Records of the use of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes go back at least 6,000 years. Cave paintings have been found showing priests who appear to be in a state of trance; in ancient Egypt, people came to the sleep temples for healing and guidance; in the 18th and early 19th century the hypnotic state was utilised as a sedation tool for surgery; folk healers from indigenous cultures around the world have used elements of ritualised hypnosis in their practices for thousands of years and even Freud explored the benefits of hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis is a state of focus or concentration where awareness of your immediate surroundings is reduced, and the mind/body connection is enhanced. You naturally slip into these trance states throughout the day: when you daydream; getting worked up about something you anticipate might happen in the future, that strange feeling when you are just on the edge of sleep; losing yourself in a good movie; arriving at your destination, not really remembering your journey or when you’ve been listening to someone drone on for a long time and start to zone out.
In the 18th Century, curiosity around hypnotic phenomena spawned a form of parlour entertainment which ultimately evolved into the stage and TV shows that we’re familiar with today.
Whilst hypnotherapy and stage hypnotists utilise the same hypnotic phenomena, your experience in the hypnotherapist’s chair will be a world away from the razmataz and mysticism we’ve come to know from the likes of Derren Brown and Paul Mackenna. Instead, this heightened state of awareness of your inner world, creates opportunities for deep healing and transformation. In the words of one of my clients, ‘I never drifted off into a trance where I was made to crow like a rooster (thanks Paul for that misconception!). Instead, the relaxation techniques enabled me to face my painful experiences in a way that wasn’t overwhelming and actually made me feel quite refreshed.’
The purpose of hypnotherapy is radically different from that of stage hypnosis.
A stage hypnotist wants to entertain their audience, they ‘wake’ participants at the end of the show with no long-term changes. A hypnotherapist, in contrast, will work with you to establish goals for long term change (that might be improving confidence, changing habits, healing trauma, managing stress or anxiety and generally increasing your health and wellbeing).
‘I felt lighter and confident that I have the tools in hand to be able to face any challenge, from telling family members about my infertility struggles to dealing with pregnant colleagues and friends, to even preparing myself for possible fertility treatment’
For entertainment purposes, the stage hypnotist wants to create the illusion of having ‘control’ over their participants. There is a long selection process which weeds out the most suggestible subjects, those who are most likely to go along with the silliness and not disappoint the audience. A hypnotherapist is not interested in pretending they can control you. Instead, they want to help you understand the way the mind works so that you can take control in areas of your life which may have seemed out of your control. Whilst stage hypnotism only ‘works’ on those that are naturally suggestible, effective self-hypnosis techniques can be taught to anybody
‘I felt that you helped me establish a dialogue with my inner self, rather than leading this dialogue yourself. I never had a feeling that you were taking over, but rather that you supported me in exploring my inner resources, for me to be able to access them anytime on my own, whenever I need them.’
‘I very much like to be in control and so thought hypnotherapy wouldn't work for me and it would be a waste of money. Or that I just wouldn't get it and find it uncomfortable or come across as rude if I laughed or something like that. So, I was amazed that, after a few short sessions, I felt so much calmer and for the first time in long time, much more in control. The big benefit for me is that I am now much more aware of how I feel - I am more receptive to how my body feels and how my behaviour changes when I am pushing myself too hard.’
Most people will feel, at least a little, uncomfortable on stage in front of an audience. Add, to this experience, the presence of a mysterious and charismatic character, reputed to have the power of mind control and most people will already be feeling an altered state of sorts. The human tendency to go along with the crowd means that a highly suggestible volunteer is likely to play along.
Hypnotherapy, in contrast is a very relaxing experience. There is no audience, and your hypnotherapist’s goal will be to make you feel comfortable and relaxed as they guide you through the process of change. Unlike stage hypnosis, it is common to come up against resistance in hypnotherapy. Someone may have conflicting desires. For example: the desire to smoke AND the desire to stop smoking. In these instances, the hypnotic state can be a good place to resolve such conflicts and garner motivation.
'My hypnotheraphy experience was life changing! And I don't say that lightly, in only 4 sessions, I felt so comfortable and amazed by how much progress me made. The experience was entirely focused and bespoke to my situation.’
