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Red Tents and the Wisdom of the Womb

How do you take care of yourself when you are in the midst of just one too many things to do and overwhelm is sneaking up on you? It can happen all too easily for all of us. My time is the next couple of weeks. Just the way life is. So…

In a spirit of self-care, I offer a retake on a post that I wrote several years ago. Around this time of year, I often remember my Gramma Beryl who lived to be 104. This piece was homage to her then, and now this article is once again homage to all the amazing women in my life. My sisters Renee and Lynda are flying out to help me celebrate my sixth decade and my mom Bett is already here. And…my brother (I have some pretty amazing men in my life, too!) and his partner Mia are flying in, as well, to party. Lucky, lucky me.

Here’s to memories, to women, and to the men who know how to love their women! Enjoy.

One of my very favorite patients once gave me a book that she thought I might enjoy. All she said was that it was about women and that she thought of me as she read it. As with many things in life, I finished the book just prior to my grandma Beryl dying at 104. The book is about keeping memories alive, about women telling their stories to their daughters so that they would not be forgotten. It is the story of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob in the Old Testament. The book is called The Red Tent by Anita Diamant:

“…the other reason women wanted daughters was to keep their memories alive. Sons did not hear their mothers’ stories after weaning. So I was the one. My mother and my mother aunties told me endless stories about themselves. No matter what their hands were doing-holding babies, cooking, spinning, weaving-they filled my ears.

In the ruddy shade of the red tent, the menstrual tent, they ran their fingers through my curls, repeating the escapades of their youths, the sagas of their childbirths. Their stories were like offering of hope and strength poured out before the Queen of Heaven, only these gifts were not for any god or goddess-but for me.”

I myself have borne sons only, no daughters. But in reading the book, speaking with my mom, listening to Beryl just days before she died, and reflecting on this topic, I have been truly challenged (remember the descent into mystery and darkness?) to consider that perhaps it is time that we, as women, begin to share with men our experience of what it means to be female in a way that is truthful to who we are as humans with physiological differences.

Our experience and stories can inform and offer another way to live in this world. As women, we are intimate with the cycles of life, death, birth, gestation, ovulation, and transition as we experience them at a physical level through our menstrual cycles, from the onset of menses at puberty through to the cessation of them at menopause.

“The menstrual cycle is the most basic, earthy cycle we have. Our blood is our connection to the archetypal feminine. The macro-cosmic cycles of nature, such as the ebb and flow of the tides and the changes of the seasons, are reflected on a smaller scale in the menstrual cycle of the individual female body. The monthly ripening of an egg and subsequent release of menstrual blood or pregnancy mirrors the process of creation as it occurs not only in nature, unconsciously, but in human endeavor. In many cultures, the menstrual cycle has been viewed as sacred.”
~ Christiane Northrup, MD, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing

So perhaps I should be dedicating this issue to my sons as well! How to tell our stories? Again, I quote Christiane Northrup, but this time from her book The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing During the Change:

“The culture in general, and the medical profession in particular, admonishes doctors to keep our personal stories to ourselves, especially when they involve difficult emotions like fear or anger-allegedly because to appear too human would undermine our authority. Yet I’ve found over the years that nothing illustrates a point quite as effectively or is as helpful to my patients as an honest personal story. Telling the truth of my own humanness and vulnerability is also helpful to me. Honest stories help awaken the healer within us.”

And where does the rubber hit the road on this little piece of advice in my life? I guess it begins with my reply when asking my guys if they will be coming home for lunch as they head out to work. When they say, “I don’t think so,” my new reply is now to honestly say, “That’s wonderful. I will really enjoy the peace and quiet so that I can write without interruption.” And to myself, I add: without the expectation that I will drop everything and attend to you. Boy! Am I going to have fun telling the truth of my story to myself and to my family as my tribute to the liberation of menopause!

