An Interview with Susun Weed
by Randy Peyser
Wise woman, goat-herder, herbalist, author and teacher, Susun Weed, discusses the deeper meaning of menopause in her most recent book, Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way.
Randy Peyser: When I go to many women’s circles these days, it seems as though the chief topic of conversation centers around menopause, or on becoming a crone.
Susun Weed: Well, in my research, I’ve discovered that in the next ten to twenty years, from 1992-2012, 30-50 million women in America are going to go through menopause. By 2012, a hundred million women worldwide are going to go through menopause.
RP: That’s a staggering figure.
SW: 2012 is the year the Aztec calendar ends; it is the year of the predicted earth changes—2012 or 2013, depending on how you count. This is from a Mayan calendar that’s been in existence for a millennium.
RP: Are you saying there is a correlation between millions of women going through menopause and the end of the Aztec calendar?
SW: Yes. We all know that another word for menopause is “the change.” What we’re talking about is not the end of the world, we’re talking about the earth going through menopause. The earth is going through menopause in the body of a hundred million women.
RP: That is a fascinating perspective to consider.
SW: I knew that nature is overabundant. A certain critical mass had to be met in order for the earth change to come into its fruition as a metamorphosis. I said to myself, “If nature wants a frog, she lays a thousand eggs.” There are a hundred million women going through menopause. So maybe only a million of us are needed. But a million of us are needed to consciously understand menopause and metamorphosis—that metamorphosis being both personal and for the entire beingness of the planet.
RP: How does this transformation happen as a result of menopause?
SW: There are two metaphors we can look at to help us understand it. The first one is to understand the difference between transformation and metamorphosis. Because menopause is metamorphosis and what’s happening with the earth is metamorphic. “Meta” is large and “morphis” is body. It’s the meta-physical that we’re really engaging in when we do metamorphosis. Transformation is just small changes in the form.
Say that we had a metal folding chair without any cushion on it. We could get a cushion and slipcover it and tape it to the chair. We would transform it. If we wanted to do metamorphosis, we would melt down the metal of the chair and tear the cushion stuffing. We could then pour the metal back into the form of a chair and make the thing cushioned again. It’s not that we couldn’t wind up with something that looked very similar to what we started with—if that’s our choice. In metamorphosis we often make another choice because we have that opportunity.
The metamorphosis in nature that most of us immediately think of, is the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into the butterfly. This metaphor works out really well in talking about menopause because there are basically three stages or forms that a woman will feel herself in.
The first is the cocoon stage. Envision the caterpillar out there, eating leaves, munching lawns, feeling great. Suddenly the caterpillar says, “I don’t know what’s coming over me but I really want to be alone. All these other caterpillars are just driving me nuts with their munching day and night.” The caterpillar goes off and finds a quiet, secret dark place to be. It’s intuitive. Each menopausal woman in her own way will encounter that feeling of needing and wanting to be alone. Let everybody else deal with whatever they need to deal with, it’s time to focus on you.
The second stage is melt-down. Within that cocoon, the caterpillar does not just lose a few legs and grow wings, the caterpillar melts down. The caterpillar actually turns to goo or slime, and then has to rebuild into a butterfly. Each woman in her own way, will experience part of the melt-down phase of menopause. It may be hot flashes, it may be waking up all night, it may be crying at every thing, it may be feeling like your bones suddenly have nothing in them. In some way, each of us is going to encounter melt-down, the dissolution of everything. As with anything, we can either sulk about it or we can say, “What opportunity is this?”
Of course, the opportunity is to become a butterfly. And the butterfly, having then been created, says, “What am I doing in here? It’s really tight in here; I wonder what’s happening outside?” Riiiipppp! It splits open the chrysalis from the top of the cocoon and emerges as a transformed being.
When we see a child being born head first, and we see that first bulge of the hair on the head pushing out, we say, “Oh it’s crowning.” Crowning is often to put a crown of regalness on someone. Crowning is often to say, “Yes, you have completed this—congratulations.” So the last stage of crone-ing is crowning. The woman emerges feeling very new in to the outside, and simultaneously is honored as the grandmother, the one of wisdom, the wise woman.