We all recognise the various rhythms and cycles of nature: the daily orbit round the sun; the predictable wheel of the seasons; the eternal loop of life and death and the waxing and waning of the moon. They shape and guide our routines from the daily voyage through wakefulness to sleep and back again to the miracle of planting a tiny seed in spring and harvest its fruit in autumn.
Woe betide the farmer who fails to work with the wheel of the seasons or the sailor with no regard for the tides.
Studies have shown that there are more accidents on the road and in the workplace when the clocks go forward. The week following daylight saving also sees a rise in heart attacks. Anyone who’s taking a long-haul flight will have experienced the symptoms of jet lag - our body’s protest at having its regular rhythms disrupted.
Menstruation is as vital a sign of good health as your pulse, your temperature or your breath. It relies on the sequential rise and fall of a variety of hormones throughout the month. Each of these hormones has a distinct personality, heralding shifts in our abilities, moods and desires. Testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone are just a few of the key players.
Testosterone – which despite rumours to the contrary is not just a male hormone – brings us conviction, confidence and courage. At its peaks, we can feel hornier and more orgasmic.
Oestrogen boosts our energy and sharpens our brain function. In balanced doses, it’s a mood enhancer and can make us feel more sociable. It even makes us more attractive: plumping our tissues and making our features more symmetrical.
Progesterone is a more homely, inward hormone. It can call for a more introspective, tranquil setting, driving us to spend quiet time with loved ones. Out of balance, it can be a real passion killer and might make you feel down and anxious.
The seismic shifts in our hormonal profile every month and throughout our life spans are carefully designed to support us in our reproductive role. At times, they domesticate us, soothing us like the mother’s little helpers of the natural world. They encourage us to nurture and care for our families (or friends, colleagues and projects) and dosing us up for much of the month to make that easier (you may well recognise the withdrawal effects of these drugs as their levels drop dramatically in the lead up to your period, lifting the rose tinted veil on your life – an opportunity to check in). So huge are the hormonal tides in women’s bodies that medical science has largely avoided including us in its studies. Caroline Criado Perez, in her book ‘Invisible Women, exposing data bias in a world designed for men’ says ‘Female bodies (both the human and animal variety) are, it is argued, too complex, too variable, too costly to be tested on.’ Yet what allowance is made for these shifts in the day to day lives of women and what are the costs of ignoring our intrinsic tempo.
Premenstrual Syndrome is the catch all term for a huge array of symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle. According to Perez’ figures, it affects 90% of women to some degree, yet she claims grants are denied to researchers ‘on the basis that ‘PMS does not actually exist’’
An inexperienced sailor is likely to capsize their boat in high winds but place someone with experience and understanding of the winds and tides at the helm and they will gather speed. The consequences of not understanding our inner tempo can be debilitating for women, but how can we attune to our cycle and harness our inherent power?
Our menstrual cycle is carefully designed to allow us to access, at some point every month, all the women we need to be! It can be a map of self-care as well as a planning tool. One way of understanding the cycle is to look at each stage as the female archetype that best exemplifies our emotions, drives, skills and abilities at that time.
The Wise Woman:
During our bleed (from day 1 of our cycle), all of our hormones are at their lowest ebb. You can feel tired, both physically and mentally. You might feel quite inward. Operating in the world at this time can feel challenging but, with the fog of hormones lifted, your intuition and creativity are strong. This is a time for renewal, rest and regeneration. A time to retreat from the world in any way you can. Letting go of responsibility (wherever possible) and allowing yourself to do the things that feed your soul. It is during this time that you might come up with wonderful ideas that you can carry out later in the month.
Ripening follicles in the ovary encourage oestrogen levels to rise towards the end of our bleed. Testosterone jumps in and you begin to feel more energetic and sociable. You might feel momentum building, finding yourself keen to emerge to explore to ideas. This particular hormonal concoction can make us curious and playful, a little naïve even. Energy is outward. We may well be looking for company.
