Monday, October 29, 2007

Intuition and Menstrual cycle

I know I've been writing a lot about intuition lately, but I just found a really great article about the link between intuition and the menstrual cycle (and menopause too).

Some days I am definitely moving too fast to appreciate all the help that is whispered my way, but some days I sit back and watch the coincidences and synchronicities fire up and blow me away.

You are not crazy if you believe in a mysterious power that helps you move towards what needs to happen in a day. And if you pay attention, you may find there's a link between your cycle (if you have one, and yes, even after menopause I seem to have one) and your inner knowing.

Here's an excerpt from a brilliant article by Alexandra Pope, that popped up after a search on google:

"The stress sensitive barometer in women, the menstrual cycle is an exquisite system for sensing both physical and psychological wellbeing. Menstruation is an initiatory moment. Women can potentially open to a highly charged altered state, giving them access to a singular kind of power - the power of self awareness, deep feeling, knowingness, intuition. A power that matures over time with each cycle.

Most women might find it strange to talk of the menstrual cycle and menstruation as useful and powerful beyond its baby making function. This is not surprising. Too long we have been tyrannised around our bodies. To get anywhere professionally we've had to deny the life of our uteruses and silence our emotional authority for fear it would be labelled as 'losing it' or 'not rational', in other words not intelligent. T

he word 'hysteria' comes from the Greek for womb, hustera. Our wombs were seen as unstable organs, making us unstable. Whilst medical science has moved on from those fifteenth century notions, in today's atmosphere there still lingers a feeling that women are essentially unpredictable and unreliable beings because of the menstrual cycle.

No wonder women have needed to tread carefully when drawing from an authority that was not of the intellect. An authority coming instead from a knowingness, from the fullness of our senses and sensual nature. It is only in recent years that emotions have gained some currency. Emotional intelligence is a frequently used phrase today now that Science (male) has come up with the "hard" evidence making Emotions (female) respectable!" from an article on or at, Pope's own web site.

I've just ordered her books, A Woman's Quest. Now you know why this site is named 'questinggirl', because it has been a quest for information, a journey towards knowing, and not just guessing, at what a wonderful system we have within us. Who knew that a menstrual cycle was something other than a pain and a bother.

Especially now, with millions of women numbing their hormonal wisdom with the Pill, and even taking it continuously so as never to menstruate, there is a real urgency to getting this Feminine Knowledge out there! So spread the words, ladies. Our cycle is not to be played with, denied, doped up, or dallied with.

Even in your most peri-menopausal moment, remember the Blessing, and not the curse.

musemother aka jenn

Monday, October 22, 2007

Descent into Menopause

previously posted at musemother on Tuesday, September 11, 2007

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.

Perera's 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 of 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."

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

Feminine Mysteries and Menopause

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 in my experience, 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.namaste,musemother

book link:

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

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Menopause and Yoga

originally written May 16, 2007

Menopause - the Yogini's Wisdom Way

I have kept a copy of this article - Menopause the Yoga Way - since 1996. Must have been saving it for a future date - that's almost ten years ago. I was peri-menopausal then, and now I haven't had a period in 2 1/2 years.

This morning in Yoga class, I was lying on my mat during relaxation pose, and just before briefly drifting off to sleep, I remembered the article, and looked up the benefits yoga can bring to a tired middle-aged body.

"Many prominent yoga teachers agree that the practice of yoga not only alleviates the disruptive physical aspects of the menopausal years, but facilitates a spiritual alignment that inspires women to accept and nourish this inevitable change of life. Menopause, they say, can be profoundly empowering if encountered as a spiritual adventure and opportunity." (from article by Ellen Sander, Yoga Journal Issue 126 Feb 1996)

I am not quite a yogini yet, but I'm interested in whatever offers empowerment. I have practiced gentle yoga for over 10 years and still feel like a beginner. Beginner's mind is what the Zen teachers tell us we need to have, so I guess I'm in the right place. With yoga, I am still a baby, even if my body has turned 52 years old. Yoga is a godsend for my aching joints, stiffening hips and bursitic shoulders, as long as I don't overdo it. That's why I stick to the gentle yoga, not the vigorous ashtanga varieties.

