“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung
WE ARE FACING A TIME OF TREMENDOUS CHANGE AND TURMOIL — MIDLIFE WOMEN CAN BRING HOPE AND COMPASSION
Anyone who has experienced the last month in America knows our country is breaking open at the seams. From my vantage point, at 64, I can tell you it is quite frightening to see the hate and anger rising up in our midst, in our very communities, and we are all fearful again about what is happening. This blog is about what you can do personally, as a woman, to help stay centered in your heart, the very place where your feminine wisdom and compassion lies. And how to connect with other women to do the work that we are so empowered to do. This can bring the healing that we need to our Country and our World.
The biggest challenge that we face as women in this culture at this time is finding our wholeness and healing so that we can unleash our powerful creative wisdom that is coming forward so much for us at midlife. If you are between the ages of 45- 65, the menopausal change, you have a big part in this process by learning these inner journeying tools.
If you are 59-75, you are in your Wise Women Years. This Second Midlife (Sixties Transition) has the potential to be your most powerful time as a women. Learning how to open our hearts in the midst of this fear is our greatest challenge.
Our Earth, our Country and our spirits need this healing of the “sacred feminine” spoken about through the study of ancient goddess practices (Sally Kempton in Awakening Shakti) and other quests for women’s mysterious Holy Grail (Jean Shinoda Bolen in her books, Crossing to Avalon& Goddesses in Everywoman) as our “sacred feminine” or “divine feminine”. No matter what faith you practice, these Goddess practices are part of our Earth-based feminine truths we all hold in our bodies. These myths and stories all involve suffering and moving through pain to transformation- the heroine’s journey.
THE SIXTIES TRANSITION IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO AWAKEN TO YOUR WHOLENESS
As we move into our 60’s and beyond, we feel our own heroine journey in our hearts as a longing to awaken. How do we find a path that allows us to nourish our Wise Woman rising inside of us and not shut her down with our pain or our fear? We can easily let our fear block our awakening that is happening within. How do you open up to what is happening inside of you?
I feel awakened by these readings and my life these days and I’ve discovered that my life’s deepest passion and calling is about helping other women find their wholeness again. As a woman and therapist, I’ve experienced the depths of our woundedness as women through many hours sitting with women. And, I’ve had my own journey through grief and loss many times. Our stories are similar in one key way — We struggle with our own vulnerability. We think we are supposed to be “strong” and that means being there for others so we don’t take the time to see that our strength is actually in our ability to be with our own feelings and longings. How do we learn to be there for ourselves? How do we learn to face our vulnerability and find our creative Wise Woman? I hope that you will open to some tools that might help you see your own strengths in your womanness, in your heart that is full of compassion. This compassion is the Goddess’ gift to you and to the world but we have to awaken to her.
WHAT IF I’M NOT WOUNDED?
I often hear women in midlife saying “I don’t want to focus on my pain, it just brings me down.” There is a valuable resource in knowing when you are stuck in a part of you that is hurting, and seeing the rest of who you are as a marvelous resource of strength and compassion in your total womanness. This work of awakening your Wise Woman is not about dwelling in the depths of your pain or suffering. It is about learning how to expand and find comfort in your bigness. Richard Rohr writes, “There is still darkness in the second half of life—in fact maybe even more. But, there is now a changed capacity to hold it creatively and with less anxiety.”(Falling Upwards: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life) He goes on, “Life is much more spacious now, the boundaries of the container having been enlarged by the constant addition of new experiences and relationships. You are like an expanded suitcase, and you become so almost without your noticing. Now you are just here and here holds more than enough. So this is a time of acceptance, of joy, of tapping into the inner self, “one’s growing sense of infinity and spaciousness is no longer found just “out there” but mostly “in here”(Rohr).”
LEARNING A SPIRITUAL OR COMPASSION PRACTICE TO CULTIVATE YOUR HEART’S CAPACITY FOR OPENING
You can practice compassion informally and formally. Informally, it’s about noticing how you feel when you give compassion to others—how does it come up in your heart as a sensation? More formal practices are now available to help you cultivate compassion more through your own soothing touch to yourself and how you talk to yourself. I’ve explored “Compassion Practices” for the last decade both as a Mindfulness-Based Coach and Psychotherapist and as a woman in transition. I’ve used many forms of prayer, mindfulness, buddhist metta practices that bring in Loving Kindness and Compassion. I now teach Mindful Self-Compassion as a course taken from the work of Kristin Neff, Ph.D and Chris Germer, Ph.D and the Center for Mindfulness in San Diego. Through this work, I’ve learned to cultivate a deeper sense of my own compassion and slowly learn to turn it towards myself.
People often ask me “What is a Spiritual Practice and why is it important?”
You can learn this too! Maybe just beginning to use what you already do as a spiritual practice in a more informed way will help you develop a deeper sense of your “spiritual container” and from here you’ll be able to add compassion practices for yourself. What is it like to bring a spiritual awareness to your life? Bob Atchley, author of Spirituality & Aging, describes spirituality as an experiential process. He says it involves three steps: 1) Awareness to the present moment, 2) Development of an Internal Witness, 3) Openness to the Sacredness in everything.
The Spiritual is wherever you experience awe, wonder or compassion. The spiritual dimension is always there but you have to make an intention to slow down and allow the experience to happen for you. You have to be willing to watch and listen for how Spirit shows up in your life.
TOOLS TO EASE YOUR FEARS AND OPEN YOUR HEART TODAY
1) Realize you are not alone. Many people are struggling right now with big feelings.
2) Take time to sit and listen. To go within yourself for your own inner journey with yourself. Be quiet. Focus on your breath. What are you feeling? Name those feelings. Only when you know what you are feeling can you be discerning about what to do. Let all your feelings be there, if you can. Over time, practicing being with yourself in this way, you will be able to develop the capacity to let them all be there.
3) If you are feeling fearful, find a way to be curious towards the fear. What is the fear trying to tell you? Talk to your fear and befriend it.
4) Write a compassionate letter to yourself about your feelings. Use words like”I know it’s difficult to feel this way, I have good reason to feel this way, it’s all good to feel however I feel.” Mostly, validate that you are normal and human to have these feelings. This should help your feelings flow out and release in a healthy way.
5) Bring comfort to yourself in some way. Offer some blessing or good wishes to yourself in the form of a blessing or prayer. “May I be calm and peaceful”. Or, call a friend who can give you a loving and caring response. Sit in meditation or prayer and feel the connection to something greater than yourself like walking in nature, watching a sunset.
6) Get involved in a woman’s group, woman’s circle or with special friends and talk about how you feel and how you might feel called to take action in some way.
7) Find more professional support if you are feeling like these efforts are not helping enough. Try not to get to “overwhelmed”. Find support before you get there.
Hope is better than fear.
Love is better than hate.
Optimism is better than despair.
Choose a path that allows you to feel more hopeful and loving.