As oestrogen and testosterone rise to peak levels for ovulation, progesterone joins the party. With growing confidence and self-assurance, you are at your most gregarious. Having tested your ideas in spring, you can now choose which ones to run with and you have the energy to see them through. It’s a time of outward glory, when the multi-tasking we women are famous for is really possible. This is the time to give your all. You are magnetic and attractive you have plenty of energy and love to share. Go easy though – keep some of that energy for yourself.
The Wild Woman:
If pregnancy doesn’t occur, our progesterone and oestrogen levels fall dramatically. Testosterone levels are erratic so energy and sex-drive are unpredictable – all of which can be quite unsettling. This infamous stage of our cycle is often misunderstood. Our irritability and the emergence of our inner critic are often a backlash from previous weeks. Perhaps you were blown off course and used your energies for others rather than your own projects? Maybe you didn’t manage to get the rest you needed? However uncomfortable, this part of the cycle is a valuable check in, a progress report. It challenges you to recognise needs that you aren’t meeting, gifts that are languishing in the shadows or feelings you may have repressed. This is a time for editing and letting go of that which no longer serves you. Beware of acting too hastily at this time though, sometimes our inner critic can sometimes be a little rash.
Keeping a journal or keeping track of your emotions and physical changes on a chart can be a great way of working out your own unique cycle and the effect that those hormonal cocktails have on you. It will allow you to navigate through and harness the energies of your body’s rhythms. Acknowledging and rectifying the neglect of a particular stage of your cycle (not taking time to rest is, by far, the most common) can result in powerful and positive shifts in your physical and emotional experience of living in a female body.
Madness has long been the accusation levelled at those who don’t fit neatly into society’s expectations of them. Like the ginger bread dough that is thrown away after the perfect (or perhaps normal) ginger bread man has been extracted from it, madness is often the excess of difference we all sacrifice in order to remain in society.
Our childbearing years are shaped by domesticating hormones. Estrogen enhances the effect of the brain’s feel good hormones, we become more sociable, more socially connected, hornier and more nurturing. Progesterone, in moderate doses, can help is feel quiet, calm and home focused. These qualities encourage us to mate, procreate and, crucially, take care of our families.
As our hormones dwindle around peri-menopause, we often find that we are less patient, less biddable. The veil begins to drop and the needs, the hopes and the dreams we had forgotten come bubbling to the surface. This sudden waking up, particularly alongside the sometimes-challenging physical symptoms of menopause can feel a lot like madness, as each woman tries to make sense of this crazy transformation in her own way! And society, which much preferred us docile, is quick to reinforce this.
Uma Dinsmore Tuli (in her amazing interview with Alexander Pope) describes menopause as a super power! She says that this ‘super power is only evident when we get together and realise that each woman’s perceived insanity is another aspect of herself coming to light.’ The taboos around menopause have kept us separate and played into the idea of the crazy middle-aged woman but as the taboos are broken down some women are finding that the menopause is, in fact, a gateway to a more authentic expression of themselves.
Someone recently told me that if you gently help a butterfly out of its chrysalis it will never fly. Apparently, the strength required to break out is a necessary trial, enabling it, ultimately, to take flight. Change can certainly be challenging and uncomfortable, especially as women are often meeting the menopause stressed, exhausted, unhealthy and unfulfilled, but what emerges can be spectacular.
Trance For Menopause is a group course, bringing women together to share their experiences as they navigate this maligned rite of passage. This 5 week course offers you the space, understanding and tools you need to support the transition through your perimenopausal years and into the wiser half of your life.
Combining my own experience of perimenopause with a wealth of training and research, I teach mind/body techniques to help you manage physical and emotional symptoms as well as enabling you to reconnect or connect more deeply with yourself and your life.
What other ladies have to say about the course:
'You're magic! Each time (I used the snow globe technique) I got a cool breeze sensation!'
'Kerry used her wealth of knowledge on this course, to create a great balance of quick and easy, everyday techniques; practical info; discussion and longer meditation/ hypnosis exercises that could be taken home and used as needed for our peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms.'
