Lately, several clients, ranging in age from 35 – 56, have mentioned something in passing that I know first hand to be a really important signal from the body, but which many women largely ignore.
It’s hot flashes.
Usually a client mentions, in passing, that they’re experiencing them, and it’s typically in conjunction with talking about how busy, stressed, worn down, stretched thin, and emotionally exhausted they are.
This is not a coincidence.
Prompted by gentle questioning, they reveal other signals, such as night sweats, foggy brain, impatience and irritability, thoughts of mortality, the desire to be alone and yet feeling lonely, wanting to chuck responsibilities, feeling like their muscles are turning to fat, and, finally, a deep longing to find more meaning in day-to-day life and to reconnect with their deepest selves.
Can you relate?
Of course the body changes of midlife are natural and every woman goes through them, whether initiated by surgery or in the course of aging. We all move from the time of fertility to a time of wise woman.
We can approach this transition in two ways: resisting, ignoring, and denying or listening, learning, and using it to move into a deeper and more authentic Self. The changes of midlife are a letting go, but, more importantly, they are a WAKE UP CALL!
Here’s my own recent story of how this fact came home to me:
I went on an 8-day silent meditation retreat. The basic schedule is alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation, about 45 minutes each, broken up by meals, two guided meditations, and a talk in the evening. Otherwise: no talking, reading, writing, technology use, or eye contact.
I had decided in advance that I would mindfully check my iPhone for messages and work emails once per day, before dinner, for a maximum of 15 minutes. I would reply to any urgent messages with a short, “I’m on a retreat and will get back to when I return.” I reasoned that, if for no other reason, the fact that I have an 87 year old mother justified checking the phone every day.
That was the plan, but that’s not what happened.
Not only could I not keep from checking my phone more often, but I couldn’t even leave it in my room! I “had” to have it so I could check the time. Meanwhile, there were clocks everywhere and all sessions were announced by the ringing of Tibetan bells.
I had no idea I was so addicted to my phone. But here’s the really interesting part: every single time I sat with the 96 other participants for a seated meditation period, I got a major hot flash. I didn’t have them at any other time on the retreat. I could walk, eat, or sleep without getting one, but when I sat — Wow! — instant, searing, uncomfortable heat rushed through my torso, neck and head.
But the most interesting thing came next: finally, on the third day, I found myself sitting on my bed during the lunch break and I realized that, unconsciously, I had picked up my phone, unlocked it, and opened my email, WITHOUT EVEN REALIZING IT. I stopped and thought about what I was feeling/thinking right before I did it and I realized I had been on the verge of exploring an uncomfortable feeling, something I didn’t want to feel or explore.
And that’s when I knew I was deeply addicted to denial and distraction.
I sat, stunned at my own actions. Aren’t I a life coach? Aren’t I all about exploring and allowing feelings? Yes and yes — and yes, I’m also human.
At that moment I knew what I had to do — I had to put away my phone for 24 hours and be with whatever came up. I’d love to tell you that, after my epiphany, this was easy, but it wasn’t. You’d have thought that phone was heroin, the way I felt jittery without it.
But then a really interesting thing happened: the hot flashes I’d been having during the sitting periods disappeared. Just like that. Gone.
Let me say this again: I put down the implement of distraction and my hot flashes disappeared.
What do I make of this? I think this illustrates that, for me, hot flashes are a signal from my body that I am denying, avoiding, or refusing to deal with some unfelt, undigested feelings, truths, or thoughts.
As the retreat continued, I was able to touch into some very deep feelings, safely held by the depth of silence and dedication of the group. I’m deeply grateful for the insights, and for the opportunity to face what I was making so difficult and find the self love to by present with it. Using my skills to be with my feelings turned out to be a lot easier and more comfortable than the hot flashes!
In case you’re wondering, I’m a lot better about my cell phone and email now, but continue to see ways I try to run from uncomfortable feelings. I’m loving myself through this humanness, using my tools, applied with lots of tenderness and patience.
I’d love to hear from you about your relationship with your body in midlife, your efforts to live authentically, and your waking up from distraction (or not).
All My Best,
P.S. This Saturday, November 29th, I’ll be announcing the details of a new free webinar, on how to finish out 2014 with less stress and more focus and inner peace. I’m excited to share it with you — watch your inbox for details this Saturday!