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Women's Wisdom: The Healing Power of the Feminine
by Kami McBride

Women's Wisdom is gained through a woman's deep relationship with her body and all of the knowledge and information that wells up from that place.

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Featured Article:
Women's Wisdom:
The Healing Power of the Feminine

By Kami McBride
Director of the Living Awareness Institute

In the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism the concept of wisdom is comprised of a spiritual knowingness coupled with the skillful means for dealing with situations in the proper way.
So there is the higher knowledge, the penetrating awareness that comes from meditation and spiritual practice and then there is the technical, educational aspect that involves tools and techniques to implement the higher knowledge into everyday life. Without spiritual guidance the skills used to accomplish daily tasks can be foolish and lack clarity. In turn, spiritual information and vision can lack the skillful means of being able to be grounded into the actions of everyday life.

As we explore Women's Wisdom there is a great movement for women to develop women's intuition, women's spirituality and to study the sacred feminine. There are many books and classes on learning how to access your female creativity and intuition. This is and extraordinary and much needed body of knowledge that is awakening and in order for it to move into a place of wisdom we need to bring the BODY back into the loop. Women want to experience that deep knowing that is known as the feminine way. To really have this be meaningful in our lives we have to reclaim the skills necessary to care for and involve the cycles of the body in this process.

Women's Wisdom is gained through a woman's deep relationship with her body and all of the knowledge and information that wells up from that place.

There are not many places in the current culture where a woman learns about the complex cycles of her body. Usually an hour-long movie in seventh grade is a bout it for most girls. Each phase of a woman's body cycle is a crash course experience as it comes along.

At this point women are not very knowledgeable about women's business. You know, things like:  how to begin menstruation, how to menstruate in good health, how to prepare for healthy sexual relations which may involve preventing or achieving pregnancy; healthy preparation for menopause and a vital transition through menopause.

The current standard approach to the female cycles is one primarily of drug management. Pills and shots to regulate menstruation and prevent pregnancy. Medications for PMS. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for Menopause. 60 million American women take birth control pills even though they are indicated in cardiovascular disease and cancer. The National Institute of Health sites birth control use as a contributing factor in osteoporosis .

600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually in the United States, which is the highest number per capita in the western world. Many of these methods and treatments are experimental with harmful or little understood side effects.
Hormone Replacement Therapy is routinely prescribed for women and the most popular Hormone Replacement Therapy drug is Premarin, which is made from pregnant mares urine and involves very inhumane treatment of horses. With Premarin women are taking horse hormones that have never before been introduces to the female human body . These are just a few of the dismal facts around how we as women think we are trying to care for our bodies. In fact most of the current methods of care around the female cycles are actually hostile and damaging to the female body.

We can begin by recognizing just a few reasons of why we might be so in the dark about how to work with our body and why we are so susceptible to the current experimentation with our cycles and hormones.

Women's medicine was traditionally an oral body of knowledge that was passed on from woman to woman . At some point in history medicine took it on to define women's medicine and a woman's experience of her body.  A recent timeline of some of the interpretations of female physiology give a little insight into the work that needs to be done.

During the Renaissance the medical establishment believed that the womb actually detached and wandered throughout the woman's body causing uncontrollable behavior. In the 1890's it was believed that a woman could only develop one organ at a time and that if a woman developed her mind in excess it would take the energy away from her womb and affect her ability to have healthy children.

At the turn of the century medical texts taught that the ovaries were at the seat of a woman's personality and that ovarectomies were a cure for hysteria. In the 1940's menopause symptoms did not exist in medical doctrine and many women experiencing menopause were classified as crazy. It wasn't even until the late 1960's that the classification of PMS symptoms were introduced into the medical definition of the female experience.

For over two decades women were taught that formula was superior to breast milk and women stopped breastfeeding their babies. We now know that a childs immunity and gastrointestinal health is established through mothers milk and that it is much more healthy to breastfeed your child. But somehow we got talked out of our experience; someone who knew better usurped our wisdom and knowledge.

Episiotomies are still routinely practiced in the birthing room even though in most cases they are not necessary. Many women have difficulty for the rest of their lives as a result of the episiotomy and it is considered genital mutilation by many.

Menopause is currently described as a deficiency disease and in the 1960's Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) was claimed as the new cure for solving all of the wretched things that happened to a woman as she moved out of her child bearing years. By 1975 ERT was one of the top prescribed pharmaceuticals in the country. By 1979 after many women died of cancer from the ERT experiment, the National Institute of Health rejected most of the ERT health benefits claimed by doctors and drug companies.

The first round of ERT experiments were a failure and we are currently on our second and third generation of hormone replacement therapy cocktails to solve the ills of menopause. We now have Hormone Replacement Therapy, which is estrogen and progesterone put together. Since the 1980's Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been sold through advertisement and the doctors office as one of the main solutions to prevention of heart disease . The Journal of American Medical Association now states that women taking HRT for 5 years or longer have up to a 40% increased risk in breast cancer than women taking estrogen alone or no hormones. In 2001, The American Heart Association issued a statement that HRT does not decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and in some cases can contribute to an increase cardiovascular disease. So once again, the HRT claims after having time for the experiment to play out have been proven to not be true.