'Kerry held the course with openness, humour and compassion, which helped me to feel at ease. I would recommend 'Trance For Menopause' for any woman struggling with her menopausal transition, not least because it opens up an honest discussion with like-minded women, in the same phase of life, about what actually happens, eliminating myths and bringing empowerment and choice.'
‘I have used (the Snow Globe Technique) so much since I saw you! It has really helped me! Actually, during my course, I had a moment…felt it (a hot flush) rising and managed to deal with it whilst learning!’
Thirteen years ago, I arrived in paradi. My husband had convinced me to quit my job, rent out our flat, don a backpack and head to South East Asia for six months. After a long flight, the craziness of Bangkok and a miriad of saeng taws, ferries, night trains and tuk tuks, we finally emerged into my personal utopia. A perfectly white, sandy beach and balmy waters were held in a tight embrace by huge, softly shaped rocks and a jungle adorned mountain rose magestically behind us. My heart soared.
A sprinkling of simple beach huts adorned the sand and cliffs. We approached one, idyllically perched on one of the wave worn rocks, jutting out to sea. The owner gave us s price within our tight budget and we lugged our heavy back packs inside.
As I dropped my backpack, my heart sank in synchrony. The place was a derelict shell. The window: a gaping hole in the wall. The bed, covered by an I'll fitting, worn sheet and moth eaten mosquito net, homes a spider the size of my hand. The back wall, only partially patched, sported a forearm size lizard and the bathroom had been equally reclaimed by the inhabitants of paradise. My panoramic vision closed in on these unnerving details and anxiety rose like bile in my throat. I can't stay, I sobbed to my husband, this was a mistake. I would have to go home.
Ten minutes later, my vision opened again to the panoramic post card view. Surely, paradise and I could find a way to make things work.
I decided to look around for a bit where I would feel less exposed. The first place we looked at was perfect but way out of our budget. It gave me hope though. I spotted a sign for Silver Cliff Apartments and began the sweaty hike up a steep set of steps where I found a picturesque bungalow which provided some semblance of protection from the prolific wildlife.
Fast forward thirteen years and we emerge onto the same beach, this time with our three children. They are excited to begin this utopia which we have talked so much about and we are excited to share it.
This time we have splashed out on a slightly more luxurious, family bungalow on the rocks. We have hot water and the electricity stays on all night!
We dump our bags gratefully after our long, sweaty journey and head for the glimmering waves of the ocean. Within seconds, all three of my children are crying. I become aware of the stinging sensations all over my body: jelly fish larvae! Like a scratch in a record, it seemed like paradise had, again, vanished. Our vision closed in from the panoramic of paradise to the irritants in the water.
Defeated, my husband and I slumped down in the shade with our sobbing children. Their disappointment felt like stinging criticism.
We underestimated them.
Before long, they were braving the water again and, later, they discovered the perfect spot where the river fed into the sea and we could all bathe comfortably in the refreshing fresh water.
In my experience, paradise is more a state of mind than a state of absolute perfection. There are always compromises and adjustments to be made and it's important not to get drawn into the details, losing sight of the beautiful panoramas of our lives.
Foveal vision or centrally focused vision. In the west we use this a lot, focussing intently on what is directly in front of us, our computers, our phones or whatever task is immediately in front of us. Using foveal vision is associated with the sympathetic nervous system or fight or flight response and tends to trigger the release of stress provoking hormones. Widening our vision to include the full panorama of our peripheral vision connects us to the parasympathetic nervous system which is associated with calm and healing.
Try to notice when you are using foveal vision and take peripheral vision breaks or use it as a tool to snap you out of anxiety or stress.
Take a deep breath while focusing on a central point.
Keep focusing and allow you eyes to soften and relax. Soon you will notice your field of vision starts to spread.
Become conscious of aware of the colours and shapes above, below and either side of your central vision, whilst not looking directly at them, just being casually aware.
Notice the effects on your body and mind.
Image by Kate Cudden
The truth is, you already do.
Hypnosis is a state of suggestibility and your kids are already incredibly susceptible to your suggestions -even though it may not always feel that way! From the moment they were born, your children mimicked your facial expressions and, as they grew, they tried on your mannerisms, your language (especially the bits you didn’t want them to hear) and behaviours. Even as adults, we are sometimes jolted by the sudden recognition of our parents echoing through us.