If you're interested in a natural approach to menopause, you might check out the benefits from yoga postures: it's been proven to balance the endocrine system, and smooth out hormonal and glandular changes. Postures such as shoulder stands and forward bends have a calming, cooling effect to counter hot flashes and bring fresh oxygen to your blood. (downward dog, half-dog pose, corpse pose are also mentioned)

Joint mobility increases with the gentle stretching of yoga, and yogic breathing and focused meditation can tone and soothe the nervous system. Yoga asanas can lower blood pressure and heart rate, release muscular tension, improve sleep and reduce fatigue.

Susun Weed, quoted in the above-mentioned article, suggests menopausal women could benefit from an hour or more of yoga or t'ai chi a week. It is also an excellent weight bearing exercise to help prevent osteoporosis, and stops height loss by ensuring the disc spaces between vertebrae remain supple. She also recommends women in peri-menopause gain up to a pound a year, as a natural protection against thinning bones (you store excess estrogen in your fat cells). Imagine being comfortable with a little more roundness on your figure!

As for me, after my hour-long class this morning, I felt rested, relaxed and calm, my normal restless, anxious state soothed, my head clear and focussed, ready to embark on another busy day of errands, appointments and web site editing (a volunteer job I am currently doing for

It made me want to spread the good news - that being grounded in the breath and moving with the body in yoga is an easy antidote to menopausal symptoms. Again, the menopausal message is all about self-care:

"When a child is going through puberty, we're patient with her. In menopause you have to be patient with yourself. Women should realize this change is normal and natural and give ourselves some time to be quiet. It's a time to relook at your life. your life is going to be totally different. You're not as involved with your family: you need to be more involved with taking of yourself." (Yoga Journal article)

So lovely ladies, love yourself, love your bones, love your round curves, your dolphin thighs, your menopausal bellies. Help yourself to a little soft space to breathe in.

What I wish for you: peace in the belly, as well as peace in the heart



Breast Cancer and Self-Care

"Breasts are the physical metaphor for giving and receiving. In ancient times they symbolized nature's abundance and nurturing qualities." Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom

Recently I read an article about breast cancer in La Presse, a Montreal newspaper. One survivor said her top priority now is self-care, taking time for herself, making it a priority to put herself first.

How opposite this is to the messages I received growing up in a Christian household!

It seems to run counter to our very upbringing as women and mothers: taught to serve others and put their needs first, to make sure all is well with everyone else, often sacrificing meals, rest, small pleasures like reading, sewing or singing, to ensure this external 'peace' and wellness is there in a household.

However, it always backfires if your own tank is empty, running low on the fuel of self love and nurturance.

Dr. Christiane Northrup in her book, Women's Bodies Women's Wisdom, has a chapter on Breasts and how to take care of them. Also, some important information about the message behind the physical symptoms.

"Approximately half of all women who go to doctors go because they have some kind of pain in their breasts. " She states that cyclic mastalgia or breast pain that comes and goes depending on the menstrual cycle is usually caused by excess hormones, excess caffeine or stress. It is not a risk factor for breast cancer.

She quotes a colleague who wonders why women have so much breast pain: "Have you noticed that men never complain about pain in their testicals, but that women are always complaining about pain in their breasts and even their ovaries? do you suppose it's because men know that if they complained, someone would want to cut into them?"

Dr. Northrup continues, "If women learned how their inner guidance is advising them through breast symptoms to give more time and energy to themselves, they might begin to appreciate their breasts in a different way."

Breast cancer is a sign that something is out of balance - probably toxins and pesticides contribute, birth control pills and estrogen replacement have been pointed at, our fatty diets don't help, even genetics play a part. Dr. Northrup gives a few case histories about women who made different decisions about treatments, but in the end, she points to the fact that a woman needs to take stock of her life, as well as whatever treatment she undergoes, to also do some inner reflecting, join a support group, and find out where in her life the balance of give and take needs adjusting.

What are your breasts saying to you, today? Don't wait for a major scare to pay attention.

Love them, handle them with care, and listen to their message about self-care.

October is Breast Cancer month.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Intuition Growing

It's a slow learning curve for most of us, who've been trained to read only the outward signs for information on what to do, where to go, who to trust, what's next.

From my understanding, intuition is always the still small voice that sees ahead, knows all, and is trustworthy. Why didn't I bring the camera? I had an urge to, not knowing why I would need it, and I didn't listen, is the kind of thing that happens regularly. Or, so glad I brought the sunglasses, even if it was cloudy out this morning. Now the setting sun is blinding me on the drive home and I'm glad I have my shades.

