wise woman achieves menopause. It does not overcome her."

Well, so the books say anyway. I can remember feeling very overwhelmed during peri-menopause. There's even a homeopathic remedy for that feeling: Sepia, which I took as needed.

Sometimes things get a little topsy turvy, what with lack of sleep, night sweats, PMS taking over for two weeks instead of three days, and breaking into tears at inopportune moments, like in the middle of a business meeting with your boss.

How do you handle it? Do you go for hormone replacement therapy? Do you just go to see a psychologist for talk therapy? Anti-depressants? What is going on with me?

According to Dr. Christiane Northrup, our brains are being rewired for greater intuition. We move out of the child-rearing mode where we are focussed on others, and begin to caretake ourselves. Changing levels of hormones may be what stimulates the 'Change', but the upshot is, we get encouraged to deal with a whole lot of messy emotions, collectively labelled "unfinished business". The PMS is not the cause but the trigger - it is signalling stuff you have stuffed down, swallowed, and can't digest anymore.

Sitting with a journal (or a good friend who doesn't mind listening to your litany of woes), is a good way to begin to untangle what you are feeling. What do I want? What is bugging me? What is pissing me off?

Can I dare open that can of worms and deal with it, instead of waiting for the can to explode and have worm soup all over the kitchen floor, and risk damaging my relationships with children and spouses? I think it is safer to make lists in the safety of my room, and look at my emotions from a detached place (out of the heat of the moment). Why did I fly off the handle at my daughter's request to book her a hair appointment? Am I taking on too much that is her responsibility? Can I let go of the 'mothering' I do and let my kids take on more of the household tasks? Why can't I value my own self enough to make room for me, my needs, my work, my space.

Myspace - funny that all the kids are creating their myspaces on-line. That's a good metaphor for what menopausal women need. A My space blocked out somewhere in the virtual world or the physical world in 3 dimensions. Sometimes I fantasized about a white room, with no distractions, no radio or tv, no interruptions, no puppies to walk, no cats to feed, no demands on me....somewhere I could let my writing flourish in....then I realized what I was imagining was a little padded cell.

Maybe it's also time to release some demons, release the past, face the present moment. I make visualisations and affirmations a part of my ritual now: I can do it. I am worth it. I believe in myself. I have something worth saying.

There is deep siginificance to this Change, on a psychological level and a spiritual level.

It is initiation by fire.

It is awakening my own feminine self.

It is empowering me.

It is burning through me with the energy of a forest fire.

Find out what is feeding the flames.

Be your own best friend, and show some compassion.

Let the power surges support you, not freak you out.

namaste,
jenn

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Reuniting with the Feminine, the Work we have to Do

(In breaking with our mothers, we break with our femininity)

"There are countless women of the sixties and seventies who so deeply resented the patriarchy which had destroyed their femininity and that of their mothers that they lashed out against that patriarchy, but in doing so they identified with the masculine side of their own psyches. In some cases they turned into the very thing they most feared -- the witch side of their mothers, or in Jungian terms, the negative animus.

…the natural feminine way to feminine maturity is through the body. This is essentially what the ancient initiation rites were about. The rites grounded the girl in her own body which was then recognized as part of the feminine cosmos – a vehicle for fertility the container which made her one with the Goddess, through whom life moved eternally.

In our society, however, we have no rites and there are few older women who can initiate us into our own femininity. Most of us, men and women, are unconsciously identified with the masculine principal (the conscious value system of our mothers) with little or no consciousness of our own feminine instincts. So we flounder.

…In such situations, the genuine masculine principle is not present. ...Where the masculine and feminine are undifferentiated, the act of union is merely an identification...She may believe she is an androgyne, an independent woman, but in fact she has given up on ever being a woman and unconsciously decided to be nothing instead. …[She is] polarized against her mother and ultimately against herself and her own feminine nature; plus against her man whom she has made into her mother. Such a woman may end up in despairing conflict or in conflict which manifests as disease, or she may go on driving through life on her phallic broomstick hating or fearing every man she meets.

