Contemporary western culture is somewhat short on road-maps for the second half of life... How might we feel differently about ourselves if the 'change of life' was welcomed as a timely erruption of spirit, calling us deeper into intimate relationship with ourselves - body, heart and soul? In a society in which most adult women can expect to live into their eighties, we need a framework which acknowledges the slow passage into our wisewoman years, most often beginning in our early forties, continuing through the perimenopausal years, and deepening again as we approach our sixtieth birthday (second Saturn return).
"Logically, the perimenopausal
passage into menopause is not an error or oversight of nature, but rather
the next step in evolution, growth, and development for women."
"The menopausal woman
is in a liminal, transitional phase, and she is pregnant with her future,
wise, elder self. She needs to take very good care of herself, go on
retreat as much as possible, not exhaust her adrenal glands, clarify
her life so it really works for her, and let go of occupations and relationships
that drain her physically or emotionally. Most of the symptoms of menopause
are actually an injunction from the body to do just this.."
Have we achieved the goals and dreams of the past? Are those dreams still relevant? Are our current circumstances serving us?
This reevaluation is much like a birthing process, transforming life from one phase to the next and defining how we are going to live the second half of our life.
At times the changes can be so profound we hardly recognize the person we were before. This process, both painful, and exhilarating, is a re-birthing, a redefining of who we are that brings us into deep contact with our own soul.
And just like being born, this period can be marked by alternating periods of tremendous pressure, chaos, and intensity (the contraction), interspersed with calm (the relaxation) and, finally, the exhilaration as something new and promising comes into the world.
Barbara Schermer - Astrology Alive! http://www.astrologyalive.com/Midlife06.html
A ceremony to honour the unique flowering of spirit that is you.
Here you are, in the middle of your life: no longer a young woman, not yet an old one. All around you, you can see the manifest fruit of earlier life-choices and experiences - in various stages of ripening or decay. Within you, you feel the seeds and shoots of unrealised potential, stirring gently perhaps, or maybe shouting out loud their urgent need of attention, of another chance at meaningful expression in and through your life.
How will you move forward? What allies and tools will help you find your way - as you move deeper into these uncharted territories of your soul? Having by now achieved a level of mastery in certain dimensions of life, from where will you find the courage and grace to return to a state of not knowing, of pregnant uncertainty - what zen buddhists call 'beginner's mind'...
In this ceremony a woman gathers her circle around her to witness and affirm her innate soulfulness, to take stock of the challenges mastered and the resources and wisdom gathered during the first half of her life, as she prepares the way for her new self to be gestated and born.
The whole of life is a learning journey, yet by the time a woman reaches her mature years, life has certainly brought her some significant lessons about what it is to be a human being in this world. She has seen some things, done some things, and lived through some things, and she has the potential to be a source of wisdom and insight that can inspire and empower younger members of her community. In the absense of a clear cultural prescription for our elder role, each of us is challenged to envision for ourselves what it means to enter our wisewoman or grandmother years. And it may look a little different for each of us.
"Perhaps most important of all, she bears the responsibility to be beautiful - physically, emotionally, spiritually. It is the Grandmother who represents the Great Earth Mother, the Goddess; she needs to portray Her with every step she takes, with every thought she thinks, with every action she makes. The Navajo say 'Walk in Beauty' and this is truly the key to Grandmother energy."
Marcia Starck, Women's Medecine Ways [USA, 1993]
One thing I have noticed: as women get older we often get more forthright, more willing to speak our minds. There is perhaps less investment in worshipping the god of other people's opinions. But at the same time the crone or wisewoman has also learnt that people sometimes need to be allowed to work things out for themselves. It can be wiser and more loving to hold our tongues. The wisewoman may be available to midwife another's birthing or creative process, yet she conserves her energy by doing only that which is essential - of the essence. Like the elder midwife at the very first homebirth I was privileged to attend, she understands that to silently witness is often the most subtle and the most effective of all interventions.
A rite of passage for the woman who is ready to claim her place in the circle of grandmothers/wisewomen.
What does becoming a wisewoman mean to you?
Preparing for a wisewoman blessing ceremony is an important opportunity to reflect on your own vision for the next part of your life.
A wisewoman ceremony often includes a central element of storytelling. For the woman being celebrated, recounting the story of her life journey becomes a sacred act. Held in a circle of women's hearts, the story-telling weaves its own magic of healing and integration, perhaps bringing fresh insights or an unexpected sense of peace.
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More reading about perimenopause as our passage to wisdom