I’m deep in this dance, sometimes it’s a dance of flow, sometimes it’s feels like an obstacle course.
The heat is on! I am transforming, shedding my skin. I know what’s possible here, I know what’s at stake, what’s to lose and what’s to gain, and that there’s no control, no matter what. Again at the Altar I am, and nothing short of surrender is required of me.
I had the blessing and pleasure to sit in a circle of women, women of all ages, to listen to the wisdom of Lara Owen, author of Her Blood Is Gold – Awakening to the Wisdom of Menstruation (and other books). Lara spoke about Perimenopause at the Seven Sisters Festival in Victoria in autumn. Her friendly, pleasant, sister-ness permeates her wisdom and at once we are relaxed in her space and she is sharing the details of the journey, her journey and the archetypal journey of women at this Altar of Transformation.
It’s a time for life review, just like pregnancy, a journey through the archives of being, the letting go phase, the death phase before the rebirth.
And I know, that She who was initiated into Womanhood at the Menarche Altar is She who shows up at the Birth Altar, each time, and so to the Perimenopause Altar – there She is! Its me!
‘where ever you go, there you are!’
And so I bring my theme through, to my next visit to one of the Altars of Womanhood, and go deeper.
My theme has been wound around surrendering to what is, being present in the moment, where I am. Letting go of ‘if onlys’ and ‘when that happens, then…’
So going deeper now, and this isn’t going to be over in twenty four hours, or even in a week or month!
How long is it going to take for me to birth my Wise Self?
How long is it going to take me to break through the constructs, the patterns, the pain, to claim Her in me?
Too many ‘how longs’….
It takes as long as it takes, just like menarche to come, just like the baby to come…
Perimenopause takes 6 to 13 years.
Menopause is said to have occurred once you have gone 12 months after your last period, and Postmenopause means after the last period.
Lara says its important to have a map, however everyone’s experience is different. Its an incredible window of transformation.
The woman on one side is not who is on the other side.
The information Lara shares in the circle, we ‘know’, although a lot has been lost, some bits we recognise as familiar. Here’s a review of some of the ‘facts’ around perimenopause and Lara’s wise words….
“Timing: median age for menopause (i.e. 12 months after last period) is 51. Any time from 40-60 years old is considered medically “normal”.
Human beings, and possibly killer whales, are the only mammals who go through menopause. The current theory about the timing of menopause is that this is related to the amount of time it takes to raise a child. E.g. last possible baby at 50, dead at 70, 20 years to raise a child. Menopause happens when the ovaries stop releasing eggs.”
“Just at the point when you have a handle on menstruation – everything changes. Its confusing, you don’t really know what’s going on, but you don’t have to, your body has all the wisdom to go through this.
The changes can be disturbing, especially in regard to aging, losing fertility, attractiveness. You are still attractive of course, but in a different way, not through fertility.
It’s a panicky time, your benchmark of menstruation is not there anymore.
During perimenopause you need to be gentle with yourself, reduce your commitments if you can. Your inner life is speaking very loudly, it’s a valuable time to listen to your self.”
Perimenopause, like menarche, menstruation, and childbirth (each time) is a portal into the sacred dimension of Womanhood.
So what is the sacred dimension of womanhood?
What is it that I am looking into here at the portal?
A portal is a place, a space, in the experience of your life, that when focussed on can help you ‘see through’ to other parts of the story, your story, that give it depth and meaning, especially when viewed from the shamanic and archetypical perspective. And to quote my husband –“ these portals are an opportunity for transformation and growth, and the code word for that is ‘sacred’.”
Perimenopause, like all of the Altars of Womanhood, will of course be a deeply personal experience and one with some common insights, lessons and wisdom between women.
For me, in the sacred dimension this portal opens, I am connected to the whole me, to all women, and to the Divine. I feel this, I hear this and I know this. I receive information, I read signs and I am in a state of attention and self-awareness that enables me to choose my thoughts, beliefs, behaviour, and therefore my experience of my experience.
“Your feminine lineage information comes up, there is a possibility to process and heal the red thread during perimenopause.
Seek information from the elders in your family about the women in the past.
Those women whose bodies made our bodies speak through us during perimenopause, personally, collectively and universally.
This may show up as conditioned responses to situations that you have inherited from your mother, grandmother etc.
