Journey to moon-opause: neurogenesis through menopause

Corinna Wood, director Southeast Wise Women, on menopausal metamorphasis

For years I have looked forward to and celebrated the sacredness of my bleeding. In my mid-40’s, as my moontimes started becoming further apart, I occasionally missed one all together . . . and they became even more precious to me, knowing that any one could be my last.

Throughout last year, I watched the calendar, waiting for another moontime to return—once the 13th moon passed, I would no longer expect them to return. Indeed, as of early this month, I find myself standing at that 13th moon crossroads, my next step on the journey I fondly call “moon-opause,” as my mooncycles have paused.

For me, it started subtly; I didn’t even recognize it. Looking back, I can now see the signs. Internally I felt a calling to tend old wounds, to shift out of difficult patterns, to break the rules.

I questioned the strategies and choices I’d made, paying attention to which of my needs they met—and which needs they didn't meet. Like an archeological dig, I began excavating limiting belief systems that no longer served me, eventually mapping them into my “Museum of Old Beliefs.” I consciously developed new beliefs, which led to considering new strategies. 

As it turns out, menopause is a time ripe for this inner work. As Christine Northrup writes, “Research into the physiological changes taking place in the menopausal woman is revealing that, in addition to the hormonal shift that means an end to childbearing, our bodies—and specifically, our nervous systems—are being, quite literally, rewired."

Brain science understands "neuroplasticity"—that our brains are able to reorganize throughout our lives as we re-shape our minds by developing new neural pathways. Personally, I believe that's what the hot flashes are for: an opportunity to blow off trauma-based myelination of the brain that can keep us stuck in old patterns and belief systems (eg. "Something's wrong with me"). Which allows for neurogenesis—including building synapses based in healthy, self-loving belief systems. 

For me, my menopausal transition was outwardly reflected as my mothering phase of life began to transform. I became irritable with my beloved teenage son. Interruptions to my work became intolerable. In my upset about my son staying up late into the night, I was losing precious sleep myself. "Is this working for me?" I would wonder.

With time, I recognized I needed to find new strategies for our living situation to meet my needs, and his. On some level I probably knew that I needed a place to grow through this change where my healing and nourishment could be more central. I was outgrowing my role as the single mother of a teenage boy.

And so I moved from the center of my community, to a quieter spot. By then a junior in high school, my son stayed behind in a small portion of our former home, a newly set up solo scene that we co-created—still connected to the common kitchen of our community neighborhood. Deep inside, I knew that this unconventional choice would be better not only for me, but also for him.

My son quipped, “Mom, don’t the kids usually leave first?” He could always make me laugh. Yet I fought against the voices of maternal guilt.

Of course, what I've always wanted was for him to be able to effectively meet his own needs, and to be compassionate toward others. He was already responsible, respectful, resourceful. And he was not only ready, but restless to test his wings. He was pushing me away, trying to get space, preparing his own meals, filling his own basket in the grocery store.

I reasoned with myself, if more of us lived in intentional communities, it would probably be more normal for mothers to find the sense in moving themselves to a new place to fit their changing needs, allowing their children to safely transition toward adulthood in the safe and familiar container of neighbors and loved ones who had watched them grow over the years.

And still I grieved. For at least six months. I grieved  the change of the relationship, and I grieved the transition out of that phase of my life . . . and of that aspect of my identity. 

Now I look back and appreciate that my irritability became my ally—helping me to discern where to focus my time and how to protect my energy. And truly sleep is now among the top of my list, as I continue to navigate the hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia that are common on the menopausal journey.

To support my hormonal system through these changes, I deepened into daily relationships with several herbal allies which my elder herbal mentors Susun Weed and Eaglesong have long loved and recommended for this phase of life: hawthorne (pictured), vitex and reishi. Comfrey salve for nourishing the yoni tissues. I tinctured the yellow ginko leaves in the fall to keep my memory strong over the coming years.

Now, just as I welcomed and celebrated my moontime, I am also honoring moon-opause as a sacred gateway. Like countless wise women before us, we can take this opportunity to discover the deeper meanings of our own lives. 

As our beloved foremother Mary Oliver wrote, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Corinna Woodseasoned teacher and mentor along the wise woman path–from herbs to self love

"I was initiated into the Wise Woman Tradition at the tender age of 22, by Susun Weed and a beloved patch of nettles. Today, I support women with inner growth and healing tools to ground you in your own innate wisdom, needs and desires. My teachings on heart and soul healing draw on earth wisdom of our foremothers––the shoulders on which we stand––to navigate the challenges we face as women in the world today."

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