Monday, March 31, 2008

Leaving Home

“It’s an old tendency of humans to leave home and strike out across a frontier that beckons as a zone of magic, mysticism, inspiration and holy conversion. When we are at loose ends emotionally we tend to set out on a symbolic journey into unfamiliar territory where newly aroused senses allow us to feel vigilant and reborn. In part this is based on the intuition that to change one’s self one must relinquish all that is known and habitual, cast off from the shore of one’s home and the endearing familiarity of everyday life, whose moods and manners one comes to know like an old friend. …we do not always travel to escape our circumstances but to find ourselves. Why must we do that in a foreign place, having become foreign to our past.

...The wilderness may be an actual frontier fraught with danger, or it may be a wilderness of doubt.

from Cultivating Delight, Diane Ackerman

Sometimes people travel to lose themselves, some people travel to find something they've lost, a nostalgia for their childhood town, or a sense of who they once were in younger years. Some people strike out alone, others in groups.

For myself, my mid-life quest or peri-menopausal quest, has taken me from Australia to India, from Panama to Massachusetts, from Vancouver Island to New Mexico. At least once a year, and often twice, I leave my kids in the capable hands of a caretaker plus my husband (or in recent years, up to their own devices) and go on retreat.

Sometimes it's a long journey amidst a group of fellow seekers, sometimes it's a lone ride in a rental car through the desert. Sometimes it involves camping on a natural reserve on the other side of the world and dealing with jet lag as I meditate amongst the Kookaburras, sometimes it's singing with 45 other women in a convent just south-east of Montreal and sleeping in a tiny room.

The important thing is, I get away by myself. That is, without family to take care of. I take some needed time out, because a year-long sabbatical is out of the question until the kids leave home. I'm used to working alone in my home office, typing away at my laptop, but it's not just solitude I'm looking for. It's the mystical sense of finding 'me' when I remove myself from my habits, my daily routines, my ruts, and plunk myself somewhere new, either in a workshop or retreat, and ask questions of where I am, what I'm doing, what I want to do.

The answers have been slow in coming. Sometimes it's about rooting deeper into my essence. Or jumping fully dressed into a swimming pool at midnight. But it always involves a challenge. Driving into a lightning storm on the desert roads of New Mexico with 2 newly found friends was dangerous, exciting and felt like crossing the fear-barrier inside me. Waking up to coyotes howling every night in a pitch dark adobe dwelling was breaking part of the fear-barrier too. Sitting in front of a blank page, facing the sacred Taos Mountain, waiting for a sign about what my work would be, or should be, or what project called to me, I faced the fear inside. Maybe nothing would come out of it. Maybe I had to stall this project of calling myself a writer and go back home empty-handed.

The answers are rolling in, now, slowly but surely. As I continue to learn, read, study, follow my natural inclination towards researching menstruation and menopause, I am finding my subject, or it is finding me.

I continue to quest. I invite you to read some of the entries on this blog, for pieces of my journey. Perhaps they resonate with your pieces. Or not. We each have a quest, and I believe that menopause is a fantastic opportunity for self-knowledge, self-awareness.

So leave home, if need be, as often as you can. And return. With something new you've learned about you.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Opening to Dream time or Liminal Spaces

For ages and ages, women have, by the very nature of their cycles and connection to the moon, enjoyed a special connection to dream time or inner sight.

I believe that the greatest damage we do to ourselves is not allow for enough down time, rest time or dream time, especially around our menstrual cycles. How many women even know when they are going to menstruate? We are so out of touch, we need a calendar to remind us, and we forget to look at where the moon is in the sky. Do you ovulate at the full moon? do you menstruate at the full moon? try getting in touch with where you are in the cycle, and maybe you will open the door to getting in touch with your 'inner dreamer' or inner guidance system.

Alexandra Pope has this to say about the liminal time:

"Liminal spaces are windows of opportunity, a way of liberating our thinking, a place of dreaming, a time for magic, a place to garner soul food and guidance for our life. A place to collect ourselves. It's where we step out of the world, out of our mundane life, into a kind of in between territory. No longer confined by the material world, it's a place where we can travel into the farthest reaches of our selves and the universe.

When a woman moves from one part of her cycle to another she's crossing thresholds: transitional moments she must pass through as she moves from one phase of the cycle to another. Some of these transitions will feel slight, a momentary dip in feeling or rise in energy, sometimes a pain as ovulation occurs. For other women the post ovulation phase can feel intense, not unlike what many experience coming into menstruation itself - the premenstrual angst.

....a woman often thinks she's stupid or clumsy at the premenstruum because she's dreamier, less clear in her thinking and behaves in apparently illogical ways. She's not less intelligent - her intelligence is simply operating in a different way. ...women multi-channel at this time, the way mothers do all the time, operating on many different levels all at once."

She suggests that maybe in the premenstrual phase, we are just 'in between' - neither one role or another - we become more open to the unseen. We can't hold things in, or repress our feelings. All kinds of socially unacceptable sides of ourselves get liberated - like in the time between dreaming and waking, we're not quite sure where we are, vulnerable, and open to the unconscious.

And if during this time you also have PMS or symptoms of discomfort, it's time to pay attention: "Menstrual problems, whether unpredictable moods, pain, fatigue, endometriosis or fibroids, are signaling some overall health difficulty." Your cycle is signalling a problem through its increased sensitivity at that time, not causing the problem.

Wise women slow down and listen to their cycles and stay open to the liminal space, the place of learning and self-growth. You are your own best 'thermometer'. Stay close to the symptoms and ask the deep questions. Use this time as an initiation into yourself, and be willing to explore the inner labyrinth.

