Sunday, September 25, 2011

Taoism perspectives on Menopause and Midlife crisis

Taoism Basics

Taoism contains many profound theories which at first may be difficult to understand. In general, these theories reflect Taoism as a balanced relationship between human beings and nature.

The most basic concept of Taoism is Tao. Originally, Tao refers to the road extending in one direction. Roads having many forks or directions are not Tao in Taoists' opinions.

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Tao also refers to the rules governing the behaviors of human beings and objects. For example the sun, earth, moon and other celestial bodies run along certain tracks. Laozi, the founder of Taoism, added his unique idea on Tao and made Tao as the core of his theology. In his opinion, Tao is a whole existing before the heaven and earth. Everything is the deviation of Tao. Laozi's Taoist theory contains dialectic thoughts, such as his consideration of the law of Tao to pertain to the opposites of human beings, concepts, and objects. For example, high and low, big and small, long and short, these opposite pairs exist on the condition of each other. Misfortune can also transform into fortune under certain situations. Another example is that there is no eternal weakness or hardness. Laozi used water as an example to support this thought. On the one hand water may be seen as the weakest thing in the world, but on the other, it can destroy the hardest thing such as a rock.

In order to make this theory more clear and vivid, Taoism draws a Taiji Diagram: a curve dividing a circle into two parts, one half is in white representing Yang (the bright side), while the other is in black, representing Yin (the dark side). There is a black dot in the white part, while a white dot is in the black part representing the Yin and Yang of each other and can transform into the counterpart. The diagram looks like two fish end to end, so it is also called the Diagram of Yin Yang Fish.

Qi, another concept in Taoism, makes reference to the whole world and the foundation of the unity of the world. It is the basic source of any tangible and intangible objects, including Gods and spirits, as well as humans and ghosts. The vital essence of Qi is called Jing (genuine energy), which is believed to be necessary in order to create anything when arranged in certain ways. Jing, Qi and Shen (Spirit) are considered to be the three most important elements in human beings.

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Taoism on Female Menopause

Midlife transformation represents a changing point for any person, to start living life on their own terms. However, Menopause isn’t always a change a woman is ready to accept in their life. It isn’t as if a woman can choose when Menopause can happen. Yet historically this isn’t true. Female Taoist Practitioners were known to induce menopause up to a decade early on purpose in their life.

In terms of life, Taoism sees a human life divided into 3 major times as an adult.
  1. The first chapter of life is all about fitting in with your society.
  2. The second chapter of life represents becoming your own person.
  3. The third chapter of life represents releasing oneself into spiritual exploration.

The second third of life is Mid Life transformation and Menopause. Taoist women used to induce menopause early on purpose to release the social responsibility of having children. A woman’s life in China was very much about family and having children. The choice of having a child wasn’t an easy one. It was a much safer and powerful place to induce menopause earlier and literally seize control of one’s own life to be outside society’s control.

For Taoists, who are renown for living well into their later years, their idea of living better is called having “youthfulness in old age.” Female Taoists were able to stay young and full of energy, enjoying long lives and remain physically fit and attractive all their lives. Their natural rejuvenation methods reveal a highly intelligent and unusual feminine perspective. And they are one hundred percent natural.

According to female Taoists there are two key things a woman must learn to do to maintain youthful in her body and spirit. First, she must reduce the amount of energy lost during her menstruations. Secondly, she must cultivate a healthy libido. These are also the key ingredients to the art of energetic menopause.

One of the sure signs we are losing too much energy during menstruation is when we experience strong pain, discomfort, high blood loss or excessive stress and irritability each month.

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In the view of female Taoists a woman's energy loss is at its apex when she is releasing blood. As any woman knows, during menstruation, we tend to get tired more quickly and we can become short tempered with less provocation. We can also feel bloated, moody or listless. Unfortunately, these discomforts lead many women to 'wish it would be over' and look forward to Menopause as an end to these troubles.

