The Wise Woman
Capturing the essence of life
As I have mentioned in previous posts (read here), I adore autumn and before the rich hues have been completely usurped by winter's icy cool I've been thinking about how important this time of year is for women, especially during midlife. We know that the Western world is finally waking up to the benefits and timeless wisdom of Eastern therapies - where wellness is all about working in harmony with nature to keep the body, mind and spirit in balance - so during this time of year lets capitalise on this...
Take Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for example. The ancient sages believed that the transition to the autumn (menopausal) phase of life is the time of creativity and new beginnings, the time when a woman finds a more confident voice and the time to capture the essence of life. There is also a genuine acknowledgment of the wisdom she has acquired during her earlier years and a feeling of harmony in body, mind, and spirit. More on this in my latest book 'Your Middle Years' written with dietitian Paula Mee).
Unique to Chinese medicine is the ultimate personalisation of therapy. For example, one woman’s hot flushes may be worse at night and accompanied by profuse sweating, restless sleep and dry eyes, while another's flushes may appear randomly through the day and be accompanied by low back pain, poor memory and vaginal dryness. These women will be treated very differently (unlike in Western medicine) and rather than trying to restore hormone levels to those of a younger woman, the goal of therapy is to nourish and rebalance the body through a combination of acupuncture, herbs, diet and lifestyle. More on this in future posts so keep your eyes peeled!
Another ancient philosophy holding its own in our modern world is Ayurveda, the Indian system of healing, which dictates that our bodies are a microcosm of the universe with three doshas (energy systems) at work: vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth). Each of us has a unique pattern of physical, mental and emotional energy that corresponds with these doshas,
In Ayurvedic thinking the menopausal years signal the era of the Wise Woman and the vata phase of life. While ageing is associated with the loss of life’s juice, literally and figuratively, it is also the time when a woman really comes into her own gaining a deep confidence and respect amongst her family and community as in Chinese medicine. This vata time is characterised by an overall drying out in the woman’s body – the thinning of hair, nails, skin and some internal organs (all very familiar, yes?) As these qualities decline (much like the deterioration in oestrogen levels which, in Western thinking, keep body tissues fluid and moist), the internal balance is disturbed with knock-on affects throughout the body.
What is common across these medical beliefs is the role that stress and lack of sleep play in further depleting the body’s energy and resistance. So in essence, this autumn season (and indeed life phase for us mid-life folk) is all about capturing and storing life's essence and energy- much like the ancient farmers who gathered and stored the harvest for the bleaker winter months ahead. This includes establishing a healthier sleep pattern that works in harmony with the body's rhythms (more to come on this soon). So high time to heed the sages and live in sync with nature's ebbs and flows as has been done for centuries.