What is it you most want to do, or need to receive at this time?

Remember that dreams can be healing, and get lots of rest. "Accommodate the dreaminess", says Alexandra. "Slow down and allow your curiosity to extend your vision of the world. Dreaminess softens the boundaries between our inner life and the outer world, opening us to surprising discoveries." And if you're operating machinery, give yourself frequent short breaks.

Some advice taken from The Wild Genie, by Alexandra Pope, sub titled, The Healing Power of Menstruation.

enjoy the day,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Who You Are

Who you are is so much more
Than what you do. The essence
Shining through heart, soul and
Center, the bare and bold truth
Of you does not lie in your
To-do list. You are not just
At the surface of your skin, not
Just the impulse to arrange the
Muscles of your face into a smile
Or a frown, not just boundless
Energy, or bone wearying fatigue.
Delve deeper. You are divinity;
The vast and open sky of Spirit
It’s the light of God, the ember
At your core, the passion and the
Presence, the timeless, deathless
Essence of you that reaches out
And touches me. Who you are
Transcends fear and turns
Suffering into liberation
Who you are is love.

Donna Faulds
From Go In and In,

Poems from the Heart of Yoga

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Poem for Saturday because it's still snowing here

Drop down into my spider self,
Where the thin tenuous thread
of attention’s tension uncoils, returns.
Let down the rope, thud--
Creak – into a round stone well, damp smell of water
Lower my seeing sense and soften the hearing
(listening, listening)
into silence - under breath, sometimes awake in the night
no sound
but a shrill, cricket-like noise in my ear,
no, more like Mira described: bracelets tinkling
on the ankles of an ant.
That fine-tuned.
Isn’t it my impatience fences me out?

And what of spiders, their delicate legs and slow
descent from the ceiling to where I live, down here?
Why does it frighten me so, to live at the core of this
listening presence?

Or am I just being clever with metaphor – that impulse
keeps me on the surface, when the water I am thirsty for,
lies deeper…Shh, quiet –

Thoughts slow down, I pay attention,
So careful now not to miss a thing – it’s not
what I tell myself in words – the thing is smaller,
finer that that – I am without sleep, and guidance
comes walking in the door,
I read – ‘poetry as being there’--
Ping! Quest, isn’t it?
Hmm, a life puzzle or maze
unsolved day-by-day, turning corners, sniffing my way
by intuition, even if the mouse doesn’t see the cheese, another sense
tells her it is there – close your eyes, feeling will guide you,
trust the spider sense,
in the tea kettle voice of your alarm
Or the softened touch, pillow soft tears –

Love of words has taken me this far – can I let them go, now?
Who speaks, who listens? No, feels.
Ego crunches underfoot --mask fallen, paper mache facsimile of me
Stepped on! Ouch, then smiles under tears.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mothering Teen Daughters

In her book Mother-Daughter Wisdom, Dr Christiane Northrup talks about The School of Friendship or how adolescent girls manage their emotions.

It seems like the minefield of high school and nastiness from girlfriends can make being a teenaged girl feel like being a contestant on Survivor. Am I going to be voted out today, or can I still play the game?

Northrup suggests that brain development and hormonal changes bring up "raw uncensored emotions" like anger or hostility. There is no difference between what an adult feels and an adolescent, it's just that they haven't learned to censor them yet or cover them up with food, alcohol or marijuana. Unacceptable feelings also get hidden in the body and come up as illness.

"Adolescence is a small window in time in which an entire peer group -- all of whom are going through huge physical and emotional changes at slightly different rates-- is thrown together in school to learn the social and vocational skills they will be applying throughout their lives. This process started in childhood, of course. But now, the addition of hormonal urges and sexuality make things much more intense. (just like animals in the wild, they pick on people who are different, through herd behavior). "some of it, however, is attributable to the culture we live in."

"I believe adolescent female nastiness is a natural consequence of growing up in a patriarchal society in which a girl's needs for self-development have not been taken seriously until fairly recently. In hierarchical social structures like patriarchy, it has been observed that those with the lowest status tend to fight amongst themselves for the attention of those who have more power than they do. Alice Walker once remarked that the slaveowners knew very well how to keep the slaves in their places -- just keep them fighting amongst themselves. ...Likewise, if we as mothers and women continue to believe that adolescent girls are just naturally nasty, moody and difficult, then we cannot be of much help to them as they negotiate this critical entrance into the adult world of expanded self-expression and creativity."

(and if we haven't worked on our own stuff, how can we guide them past the places where they get stuck?)

Mother-Daughter Wisdom, Dr. Christiane Northrup

Maybe we shouldn't pressure our daughters to be 'nice' all the time. Maybe the indirect back-stabbing and gossipping comes from not being encouraged to speak up. Maybe we should teach our daughters to name this behavior: shunning girls who don't fit in, making fun of girls with the 'wrong' clothing or hairdo's, talking behind girls' backs, etc. Stop the hurtful behaviour one girl at a time, one mother at a time. "That's how a culture changes." (adapted from Northrup's chapter on friendship)

See Northrup's book for some tips on how to help your daughter negotiate girlfighting (validate your daughter's experience; update your own views; point out the real motivation behind the Queen bees of the world; accept your daughter's humanity and that you may not be able to remove the influence of the queen; don't allow your daughter to take it out on you; keep talking and keep your ear to the ground; be her mother, not her best friend; acknowledge and support your daughter's innate ability to deal with her own life).

So, mothers and daughters, express yourselves with love and joy. Speak up and be willing to grow wise.

this wisdom for mothers book is a real treasure, and too lengthy to quote more from,
so I recommend you read it for yourself,