To be fully differentiated in the full feminine, in relation to the mature masculine: we need to make that rite of passage. We have to pay in blood. Every rite of passage involves a death and a rebirth. The price is the sacrifice. Part of that sacrifice is giving up of old securities and illusion. ...The masculine principle (in men and women) is not a healthy ego strength but ruthless will power….giving up that driven-ness is part of our blood sacrifice. And it begins to feel like giving up life itself when an individual has lived life in a frenzied round of goal-oriented activity, leaving no room for loving. As Jung says, 'Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and there the will to power is paramount, love is lacking.'

… instead of being terrorized by her aloneness and her feelings of abandonment and rejection, she can use this time to work on herself. One of the things she will surely face is her own inner killer – the overdeveloped masculine in herself that kills her femininity (and put a bullet through the heart of her King Kong animus) [in dreams].

First I believe that femininity is taking responsibility for our bodies, so that the body becomes the tangible expression of the spirit within. For those of us who have lived life in the head, this is a long, difficult and agonizing process, because in attempting to relese our muscles, we also release the pent-up fear and rage and grief that has been buried there, probably since or before birth. …it acts at first like a wild neurotic creature that hasn’t known love. But gradually it becomes our friend, and because it understand the instincts better than we, it comes our guide to a natural, spiritual way of life.

Secondly, femininity is taking responsibility for who I am – not what I do, now how I seem to be, not what I accomplish. When all the doing is done and I have to face myself in my naked reality, who am ? what are my values, needs? Am I true to myself or do I betray myself? What are my feelings?

Working on these questions day after day is what I call differentiating the feminine.”

from Addiction to Perfection, Marion Woodman, chapter, The Myth of Ms.


If you don't mind the Jungian jargon, I highly recommend this book, published in 1982 by Inner City books, Toronto.

While is is on the surface a study of her analysands with eating disorders, at the base of it is the identification with the negative animus or unhealthy masculine priniciple, and our disconnection with our female bodies.

have a great Sunday,
Jenn

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Women's Circles and Awakening to Your life's purpose

Today, I woke up wanting to stay in bed. It's not that there's 6 feet of snow outside my front door, nor that winter is dragging. I just got back from a week in the sun and sand on Grand Cayman Islands, and my skin drank alot of sunshine there, more than my dermatologist would have liked.

No, it's the old hamster in the wheel of thought, circling my brain with the same old query: what do you want to do with your life? And when are you going to start?

As I told my women's circle today, I have already re-invented myself at least twice. The last time was going back to school after getting married, in my early 30's, to study something impractical, just for me: creative writing. It lead to a Master's Degree and a book of poems being published, plus something to keep me busy at night while the babies were sleeping in between feedings. Think of all those 4 a.m. poems that would never have seen the light of day!

Now that I am a mother, and a post-menopausal one at that, I am feeling this huge itch to reinvent myself again. It's been like this for over five years now - the seeking, reading, researching, going to workshops. At first I assumed it was a new mentor, another poetry workshop, a new technique for writing poetry. Then I kept hearing, maybe you should write non-fiction or a novel. Don't have the stamina for a novel. But I enjoy teaching workshops and working with women, so I started teaching the odd workshop here and there at a women's centre, or with a yoga teacher. Still, I kept on reading and researching menopausal information, female centered religions, sexuality, menstrual cycles and so that all came into the courses I was teaching.

But lately, the bug has bitten again. What is my real life purpose? what is the one thing I could do that would help the world, help me feel fulfilled (besides mothering two teens who don't seem to need much help anymore except where to find the peanut butter).

