The Wise Ones Say
…Hear the voices of the wise ones calling across the ages. Let the soothing sounds of their wisdom stories inspire you, and show you the way.
Wise ones the world over refer to the first phase of our midlife passage as isolation. They call it the descent. They know it as a down time. They say it is the cocoon. This is Persephone being dragged down into the underworld, the dark world of Hades. This is the dark night of the soul.
During this often painful part of our midlife journey we may yearn for time alone, may literally ache to simplify our lives, cut our losses. Both women and men may become irritable, preoccupied, scattered, and suffer memory loss, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia. Feelings of regret, remorse, and depression are common during this time.
If you find yourself sinking into the black hole of depression, consider surrendering to it and allowing, perhaps even welcoming, the descent into your deepest nature. Depression can often be a call from deep within, is often the soul’s yearning for deeper meaning.
Give yourself the time and permission to go into the darkness willingly, to uncover the wisdom lying there. Uncover your deepest strengths, your deepest truths, the stuff of which you are made. Reclaim your authentic voice. Allow this brush with Saturn to enrich and empower your life, even as it breaks you and brings you to your knees. This is the shadow side, and intimacy with it will bring depth, weight and measure to your soul.
Often, midlife depression accompanies emotional growth and indicates that some serious, life-altering changes need to be made. If we ignore the call of the wise-one-within for midlife change, we may remain depressed, stagnant, and immobilized for the rest of our lives.
Use your growing shamanic awareness to traverse this terrain carefully as it winds and turns, like an underground tunnel, until a light is seen. Dance on the edge, balance on the rim for awhile, even fall between the cracks, just have faith, the light will appear. This is a good time to get to know, and use regularly, an array of safe and effective herbal allies that will nourish your spirit and help keep you grounded.
Herbs such as lavender, rose, lemon balm, cannabis, skullcap, and St. John’s wort all have solid reputations as allies that nourish the spirit. Revitalizing ginseng and angelica are also excellent friends during bouts with depression and general low energy.
The continued growth of our human consciousness, and the consciousness of our planet, requires that we give in to our soul’s longing at this time of our lives. We are being challenged now to process lingering emotional baggage that we may not have had the time or inclination to deal with before. Doing the work we are being called to do during the initial phase of menopause prepares us for, and leads us into, the second phase of this human evolutionary process, which is death.
Though death is a difficult concept for us to confront willingly, given our culture’s repulsion and denial of it, we are actually being called upon during the second phase of our midlife passage to face death, and all that death represents, head-on. We are being challenged to become like the Buddhist monk, who lives with the constant awareness of death on his/her shoulder.
We are being asked to summon all the courage, strength, and grace it takes to give death to our former selves, to who we have been. Midlife is a time of dealing with loss and learning to let go. We must bid farewell to our youthful promise, the richness and fecundity of our childbearing years. We may be called upon to say goodbye to a beloved parent or spouse. No matter how death, and the mysteries surrounding death are presented to us, we must give ourselves permission to mourn our losses.
Doing this work requires time alone and a lot of thought, support, and psychic energy. When we have fully examined each and every part of who we have been, cried over all our many disappointments and losses, raged and ranted over all the should haves, could haves, and would haves, all those dreams that never quite materialized, the love that didn’t last, or was taken to soon, and finally put them all to rest, it’s done.
We are ready for the third phase of this ancient, eternal passage, this shamanic mother-father-rite, our re-emergence, reintegration, and recommitment. Our midlife renewal. We have undergone a complete and utter metamorphosis. We are reborn, have given birth to ourselves anew. And this is as it has always been, and shall always be.
Did you know that hot flashes and night sweats, experienced by both men and women, are kundalini energy rising up the spine, transforming our circuits, altering our brain chemistry, physically and energetically calling forth enlightenment and wisdom? Did you know that the hormonal and chemical changes that are going on in our bodies and brain during midlife are affecting our minds and spirits and doing the same thing? Literally making us wise. It’s true!
Our culture, for the most part, doesn’t acknowledge any of this. Our culture denies the spiritual aspects of midlife and completely ignores the fact that well joined couples often experience menopause together. So few couples remain together long term, that few of us realize the depth of the hormonal interplay between a man and a woman who have been loving one another over many years.
A couple’s hormones become completely coordinated and interdependent with one another over time, and produce a constantly fluctuating array of hormones in response to one another. Energetically, and hormonally, a well-joined couple is one united blob in a constant feedback loop.
In one study of eleven monogamous heterosexual couples, the testosterone levels in the male partner rose to their highest levels simultaneously with the ovulation of the female partner. This was the case in twenty-five out of the thirty-two cycles studied.
During midlife, intense hormonal changes are happening to both partners, individually, and in concert with one another. We are partners in a long, slow dance, an incredibly drawn out process of renegotiating and rewiring our relationship for the next phase of our lives together, our elder years. More than any other relationship in our lives, our intimate relationship with our mate can be counted upon to illuminate old wounds still in need of healing.
It takes a lot of time, space, attention, true listening, patience, forgiveness, and especially love, for couples to make it through these midlife changes with a renewed sense of love and commitment to their lives together. We all know that the relationship between a man and woman who share a loving bond is a living entity with a soul, intelligence, and energy all its own. It is a great and magical mystery, a sacred thing, due utmost respect, proper nourishment, and care.
I learned to nourish myself in many ways during my menopausal years, to support the deep cellular changes this transition brings. I gained a number of gentle, consistent, effective, and truly nourishing herbal allies I will consider to be lifelong friends. You’ll learn about using them to support the transformative processes of midlife, for women as well as for men, over these next few weeks in these pages.
Coming up next, The Chemistry of Menopause.
excerpt from Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause; Herbal Allies for Midlife Women and Men by Gail Faith Edwards
Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause