"Menopause is a metamorphosis, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The caterpillar needs a cocoon, and so do you. One of the most important things you can do during menopause is to take time for you. Go into your cave, go into your cocoon, go into your room and shut the door."
These are words I have said, and sung, over and over. Words whose truth rings in the hearts of so many women who hear me speak. Words that prompted one (famous) female MD to throw her arms around me and exclaim "I thought I hated my patients. Now I know I just need a year off!" But words whose full meaning took some time to get through to me.
The idea of taking time off during menopause is an extension of a moontime mystery teaching: A woman benefits herself and her community if she takes a day off during her menstrual flow, to go within and tend to herself. By taking care of herself, a woman has more to give to others. But even more importantly, when she gives herself this time, she may sense the presence of her "spirit band" (angels) - those who are too faint to be noticed when one is focused on the hubbub of everyday life.
During menstruation, and during the menopausal years, say my Native teachers, the "veil between the worlds" is thin and easily parted. Our abilities and senses are heightened and we are open to guidance, inspiration, illumination - but only if we give ourselves quiet time alone, free of responsibilities.
I believe in this idea so strongly that I actually pay my apprentices to take one day off during their monthly flow. But it was exceptionally difficult for me to give myself the same time off. After all, I had to keep appointments that had been made months in advance and involved dozens to hundreds of people. I can't agree to be the keynote presenter at the National Institutes of Health conference on Women and Botanical Medicine and then tell them after I get there that I have to have the day off because I'm bleeding, can I?
So, even though I knew that my menopause would be more severe if I remained in the public eye, I again found myself unable to say "No." And for once I was sorry to be right.
The first summer of my menopause was exceptionally hot, and it seemed to trigger hot flash after hot flash. At one big conference, I was so hot they finally put me to bed on a cot in the climate-controlled (air-conditioned!) herb storage building while everyone else braved it in tents. I awoke not totally refreshed (I woke those days four and five times a night), but not melted either, and smelling decidedly fragrant.
And then there was the class that walked off and left me. It was another hot summer day. My memory of most of those insufferably hot menopausal summer days is mercifully blank - or, perhaps more to the point, welded into a recollection of one ongoing unrestrained surge of molten energy blanketing me from belly to crown. But this particular day is vivid in my mind's eye.
It was a staggeringly hot day. It was so hot that I decided after lunch to take my class of about twenty women to the river which runs through the back of my land. First, everyone had time for a little break to tend to necessities; then we were to meet at a certain place at a certain time to stroll to the river and look at plants along the way.
At the appointed hour, I showed up at the appointed place. By ones and twos, the students gathered. One asked me if I had a remedy for her headache. I asked her to get a glass of water and went into the house to get the herb she needed: skullcap. (How aptly named it is!) When I returned, in moments it seemed, no one was there except for the woman with the headache. I put ten drops of skullcap tincture in her glass of water, and asked where everyone was. "On their way to the river," she replied, much to my surprise, chagrin, and dismay. They had walked off and left me with no students to teach.
It took me some minutes to work through my feelings of abandonment, and more still to work through my sense of loss. But when I did, I could see that my students had given me the gift of the afternoon off. They somehow understood - I finally understood - that I needed time alone, time away from responsibility and leadership. And if I didn't have the sense to go into my cocoon, the Universe was willing to see to it that I was placed there by circumstance.
Ten years later, I look back and smile: remembering those sultry menopausal nights and steamy hot flash days. If I had it to do over again, I would squash my qualms about global warming and buy an air-conditioner as soon as those first strong hot flashes hit. And I would pull every string I could so that I could take as much time as possible off during my menopause metamorphosis.
http://www.menopause-metamorphosis.com Menopause Metamorphosis: Gentle solutions for body, mind, and spirit - alternative approaches, herbal remedies, wise woman support. Includes solutions for: thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, fertility after forty, herbs for women taking HRT, and more insights into the menopausal years by Susun Weed.
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