Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Woman’s Way: In search of a feminine way

#78 Tao Te Ching

Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.

Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
because he has given up helping,
he is people’s greatest help.

True words seem paradoxical.

translator Steven Mitchell

What is a woman’s way? The way is not a clear cut path. It is not a philosophy, nor a religion. It is neither a prescription nor a cure. It is not a set of values or beliefs.

It is a practice of looking deeply, listening intently, reflecting on the inner journey as well as the external challenges of menopause. It helps to hold an attitude of being open to what may come, to exploring the changes one is living through with acceptance. A way is like a path in the woods one has never been on before. One follows the slight indentation of earth and leaves between the trees, looking for signposts that indicate the way.

(from the introduction to A woman's Way, the Tao of Turning Fifty)

I have finally been working on my book this week - got it spiral bound and printed so I can see what it will look like and make any final editing changes. It's been over a year since I began writing the peri-menopausal manual, and it sat for some months on my computer while I did other projects.

What got me back into it was a candle sitting on my desk that says Just Do It.

I finally decided that I can't wait for someone, either clairvoyant, psychologist, life coach or friend to point to me and say: you must publish a book on peri-menopause. The need to write this book comes from inside of me. The need for the wisdom gathered in this book is great. I believe that all women approaching their mid-life will want to consider this resource as a bedside book, as a reminder to them that others are going through the same journey of self-discovery.

As Judith Duerk says, It is difficult to find the Feminine way in this world of pressure, productivity, blackberry addiction and busyness. No one heeds the warning signs until too late - an accident, a health crisis, losing a loved one - then we decide that it's time to slow down and really look at things, really listen in deeply, try to right the balance.

It has been difficult for me to find my own feminine way, to trust it, to treasure the time alone needed for research, writing and reflecting. I have a hermit side that loves to sit and read and take notes, but also another side that feels anxious to get going, get out there and be busy, get things done. The two can work together, if I put the 'get busy' personality onto the book project, then the stalled editing process can pick up again.

I guess it's about finishing something, re-reading the work and saying, I can live with that, or that has to go. Being patient enough to rewrite what I don't like. Hanging in there for the disagreeable parts of the work like proofreading and cross-checking references. Finding a balance between house management duties and writing time, because some days the to-do list is more attractive.

I am holding a retreat this weekend, and holding a space open within for new learning there too. I need this retreat as much as the participants do - that's the weird thing, but it's true. We are all so much 'on' all the time. Lately some friends of mine are sick with colds or flu (aren't we all arming ourselves for this flu epidemic? battering the hatches....), so we cancelled our women's circle meeting. I told one of my friends, this down time is good, it's healing to have time off to reflect, take care of ourselves, hang out in pyjamas all day, even if you're coughing and sneezing.

And I feel it too - the need to turn off the phone, unplug the emaqils, still the racing mind, pick up the pieces of the fragmented self, some AH time with myself.

I wish you that,
ps see my Facebook page for information on America's Giving Challenge. YOu don't have to be on Facebook to contribute to tprf - my favourite humanitarian aid group who are currently at #7 and aiming for #1
click here :

Monday, October 19, 2009

What Women Want Now Time article

The Time poll on the status of women in America was published this week (US participants only probably, but as we are so similar I presume Canadian stats are not much different).

Maria Shriver produced the Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything, and according to an article by her in Time magazine, it's a "landmark study that examines how families live and wok today." It sounds like women have made great strides, but are still carrying more of the load, especially in the home.

It's a good thing that 70% of women say they are less financially dependent on their spouses than their mothers were. But the level of stress may have increased as well: 40% experience stress frequently, and 39% sometimes. And what to make of the fact that 65% of adults surveyed think that not having a stay-at-home parent is a negative for society (whether male or female is not specified).

57% of men think it's better if the father works outside the home and the mother takes care of the children. Surprisingly 51% of women agree. But who is actually taking care of the children in either case? 69% of women are primarily responsible for taking care of their children versus 13% of men. Some lucky ones say "both of us" (26% of women, 40% of men).

It's all about negotiating the load - there's a book reviewed in the Globe & Mail today which examines the Superior women who take on that load or burden of working plus housecare plus childcare. The theory is that we have trained our men to do less, by being superior at multi-tasking.

An interesting thought - because it lays the onus for change on women, of course, the superior ones. Who must now retrain their spouses to not only take out the garbage but change diapers, take junior to piano lessons, doctor appointments and the rest of the parenting duties.

What do women want? I think it's a faily simple answer. We want an equal partnership. We don't want to be boss (not really....), we don't want to be under his thumb, and we don't want to raise a family all on our own (not really....). We want help bringing home the bacon, frying it up and putting it on the table for the little piglets, I mean kids.

We want to play more, put up our feet and relax more, have meaningful conversations with our loved ones, be appreciated for all we do, and we thrive on a fair challenge.

That's all. Not much to ask.

40 years later.....from Time's first special issue on the status of women, there has been a lot of progress. College campuses are filled with women, Half the Ivy League presidents are women and two of the three network anchors (soon will be). Women win Nobel Prizes, publish books under their own names, and have babies when they want to, not because they have no choice.
Now what women want is a break! time off to take care of themselves....

Let's hear it for women. You rock, baby! You are not getting older, you ARE getting better.....

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Stress and Breathing

I don't know why we forget, but we do. When I'm stressed and anxious or running like a chicken without a head, I forget that to stop and breathe will push the stress away and bring me back to the ground - to center.