It’s an exciting time for me being in menopause—and I believe every stage of a woman’s development can be an exciting time. Our challenges with menstrual difficulties, conception/fertility/pregnancy, breast cysts and cancer, vaginal herpes/warts/cervical cancer, and menopause can all be opportunities to become conscious, to tell the truth, and to become our own healers as painful as the illness or process is. Set aside any self-condemnation that you have somehow “created” your disease or difficulties with a hormonal transition and, instead, with self-love and self-acceptance, become intimate with who you are and your purpose for living. Our illnesses and normal developmental stages of life can be teachers if we allow them the space to be there.

Northrup has a table in her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom called “The Anatomy of Women’s Wisdom.” Often, when I “get” something like a cold or experience uncomfortable symptoms, I confess to running to Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life with the hopes of shortcutting my personal work, so that I can “understand” what my underlying problem might be at the time and somehow speed up the process. Ha! Bloody ha!

Maybe you have discovered as have I, it’s interesting information, but until I actually “do the work,” it’s not all that illuminating nor as individualizing—although I have come to greatly appreciate my own insights when they finally arrive (remember that dark place? Again?) No surprise then that when I do my own work, rather than accept a generalization, I find more relevant meaning to my illness! Having said that, though, the “Anatomy of Women’s Wisdom” table is as good a place as any to begin your personal work of understanding what your own personal expression of a female illness or condition is all about. Do your work, though, and you will be well rewarded with insight! Journal, write, see a counselor, visit your homeopath, talk to your friends, and find a way that works for you to understand yourself and your body.

According to Northrup, the “Menstrual Cycle” is about “creative cycles and attunement with unconscious lunar formation.” (Women’s menstrual cycles are closely aligned with the cycles of the moon. It “mirrors the process of creation unconsciously.” I have read/heard that the Moon Lodge is the name given to the place where Native American women honor their bleeding time. There are many of us as women who could do well to learn from the women’s traditions of other cultures.) When that wisdom is blocked and there is an “Energy Dysfunction,” Northrup suggests you could look at the following: “Refusal to embrace cycles of darkness and light; not allowing shadow side to be seen and worked through.” The “Physical Manifestation” is: “lack of periods, heavy periods, irregular periods, PMS.” (You can find some remedies for lack of periods or amenorrhea in this week’s handout.)

The “Uterus is the creative center in relationship to self.” This is the “encoded wisdom” of this organ as illustrated in the table. The “Energy Dysfunction” is “bondage to the emotions of others, unable to birth most creative self” and fibroids are the “Physical Manifestation.”

Using Northrup’s suggestions in the table as a place to begin with your work on communicating with your physical female complaint—bringing understanding out of the darkness and into the light as it were—I will now offer some suggestions for homeopathic support for some of these particular conditions: fibroids, heavy periods, no periods, irregular periods and PMS.

Remember…this is the beginning of healing as we tell the truth of our conditions to ourselves first. Read, learn, understand, and know that the work we do as women in healing ourselves is what we will be offering to the world as healing. Consider this:

“As a woman in midlife today, I am part of a growing population that is an unprecedented forty million strong. This group is no longer invisible and silent, but a force to be reckoned with: educated, vocal, sophisticated in our knowledge of medical science, and determine to take control of our own health. Think about it: forty million women, all undergoing the same sort of circuitry update at the same time. By virtue of our sheer numbers, as well as our social and economic influence, we are powerful-and potentially dangerous to any institution built upon the status quo. It’s a safe bet the world is going to change, willingly or otherwise, right along with us. And it’s likely to change for the better. It’s no accident that the current movement of psychospiritual healing is composed largely of women in their thirties, forties, and fifties. We are awakening en masse and beginning to deliver a much-needed message of health, hope, and healing to the world.”
~ Christiane Northrup in her book The Wisdom of Menopause

Forty million women in menopause alone and just imagine what we can offer when we share with the rest of the world, the wisdom that is inherent in the female body through all of its cycles, not just menopause!

Let’s continue this conversation in next week’s post, where we’ll discuss heavy periods and painful or irregular periods, and then onto the topic of PMS and fibroids.

In health and healing,


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