Lara suggests to be with these conditioned responses, to find out more about yourself, ask yourself:
What do I really think?
What am I going to do?”
“There are personal themes and universal themes to heal and this can be done with increasing your spiritual practice, and this is liberating.
At menopause, women deal with all the things that didn’t happen – babies, daughters, sons, work etc.
Things we’d though we’d dealt with come up, your unfinished business and it brings with it an increased opportunity that liberates you once you go through it, and sort them out. Be grateful.”
“During perimenopause, women become more like their mothers, you finally understand your mother, most of your experience of your mother as a teen and young adult was of her in her perimenopause.
You develop compassion for your mother and can choose to be different to your mother.
Seductive and whining behaviour and energy doesn’t work anymore.
You need a willingness to grow up and experiences happen to force maturity, you need to adapt and negotiate.”
And as Lara spoke of her own story during perimenopause she said “It was worth going through it, because it healed more generations of women, not just me.”
“After menopause, sometimes your stamina reduces and forceful exercise doesn’t work. Gentle exercise rather than strong exercise is best.
Your sexuality gets stronger around perimenopause, maybe because there are experiences you haven’t had that you need to have.
Testosterone increases, and results in deeper orgasms, and of course it is an individual experience.
The decreased progesterone of perimenopause leads to insomnia.
Hot flushes are burning off toxins, its an immediate response to the toxins because the liver is so busy.
The liver works hard during perimenopause dealing with the surges of hormones, so it helps your liver to decrease alcohol etc.
Its about adjusting your behaviour to prepare you for a healthy old age, decreasing your sugar intake etc.”
“Often the most severe hot flushes and insomnia occur in the 12 months up to menopause proper (the year after your last period) but not always. For some women the main symptoms come later.”
“Your health alters massively for good or ill at the gates of menarche, sex life, pregnancy, and menopause, depending on how you look after yourself. You can improve your health at these gates for the better too.
Women in perimenopause need time for self.”
So, me here at perimenopause, I see at this portal a place beyond, yet also here, a feeling of clarity following confusion, a space in my life where its obvious to me that its up to me, and only me, what I make of it. I am faced with choices and decisions about who I am in the world, my work, how I am with the relationship changes with my children as they get older, how I am with my aging and unwell parents. And of this place, I’ve noticed, that I notice (such a gemini thing!) just before a hot flush comes on, a feeling of clarity, my nose clears, my senses are heightened and I bring attention to whatever it was that I was just thinking, and often, mostly, it’s a thought with a feeling that I would truly better be served by if it was transformed. Just prior to the hot flush, I am contemplating something with an attitude or belief I need to change, transform, to enable me to be a ‘better’ version of myself and then the hot flush comes to burn it away.
The liver is busy during perimenopause, dealing with the hormonal fluctuations, and so anything on top of that, that needs metabolising is dealt with by a hot blast from the inner furnace. Its another reminder of how incredible our bodies are, not only can we grow a baby, give birth, feed and nurture our young, we can burn off the unneeded dross of a life time in preparation for our wise woman season.
So I am the Earth now in the bushfire season, dangerous, tricky, unpredictable, and simply ‘doing’ what needs to be done to ensure new growth in the forest of me for the next season. And She needs to burn to clear away all the debris on the forest floor, all the broken fallen parts of Her that have fallen unneeded from the trees and clutter up the ground, clutter that its easy to trip over and get tangled up in. No time for melancholia or reminiscing, to clear the path ‘what’s gotta go, has gotta go’, for if it doesn’t then the path is blocked or at the least, very cluttered. And I notice for myself, the more ‘forest litter’ around, the hotter and faster the fire burns, just like in the bush.
Since the heat has been turned up, so to speak, I have instinctively, without much difficulty or prior planning or thought, eliminated various toxins from my diet – coffee, sugar, and reduced others. The hardest part of that was letting go of my attachment to them rather than the actual thing. My diet is now mostly vegan and mostly raw, and so I am detoxing. And I have increased my exercise, yoga and chi gong practice and pursued processes to deal with ‘blockages’ in my throat chakra. So without much thinking or planning I’ve done what I need to do to clear the way for my next level of transformation, phew! This I believe is what will happen if we ‘allow’ it, just like during childbirth, our bodies ‘know’ what to do. And ‘allow’ means to be ‘with’ the process in what ever shape it takes, sometimes my hot flushes are mild and even gone and other times they are in full force, all day and all night. Often they come every 20 minutes just like the contractions did in my prelabour. Sometimes I can ‘see’ why, sometimes I can’t. I just need, as always, to own my experience and trust the process…
“The gift of menopause is that you live in the present moment in the reality of what really matters to ‘me’, now at this time.