In singing lessons, I'm being taught to breathe all the way out before taking in a new breath, and this is also great for stress. The other day I was preparing the house for our women's circle meeting, baking banana muffins, sweeping the floor, setting up the teacups, and noticed time was ticking by and I hadn't had lunch yet. So of course I picked up the pace and got even more frantic.

Then I remembered I was going to lead a 15 minute centering exercise/mini-retreat to begin the circle, and that I should shift gears now! It was not automatic, but I did remember to breathe all the way out, before breathing in. Somehow, when we take little quick sips of air while we're buzzing around, it doesn't get empty enough to fill up again. So breathe out, push all the air out, then let the belly expand as you open your mouth. Voila!

If you sit and practice this for a even 2 minutes, you will feel the benefit,, as the swirling, dizzying busyness of life settles around you, and you step off the merry go round. You need to slow it right down. Maybe a few things on the 'to do' list won't get done, but you will be fresh and centered instead of fried and frazzled.

It's always up to you - or me. I can always choose the speed I'm running at. However, sometimes I need a little help. Lately, I have been getting help to relax from a wonderful reiki-reflexologist-therapist named Diana Claudi, who calls her business Connect With Calm. She does chakra balancing, therapeutic touch, chelation, alll kinds of therapies that make me feel absolutely calm, centered, and grounded again. Joy creeps back into my body, and I smile at my teenager's requests peacefully.

It feels better than a massage - I may make it a weekly treat.

I found a great website and social network at Pink, which has some great articles about finding your mojo, accepting your light and dark, and many more of interest to women.

have a great stress free day\


Monday, October 05, 2009

I am a woman listening for my own voice

Last Thursday at my women's circle, I began our circle chat with a centering exercise, a visualisation of the Shekinah or feminine spirit, enfolding us in her maternal wings. Then I read from a book I am loving these days, I Am A Woman Finding Her Own Voice, by Janet Quinn. (see her website at

With her inspiration, I am learning to live from the inside out. With the fall season, I am once again turning inwards to discover what best to do with my time, how best to serve, which project to focus on. There are highs and lows, days I feel inspired to write, days I throw in the dish towel, days I get busy cleaning house and baking muffins instead of paying attention to my own voice.

Something I read today in her book really rang true, because something woke me in the middle of the night to tell me the same thing: my own deep womansoul is crying out for a life of my own.

"Slowly, I stopped worrying and I began to look at my life. I listened for the faint sound of my own true voice, buried far below all of my identities and roles and accompplishments, below my shoulds and my have-tos, my fears and y hopes. I sat. I watched the sunrise and learned to identify birds. I waited. I watched the grass go from summer green to fall brown. I wrote in my journal every day, and every day I listened for her, for my authentic self.

"Finally, slowly, I began to hear the voice of my deep womansoul crying out for a life of my own, pleading for a chance to discover my own unique song; to dance to my own choreography; to define my own purpose, direction, and vision, separate from what the world expected of me; separste from trying to be good and stay out of trouble. I heard her saying, You are enough; just you, just who you are; you are good enough. You can stop proving it now. It's safe to come out; trust me, I will lead you. Trust this process. Trust that you are not alone."

It is that process of trusting the inner voice, the silent nudgings, the serendipity of chance readings and encounters, above all facing the fear of not being 'good' if I follow my own path. I am in process. I am not finished yet. But I can still travel with my good companion, my feelings, my body wisdom, and breathe into my body. Stay with the feelings, let them come up and show themselves, speak their truth to me. Because I want to write from a true place, teach from a true place, and my feeling is that it begins with self-acceptance.

This morning it began with a mini-retreat, some yoga, some cradling of the creaky hips on the floor, some stretches and music and candle-light, some reading of Mary Oliver's poetry - you do not have to be good, she says, you just have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
How I love to hear this line, which allows me to be good and love myself at the same time.

this yearning is for being at home with myself
this restless seeking of 'what to do' is really just resistance to being home with myself
I am at home with myself today,
and it feels good

ps planning a retreat for women called Poetry for your woman's soul, in November

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Women's Body Image Below the Belt

According to a recent study done by Dr. Debby Herbenick, a sex health educator at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, we women don't like how we look "down there".

Our anxiety about female genitalia and how it looks (and smells) stem from lots of outer sources, as well as our own insecurities. One of the causes according to Dr. Herbenick is the easy accesss to hard-core pornography, where women's vulvas are air-brushed, hairless and all look the same.

Our body image concerns have pushed some women to get cosmetic surgery, get the full Brazilian waxing, and buy grooming products. Others are too afraid to face their gynecologist for an exam, worried about how they look or smell. Some women are reportedly too afraid to even look 'down there' and do a self-examination!

Fear of the vagina has reached all time new proportions, but it's not the men who are afraid. According to the study, men were generally more positive than women. Women are a "lot more critical of all of their body parts" says Dr. Herbeneick in a Globe and Mail article from Sept 30.

Negative attitudes are also bad for your sex life - women who were positive about their genitalia found it easier to climax - which makes sense.

We could all begin by naming our genitals: vulva and vagina are not dirty words. The mysterious 'down there', as in 'don't touch yourself down there', needs to be mothballed.

TheVagina Monologues helped the word come out of the closet, but there is more work to be done, mostly by parents educating their children, but also by all women. If you haven't done so already, get a mirror and check things out! you may be pleasantly surprised.

Check out this website for yoni cushions, a visual aid to better self-image:
image of rose-yoni found at