Young children are wide open to suggestion from any trusted source in their lives: TV, teachers, relatives, friends and any other adult who takes on a cameo or starring role in their lives. Prior to the age of 8, we do not develop the critical consciousness that acts as a firewall of sorts, protecting us, in part, from the constant barrage of influence.
Understanding the process of hypnosis and becoming conscious of how you and others are hypnotising your kids is a crucial part of parenting.
Hypnotherapists are experts in getting past this firewall, empowering you to gain conscious control over your own programming as well as gaining insight into the ways you may be programming those around you.
Did you ever play Simon says as a child? You are given an instruction, but unless the instruction is preceded by the phrase ‘Simon says’, you don’t do it. Simple enough? But, processing the negative involves the critical factor: you first have to think of thing you’re not supposed to do, then decide not to do it. This takes time, particularly in children, which is why it’s such a great game! The instruction itself, however, is processed quickly so the action is often performed before the critical factor has figured out that it was not supposed to be.
How often have you told your child not to do something, only to find they just go right ahead and do it?
Try to change the language you use to give them positive, easier to process, instructions. For example:
‘Don’t run by the pool.’ becomes ‘Walk by the pool.’
‘Don’t hit your sister.’ becomes ‘Step away from your sister.’
You might want to think about these in advance as it can be very difficult to come up with a positive instruction in the heat of the moment.
Teach your child to become the director of the movie in their mind
Nightmares, anxious thoughts and worries are all the product of our imagination. They are the result of seeds planted in our unconscious mind which, left untamed, can grow wild and frightening. Teaching your child to take charge of their mind jungle is one of the most valuable gifts you can give them.
Recently, my 6 year old son was having nightmares about zombies. After a few nights of disturbed sleep, I decided to teach him this hypnotherapy technique:
Our thoughts create our emotions. If you are not already convinced of this, take a moment to close your eyes and conjur up a happy memory. Be sure to see it through your own eyes and to use your memories and imagination to breathe life into it. Remember what you were seeing, hearing, smelling, even tasting and you will begin to feel the familiar sensations of being happy, in your body. Do that now.
What did you notice? Perhaps you felt lighter/ Perhaps the corners of your mouth turned up? Perhaps your posture changed? Maybe your breath became deeper, slower?
Now, try a less resourceful state like anger perhaps? Again, remember a time when you felt this feeling and bring back the sensory memories. Pay attention to how they feel in your body, now.
What did you notice this time? Did you feel more tension in your body? Did your breathing become shallower? Did your posture and facial expression change?
Now, think of a state that would be useful to you right now: calm? Productive? Confident? Allow a memory of feeling this way to come to you and step into it, using your senses.
Children move from one state to another much more easily than we do. We’ve all seen a child sobbing their heart out one minute and totally absorbed in an activity the next. With young children, you can help them to access more resourceful states using distraction, drawing their attention to something new. With older children, you can teach them to find their inner resources simply by remembering a time when they used them.
Building pathways in their brain
For the most part, our brains are on autopilot. When we have learned a process, it gets downloaded almost like a computer programme and we no longer have to think about it. Picture a piece of open park land. If you want to get from A to B, you plot a course and walk across it. In doing so, you begin to wear a pathway. The next person to cross the park may well notice your pathway and follow it, flattening the grass and reinforcing the path. Before you know it, the grass has been worn away and no one thinks of making a new path. This process of repetition is the same way that our brains learn. If one thing happens and then another thing happens, our brains connect the two and a pathway is established. For example: if a child whines and is given a sweet or treat to distract them, the child begins to draw a pathway between these two things so, when they want a treat, they automatically whine. Unchecked, these behaviours will often continue into adulthood!
If you notice a behaviour in your child that is not helpful, try to identify their goal. Then teach them new ways to reach it. For young children. Role play is a great way to do this. For older children, you can get them to imagine using the new behaviours. Through repetition of the new behaviours through imagination and play, they will build more favourable pathways.
