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