In spite of my lethargy, this morning I picked up Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth, yes, the one Oprah is pushing as book of the year, and opened it to one of the last chapters. Here is what I read about inner purpose and outer purpose:

"Without living in alignment with your primary purpose, [conscious awareness] WHATEVER PURPOSE YOU COME UP WITH, EVEN IF IT IS TO CREATE HEAVEN ON EARTH, will be of the ego or become destroyed by time. Sooner or later, it will lead to suffering. ...In other words, not your aims or your actions are primary, but the state of consciousness out of which they come. Fulfilling your primary purpose is laying the foundation for a new reality, a new earth. Once that foundation is there, your external purpose becomes charged with spiritual power because your aims and intentions will be one with the evolutionary impulse of the universe."

Maybe taken out of context this doesn't mean as much to you as it did to me, but it hit me over the head, that my happiness and fulfillment can never be somewhere off in the future. My goals have to be much closer to the now, to the present moment, to live with attention to this life energy inside me, to be so close to that, that I am not distracted by my thinking, or by my fantasies of being a Workshop Leader who changes the world.

How is this related to women's friendships? Today was our circle chat, and eight of us showed up at one member's house. A few of us were resistant to coming today, knowing we might have to open up and talk about ourselves, feeling a bit fragile. But after the third person had spoken, the fourth woman said, "Thank you for being so open and sharing yourselves this way. It's so inspiring. It means you trust us." And it reminded me again of how precious it is to have this sense of community or friendship amongst women who are looking for meaning.

We started this circle to invite speakers on alternative health topics, on everything from shamanism, emotional healing, PMS, menopause, the environment, to building schools for girls in Africa, on any topic that opens our minds and our hearts to learn more, grow more, heal more. But now, we have found our most precious resource is our own stories, our own learnings in our lives, the lessons learned, the questions, the doubts, the yearnings, the hopes, the tears and frustrations. We are sharing our journey.

We are holding hands in a circle, so we feel less alone.

And that, is one of my 'outer purposes', to help empower myself, and empower other women.

nameste,
jenn

Friday, February 29, 2008

Self Care for Menopausal Babes

originally published on Musemother, Tuesday, May 08, 2007

If you are menopausal or peri-menopausal, as so many of my friends and acquaintances are realizing they are, you have been or will soon be confronted by some form of fatigue - either from insomnia, night sweats or nurturer burn-out. Perhaps you are working as a teacher, nurse, secretary or in some other helping profession. Perhaps you have full-time work at home, or perhaps you have an ailing parent you are caring for as well as your children.

The most important Mother's Week (I've just extended it from one day to one week!) message is the one I received in my in-box this morning from Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom and Mother-Daughter Wisdom. I think it's so important I'm passing along an excerpt to you:

"One of the biggest challenges women face is learning how to care for themselves while caring for others. It requires a delicate balance between what often feels like polar opposites. I’ve spent a lifetime studying self-care. And I’ve come to the conclusion that good self-care is the single most important aspect of our health, period. The programming of self-sacrifice leads ultimately to health-destroying sentiments, such as guilt, resentment, anger, and other emotions linked to high levels of stress hormones. Self-sacrifice feels wrong to us on a soul level—our spirit gravitates naturally to joy and happiness. That’s why self-sacrifice ultimately makes us sick and keeps us stuck in dead-end situations."
Dr. Christiane Northrup's e-health newsletter excerpt

Unforunately some of us have been programmed to be good girls, and give selflessly to others without thinking about ourselves. Sometimes it takes a major health challenge, like burn-out or chronic fatigue syndrome or breast cancer, to make us stop and take a look at how we are emptying our feminine container, giving our energy away, and losing our joy.

My wake-up call was a broken leg, and a small cyst in my left breast (which turned out to be filled with a thick creamy substance!) The message took me a while to figure out - but while I was lying in bed with a cast, I had time to think and reflect. I also had time to listen to how my husband was dealing with a busy household, and time to talk with him in the evening about my feelings. I learned I had to speak up and ask for what I wanted (help with kids, help in household), especially in the sensitive area of sexual pleasure. I learned a lot of things.