Have fun exploring these techniques with your child and feel free to contact me for more information on how hypnotherapy can help your child.
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I stood frozen to the spot, in the apartment I rented with my then husband in Atlanta, Georgia, a dragging ache in my heart.
I recognised the truth that I did not belong there, that this life was eating away at me, that I barely recognised myself anymore. But, as I hunted through my mind, I could find no where that I did belong. There were places I had been, with people who I cared about, but I could not picture a future life that would play out in any of them. Not one I wanted. I had lost sight of what I wanted.
Like one of those dream sequences where you try to run and your legs don't work, every atom of my being screamed at me to leave but with no destination to navigate myself by, I stayed firmly rooted to the spot. I felt stuck. My life was so entwined with this man’s that I no longer knew where he ended and I began. My knees gave way in despair and I sank to the ground, my sobbing from somewhere deep and primal, escaping in long, strained guttural yelps.
I hadn't studied NLP or hypnotherapy at this point in my life, but, if I had, I would have done exactly the same thing as I did in that moment:
I asked myself where I would be and what I would be doing now, if I was just me?
The answer came back simply: I would be studying by the sea, in England!
With that, I created some momentum. A rope appeared over the edge of my pit.
Day by day, my dream grew and became clearer, more vivid. I would go to Brighton, a beautiful seaside town I had visited once with my family and had fond memories of. I would study for my MA in Philosophy.
I began saving and arranged a trip to the UK to check out the university. It turned out that a friend of mine had a connection to the head of philosophy so she was able to arrange for me to meet with him for a chat.
As my vision grew, everything fell so neatly into place.
That trip to Brighton was a huge turning point for me in so many ways. I travelled independently and relished, for the first time in a long time, the ease of my own company. Renting a room with a sea view and haggling for a good price, my confidence began to return to me. I spent time, buffered by the wind and gazing out into the expanse of unpredictable water. By absorbing myself in the changing moods and tempo of the sea, I somehow found peace with my own tempestuous emotions.
At the end of a very varied and fascinating conversation with the head of Philosophy, I asked, tentatively, whether I would be need to come for an interview.
'You already have.' came the reply.
Having visited my goal in person, momentum snowballed and in only a few more months I was unpacking my belongings in a flat with a sea view- for contortionists.
I found myself there. And, once I had, I vowed never to lose myself again. I decided that I could be happy alone; that I was certainly better off alone than with the wrong person.
But, of course, Brighton would, in time, bring me the right person...
For anyone reading this who is in despair right now, I recommend you too throw your thoughts to the future you want. I promise they will come back, like a rope, to rescue you from your pit. You don’t have to know exactly what’s at the end of the rope. You just need a direction and some momentum and, once you are out, you’ll see a whole world is waiting for you.
Whilst there is no known direct cause of PCOS, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that your mental, physical and emotional health plays a key part in managing the symptoms.
It is widely accepted that the best way to manage the symptoms of PCOS is to adopt a healthy lifestyle, incorporating beneficial dietary changes, exercise (particularly restorative forms such as qigong, yoga, pilates and tai chi) and addressing stress levels. However, when facing an increased risk of developing high cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, reduced fertility, miscarriage, preeclampsia, depression, weight problems, hair thinning, unwanted facial and body hair and eating disorders, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
Hypnotherapy provides you with the tools and techniques you need to take back control of:
Whilst getting advice from a nutritionist is highly advisable here, hypnotherapy can help you by working with the unconscious mind to support weight loss, food cravings (particularly sugar) and sticking to your healthy choices.
Your stress levels:
The opposite of the stress response is the relaxation response. Hypnotherapists are great teachers of eliciting the relaxation response as hypnosis requires a state of relaxation. Studies have shown that hypnotherapy can increase fertility through relaxation techniques. It can teach you to listen to your body and understand your needs and, using a coaching framework, we can also look at the stressors in your life and make positive and realistic adjustments.
