Monday, April 28, 2008

Why can't I sleep?

"You won't sleep well during the short part of your menopause when you may be swept by waves of volcanic heat, shiver through arctic chills, have sweat rivering through your bedclothes, and feel powerful surges of emotion. There may be times when your mind and hormones and memories make a crazy quilt of your dreams and days. Surely you wouldn't expect to sleep peacefully through that.

"Inspiration may shake you awake before dawn. Be ready to receive the gifts of this Change, whether awake or asleep. Be ready; what you thought were walls are veils...."

Grandmother Growth, from Susun Weed's new Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

It would be nice to have the luxury of napping whenever and wherever we feel the urge to catch up on lost sleep. Especially for those of us who work during the day, a little power nap would be great, if we could allow it for ourselves.

Sleep is one of those things you just can't do without, yet it doesn't come when it is bidden. For pregnant or nursing moms and hormonally challenged menopausal women, sleep is elusive. It is the one thing that makes you feel crazy if you don't get enough of it. And yet, sometimes it's the first thing we skimp on to make room in our busy lives for more 'activity'.

What if we saw more sleep not as a lazy person's habit but as a spiritual practice?

I was shocked when I read this in The Woman's Quest by Alexandra Pope, that sleep is "a powerful spiritual practice and the most powerful of all for overworked women." She goes on to say it works wonders for our being at all levels. Especially around the time of our period, and during the Pause. It could be the extra dream time we need, or a time of rest and repair.

If we look at the menstrual cycle as our inner guidance system, then it would make sense that when you feel sleepy, you let yourself sleep. Consider it an ally, and a way to be kind to yourself. Make an effort to get to bed at a regular hour every night, and find time during the day to have some down time, which may not be a nap but just a chill out time of doing less.

Somewhere, somehow, we need to nurture our need for sleep. Countering the 'productivity' machine is not easy, but in menopause, our bodies are clamouring for self-care. Slowing down while you eat, moving at the pace of your body instead of the pace of an overactive mind, taking cat naps wherever possible, writing down your dreams if you do wake up in the middle of the night, all these are ways of listening in to the Feminine.

enjoy the spring rain, take a nap!


Monday, April 21, 2008

Coming home to who I am

"I feel as if I am becoming who I was meant to be. After all the years of outer-directed energy, I am coming home to the Feminine...coming home to myself. I am allowing myself to become a mature woman in the truest and deepest sense.

Sometimes, as I sit listening quietly within, it seems as if the very air in the house has been transformed. There is a hush of tranquillity, an attitude of devotion filling every room. I feel a sense of connection to the self that I have been at other times in my the girl and maiden from the past, to the developed woman of adulthood ... and to the older woman I know that I shall someday be.

As I allow myself to mature, I find that I must do things the old, slow ways...perform my work so quietly that some part of me can always be listening...listening for the deeper sense of my life. Those few brief moments each day... I set aside to listen are no longer enough for me."
from I Sit Listening to the Wind, Woman's Encounter within Herself, Judith Duerk

This morning I created a mini-retreat for myself after my regular meditation. I lit a fragrant candle (rose incense), did some yoga to some wonderful music I bought at Kripalu. Then made a note of all the postures that felt good, from cat and dog, to downward dog, pigeon pose, and yoga mudra: to open hips and shoulders, stretch the spine and legs. I lay down on my bed afterwards in corpse pose, and listened to the drone of chanting while I rested, and let myself go to feeling what was there in my body, wrapped in a fluffy blanket in the stilled room.

That was all I needed today, to remind myself that I need to slow down and listen in. Part of me is always wanting to rush into the home office next to my room and get on the computer, read my emails, check the blogs I love, connect with others. Or attack the list of calls to make, things to do around the house. We are selling our home and renovating a new one, so there are lots of those kind of things to do.

What struck me this morning was the need to get close to my inner feeling; the emotions swimming in my belly were calling out for healing. I didn't put names on them, just felt the fluttering and soothed it by breathing into it. Peace and groundedness are my priority for this moment. Even reading the new books I just received on The Change felt like too much 'outside authority' for my inner self this day. I felt a real quest to find my own wisdom, my own healing modality. What is it I need for myself today?

Every moment, there is information available to me. Every moment I can check in, breathe deeply, stretch my body, find out how I am feeling, and how close I am to my well-being.

Wellness of being, well of being. Is it full, or empty?

Can I give myself what I need?

I repeat the mantra often, the one I need to hear: I am OK. I have everything I need.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fatigue and menopause

Fall into my arms and sleep, offers Grandmother Growth. You don’t have to make this change happen; it will happen on its own. Let me hold you. Let go. Don’t resist. Rest. You are in the midst of the labor of giving birth to yourself as Crone. Of course you are tired. This is hard work.