I learned I was not superwoman, and could not do it all alone.

I learned that nobody else wanted me to be self-sacrificing anyway.

I learned through therapy (after my father passed away and more emotions came up) that I had always felt I wasn't 'enough', not good enough, not pretty enough, etc. And that I overworked myself out of needing to feel worthy. I had a hard time saying no to volunteer jobs for instance, especially if they had a nice title attached like 'coordinator' or 'vice-president'. My self-worth was lower than I imagined. And I was keeping myself too busy to wonder why I felt depressed, stressed and over-extended.

It's a long slow process towards self-honesty, and learning to be true to myself. On the road, I am learning how making myself invulnerable cuts me off from feeling close to people. How controlling others is a technique that used to work for me in my dysfunctional childhood home, but how it doesn't work with my own family now. How pushing myself beyond my comfortable limits makes me end up going over the edge and useless to those who rely on me.

Self-care involves dumping a lot of old baggage that doesn't serve me anymore. Guilt, resentment, anger and stress were making me a very cranky person. That's not the woman I want to be. Menopause has been a gift for me, in that it has forced me to pause and reflect, and dig deep. In that descent into murky waters, I have found some healing. I have begun to accept myself, know my limits better.

I hope you will not wait until something breaks. Heed the warning signs, the tension in your neck and shoulders, the explosive anger and PMS, the extreme fatigue and insomnia, and take action. Slow down. Be kinder to yourself, and that will increase your capacity for kindness to others. If you lose yourself, or your health, you can't help anyone anyway.

One way you can do this is to be mindful of your own body rhythms. See the Women's Wisdom blog (link on the left) for Seven Tips for body guidance.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Resources for Menopausal women

I have bought two new books today, about menopause.

The first is The Secret Wisdom of a Woman's Body (about aging fearlessly and listening to the body's signals), by Pat Samples. A title I wish I could have dreamt up myself!

The second is Our Bodies Ourselves, Menopause from the The Boston Women's health Book collective. This book is like a dictionary, chock full of the latest studies, myth busting, pro-wisdom but not anti-medical establishment, yet anti-medicalization of menopause.

There is too much to quote, but one chapter that screamed at me is Emotional Well Being and Managing Stress (my personal bugaboo these days). While menopause may be a challenging time emotionally, it is also the best time of our lives! If our health is good, our systems of support, adequate income, then, yes it can be wonderfully liberating to hit menopause.

Some of us, however, have the stress response on automatic overload. It never turns off. Calming rituals like yoga, drumming, dance and meditation have been around for thousands of years and help us relax.
"eliciting the relaxation response" covers many different techniques, like mini breaks and mindfulness, contemplation and acceptance.

Here's some helpful info:

Deep breathing techniques can reduce the intensity of hot flashes - myth or reality?

"Reality: researchers have found relaxation techniques involving progressive muscle relation and deep breathing exercises reduced self-reported hot flashes by about 50 percent." now that's worth looking into.

"Taking care of ourselves is key. There is a difference between selfishness and self-care. Self-care means moving away from the belief that your needs come last. It means caring enough about yourself to prioritize those activities that will promote your own health: taking time for socializing, fore relaxation, and for embracing what is meaningful to you. Many of us lead busy lives, and the hours of the day evaporate. We reap many benefits when we realize that scheduling time for ourselves is essential to our health."

So there you have it - two more books for your bedside reading table. A good friend of mine called today about her doctor telling her that at age 46 she was too young to be in peri-menopause! So much misinformation out there. So check out the womentowomen.com website, and this Our Bodies Ourselves, for correct medical advice and encouragement.

namaste,
and see you back from March break, March 8
Jennifer

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where is the deep feminine space?

Rereading my own entries about the masculine and animus on this and wisdomforwomen blog, it strikes me that my dis-ease with myself is really about missing the feminine space, the deep sense of groundedness that comes from being still, alone, either reading or writing or meditating, the best times for me are when I am alone.