Just one example of the way in which hypnotherapy can help you balance your hormones is with a key player in PCOS: progesterone. Low levels of progesterone are characteristic of PCOS and progesterone is crucial for regulating of our menstrual cycle and balancing the effects of oestrogen. Symptoms such as difficulty in losing weight, conceiving and maintaining pregnancy, skin and hair problems, acne, tiredness and mood swings can all be triggered by low progesterone. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is known to exhaust our supplies of progesterone. Not only that, excessive stress exhausts our adrenal glands, a key producer of progesterone in our body. With visualisations and relaxation techniques, you can assist your body in balancing crucial hormones.
Your self esteem
Looking at the list of the symptoms of PCOS, it is not difficult to see why many sufferers have issues with low self-esteem, low confidence and depression. Hypnotherapy works directly with your unconscious mind where negative thoughts and behaviours lurk. Tapping into the unconscious mind allows us to address the root cause and make positive changes to your ways of thinking and your instinctive behaviours.
To find out more about how hypnotherapy could help you take back control, contact me for a free phone consultation.
Gazing, from my kitchen window, onto the summer tableau outside, my attention is drawn to the damson tree. Its branches bow under the weight of its jewel like fruit, dripping like juicy pendants from every limb. I ponder the miracle that allowed this tree to nourish and nurture this bounty.
It is the cyclical nature of the tree that provides it with the resources to bare fruit.
We women are also cyclical in our nature. Hormones ebb and flow in our bodies from puberty to menopause, causing powerful shifts in our energy, our focus, our needs and our skills.
Just as a tree experiences the four seasons of the year, we experience four seasons every cycle. Often a health issue in a woman’s body can be eased by addressing a neglected season. And, after menopause, it is as though the training wheels come off allowing us to access all the seasons and trusting us to find the balance in our own lives.
With summer comes ovulation, a season epitomised by the mother. You are gregarious, sociable, giving your fruits freely and generously. Like the tree, this is the time of your outward glory. Your energy is magnetic and attractive. Your focus is outward and you have lots of energy and love for others. Like the tree, this is a time when you can give your all. You feel grounded and connected. Summer is a time when estrogen levels are high and the multitasking we women are famous for is really possible.
Take a moment to reflect on how you meet this need in your own life, at ovulation or at other times. Do you really go for it? Do you spend time with the people who matter to you? Do you take care of them? For some of us, a more important question to ask is: do you try to keep this up all the time?
Autumn, or pre-menstruation tends to be the most well known or notorious season of our cycle. As the tree gives away the last of its fruits and its leaves wither and die, it begins to withdraw from the harshening conditions, its energies spent. This is a crucial and misunderstood time in our cycle. It is important that we retreat and begin to say no. We can't possibly be expected to keep going at the speed of summer, bearing fruit indefinitely. This is a time for editing. For contemplation, for getting real. If there are situations in your life that need addressing, it will be difficult to ignore them now and if you try to ignore them, they will shout louder. Any needs you have neglected, any feelings you have supressed, any gifts you haven't used will break to the surface. As the tree sheds its leaves in autumn, so you must face the harsh truths of your life and shed anything that no longer serves you. This is a time to tie up loose ends ready for the winter. If you can face yourself now and confront your truths, you are in for a restful winter.
Take a moment to reflect on how you meet this need in your own life, pre-menstrually or at other times. Do you really face yourself, do you allow difficult emotions to surface and acknowledge them, along with the message they bring? Are you prepared to make changes to address needs that you are not currently meeting?
Picture yourself now as a tree in winter. Your roots spread deep into the earth, grounding, securing, nourishing you. Your bare branches outstretched, but, like the tree, you have withdrawn into yourself, from the outside, there is little sign of life, your energy is drawn inward, you are passive, intuitive, creative. This is a time of renewal, of rest and regeneration. A time for you to retreat from the world in any way you can. You bear no fruit or foliage and, instead spread your roots deeper and wider. Letting go of responsibility (as far as possible), letting go of any negativity that has built up over the month. A time for forgiveness for yourself and others. A time for taking nourishment from the earth. This is, arguably, the most crucial part of your preparation for pregnancy. Without taking the time to stock up on your reserves and to nourish yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually, you cannot support new life.
Take a moment to reflect on how you meet this need in your own life, at menstruation or at other times. Is there an allowance for your need to let go of anything that no longer serves you and to regenerate?
