Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Meltdown in menopause

Boy oh boy, for some of us, the meltdown is happening. Some days, tears come too easily, nerves crack and necks go into spasm. I remember feeling like that off and on last winter.

I think the metaphor of the butterfly is very apt - the cocoon phase, the liquefying (yes, the bug disappears so the wings can be born), then the transformation into a veiled beauty with colourful swirls. But when the caterpillar is getting fat and sleepy, and munching her leaves, she has no idea what phase is coming ahead. We're not much more knowledgeable, having lost the women's wisdom that used to be passed on from mother to daughter.

So here's a heads up - the liquefying feels like falling apart, feels like the fragile, vulnerable and often weepy side of the cycle - and it lasts until it lasts. The only remedy for me was rest, massage, rest, and naps. Oh yeah, lots of love surrounding you helps too. But it ends, the rollercoaster calms down, comes to a stop. Here's how I described it, while it was happening to me.

Bug soup

Inside the chrysalis
The transforming cocoon place
The low-lying energy renewal space
There is melting going on.
Before the muscle and wing,
Before the colour and deft flight,
The poor caterpillar reduced to a liquid mess.

And that is exactly how it felt
At 49, awaiting the end of bleeding
The big change.
I lay low and felt my muscles liquefy,
All my energy turned inward.
No more dizzy crawling, running and doing
Just rest
And more rest,
Even naps in the afternoon.

Until my beautiful wings began to grow
And surround me with rainbow reflections.
Sunshine called me out.
We dried our flimsy wet things
And took off.

No matter who or what needs you today, don't forget to make space for yourself, be compassionate to yourself. You are worth it.

with love,


Friday, October 27, 2006

Centering Balance Wisdom

Often I find my own wisdom by re-reading journal entries from a few months before. Lately I've been feeling out of balance again. After working so hard at finding it and maintaining it, I got back on the dizzy busy wheel of activity and temporarily lost my center.

Here's the advice I gave myself back in July:

Each woman must find her own inner peace during the "Change" process. In the struggle to shed my old skin and be reborn, I need to find what is true for me - I'm dizzy from looking outside to others, in malls, on T.V., in advertising, in films, in psychologists, self-help books and health fads - what is right for me? where is my truth. I have to stop using other people's lives as a guideline - I AM UNIQUE - I am my own barometer.

If I am unwell, out of whack, I need to search in my diet, my exercise program, my schedule, the things that stress me and my family - where am I out of balance, unwell, dis-eased? I ask my grandmothers, angels dakinis and guides to help me find out what makes sense for me.

Answer: When I make time for sitting in my sacred space, I begin to feel that life is taking care of me, always surrounding me; even in cancelled plans I feel mercy and compassion working. I open myself to being mothered by life - I lie down with my head in her lap, my forehead soothed; my aching brain relaxes and lets go its crippling fear of abandonment, betrayal, rejection. I am loved - that is the bottom-most need on my ladder of needs. I am safe, I am loved. My life is not in danger but my lifeline to peace is - if I let my anchor be shaken, broken or moved.

Dig deep, darling - this rose bush needs protection from wind, storm, frost, insects. With proper water, light and shelter, I flourish. My roses grow abundant on every branch, my perfumed fragrances waft onto the night air, sweetness envelopes my flesh; the odorous kisses of mother Life on my being I cherish and hold close to my lips - nectar of life, dew of morning, bejewel my petals with drops of water in sunlight. On the fresh morning grass is the moistness of evening rain leftover; during my early walk through the garden, Mollie's paws get wet as we gambol, sighing, inhaling the lavender's scent, following our noses to jasmine's bloom and perfume.

In my garden, there is birdsong, and the feathered plumes of red astilbe, pink malva and golden yarrow curve towards the sun. After the gardener trims and prunes, recutting the edges, new life bobs up from the ground, alive and energized, plumped up like a woman with a new hairdo - primped and pampered.

In my heart, that is how I want to feel, nurtured and cared for. I am the gardener. I tend and care for my whole being, body, mind and soul. I pray for nurturance and guidance. And to remember that my center, my balance, is right here, right now, in the present. I remember to slow down, and breathe. That is my wisdom.

May the blessing of life's gift surprise you,


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Muse schmooze

One of my reasons for going to Taos New Mexico this summer was to see Georgia O'Keeffe's sky and desert landscape. It did not disappoint.

One project on the back burner is a collection of poems written in Georgia's voice, taken from her letters published in various biographies of her. They are languishing on my laptop.

Another project is the Tao of Turning Fifty, which I re-worked a bit yesterday, and yet another, Eve's Quest, a performance piece/play. I met an actress today who is interested in playing Eve - and pushed me to start workshopping it. Well, she didn't push, she just nudged. And I jumped at the bit.