Let the pushing energy of your uterus move your energy up to your crown, rather than down and out, as with menstrual blood and babies. This birthing of your wholeness is something you’ll retain, not something you’ll birth and give away. Rest in my strong arms. Take courage.”
from New Menopausal Years, Susun Weed.

Dialogue with the Great Mother about exhaustion:

Bring me your tired women” she said, “your weary and weak.”

The women were very tired – they were tired of working fourteen hour days; they were tired of schlepping children to daycare at 7 am and picking them up at 6 pm, of fighting over homework and of never having a minute alone with themselves, let alone their husbands, tired of changing toilet paper rolls and of picking up puppy poo, of being the only one who walks the dog and feeds the cats. They were tired of PMS, hot flashes and sleepless nights.

They were tired of driving their kids to karate, tae kwon do, brownies, cubs, guitar lessons, hip hop and ballet classes. They were tired of sore necks, bursitis and tendonitis from typing all day. They were tired from doing laundry at midnight and making breakfast at 5:30 a.m. They had tried physiotherapy, acupuncture, osteopathy and chiropractors. They had taken supplements, joined a gym, cut out carbohydrates, walked and jogged and step-classed themselves to even greater fatigue, and Great Mother, all they wanted was to lie down on the floor and rest their weary heads….

Yes, even the hair on their heads hurt, and their ears were sore from hearing Mommy I need this by tomorrow or I’ll get a detention….

And Great Mother replied…

Dear dizzy, busy daughters of Earth – yes, you do need to rest – you need to lie down on my grassy breast, or float in my salty waves – you need to give yourselves a break before you break a leg – or crack up in a nervous break-down.

Why can’t you rest? Why can’t you press the pause button? That is why I created meno-pause.

You’re not paying attention – listen carefully please – you were not created to Do It All Alone – there are no super moms or superwomen out there – Listen to what Ishtar, Queen of Heaven invented many thousand years ago – a Sabbatu, or heart’s rest at the full moon (when she was bleeding). This is your time to take a day off.

Long ago, a sacred day of rest was created – the Sabbath- on the full moon, a sacred day, a day to refresh and renew your energy, a much needed, blessed rest, once a week – from there you can reset your clock, your energy and give out again to your family, your job.

Come home to me. Receive my gift. You may have all the gold in the world, but without peace in the heart, you will never feel fulfilled or at rest.

My peace I give to you – make yourselves a sacred space, a space of quiet, without distraction, in nature or in your room:

light a candle, run a hot bath, or sit quietly in meditation, walk in the woods or listen to a babbling stream, take a nap, put on some soothing flute music, stretch your muscles in yoga, or lie in corpse pose on the rug - but these you must do regularly to feed the heart’s need for rest.

Find/make your own Sabbatu, for the body is your temple and the heart sits on its throne. Hearth and heart need a space to call Home,

My blessings always,
Queen of Heaven.

I open my heart in compassion and love to those I meet.
Knowing that I too, shall be loved and comforted in my turn.

Prayer from Kwan Yin, Buddhist goddess of compassion

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ordinary Women can change the world

Judith Timson has a great column in the Life Section of the Globe and Mail ( today. She asks the question, how can ordinary women change the world when they are so tired? It's true that women of a certain age are wanting to step out of their lives and do more for others. And that we are exhausted from trying to juggle all our roles. It must be menopause.

Dr. Joan Borysenko calls this stage of life the Guardian Years. We want to share our knowledge and wisdom, protect the vulnerable, help grow the world into a better place. We are also learning how to speak up and be true to our own needs.

Maybe before we save the planet, women need to stop trying to do it all the way men have done it for years, subsequently dying from overwork and heart-attacks. Why are so many women experiencing stress or burn-out, usually women in the caring professions of teaching and nursing?

Approximately one in three people is sleep deprived, complaining of exhaustion and trouble holding things together. We are an anxious and worried culture. Between 1990 and 1997, the number of doctors’ office visits for anxiety increased by 31 percent.

Unfortunately, many of the people who suffer in doctor’s offices are the health-care providers themselves. Some are so stressed that they have proceeded to the advanced state of exhaustion called burnout, which is a condition of mind, body and spirit that is distinctly different from stress.”
(on Beating Stress & Burnout at

In mid-life, our energy stores can become depleted. Our bodies start giving us messages about the need for self-care, often disguised as illness or fatigue. Often, we haven’t developed the habit of taking care of ourselves. That would be selfish.

