What images come to mind when you think of menopause? Whether it’s something you’ve yet to experience, have long since passed or are in fact, an unsuspecting man witnessing this inevitable time in the lives of the women around you, what would be your knee-jerk description of what menopause involves? Years of tiresome night sweats and embarrassing hot flushes? Exhaustion from chronic insomnia and relentless menstrual flooding? Unwelcome pounds creeping on as your metabolism seemingly slows down? An unfathomable personality change that leaves you a stranger, even to yourself, be that acute anxiety or depression, debilitating loss of memory and clarity or a crash in confidence with intense emotional lability? Or did you manage to get off scot-free with simply the slow and gentle cessation of a not-so-monthly cycle?
While women come into my Chinese Medicine clinic seeking treatment for all the above, there is another dimension to menopause that is available to women at this stage of life that can be incredibly enriching and quite literally, transformative. Chinese Medicine regards the menopause as a woman’s Second Spring. It has the potential to be a time of a total life re-write, an exciting time of re-discovering ourselves on our own terms. As the demands of the many roles we play as a woman within our families and society begin to wane or at least lessen, we can afford to consider what’s important to us from a place of greater freedom and self-expression.
So often as women, we park our own hopes, dreams, needs and deeper selves in order to nurture, facilitate, support and finance those in our care during our younger decades. These years are of course the era during which we accumulate our valuable life experience, expertise and grow from many of life’s lessons. But our Second Spring is a time of shedding what we have outgrown, of being released from some of our responsibilities, of coming up for air after decades of selfless service and a time in which all our experience, expertise and hard-won growth can begin to distill into wisdom, self-assurance, calm and insight.
In Chinese Medicine, each of our organ systems are a microcosm that include a corresponding organ-specific spectrum of emotional and mental attributes that have both healthy and unhealthy expression. With our Second Spring, we can begin to have the bandwidth and spaciousness in life to consciously seize the day and ride the wave of physical change to dive more deeply into our own personal journey with unbridled selfhood.
I encourage women to pause at the juncture that The Change offers and reflect with a sense of curiosity and openness to ask themselves, ‘What is the life that wants to live through me’? It takes courage to re-imagine what our lives are about when our children have flown the nest or when our biology has simply shifted gear and dare to consider what we ‘plan to do with our one wild and precious life’.
While menopause can be a disorientating time, it can also be a tremendously empowering one, during which we get to reclaim ourselves, sometimes for the first time, and follow the beckoning call of The Woman Within who has waited so quietly and patiently for our time to come.
I particularly enjoy working with women during this powerful time. Within each organ system lies a path of personal growth and Chinese Medicine offers a framework for not only understanding how to help a woman with the physiology of menopause but also how to help harness the interpersonal and even spiritual opportunity of menopause. For instance, perhaps her Liver system needs tonifying to enhance her sense of vision for her life (the Liver channels opens into the eyes supplying both physical and metaphysical vision) and to transmute any residual anger, irritability or intolerance she may have previously experienced (from Liver Qi stagnation) into the virtues of the Liver: benevolence, kindness and compassion. Or perhaps her Gallbladder needs support to cultivate courage, conscious action, and decisiveness. Alternatively, her Lung system may need treating to help her navigate life’s losses and sorrows (grief is stored in the Lungs) to cultivate a greater capacity for letting go with forgiveness, or to nurture her sense of self-worth since issues of vulnerability and feeling valued are rooted in the Lungs.
Above all, Second Spring is our second bite at the cherry of life. It’s a time to look your hopes, dreams and quiet callings in the eye and ask yourself, ‘If not now, then when?’
It’s our time to flourish, to cherish the life we have and to honour the woman we have become.