Must have been all that schmoozing, last night, at the QWF Schmoozapalooza: we did a speed schmooze - sorta like speed dating - 2 minutes to tell your life story, or what projects you're working on to another writer. A quick way to meet other writers, holed up in their holey-holes writing in isolation. I met a short story writer who said she had read my blog! have to figure out how to put stats on my blog - then I'll know who you are out there reading me.

Hi to Anne - and Beth - whom I met last night, amongst others.

So now I'm a bit more inspired to get to work -

Schmoozing with my muse,


Monday, October 23, 2006

Menopause as transformation

"Be at peace with your menopausal metamorphosis. Like puberty, like birth, menopause is a process not aided by hormonal manipulaiton. Extra progesterone is for pregnant women, not emerging crones." Susun Weed, New menopausal years, the Wise Woman's Way

The message Susun gives in her book on herbal approaches is more than just good medicine. It's common sense.

She urges women to pay attention to their bodies' signals, listening in, paying attention to dreams also, and keeping records of our cycles. Talk to other women before you decide what is 'normal', she counsels. Change in menopause is normal. Trust your instincts.

I think this is the hardest thing about women's cycles to accept: they are changeable, and menopause is all about change - I think for the better. Once the rollercoaster of symptoms subsides, and even during it, a measure of deep peace installs itself, a knowing deep in our bones of rhythms so ancient.

Like the seasons, our cycle is never still. Like the moon, we wax and wane. Why resist? Accept the power of change, the power of the body's wisdom.

Easy for me to say, I hit menopause 2 years ago, and the rollercoaster of hot flashes, PMS, night sweats and mood swings has greatly subsided.

The only thing I mess about my periods is not knowing where I am in my cycle - something new for me to get to know, how the menopausal woman follows the moon.



Friday, October 20, 2006

women's power and menstruation

extract on women's power from The Sacred Hoop, Paula Gunn Allen

menstrual taboos are about power: "The truth of the matter as many Indians see it is that women who are at the peak of their fecundity are believed to possess power that throws male power totally out of kilter. They emit such force that, in their presence, any male-owned or -dominated ritual or sacred object cannot do its usual task. For instance, the Lakota say that a menstruating woman anywhere near a yuwipi man, who is a special sort of psychic, spirit-empowered healer, for a day or so before he is to do his ceremony will effectively disempower him. Conversely, among many if not most tribes, important ceremonies cannot be held without the presence of women. Sometimes the ritual woman who empowers the ceremony must be unmarried and virginal so that the power she channels is unalloyed, unweakened by sexual arousal and penetration by a male. Other ceremonies require tumescent women, others the presence of mature women who have borne children, and still others depend for empowerment on postmenopausal women. Women may be segregated from the company of the whole band or village on certain occasions, but on certain occasions men are also segregated. In short, each ritual depends on a certain balance of power and the positions of women within the phases of womanhood are used by tribal people to empower certain rites. This does not derive from a male-dominant view; it is not a ritual observance imposed on women by men. It derives from a tribal view of reality that distinguishes tribal people from feudal and industrial people.

Among the tribes, the occult power of women, inextricably bound to our hormonal life, is thought to be very great; many hold that we possess innately the blood-given power to kill--with a glance, with a step, or with a judicious mixing of menstrual blood into somebody's soup. Medicine women among the Pomo of California cannot practice until they are sufficiently mature; ....So women of the tribes are not inclined to see themselves as poor helpless victims of male domination. Even in those tribes where something akin to male domination was present, women are perceived as powerful, socially, physically, and metaphysically. In times past, as in times present, women carried enormous burdens with aplomb. We were far indeed from the "weaker sex", the designation that white aristocratic sisters unhappily earned for us all."

Origins of PMS: (due to hormonal imbalance.) From Dictionnaire des malaises et maladies

"It is the rejection process, and guilt that have started to come to the surface. For a woman, the menstrual period is a reminder that she lives in a universe dominated by men. PMS indicates that situations are making me question my perception as a woman in relation to my femininity, especially if I wish to succeed in a professional career. I could be troubled, confused or influenced by stereotypes imposed by society.

affirmation: I love myself, and accept myself as I am, and I let myself evolve."

Some food for thought, for women who bleed,

with love,


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

the secret of life

I just watched the movie trailer for The Secret - it looks so intriguing, I want to watch it. My women's circle and I may view it later in November at the chalet retreat weekend.

But today, in the grey skies and rain, walking the dog around the block and scuffing my shoes on wet leaves, I knew this: the secret of life, for me, is only a breath away. It lives inside the tree bark that I love to look at, it hovers in the moistened grass, and at the tips of red oak leaves. It follows me everywhere, but I am too busy thinking to hear or see it.

My secret, your secret, the pulse of life keeping you alive, is that you are already a success. You are alive, and if you can appreciate the beauty of that gift, the secret begins to unfold, one breath at a time.