I have always been a loner, and a social animal too. Not a complete introvert, but as menopause has gradually acclimatized me to my own nature, I realize I need time alone to be well.

Lately I have been overbusy with some volunteer work that involved lots of computer time, emails and phone calls, deadlines, kind of an HR position. It nourished and fed part of me, because it was a good cause. Helping spread a message of peace in the world. But somewhere in the busyness, I lost my own peace, my own depth or root of stillness. Part of me loves to be busy, to feel important, to have a 'job' to do besides being mom, cook, and laundry person.

The challenge for me is always to find balance: time to write vs time to be 'out there' doing stuff, keeping the wheels in motion.

So I've stepped down from my post, which had turned into a part-time job, timewise. And here I am back on my blog, back with my books, reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter - which just popped up on my Amazon screen one day as a book I might like to buy. Sue Monk Kidd, the author of The Secret Life of Bees, one of my favourite novels, describes her own journey from daughter of a Christian, patriarchal mind-set to woman on a journey to find the sacred feminine.

All my readings these days tend to be about the need for contact with the deep feminine, silent space. The space of nothing, in my life. Recently I dreamt that I checked myself into a hotel and just slept for a few days.

Fighting off a flu bug, everyone around me is hacking and coughing and losing their voice (even in my Singing Valentine's quartet group). Trying to lay low and beat off the illness that stalks me. I find myself alone, at home, on a very snowy day, and happy to have a day off.

I remind myself, I don't need to get sick to have a day off. It reminds me of the winter I broke my knee skiing, and got to lie in bed for a few weeks. Some times the best moments were just lying there at dusk, watching the sun set in the field behind my house, out the window, and feeling a surge of life energy up the middle of my body, just humming. And I want to be held by that hum, to be surrounded by that comfort and feel connected to my source.

Dizzy with busyness, I stop. I put my feet up. (my kids are teens and away in school all day, so this is allowed, no toddlers pulling at my jeans anymore, saying, pick my up mommy). Menopause. Pausing into stillness, to find the deep source within. The feminine or yin place, the openness to nothing, to emptiness, to stillness.

This is nourishing my soul right now.

Make yourself a short retreat today, or this week. Hibernate with the bears, and return to the source. Rest, retreat and renew, however you can, even if it's while your son or daughter makes a play house around you with blankets. Snuggle down, and in. Read stories, walk in the snow, make snow angels. Be simple.

thanking the universe for this gift,
jenn

Friday, February 1, 2008

Cut off from her depths

"It is difficult in life to find the Feminine Realm. The drawing of the water, the gathering of the grains no longer are performed under an open sky. ...The sense of her task as consecrated and necessary to the cosmos is gone. And I fear for women yet to come. For under the pressures of modern life, time has become compressed. The feminine sense of time has all but disappeared. Yet woman cannot exist with only a linear awareness of time, for her sense of sacred Kairos time is the precious essene of life. there must be time enough for her to experience the sacredness within each moment and within herself...." Judith Duerk, I sit listening to the wind (also author of Circle of Stones)

According to Duerk, we have modeled ourselves on the Masculine, but the heroic task/journey of the Masculine can not provide what a woman needs to complete the journey of the conscious and devleoped Feminine.....

"When a woman uses her energy only to reinforce what is outside of herself, she becomes cut off from her depths. her own feelings and life values become inaccessible to her. She molds herself to external standards and loses touch with her individuality. She is cut off from all that is uniquely her own that could nourish her and those around her, cut off from the creative new answers so badly need in the world today.

Cut off from her deeper sense of life, from the wisdom of her own unconscious, she lives in an arid approvable way. and her depths become enraged! the whole wellspring of womanly creativity within her is furious for not being tapped. and the greater the individuality and insight that have been dammed up, the greater the rage!