That’s one of the metaphors we can use to understand the whole process. That’s not to say that any woman or every woman will go through menopause in those three stages. A woman might encounter stage one or a little of stage three. She might have a long period of stage two, then go back to stage one, and so forth, because life is spiraling not linear. The other very important metaphor that women can understand is what is really happening meta-physically in the large body when we are experiencing a hot flash. Hot flashes are a very important piece of energy work. Men sit in meditation for eighty years hoping to have a hot flash. A hot flash is a rising of the kundalini. Men strive for this. All a woman has to do is live to be old enough.
RP: Is there a way for women to work more consciously with their hot flashes, with this kundalini energy? Most women I know who are going through hot flashes say, “These hot flashes are awful, they’re soaking all of my clothes.” They have a pretty negative attitude about it.
SW: Exactly. And this is because they are trying to melt-down in public. When we understand the story, then we understand that of course the caterpillar doesn’t become a pool of slime just in the middle of the garden path. You have to take yourself away, and take care of yourself. Then, when you have a hot flash, and you’re covered in sweat, then you begin to get it—because it’s a lot like an orgasm. And although there’s a few exhibitionists out there, most of us prefer not to be watched.
RP: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
SW: Let me talk a little it more about hot flashes and the focus into the uterus, into the belly—into that root chakra area. Most chakra systems understand that the first chakra is there to focus energy o the family and at-home things. When you ask most women what the temperature of their belly is, they say, “hot.” I say, “Was it like that when you were nine?” And they suddenly recognize that, no, there’s a big difference in that feeling between nine and fifteen.
What is happening during the years of menstruation when we’re fertile is that we’re taking this very hot energy, this kundalini energy, which is located at the base of the spine at the root chakra, and we’re concentrating it through the uterus and pushing it down and out.
We’re pushing the red energy down and out of our body, because women are circulators and movers of energy. We do it when we’re pregnant and “bake” the baby. We have a baby ‘in the oven,’ and we concentrate the heated energy. Then we’re pushing that child down and out into the world, and we’re circulating that heated energy down toward the earth and back into our uterus. That’s the energy loop and link that we learn to do through our years of menstruating.
When we get to menopause, that energy link begins to break. We are given a way to create a different energy link that goes through the crown, which is why it is called the crone’s crown. The hot flash takes that hot energy from the uterus and moves it up from the root chakra, up through the spine, through every energy center of the body and out the crown, where it then circulates back into the earth.
The crown, in most systems, is associated with planetary peace-keeping and planetary healing. During menopause, a woman can learn through hot flashes and other means, to change the link between herself and the earth. This energy is very powerful. As it passes through the other chakras, if there is any chakra where there’s a lot of movement already, or where the path that the energy has to take is maze-like or very complex, then the energy stays there for a long time instead of being able to pass right through. The person notices it and experiences it as a problem. For example, if the energy stays in the heart area, the woman will get palpitations.
Understand these symptoms not as an expression of illness, but as the expression of where there’s a lot of energy, or where the energy is moving more slowly. Don’t judge or blame yourself, but instead say, “What do I want to do with this?” rather than saying, “Oh my goodness, I have this terrible symptom of palpitations and I need to get rid of it.” Or the heroic view, which says, “Women only have menopausal symptoms because they are toxic.” I hear many women saying this. It makes me want to cry. Menopause has nothing to do with toxicity. A hot flash is not a punishment for any sin.
RP: Listening to you makes me feel like I can’t wait to go through menopause [laughing]. You make it sound like an exciting journey rather than this terrible thing that happens.
SW: It is an exciting journey. These are the ancient women’s mystery stories. Basically what we have now is a bunch of slick drug salesmen going out and saying to the caterpillars, “Yo! Caterpillars, something terrible is going to happen. You’re going to go through all these weird things. Oh. caterpillar see that strange thing over there with wings? You’re going to wind up like that unless you take these hormones. If you take these hormones you can be a caterpillar forever.
RP: You are saying there are other ways.
SW: I’m saying that it’s just not as bad as the drug salesmen are telling you. There is isolation, there is melt-down, and there is crowning. None of those three stages are necessarily easy. But it is an exciting adventure.
Susun Weed is the founder of the Wise Woman Center and editor-in-chief
of Ash Tree Publishing. Her popular books include, “Wise Woman Herbal
for the Childbearing Year,” “Healing Wise,” and “Menopausal Years, the
Wise Woman Way.” You can contact Susun to find out more about her
books, her home-correspondence courses and her workshops: Susun Weed, POB
64, Woodstock, NY 12498, (914) 246-8081.
As an added service, this author's books and tapes are available to you at a significant discount.
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