I know, it sounds too simple. Many look for it and do not find it. It is hiding under our very noses, inside our very hearts. It is tangible and real. Sometimes, we need to be shown where, and how, to look.

Peace of mind is one breath away.

Look for it.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Fall Inwards

It is fall, and it's gorgeous in Montreal. Gold and orange and a bit of red, amid lots of green - actually one tree in the back window fills my room with orange and yellow light; the rest of the trees are either green, yellow-brown, or empty. It has been a strange, slow fall, for leaves.

My energy this fall, usually high in the weeks preceding my scorpio birthdate, is a little more tranquil. Heady energy one day, slow and quiet lull the next. This is a good thing.

Have you ever noticed where energy comes from? When I have a hectic, social weekend with lots of wine and food and friends, Mondays are hellish, sluggish. When I have a quiet weekend, with lots of home time and music and singing, time with my hubby to talk and time to watch the kids dash out the door, I wake up rested and ready for the new week. Believe it or not, I just noticed this fact this weekend. Duh! you say.

Last night I watched a video of Maharaji speaking to dignitaries in Thailand - he was so passionate about the peace within, about savouring and enjoying existence. And he said something that struck me: when you go to sleep, it's the end of the day, but also like a little death. You wake up and start all over-- the next morning the sun rises on a new day, and a new life.

Think of how many chances we receive to get it right - one day at a time, a chance for me to not rush through the day and the lists, but stay open to the possibility of something new, a fresh breath, a surprise gift from the day. Can I stay open to that for more than five minutes?

I'm on my way out the door now, to walk the dog, and sniff the grass, and discover what the day holds for me.



Friday, October 13, 2006

A Woman's Way

today is Friday the 13th. A very lucky day for women who follow the moon, because there are 13 moons in a year.

Here is an excerpt from my forthcoming collection, The Tao of Turning Fifty.

Tao Te Ching # 42

The Tao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to Two.
Two gives birth to Three.
Three gives birth to all things.

All things have their backs to the female
And stand facing the male.
When male and female combine,
All things achieve harmony.

Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the Master makes use of it,
Embracing his aloneness, realizing
He is one with the whole universe.

My note: Stephen Mitchell makes liberal use of the masculine and feminine in his translations, sometimes making the Master female, sometimes male. But always, it is a question of the one becoming two. The folllowing entries are written about a woman’s way, and are intended as support and inspiration for anyone going through peri-menopause and menopause. Just so you know you’re not alone. Here is some of my newfound wisdom:

Women are lunar

Listen to the moon mom’s wisdom:
She waxes.
She wanes.
She is not full on 100 watt bright
all month.
She has a dark period.
She hides for a while,
Rests up for the month of creative fullness ahead.
Slow down,
Your pain will grow less.
You may want to bully your way through
But bulls are not cows.
Take time alone, sit down on earth,
Look up at the moon, and
ask for guidance.
Squat in frog pose for cramps, drink nettle tea.
Listen to your mom.
She’s got wisdom.

Note: How to marry myself: the worldly, practical, doer (beaver energy) and the spiritually hungry be-ing (snake energy) want to marry, inside the breath. So I let myself bathe in stillness, in the clear stream of breath running up and down the center of being. Feel my self become cleansed and whole. Then return to the list of things to do, calls to make.

Follow the Kiss principle: Keep it simple, silly.

with love,


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Breaking news: Bees can fly

"My mother gave me a bumblebee pin when I started work. She said: "Aerodynamically, bees shouldn't be able to fly. But they do. Remember that." Jill E. Barad

I've been reading a book called Odd Girl Speaks Out, ed by Rachel Simmons, about girls, bullies, cliques and jealousy - and remembering my own years in high school -- it's no picnic.

First you have to figure out how to dress, how to wear your hair, how much make-up to wear; then you have to figure out how you fit in. Are you unique? are you one of a kind? Nobody seems to want to be singled out as 'different', yet everyone wants to be 'special' or unique. Of course not everyone is part of the 'popular' clique - maybe you belong with the library card carriers, nose in a book all the time; or the computer nerds, who may call themselves privately brilliant, not nerdy. Or maybe you're a sports jock or a hip-hop dancing cheerleader. Everybody (even in schools with uniforms), gets stuck in a niche somehow, partly based on how they look. And what the crowd (or gang) thinks counts.

I remember not fitting in anywhere - altho clever in grade school, I turned out not to be a 'browner' or nerd. Some classes I was good in, history and English. Others I was lost in, *science and math*. In others, I got detentions every week for not handing in homework on time (home economics) or for swearing at the teacher (French). This made me part-time member in the 'rebellious' gang, the ones that wore jeans and liked to smoke cigarettes outside the school doors. Having an attitude, being snarky with everyone, becoming cynical and sarcastic, and having a mean mouth, were easy skills to acquire, but being a girl, I also wanted to be liked, to be pretty, to have a boyfriend. It was an odd mix.