A woman speaks: My grandmother, my mother and me...only allowed to smile and agree. Only allowed to affirm what was initiated around us, never allowed ourselves to initiate.

If grandmother tried to disagree, she became hysterical. And mother swung between hysteria and opinionated animus, with no grounded Feminine ego between them. She was enraged that the men could never hear what she was unable to say.

All those generations of women in my lineage using our energy in service to a system that had so litle tolerance for Feminine feelings and values. Caught amidst all this, I was depressed and cut off from myself, with no energy for the causes I had believe in only haf a year before. then my judging animus did its foul double-play, first dmaining me for my depression, than blaming me for having served so long what had not served me."

I Sit Listening to the Wind, Judith Duerk


I am living this battle with the animus this week, judging myself harshly, striving to compete, prepare, be on time, get things done, and running steamroller over my own feelings, tiredness, need for quiet time.

Finally, today, I opened this book, and felt a tear trickle down on reading the first opening paragraphs. yes, my body is saying, you have been tricked into this harsh attitude of performance and perfectionism, and you whip yourself, because you put no faith in your own feelings, emotions, or heart side. Focused on doing instead of being, you hurt yourself, and the neck acts up. Freezes up, cramps and gets so sore, I have to quit working and rest.....

ah, rest. It's a snow day today, go back to the circle of light under the lamp, the comfy gold suede chair, and the warmth of a puppy lying beside you, relax and read, and dream your own thoughts.....

nameste,
musemother

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Craving sweetness

I never, ever had cravings for chocolate except in the three days before my period started. Now that I'm past menstruating, I think the chocoholic in me has been unleashed.

Over Christmas I got in the habit of eating from those big round trays of chocolate almonds and hershey kisses (so smooth with white and dark mixed). Last night, at 3 am I couldn't sleep (red wine and steak will do that), so I slipped downstairs to a comfy chair, sipped some mineral water, and found the chocolate hershey kisses right there on the side table. Hmmmmm, ate two while I finished Diana Gabaldon's Voyager. Crept back into bed at 5:21. It's Sunday, that's ok. Plus, no kids in the house (something relatively new).

At menstruation, we lose iron with our blood, and we crave food to make sure our bodies are fueled up -- but why is it often a need to eat chocolate? some people say it's the manganese or minerals. Alexander Pope in the Wild Genie says, "Perhaps our cravings are also a metaphor for our need to refuel in general. To 'take in' after 'giving out' to the world. " Makes sense to me.

"Could your sugar craving be something as simple as wanting more sweetness in your life? whether jelly beans or chocolate, or jujube pink piggies, it is "truly a psychological necessity to have moments of total self indulgence, or at the very least to acknowledge the need. Unfortunately jelly beans are full of sugar....need to find another way to nourish the soul."

Maybe what I'm really seeking is a deep connection with my inner soul. Some ecstasy or bliss or altered state of consciousness. What if I put on some yoga music and stretch my body into sweetness. Fill up with breath, and move to the music.

Yesterday, I did some yoga on the floor in my room. I did some downward dog, some triangle, then just lay still, listening to music, receiving, in corpse pose. There are lots of ways to spoil myself. Chocolate almonds are my craving, and I won't give them up completely. But deep cleansing breaths are the connection to the sweetness within. Or asking for a hug from my hubby instead of turning out the lights without a kiss goodnight.

How sweet it is to be loved by you!

mother your craving,
jenn

Sunday, January 6, 2008



Heed the change, women. Your blood is moving in new ways,, says Grandmother Growth (Susun Weed's book New Menopausal years The Wise Woman way).

"Resistance will only make you tired. Allow the movements and changes inside you to spill out. There is no separation between your life and your Change. Let go now of your routines, your habits, your need for control. Give yourself up to this Change, this metamorphosis, the seeming chaos. I promise you, it will only be for a short while."

