Monday, September 24, 2007

Musemother moves to msmenopause

I am going to be moving my blog to (right next door, click on it).

All the posts on menopause from this blog will be moved over there, plus new ones added, like today's The Secret of Conscious Intention.

Please stay tuned to all three blogs, Wisdom for women (see links) and Ms Menopause for weekly bursts of insight, information and inspiration.

Have a lovely fall day,
Jennifer alias musemother

Monday, September 17, 2007

Feminine Mysteries and Menopause

This week we start a class discussion on the Feminine Mysteries, so at lunch time I was walking in the soccer field with Mollie the shi-tzu/bichon mix, my cute 2 year old, and telling her my thoughts on women and their bodies.

It seems that long ago and far away, women knew their place in the universe. In a far off mythical land (that may actually have existed), women knew that their bodies were part of the creative plan for the universe. Young women were initiated into the 'mysteries' of creative spirit through various religious ceremonies. Rituals centered around the cycles of women's blood, when they were fertile, when they were not, when they were in phase with the moon; the success of planting and agricultural crops all depended on this relation that women had with the moon.

Menopause is the third of the three initiatory phases for women. The first being menarche, the second pregnancy and birth. In menopause, something sacred and mysterious also happens. The women stop being fertile, they stop menstruating, they hold their blood inside them.

Scientists may see menopause solely as a bodily function, but menopause also has a spiritual and psychological function. It is a journey of moving inward. The problem is that “most women have …forgotten that such a place exists", according to Kristi Meisenbach Boylan in her book The Seven Sacred Rites of Menopause (Santa Monica Press, 2000). "For the past quarter of a century they’ve practiced self-denial, self-control and self-discipline to the point of having very little self at all.” Their inner lives may have atrophied as they worked hard, raised families, and done volunteer work, running themselves into the ground with being too busy to take care of themselves. “Once she has given all that she has to give, the outward will convince her to give more, even if it means giving up breathing. That is why women break down around the time of menopause, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally.”

She says there are many stages of peri-menopause, and they are all about getting to know yourself from the inside, and learning how to draw boundaries so that your energy is not sucked dry.

Once a woman masters the ritual of holding the blood within, she intuitively knows when to release her spirit and gifts to the world and when not to. She learns this from the wise-woman who she is now one with.”

The cessation of menses is a liberating time, but also a time for grieving. Maternal instincts may unexpectedly surface, the biological clock has ticked away. This is a necessary loss that must be grieved.

However, the good news is, she becomes electrically charged by holding this blood within. New ideas, new projects pop into her head left and right. Depression lifts, anxiety passes, she is sharper mentally, physically and spiritually than ever before. “It’s as if they suddenly wake up and remember that they left something simmering on the back burner. This is when the menopausal moth emerges from the chrysalis as a butterfly.” (but sometimes what comes before is the bug soup period, the messy meltdown: fuzzy thinking, hot flashes and insomnia, lack of focus, lack of confidence, feeling like jello).

Now, in her butterfly phase, she learns to speak it like it is. An older woman can tell it like it is until it hurts. And she develops an intolerance for injustice. She sees the truth, and gets her power back. She learns the ability to say NO and mean it.

I think you will enjoy this book, which uses the myth of Avalon as a metaphor for the withdrawal into inner realms.


link to the Independent Publishers Group page for The Seven Sacred Rites of Menopause

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Descent into Menopause

For any of you interested in a Jungian approach to menopause, I recommend reading Descent to the Goddess, A way of Initiation for Women, by Sylvia Brinton Perera. She analyzes the myth of Inanna, (before Ishtar, middle-eastern) in psychological terms, and describes it as a story of modern woman's quest for wholeness. Her theory is that we who are 'daughters of the father', well adapted to a masculine world, have repudiated or repressed our full feminine instincts and energies. And that in this 'stripping down' or descent to the underworld, we find healing.

The story of Inanna is a fascinating on its own, as it is the oldest written myth (on clay tablets) of a feminine divine power, known as Queen of Heaven and Earth in ancient Sumer (5,000 years ago.)

I read this book through the worst year of my peri-menopausal descent, which I described to myself as the 'bug soup' stage, when the feeling of melt-down, loss of power and energy, mild depression, weeping, and general upside-downness, took over.

Here is a short excerpt from the book:

"The basis of women's experience of childbearing and of all blood mysteries that create and maintain life is that Nothing changes or grows without the food or some other sacrifice. ....
the myth of Inanna's descent and return is centered on this archetype of exchanging energy though sacrifice. ...She needs to sacrifice her dependence on the patriarchal gods to find her true home in the feminine ground of being.