Being 4'11 and 80 pounds for most of high school didn't help me attract the right guy either. Changing best friends every year kept things fresh, but it wasn't until I started hanging out with 5'8" tall Janet did I start to have real fun, and become a "Keep on Truckin" type of girl. We liked to dress in overalls or second hand Sally Ann dresses. We felt we were originals. But sometimes we made ourselves feel better aobut not belonging to the 'popular crowd', by picking on a little guy with black polished shoes and a briefcase we called "Little Prick".

I am not proud of our amaturish attempt at bullying. We followed him in the hallways, whispering insults behind his back about the way he was dressed, or the weight of his briefcase. We even kicked him once in the seat of the pants - either Janet or I. We made his life miserable for at least part of one year, possibly Grade 10.

It was early days of feminism, and I wonder if we thought it made us more powerful to pick on someone younger, and male. Paradoxically, the year after, we gave a shy newcomer with long hair and flannel shirts the opposite treatment. We made him our special friend and member of the Keep on Trucking society. He was almost mute he was so shy, but Janet joked with him and made jolly so that he began to actually smile in public.

What is all this rambling about high school years? I have a daughter, who is in and out of a clique of the same friends since Grade One. I have a son whose group of friends expanded in high school from one to six or seven. They are both tightlipped about what goes on amongst high school friends. But I know sometimes those friends can be mean back stabbers, gossiping, and downright mean. And that some days they take it all in and don't know how to react or respond. I know my son can be kind and generous, and also mean and sarcastic. I know my daughter is sweet and kind, and other times judgemental and snooty. And I know some of those girls have been in real emtoional trouble, and felt excluded from the 'gang'.

The odd girl in my life was me. I eventually learned to speak up for myself. And keep up with the tall girls.

So I hope my daughter (who is already taller than me) learns to value her own opinion, and her own intuition as well as the 'gang's. And that whether she wears the right hairdo or the right pyjamas to a sleep-over is not what will make or break her friendships. Most of all, I wish them one true friend in their life time. And I wish them the knowledge that even those unwieldy looking things called bees, so un-aerodynamic, can fly.

their mom, jenn


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The feminine face of God

Clearly, it is time to ask ourselves where we are going. And…where we are going, is back into daily life. The women…spoke not only of the need to slow down and create an opening for awareness of the sacred in our daily lives, but of the need to embody, to enact, to be a vessel of that awareness so that it flows into all our relationships.” The Feminine Face of God

Finding my own yoga practice: my breath, my belly, little egg inside the universal flow, I reach up my spine to Father sky, lay down on my back on Mother Earth. We have been such poor one-sided creatures, forgetting our mother, ignoring her power and love. Somewhere in the cosmos, our sparks and beams dance in the sacred dance of union, male and female, yin and yang, mountain and stream, ocean of light inside the belly, inner me inside of me, caress inside of me, the birth and rebirth of me. There is no life without mother birthing all her creatures. You may call her nature, earth, Gaia, you may name her virgin but she is still the source of the wet moist breath, hot blood, firm bone, waters salty and sweet, milk of life and kindness. Her lungs have blown into your mouth the air you depend on, so do not spit into the wind.

His lightning, her rain; his totem, her face; his pole, her ground; his mountain, her dance; his clouds, her wind; they breathe together in unison. Dig into the sand, it fills with water. We are matter filled with spirit. We are female infused with male, and male infused with female. Mortal infused with immortality.

Over night, love changed direction. I reached up and grabbed the wind.

Excerpted from The Tao of Turning Fifty, A Woman's Way
by jenn

Monday, October 02, 2006

Heart of Gold

And the funnel of light poured gold through the fontanel, into the filigreed girdle, the center of being. As it filled her, all words emptied. She no longer knew her names and in the tremulous light, as shaky breath poured up or down, this namelessness puffed up the skin like a balloon. The heart loosened from its string and floated in a circular flight, sky underneath, earth above, silent turning, in this gold sea.

Skin, voice, light. Meaning, sex, memory, longing, cry. Into her ears and eyes. No longer anchored to the useless words, only bubbles in water, no voice to call out with. And anyway, One hears her. Tongue nestles in the receiving place, at rest. Stay there, embraced, with prow of canoe pointed at the river’s mouth.

A flute sound in her ear, she turns. What was that? Lost it. Begin again, sit and learn. Listen. Not speak. How to get back? The door is unlocked. She has never understood. Thinks there is work to do. Hopped a long time on one foot on the wrong side of the door.

This day she finds it - still where she left it. This time, heart is quieter, less frantic, willing to be faithful for a few minutes, days, or weeks. Will they ever turn into longer than moments? This waking dream she falls into, out of.

Ah, the heart is made of gold.

Whatever you practice, that you will become good at. Maharaji at Amaroo, September 2006