A Sacred Approach to Perimenopause

A Sacred Approach to Perimenopause


Traditional Chinese Medicine and other wisdom traditions teach that perimenopause is a sacred turning point in a woman’s life. Explore more about this philosophy.

Many of us women are going through the next phase of our lives. We’re at that age where we may see wrinkles, gray hair, and extra pounds. Perimenopause and menopause may have appeared or are just waiting around the corner. I encourage myself, and maybe you, too, to be extra loving as we navigate these strange waters.

Making Peace With Perimenopause

Often, we might see cute 25-year-olds and reminisce. But we were also 25 once, just as they will one day be our age. We aren’t the “girls in their summer clothes” anymore.

What they bring to the table with their youth and zest, we bring our wisdom, wit, and experience. We have experienced heartbreak, raised families, run households, started businesses, paid the bills, and dealt with diseases, sadness, and everything else life has assigned to us. Some of us have lost those we were nearest and dearest to. We are survivors … we are warriors in the quiet … we are Women.

Even if our bodies may not be what they once were, they carry our souls, our courage, and our strength. May we all enter this chapter of our lives with humility, grace, and pride for everything we have been through and never feel ashamed about getting older. It’s a privilege that is denied to so many.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective on Perimenopause

There seems to be a shadow cast upon this phase in women’s lives in Western culture. But in traditional Chinese gynecology, the period of life after our fertile years are over is called “Second Spring.” In TCM, women are said to age in seven-year cycles, which represent our reproductive seasons. The Second Spring is typically the seventh of those seven-year cycles.

An excerpt from the first chapter of a famous Chinese classical book written around 2600 BC called The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine states:

At seven times seven a woman’s heavenly dew wanes;
the pulse of her Conception channel decreases.
The Qi that dwelt in the baby’s palace moves upward into her heart,
and her wisdom is deepened.

Nurturing the Second Spring

When the creative energy that was contained in the uterus (the baby’s palace) moves into the heart of a woman, her Second Spring brings a newfound compassion and freshness to her creative giving. This often manifests as passing on wisdom to the younger generations. She can be a source of inspiration, fostering newfound passions and giving back in some way to society.

That is true, however, only if she has been nurtured through her seventh cycle and has the bandwidth and surplus creative energy to give. The transition into the seventh cycle of womanhood is no small thing. It’s momentous, and sadly women do not generally get the support, understanding, respect, and nourishment they need to cross this threshold with grace.

One of my teachers, Kris Gonzales, writes: “When changes occur, transformations take place; alchemy. Like when Earth bears Metal. Our childbearing years are represented by Earth. We are abundant in qi, blood, and hormones. Because childbearing is not a sustainable state towards longevity, our body changes and transitions as we age. And because body, mind, and spirit are connected, all aspects of ourselves are asked to bend. If you can imagine the pressure that the Earth undergoes in order to birth gems and stones, then you can imagine the alchemy that’s required for that rebirth. You can also observe a similar cycle with the metamorphosis of butterflies or the organized chaos that occurs when stars are born.”

Perimenopause and Our Metal Years: A New Perspective

Leading up to the Second Spring in perimenopause, often beginning in their 40s, women can experience a variety of symptoms for years. These may include night sweats, hot flashes, irritability, anger, depression, weight gain, insomnia, heart palpitations, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, fatigue, mood swings, and more. Perimenopause can be a trying time emotionally for women experiencing these unexpected changes, especially if they do not initially recognize what is going on within their bodies. These symptoms can last even into a woman’s late 50s.

Perimenopause marks what’s called our “Metal” years, from the five element theory of TCM. Metal represents the transition from our childbearing years into our wise woman years. Unfortunately, today this phase is fraught with misinformation and stigma. We hear a lot about the negative aspects of this life cycle and very few about the positive ones.

Pair this with a cultural anti-reverence for menstruation cycles and female bodies in general, and we have a very bleak outlook on aging. Most women today have never been initiated into their experience as a woman who bleeds or told of the sacredness of menstruation as a teen, so it’s no surprise that we lack that education and ceremony at the end of this cycle as well.

The Three Golden Opportunities

In TCM, a woman’s reproductive life has Three Golden Opportunities for honoring and balancing the power of creation: menarche (first bleed), postpartum, and perimenopause. In Western culture, we fail women at all three of these moments of initiation where support and nourishment are pivotal. And so, most women today report very uncomfortable experiences at menopause.

Wellness advocate and writer Leslie Kenton called the journey towards menopause “the Passage of Power.” She describes it as "a freedom of body and soul which enables each woman to experience, unfettered, her full potential for aliveness. Only by doing this can we call forth our greatest gifts, both for our own personal fulfillment and to share with our culture and the planet."

Claiming Your Power at Perimenopause

I recently crossed into my sixth cycle at age 42. I am beginning the spiral into my Metal years. I have spent much of my creative energy thus far helping women repair their ruptures at these golden opportunities, as well as my own. I am looking forward to my Second Spring. I feel rebellious. I celebrate the grays at my hairline, and I am learning to also celebrate the changes in my physical body.

It’s going to be a daily practice, to resist the cultural narrative that I need to look the same way that I did in my mid-20s forever. But with the support of my own elder women—among them the wise women named earlier in this piece—I feel ready.

Explore your Ayurvedic guide to menopause.

A Sacred Approach to Perimenopause

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