If we could see inside our bodies, would we treat her differently?
If we can see inside our minds, will we act differently?
We just assume that tomorrow we’ll wake up, move and it’s business as usual.
Do we take her for granted? I think yes.
When things go well, we hardly pay attention, but when something is broken, tight, sore and stiff, we may notice, but how much do we really pay attention?
In our society the acceptable attitude is to push through the pain, the exhaustion, the relentless go go go, until your body screams so loud and clear that you can’t ignore her anymore.
The evidence is clear that stress has the biggest influence on the transition of menopause and how smooth this could be.
Your 20’s and 30’s are years of pushing, punishing, shrinking, expanding, growing babies, learning, developing, striving, having lovers and (maybe) taking her (your body) for granted.
Then in your 40’s she starts calling out for attention, she’s tired, grumpy, overworked, over stretched, under appreciated and fighting hard to keep all cylinders firing on full blast.
You don’t have time, the energy, the capacity or the bandwidth to take on another project; taking care of you is on the bottom of your to do list.
Thing is, if you don’t, who will?
Through practicing mindfulness you learn to pause, notice, observe and be curious of your behaviours, sensations in the body, your mind, your thinking – your inner world.
It creates a little breathing space where you have a choice in how you react or act.
There is the awareness of our changing bodies in front of our eyes, but can we bring a different attitude to our experience instead of trying to get rid of our discomfort or wishing it was different or struggling with what’s here?
In perimenopause and beyond the following attitudes which we bring to our mindfulness practice can also be seen as the essential foundations that can help us flourish in our everyday living through the whole menopause journey!
(These are mindfulness attitudes as explained by the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre)
We tend to constantly judge our experiences as right or wrong or good or bad and this can make it really hard to see what is really here. Brining an attitude of non-judging to our experiences helps us to observe, allow and be with whatever comes up. This is not the same as letting go of discernment about ourselves and the world.
Being in a rush to achieve results from our efforts or to get this period of transition over and done with as quickly as possible takes us away from the present moment. An attitude of patience helps us to allow things to unfold in their own time. (quite challenging in our one click society)
It’s easy for our beliefs about what we know and what we’ve been taught by society to get in the way of seeing things as they really are.
With this attitude of a beginner’s mind, we experience things as if for the first time. Every moment, every day a new experience.
So often we trust the judgement and advice of authority figures and ‘experts’ and look outside ourselves for the ‘truth’ and for guidance. From how we care for our bodies, what to eat and how to dress. Through practicing mindfulness we learn to listen to our own feelings and intuitions and begin to honour and trust what we hear. This becomes our teacher and knowing that we have the wisdom within us to guide us.
Non-striving: (this has been my biggest lesson)
In our everyday lives,much of what we do is to achieve something or get somewhere. In many situations, the harder we try the more likely we are to succeed.
This approach is counter productive in cultivating mindfulness. We learn to let go of trying and to make things happen. So, as in menopause where it’s easy to fight our bodies, our symptoms and our situation we tend to make matters worse by pushing harder.
Often, in perimenopause and menopause (and life) we waste a lot of time and energy refusing to see what is here and struggling against the way things are. Through mindfulness practice we cultivate acceptance by being with each moment as it is.
This doesn’t mean we have to like it or accept everything about us or the situation, but it’s a willingness to see and accept the reality of how things are, and this may be necessary as a first step before we take necessary action that may lead to change.
As humans, our minds like to hold on to what is pleasant and reject which is unpleasant.
During this transition there are many unpleasant situations; challenging symptoms, body changes, difficult thoughts and feelings about ourselves, our lives and the future.
Through practicing mindfulness we learn to let go of these tendencies and to simply observe, allow and let it be.
Befriending involves being curious, friendly and kind and how wonderful if we all develop these attitudes towards ourselves and our experiences? It helps instill a warmth to all the changes and experiences, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant.
Being open to vulnerability of the human experience, are those moments when we feel the pain and suffering of others, but also our own. Compassion is being able to respond to pain with kindness, empathy, patience and the intention to alleviate suffering. How fitting for those dark moments in our menopause journey when it feels like the walls are caving in around us?
While living in our heads and being on the go non-stop, it can be hard to notice the beauty around and within us. Moments of appreciation are available to us, if we choose to see them. A small pause allows us to appreciate good music, the laughter of a child or the sun set.
They offer a glimpse of contentment and ease. Even in the midst of difficulty, can you stop and appreciate what’s here and now?
In our lives and for many women especially during menopause there is a tendency to focus on what’s wrong, and it’s so easy to take what’s ‘good’ for granted. Gratitude is being thankful to things that are going well, no matter how trivial they may seem. It may be kindness that a stranger showed us, or being thankful for our health and bodies. This may not always be easy, it’s also not being sentimental or being in denial of the difficult, however practicing this is training to develop a different attitude of the mind.
Do you know you have the power to bring joy and happiness to others? Generosity doesn’t have to cost money, but can be as simple as paying someone a compliment or picking a flower for a friend. This is not only wonderful for them but also helpful to ourselves.
(Adapted from MBCT-L (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for LIFE) from the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre)
Reading through these, can you see how these attitudes will help you flourish and thrive in your midlife journey?
Which one attitude can you start cultivating in your life and your experience of your menopause journey?