When I first took a deep plunge into the topic of menopause, I thought to myself: Wouldn’t it be nice to share a positive quote around menopause with my women clients. Well, the issue was, such a positive quote was hard to come by. 95% of the messages I found were either negative or sarcastic. “Next mood swing in 6 minutes, be afraid, be very afraid” or “My hormones called. They wanted to set an appointment with you to rip your head off ”. The most popular seemed to be a caricature of the seven menopausal dwarfs. They are named: itchy, bitchy, sweaty, bloaty, sleepy, forgetful and psycho.
As women, we transition through many phases in our lives, starting from birth, our first menses, through childbirth, adulthood, menopause and ultimately death. While it seems cool in our society to talk about teenage years and adulthood the topic of menopause and beyond often seems to be a sore subject. No-one wants to think about getting old. After all, what is beautiful about being old, wrinkled, withered, and useless…better to ignore it or conveniently forget about it. Not exactly what I would call uplifting.
What makes matters worse is the attitude of the media which promotes heavily that staying young and wrinkle free is the way to go.
Companies can make a lot of money from women believing staying young and beautiful is the thing to do.
Tons of cosmetics can be sold, anti-wrinkle creams, botox, face lifts, butt lifts, boob jobs, you name it. Not much money can be made if we believe menopause is a natural and welcome transition in a woman’s life.
It is true that many women suffer from annoying symptoms such as hot flashes, weight gain, mood swings, anxiety, or change in sex drive to name just a few. How this shows up for women is very individual. Some suffer more than others. What seems to be true across the board, however, is a sense of change in purpose. A deeper internal shift that many women can’t quite put their finger on.
To gain more understanding on what is actually shifting in terms of purpose, let’s turn towards the teachings of the Four Stages of Life from the Vedic Scriptures. The Vedas are the ancient, sacred texts of India dating back about 4,000 years. The four stages outline what we naturally focus on in a specific period of our lives. Once you understand the 4 stages, you can find deeper acceptance of where you are at in life. Through education and clarity, we gain acceptance, new hope, and an uplifted outlook. That is super important as the mind has a direct effect on the physical health of our bodies which ultimately reduces physical and mental symptoms.
Deeper acceptance = Feeling more uplifted = Less physical symptoms
Here it goes, the 4 stages of Life that is. Oh and by the way, As you read this don’t worry you don’t have to remember all those Sanskrit names. Just get the gist of it:
The first stage of life
Called Brahmacharya runs from age 0-25. Brahmacharya means bachelor. It is the time in our lives where we focus on Dharma, that is our calling, mission or purpose. During this phase, we figure out our purpose and god given mission, where we develop our personal ethics what diet we want to have, what lifestyle we want to live, what are the morals we want to live by.
The second stage of life
Called Grihastha or householder, runs from age 25-50. It is the time in our lives where we focus on Artha. Artha refers to wealth, stuff or security. This phase is all about practicing and refining what we have learned in the first stage and it is also about accumulating wealth. We are steeped fully in the material world. Life is about creating a family, buying a house, having children and having material security.
Menopause falls roughly into the 3rd stage with 55 being the average age of menopause.
The third stage
Called Vanaprashta or Forest-dweller and runs from age 50-75. It relates to kama. You might know the word kama from the Kama Sutra. Kama means enjoyment, pleasure or desire. Here we get to harvest the fruits of the hard labor we have done in the first two stages, we get to enjoy our lives, do the things that we desire as women. The tough times of working hard to earn our living are behind us and we can start focusing on what we truly want. We hopefully have figured out by now what we want to do for work, have found a more easeful way of making money and can now enjoy the pleasures of life.
While this sounds like a very lovely phase, personally I can’t wait to get there, it is also where I see many women struggling.
It is that shift from giving to receiving that is often tough for women. As women, we are wired more to give. Anyway, this is what we are used to and what makes us feel good .
Receiving makes most of us feel guilty. But let me give you permission right here: You are allowed to receive. Because only when our own bucket is full can we give in fullness to others. It is like the common metaphor of the oxygen mask in an airplane. Put it on yourself first, then help others. That way everyone is served.
It is time to put yourself first.
In the third stage, we also start to realize that half of our lives have passed by now, we become painfully aware that someday we might have to leave this planet. Many women go through a smaller or bigger crisis around their purpose.
Why am I here?
What do I want?
Have I accomplished everything I want to accomplish in this lifetime?
It is not uncommon to see women leave their successful corporate jobs and start working for a nonprofit for much less pay, simply because the work is more meaningful. Or a woman might decide to spend more time in retreat or do inner growth work.
Look at the role in the workplace, a more mature person who has acquired some wisdom can also step into the role of advisor. The times of hard physical and mental labor are over, that is the job of the younger folk. It is the job of the wise women to give the younger people direction and show them how to do things with more smarts and efficiency.
The third phase Vanaprashta and Menopause are really a calling to go inward.
To explore the rich inside of our being. to call forth our innermost desires and dreams….and then live them.
To finish off our conversation, the fourth stage of life is called Sanayasa or renunciation. It runs from age 75-100 and relates to moksha (liberation). In this last phase, there is a natural and voluntary disengagement from the world. Material things become less and less important, the focus turns more towards spiritual connection and letting go of physical bondage. The veil between the source and our human existence becomes thinner and thinner.
So why then is menopause an opportunity, not a travesty?
By learning about the different phases of life I hope it has become clear to you that menopause is not better or worse than any other phase in your life. It is just, well, different. Our purpose is different, our role in society is different. By being clear about that role and embracing it we can find deeper acceptance and thus more joy in our hearts.
Deeper acceptance = Feeling more uplifted = Less physical symptoms