"What I have seen in myself and other women who are successful daughters of the collective, often unmothered daughters of the animus and the patriarchy, is that we suffer a basic fault. We do not have an adequate sense of our own ground nor connection to our own embodied strength and needs adequate to provide is with a resilient feminine, balanced yin-yang processual ego.

...there is a deep split, maintained by loyalty to super-ego ideals that no longer function to enhance life, a loyalty that keeps the ego alienated from reality....thus we need to undergo a descent to the underworld levels of the dark goddess (Erishkigal), back to ourselves before we had the form we know, back to the magic and archaic levels of consciousness ...back to the body-mind and the preverbal tomb-womb states, searching back to the deep feminine, the 'dual mother' Jung writes about.

On the way down we shed the identifications with and the defences against the animus, introverting to initially humiliating and devastating but ultimately safe, primal levels. (awaiting rebirth). ...We feel as if the old meanings are loosened, as if we are suspended out of life, without energy.

What helps: "Creative improvisions, touching, holding, sounding and singing, silence, breathing, nonverbal actions like drawing, sandplay, building with clay or blocks, dancing, ... maternally nurturant and companioning behavior....

the descent to the earth, the darkness is the yin way. Like Inanna, we must submit, going into the deep, to allow the transformative mystery to take place."

Wow, I know, this is heavy stuff, and written in Jungian jargon. However, read between the lines. Some of us have some deep healing to do, some of us can benefit from therapy, and some of us just need to loosen up and play more. Less book knowledge and more body knowledge. Less ego ideals and more feeling ideals. Less 'overarching boss of everything' mode, and more 'tend and befriend' mode.

This is just a hint of what the transformative process is like. It's not everybody's journey, but enough of the women I know have been through burn-out, depression, divorce and major health challenges in their mid-40's, for me to recognize the truth of this part of the journey. For me, it started just before my father died, and it's taken me from age 47 to 52 (about 5 years), to come up for air. But now, I feel the cocoon splitting open, and my damp wings are scintillating in the sun. My energy has returned, and I feel closer to the Queen of Heaven, than to the Queen of the Underworld.

have a compassionate self-care day,
and write me if this passage speaks to you,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Women's Mysteries and PMS

In western culture, we have adopted a belief that menstruation and menopause are taboo subjects, and only recently have we seen open discussions in newspapers and magazines about women's topics like these. But we have lost the sense of the old taboo time, or sabbatu.

When we threw out the taboo system surrounding women's cycles, we also threw out the notion of rest time for women. Often, the physical illness or dis-ease associated with our periods and even menopause stem from a psychological need that women have to be separate for a time, to rest and withdraw. Esther Harding, in her book Woman's Mysteries suggests that this is not a sign of neurosis, but a clue from the unconscious about a reality: that mental, emotional and physical disturbances of which a woman is unaware creep into our conscious life as 'menstrual disabilities', or PMS, and that these are related to the loss of rest time and alone time.

She suggests that we need this rest time, the same way we need sleep to nourish us and dreams to put us in touch with our unconscious, and that we would gain greater understanding about our own psyches if we had time to slow down and listen to our intuition. This was behind the 'moon lodge' of Native American women. A secret women's society, with laws and taboos surrounding it, sought to bring balance and harmony into women's lives and the whole community by allowing women regular contact with the deeper, internal nature.

A woman should heed the feelings she has pre-menstrually and recognize any disturbances as a manifestation of her need to be by herself, to temporarily withdraw from the demands of external life, and contact her deeper nature. This rest produces a healing effect and restores balance, according to Harding, a Jungian psychologist.

This week is the waning of the moon, leading to the dark of the moon, a period when irritability, inertia or restlessness may surface in a woman's cycle.

By replenishing the well of feminine being, we gain new energy, feed our relationships and creative proejcts. But active inner listening is required.

Pay attention to your cycle, ladies. Watch the moon's phases, and discover where you are. If you are menopausal and past menstruation, then pay attention to your energy levels, to your level of harmony within. Lay low if necessary, recoup, restore, and rest. Take cat naps. Avoid arguments with teenagers or bosses. Put major decisions on hold. Order out!

We have no external taboo to provide us with this rest time anymore. It's up to each one of us to tune in, and heed the signals. Tuning forks at the ready!

restfully yours,

Monday, September 03, 2007

Poem for middle-age

I think most poetry is appreciated differently by people in middle-age. There has been more loss, more love, more experience of life, to make reading poetry a bitter sweet salve. I think of the many women I know, above 40, approaching 50, who are rediscovering themselves, making a new life or new identity after divorce or after children leaving home, who look at themselves in the mirror and see new wisdom lines on their faces and wonder where the 16-year-old self they have lived with so long as disappeared to. This poem is one of my favorites, because it suggests that now is the best time to savor that meeting with oneself, now is the time to Feast on your life.

(see more poems on menopause and mid-life at

Love after Love
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.