The intuitive and psychic abilities of the bloodtime are available all the time, and you need to ground this with a daily spiritual practice, or bitterness can result.
I found a lot of my deep spiritual work came after menopause, and the shift into continual access to wise mind/intuitive mind is still developing, and I am now 7 years past menopause (age 49 for me).
Post menopause is steadier emotionally, you are even less effected by the moon.
Your body doesn’t respond to lunar cycle as much anymore, its more like a man’s response to the moon.
You are less self involved, the whole world is more important, you ask – what can I do to make the world better? Your personal self is less the focus.
That is unless you haven’t done your personal work and then what might show up is depression or anxiety, to get your attention of what you are grieving, losing.
There is a liberation from self absorption, when that goes, its very different.”
Read Lara’s article “Menopause the Wise Way”:
And then with much excitement I had a ‘visit’ from Dr Christiane Northrup, ‘a pioneer in mind body wisdom’ via her DVD ‘Menopause and Beyond – new wisdom for women’!
And I quote:
“Perimenopause is an exciting developmental stage that changes, transforms you at the core level. Perimenopause, all that it is, is designed to heal all the unhealed parts of you – that she says is the wisdom of menopause.
It’s the time to reinvent yourself, and what happens, how we are with this time, what we do with the ‘prompts’ for life style changes, personal development and growth, sets the stage for the rest of our lives.”
She says: “Perimenopause is a crossroads, one road says grow, the other road says die, and it feels like the end. What is required at perimenopause is a change of heart, to prevent disease.
It is time to fuel your life from your soul, from source energy – and do what you really want to do. Time to give up ‘perfect’ and reframe selfish.”
“Perimenopause does not effect libido or orgasm (in and of its self).
The greatest predictor of increased libido at midlife is a new partner – become a new partner!” She says!
“Pleasure takes courage and a willingness to release resistance.
Its not love that keeps couples together its fun.
Those who have trouble receiving, attract those who have trouble giving.
Perimenopause is the mother of all wake up calls!
There is a resurfacing of childhood trauma, family secrets, memories of sexual abuse and this is because you now have a strong enough ego, container, to be able to deal with these things. Other things that get your attention are any physical abuse, addictions, perfectionism, or job stress you have.
Midlife wisdom is a fusion of the mind and the heart, its not one or the other its both and.
When you heal your heart, you heal the whole world. The work you do to heal your heart at midlife uplifts and makes it easier for everyone else around you to heal theirs.”
And Christiane shared two great quotes:
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting.” Joseph Campbell
Quote from Martha Graham:
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”
“Menopause, Christiane concluded, is the perfect time to download who you are, then do it on purpose and play it out loud.”
Each visit to an Altar of Womanhood builds on the one before and we see the story of our life journey, this time, as it unfolds. Our experiences at these Altars of Transformation hold within them the key ‘lessons’ we have come for, that we need to learn on our journey to wholeness. “We have the birth we need to have, to teach us what we need to learn, to take us to the next place on our journey to wholeness.”
I remember my visits to the birth altar, each of the times, as if they were yesterday. And through revisiting them over and over I have come to know myself more fully, see my path and also to know the way of birth and what’s possible.
“You labour as you live”, a wise quote from Christiane, is a truth and an opportunity for personal reflection and awareness. And here, at the Altar of Perimenopause, where I labour on, for however many years its going to take, I am seeing so clearly that I labour as I live. My hot flushes stop me in my tracks during the day, they wake me in the night, they are impossible to ignore. They bring me into the here and now, simple medicine. No ifs or buts, just here, present in the moment, just like the labour of childbirth. So rather than thinking that ‘once such and such is done then everything will be great’, rather than thinking ‘if only’, or ‘what if?’ I bring myself from my reverie of possibilities, of options, to right here right now with what is – I let go of the life I thought I wanted and give thanks for the life I am having!
For I am truly blessed.