But this voice is pretty quiet, hides under the rug, and when I'm moving too fast, I miss it.

Here's some tips I picked up from The Seat of the Soul (Gary Zukav) about growing intuition:

Wise and compassionate guidance is always available to us, loving guidance that assists our growth. You could call them 'messages from the soul'.

Step one to developing awareness: become aware of what you are feeling. Through your emotions you encounter 'the force field of your own soul'.

2. Ask the Universe for help to see clearly, i.e. Why do I feel this way? Does my experience support my suspicion or lack of trust?

3. Help will come, but answers are not always in the form we expect. It could be a feeling, a memory or thought that seems random, a dream or something that happens the next day.

Ask and you shall receive is the rule.

4. To engage and discipline the intuition: honour emotional cleansing at all times because blockage makes us negative and diseased. When you are clear, you become lighter, more open to intuitive track, closer to a sense of loving. So clear yourself every day of emotional impacts, unfinished business.

5. A cleansing nutritional program - eating the right foods for your body keeps you clear too.

6. Honor guidance you receive, learn to respond. Be willing to hear what intuition says and act accordingly.

7. Allow an orientation of openness towards life and the Universe, a sense of faith and trust that there is always a reason why things are happening. The Universe is compassionate and good.

"Intuition is perception beyond the physical sense that is meant to assist you."

These hunches about danger help you survive, know where it is safe to walk, where not. It also serves creativity and helps you find clues for working on a project. It serves inspiration, bringing sudden answers to a question, meaning that appears in the fog of confusion, light in the dark. It's like a dialogue between your higher self (soul) and your personality.

So let the creative team up there help you, while you pull data from the mind, heart and intuition.

This is related to menstruation and menopause in that women at their bleeding time and pre-menstrually, can be more in tune with their inner guidance, if they give themselves permission to rest, go slow, dream, and pay attention. Menopausal women, according to Christiane Northrup, MD are having their brains rewired to tune into those higher frequencies and get in touch with their 'women's wisdom'.

But I believe we can all learn to develop this side of ourselves, men and women.

So let your soul guide you, as Sting says.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Thanksgiving in October

Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, and the trees are blazing red in my back yard.

I feel the call to poetry, because nothing else reminds me how it feels to walk in sunshine with an empty head, and a full heart; to give thanks for birds hopping on a branch, for sunlight through leaves, for the smell kicked up by my shoes in those leaves.

Denise Levertov is one of my early discoveries when I went back to school at age 30 to learn poetry. I heard her read once at McGill and approached her with tears in my eyes to thank her for sharing her words and her heart with us.


The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

Denise Levertov

And that is what I felt yesterday walking in the green field of grass with golden heat on my shoulders. Breathe it in, today is like the last day. News of 3 deaths and one good friend with multiple cancers may have brought it home: my neighbour, of prostate cancer, passed last Saturday; my sister's best friend lost her newly found love, at 42, to a heart attack. My therapist of a few years back I just learned has a brain tumour and lung cancer at the same time.

I feel very grateful this day, to be alive, to be enjoying and appreciating. This day.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Breathing deeply

The phone rings, you jump out of bed, before you're even dressed or showered there is the list of things to do, the daily monster.

You hop on the computer, read your emails, remember you haven't fed the cats, run downstairs.Have a cup of tea, throw some waffles in the toaster, run back to answer that email you left open.

Once back upstairs, you see yourself in the mirror, hair uncombed, pyjamas on, and remember you wanted to do some yoga before you started your day. It's already 9:30 a.m. The day began a long time ago. the middle of my 'to do' list and the course work I want to write about, there is also the weekly blog. And I have no new insights or inspiration this afternoon, (what, already 2:00 pm?) except that life is flying by to quickly.

I did stop and do some yoga and some breathing work, because my stomach was tight and achy and anxiety was kicking in.

The only remedy I know is the STOP technique. Stop, think, organize and proceed. When I get too panicky and running wild and scattered, it's hard to feel satisfied at the end of the day.

Better to stop, breathe, find my center, and flow with the universe once again.

The list is like a genie, threatening to cut your head off if you don't give it another command - Do this, make that, call here, go there. It keeps us running all day. Keep the genie busy climbing the pole of your breath, up and down, while you get the real work done.

So breathe deeply, friends, that's my clue for today.

musemother (as posted on musemother blog)


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