We are blessed with this changing body, transforming at puberty, at pregnancy, after birthing, and again in our forties. It feels like the whole world wants to stop us from growing or changing from being 16 and slender, svelte and shining with youth. But Meta-morphosis is part of life. The Change is part of life. You can row upstream if you want, but you'll only get exhausted quicker.

Wisdom for today: go with the flow, even if it's acceptance of being tired. Lie down at mid-day and nap. Take a cat nap after work. Sit in a comfy chair for 30 minutes and read while the laundry is being done in the washing machine. Instead of doing 4 things at once, do only one thing at a time. Rest your tired brain by focusing on one thing.

Make a fire and watch the flames.

Take up knitting, weaving, crocheting: these wise woman crafts help calm the mind and bring a trance-like peace to women in the 'pause'.

Dance like a wild woman, alone in your room, in front of a window, in front of a mirror.

Allow yourself to be the outrageous Meta-Woman that you are!

Sing out loud at the top of your lungs, and let the energy from your center circulate up and out.

Be well, changing woman,

musemother

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Courage to face the dark

"If we have the courage to face into the dark we may witness the slow epiphany or showing forth of the feminine" (Hall, The Moon and the Virgin, quoted from Wild Genie, A Pope)

Depression, feelings of lethargy, apathy, low energy, feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks- all of these conditions have hit me more strongly since I hit peri-menopause. I think menopause makes us extremely sensitive to our moods, and we can't just skip over them, pretend we're all right. The same as during our pre-menstrual time, feelings are amplified.

Alexandra Pope says this is a good thing (although a clinical depression needs serious treatment): "to sometimes feel empty and lost is a normal experience and a part of life. Of course you deserve to be joyously happy - I don't wish depression on anyone. But the more we run from such feelings the more monstrous and out of control they'll become. Because depression usually slows us down, even stops us altogether, it's the natural companion to ceaseless activity. Your down times are the doorway to exalted states -- with depression as your co-traveller you will also be able to experience great joy. "

She suggests that we take the risk of investigating these down times for the hidden gold: just like menstrual cramps, if you go with them, go into the pain instead of numbing it, you'll find their opposites come to you more easily.

"Cradle yourself" through this down time. "The Chinese believe that at menstruation a woman loses chi or essential energy" which may also explain the dip in mood.

We are cyclical beings - accept the dark of the moon days, and cherish yourself with comfort foods, warm blankets, heating pads. We can regenerate. We can be born again from the ashes of this discomfort. When I have a bad day, when all I see is dirt, darkness and demoralisation, I know I am in sad need of sleep, rest, and maybe a day alone watching the Rome series on TV, or reading some historical fiction (Diana Gabaldon, my newest discovery). The next day is invariably brighter. It always surprises me - I am fine, it was temporary. It did not take over my whole life. Pencil in a morning retreat time, take a hot bath.

I did need some professional help in peri-menopause,(to stop being so hard on myself) and saw a therapist regularly to get over some major trauma in my childhood life that was still hanging on. Talking and crying for a year released a lot of 'stuck energy'. Reiki treatments and massage, yoga and pilates also helped. Moving the body, listening to upbeat or soothing music - treating your tired self with kindness instead of getting out the whip - these are remedies we can give ourselves during menopause, and preparing for menopause.

"The more she disowns her despair the more it will rise up and bit her each time the period comes." Pope is a psychotherapist in practice, and writes from experience.

My own experience corroborates her advice: when your defences are down and the inner critic is attacking, retreat, rest and refuge are useful allies.

"If you can learn to ride the cyclical ups and downs with greater acceptance you'll develop an incredibly useful and resilient psychological muscle that will prepare you for any major life challenge. To go Up and Out into the world, you need to be able to go In and Down. "

Peri-menopause is a descent. Prepare the sails for a slackening wind. Let yourself drift without purpose, if necessary. The wind will pick up again. Listen within for your own truth at the bottom of the well.

namaste
musemother

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