We have to realize that hormones sold to control and suppress our body cycles are primarily done so from a profit stand point. Several years ago the sale of birth control pills began to fall so there has been a large marketing campaign to give birth control pills to young girls to suppress their acne.

SO the bottom line is that most of the medical and health care system solutions are not truly reflective of the female experience. Women have got to get back to being knowledgeable and in charge of women's business.

The psychological and physical side effects of the use of drugs to suppress the female life cycles are vast. It creates a separation between body and spirit and leaves women more susceptible to not listening to the needs of her own body. We loose connection with our own nature and the gifts that come with honoring our cycles. Most women have these ways of taking care of their body passed onto them by medical providers or advertisements. Most women were not taught about what to expect from their body and how to take care of it by a group of other women. 

Imagine how your experience with your body might be different if you spent time in circle with other women family members learning how to track your cycles and understand your physiology. You would not only have an awareness of what to expect with each phase of your cycle but you would also have important information about the body cycles of your female ancestors.

The knowledge that you do or do not have about your body and the stories you hear about other women's experiences with their bodies help to shape your life. It is time that women sat in circle again to share their experiences and once again fill the vessel of knowledge that can be a rich source of witnessing, nourishment, role modeling and honoring of what women really experience.

What would it mean to the culture to the women's spirituality movement if more women were truly in touch with the cycles of their body instead of constantly repressing, denying and recovering from their attempts to get a handle on their cycles.

The female body cycles through many changes each of which provide experiences that can be cultivated into wisdom and experience that can permeate into and help us with our daily lives.

Ovulation is a powerful energy that provides access to spiritual insight and resource. If we are taking damaging drugs to suppress this aspect of our nature, how does that affect our ability to really hear the wisdom of our body speaking to us?

Menstruation also holds tremendous spiritual power and healing that many women are not consciously aware of. In a culture obsessed with achievement and outward expression, one of the gifts of the sacred feminine is the ability to stop doing and just be. Part of accessing the deep wisdom of the feminine involves moving from the yang experience of going and doing to the yin experience of just being and listening to the deep recesses of our soul.

Menstruation takes this out of just a theory and gives you the real life experience of it. Menstruation is the time in which the female body releases, regenerates and heals. It is important for women to take some personal down time to allow this process to happen in the healthiest way possible. Menstruation is the natural part of our  cycle that can take us into the sacred wisdom of the feminine. During menstruation we are more sensitive and our psychic and sensory perceptions are heightened. Our sensitivity has been demonized when it is a wonderful gift.
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The current primary practice in relation to menstruation is to plow through it as if nothing different is happening. The changing rhythm of our body cycle is not reflected anywhere in our calendar or work schedule. There is a national statistic that more than 50% of American women do not get enough sleep and we have an epidemic rate of chronic fatigue and exhaustion related diseases. Coming back to the body wisdom that is taught through honoring menstruation can provide a great healing for women. The menstrual cycle is the great teacher of balance between yin and yang, dark and light, rest and action.

Instead of plugging up with tampons and drugging up with anti-inflammatory, take a little time to honor the flow of your menstrual blood. You will find that much of the pain and problems surrounding menstruation are the body letting you know that you need to trust your fatigue and spend some time allowing the body to release.

Our culture is in great need of the wisdom that comes through a woman's body when she drops into the deep meditative place that menstruation can provide. It is a profoundly spiritual place from which information on how to live life can well up from within. It is not a logical place, but a place known as the feminine, a place where when one is tuned in, wisdom and information that has not been logically learned can come through.

When we begin to listen to the wisdom that can be taught through paying attention to our bodies needs in relation to our cycles we learn how to live more in balance.  We access a higher quality of life and can experience a passion and enthusiasm for life instead of just survival and getting by.

It is time to align how we care for our body with the principles and theory of women's wisdom and spirituality. We can re-create a body of knowledge about how to understand and work with a woman's physiology instead of trying to control and suppress it. As women become empowered through sharing the stories of their collective experience, this body of knowledge will become valuable information to be shared and passed on to young women that are coming into the beginning of their womb cycles. As women once again include and go THROUGH the cycles of their body the culture will once again benefit from the wisdom of women's experience.


Kami McBride has taught herbal medicine and women's health since 1988. As Director of the Living Awareness Institute, Kami provides a sanctuary for women to transform their relationship with their body and to bring the use of herbal remedies into everyday life. Kami has taught herbal medicine at UCSF School of Nursing, Stanford and the California Institute of Integral Studies . She is the author of 105 Ways to Celebrate Menstruation and can be reached at (707) 446-1290 or http://www.livingawareness.com

 

Musings

"Like any tool used for self-discovery, growth, and healing, journal writing takes practice; patience and consistency are the underlying prerequisites for change and growth. Journal writing is a tool that you can integrate into your lifestyle as you move forward on your path of self-discovery. Make a quiet time and space for yourself to write. There's no need to be rigid about this, because writing might then become something that you come to dread - like a chore or a homework assignment. Let the time you set aside for yourself to write be a time of quiet meditation and introspection."
- Louise L. Hay

Links

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Millionth Circle


Arete Center For Excellence


Landmark Education


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