Modern Perspectives

In current modern society things are very different. It’s medically more acceptable to have children older. In addition, our culture is more mind-centric: people want to control their bodies, and not be control by the body. In addition, this culture is youth-centric. People don’t want to lose the edge of their youth… To go through menopause is to be forced away from one’s youth.

In China where elders were respected, it makes sense to speed up menopause. In the western culture which worships youth it makes sense women would unconsciously rather delay her menopause.

A simple truth is this… reproduction comes at a high cost to our bodies. It burns the body at a higher pace and rate, in order to ensure reproduction. It turns out Midlife is a very biologically important time in human life. Mid life transformation is really all about resetting and then re-tuning our bodies to be more sustainable.

To live as a 20 year body, would in fact mean the average human body would fail and burn out by 60… The body needs to ramp down a bit in order to pace out life in a better fashion. Men who don’t go thru a full version of menopause die younger than women, on average 7 years younger.

Midlife and Menopause are all about improving the quality of life for a person. In addition to literally re-tuning a body, a woman’s body will age more gracefully when flowing to the Menopause process.

Menopause isn’t always an easy transition for many women. Mid life crisis itself is a hard time for many people, for both men and women. Yet for women who could be dealing with the effects of Menopause at the same time as their mid life transformation, the combination of both processes can feel overwhelming indeed.

Now one aspect that is interesting: The actual timing of Menopause and Mid Life Transformation aren’t always in sync with each other. Menopause can be induced earlier in life due to stress or other conditions. Likewise, a woman’s Mid Life Transformation could happen before menopause due to a partner being in mid life transformation or other life changing events. This period of time as a result can be a bit more confusing to a woman since while menopause traditionally represents when midlife transition happens, that isn’t actually necessarily the case either.

When a woman works with menopause it can become a very powerful gift to enhance her life. So a final consideration is this: midlife transformation often in our society becomes midlife crisis. The trouble is when pushing events off to become a crisis, that crisis of lifestyle then forces what would normally be a natural physical process, to feel like a deeper personal crisis itself.

In this process women need some reassurance to be reminded to not let crisis style thinking from the culture and peers, impose upon their own natural changing point in life. Menopause is actually a time of great power for a woman; power represents the ability to define oneself. Don’t lose the power of transformation to crisis style thinking and actions from our culture.

This time of life is the second third of life: The second third of life represents becoming your own person.

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Taoism Views on Menopause Treatment

The two primary balancing factors in all things and in every human body are yin and yang, as mentioned earlier.  In the Taoist religion, yin and yang are the essential balancing forces at work. An object at rest will stay at rest can be considered yin. An object in motion, stays in motion is yang. Estrogen in Chinese Medicine is considered yin. Yin is also associated with body fluids, sleep, cold limbs, and constipation.  Yang would be linked to testosterone, physical movement, the thought process, heat or fever and digestion. These two energies should be as balanced as possible to remain healthy. When one is deficient, the other dominates and causes symptoms in the body leading to illness.   

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In menopause, yin becomes depleted.  One of yin’s characteristics is cold. In Western Medicine, estrogen regulates body temperature in the hypothalamus.  When there is not estrogen present, hot flashes and night sweats occur.  The same is seen when yin declines and the yang takes over in the body.  Yang is associated with heat, without yin, the body temperature heats and becomes out of control.  Through the heating process of yang, dryness occurs, insomnia and the body feels constantly hungry.  If the body is left untreated in a yang state, this will create long term effects on women.  The process of menopause can last years from beginning to end with miserable side effects.

When menopausal symptoms begin and Chinese Medicine is utilized, the transition into menopause becomes comfortable. Acupuncture is a great method to remove heat and heat type symptoms from the body. It is also able to deal with insomnia and mood swings. Chinese herbal formulas are beneficial in building and nourishing the yin. Herbs can be used to deal with dryness, appetite control and regulating water. Together, acupuncture and herbal medicine is able to recreate balance and eliminating menopausal symptoms. Dietary suggestions may also be incorporated into a women’s lifestyle to stabilize the body once balance is obtained. 

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