I don’t think of self-care as selfish, but that’s because I learned the hard way, by breaking a leg, that I needed to ask for help. In mid-life I am learning to speak up about what I need help with. I ask my teenagers to cook once a week or at least help with supper and do dishes. I ask them to take care of their own rooms and laundry. I need help walking the dog on days when I work outside the home. Women with ailing parents have the double bind of working, caring/ cooking/shopping and cleaning for their parents, while keeping their own houses tidy and cooking healthy meals for their families. No wonder we’re tired.

My theory is that to restore balance, we need to honour our feminine life cycle. And of course, not only for women, but for weary men, too. Reinstate the Sabbath, a quiet reflective day once a week to let spirit revive us, whether through Church or synagogue, yoga or relaxation. Find more down time, less busy time. Lose the fear of ‘not being productive’ and rest more. Take daily naps. Get outside and watch the geese returning. Take a walk around your neighbourhood and smile at someone you don’t know.

Mid-life women are wisening up. Too pooped to cope anymore with everybody else’s ‘stuff’, we are turning to our own need for balance. On the airplane, if the oxygen mask suddenly drops down, it is suggested that you put one on yourself first, then on the vulnerable ones you are traveling with. Don’t wait for burn-out. Find out where you are on the 'dry well' scale - empty, half-full?

Do something good for the planet now, and take care of your heart. Find the sabbatu or heart’s rest, which in ancient times the Queen of Heaven took on her bleeding days. We have lost touch with the feminine art of rest and receiving. We can regain balance by toning down the ‘do it all today or die’ syndrome.

My personal effort to restore balance is to stop striving, resist the ‘perfectionist’ in me who is never satisfied, ignore the voice that wails, ‘it is never enough, I am not enough’. Breathe in, breathe out. Find balance and presence, find the center in the chaos. That will help the world. Give the world the gift of your presence.

Your children, your parents, your co-workers and friends, will all drink from the well of your plenitude.

be well,

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's Happening to me?

"The wise woman achieves menopause. It does not overcome her."

Well, so the books say anyway. I can remember feeling very overwhelmed during peri-menopause. There's even a homeopathic remedy for that feeling: Sepia, which I took as needed.

Sometimes things get a little topsy turvy, what with lack of sleep, night sweats, PMS taking over for two weeks instead of three days, and breaking into tears at inopportune moments, like in the middle of a business meeting with your boss.

How do you handle it? Do you go for hormone replacement therapy? Do you just go to see a psychologist for talk therapy? Anti-depressants? What is going on with me?

According to Dr. Christiane Northrup, our brains are being rewired for greater intuition. We move out of the child-rearing mode where we are focussed on others, and begin to caretake ourselves. Changing levels of hormones may be what stimulates the 'Change', but the upshot is, we get encouraged to deal with a whole lot of messy emotions, collectively labelled "unfinished business". The PMS is not the cause but the trigger - it is signalling stuff you have stuffed down, swallowed, and can't digest anymore.

Sitting with a journal (or a good friend who doesn't mind listening to your litany of woes), is a good way to begin to untangle what you are feeling. What do I want? What is bugging me? What is pissing me off?

Can I dare open that can of worms and deal with it, instead of waiting for the can to explode and have worm soup all over the kitchen floor, and risk damaging my relationships with children and spouses? I think it is safer to make lists in the safety of my room, and look at my emotions from a detached place (out of the heat of the moment). Why did I fly off the handle at my daughter's request to book her a hair appointment? Am I taking on too much that is her responsibility? Can I let go of the 'mothering' I do and let my kids take on more of the household tasks? Why can't I value my own self enough to make room for me, my needs, my work, my space.

Myspace - funny that all the kids are creating their myspaces on-line. That's a good metaphor for what menopausal women need. A My space blocked out somewhere in the virtual world or the physical world in 3 dimensions. Sometimes I fantasized about a white room, with no distractions, no radio or tv, no interruptions, no puppies to walk, no cats to feed, no demands on me....somewhere I could let my writing flourish in....then I realized what I was imagining was a little padded cell.

Maybe it's also time to release some demons, release the past, face the present moment. I make visualisations and affirmations a part of my ritual now: I can do it. I am worth it. I believe in myself. I have something worth saying.

There is deep siginificance to this Change, on a psychological level and a spiritual level.

It is initiation by fire.

It is awakening my own feminine self.

It is empowering me.

It is burning through me with the energy of a forest fire.

Find out what is feeding the flames.

Be your own best friend, and show some compassion.

Let the power surges support you, not freak you out.



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