After menstruation, comes spring. Your energy begins to rise, tentatively pushing tender green buds through your bark. The environment doesn’t yet feel entirely welcoming, but you are keen to emerge to explore to ideas. You are curious and playful, a little naïve even. You begin to feel more sociable. You resurface innocent and pure with a clean slate.
Like tiny delicate buds, you begin to unfurl your newly hatched ideas and plans, nurturing and protecting them. Seeing how they fare in the light of day.
Take a moment to reflect on how you meet this need in your own life, after menstruation or at other times. Do you make time to explore to try new ideas, to be playful and take risks?
In this busy, modern world, it’s easy to live from the neck up, paying attention to your body only when something goes wrong. Many of us have lost the art of listening to our bodies, or, more accurately, interpreting their message. Rarely, for example, is a headache a sign that of a nurofen deficiency! Paying attention to and honouring our cycles and their impact on our moods, drives and energy levels (not only with the intention of finding our most fertile days) is a great way to connect with and support our reproductive system.
To find out more about cycle awareness, I thoroughly recommend Lucy Pearce, ‘Reaching For The Moon’ and Sjanie Wurlitzer and Alexander Pope’s ‘Wild Power’
There is also a guided meditation version of this blog on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMXJJONh1AA
In the recent storms our rose arch collapsed and we mounted an effort to rescue the roses that lazily embraced it. The rescue attempt was more poignant because of one rose in particular, which was planted there before my fingers became green enough to know that a rose bush does not climb. This one holds a special place in my heart: nine years ago, I buried my baby beneath it in a tiny match box. I buried the hopes and dreams and future memories for a life that was never meant to be.
Though I was ten weeks pregnant, the tiny heartbeat inside me had stopped at six weeks. In medical terms, it was never truly human. I knew that there were tragedies in the world far greater than this but this was my tragedy.
I decided not to measure my grief but to feel it.
I cried. I cried a lot. I felt the dragging ache of sadness deep inside me and I allowed it.
The day that I held that positive test in my hand was the day I headed to Brighton for a dear friend’s hen weekend so I had dared to whisper this precious secret aloud. Dared to name my hopes and dreams for this child, a mix of tiny cells and miracles and moonbeams.
The day my baby came away from me, I lost a whole lifetime of future memories: of rushing to the hospital on a crisp February morning; of gazing into the soft face of a nursing baby; of grazed knees and magic kisses; of bedtime stories and precious cuddles; of my proud tears; my child filing away from me for their first day of school; a lifetime of moments, some fleeting, some fateful. All would have woven together a beautiful tapestry of this particular child’s life. All lost.
In the end, I was glad that everyone knew. My grief was open and unfettered and I learned that, probably, the taboo of talking about pregnancy before 12 weeks serves better to protect those around you from the awkwardness of not knowing what to say than the woman who mourns a lost life of possibility. I did find incredible support among my family and friends though and, ultimately, I was glad that my world knew of this fleeting life that had graced us.
At times, as I grieved, I berated myself for my indulgence. Hadn't I already been blessed with a beautiful child who filled me with love and pride and wonder and hope? Wasn’t it selfish to want more? Didn’t others have more to grieve? Deeper wounds? Longer, harder journeys? Weren’t there others with more right to grieve?
I chose not to measure or judge my grief but to feel it.
I felt it as I dragged my heavy soul through the day to day life of a mother. I felt it on a visit to my mother-in-law in France. I felt it flying to Israel for the wedding of my husband’s sister. The heavy cloud of grief hovered over me in every interaction. Then one day, briefly, in the lead up to my sister-in-law’s wedding I felt the fluttering of joy again. I expressed this joy with my husband not knowing at the time that this first ray of sunshine cutting through the gloom would turn out to be my rainbow baby.
In my work with fertility, I have met many women who did not feel they had the space, freedom or the right to grieve their loss. They buried it deeply, carried it privately. But rainbows don’t occur in clear skies.
My rainbow child burst through a tiny gap in my cloudy sky as she continues to do, a child with the capacity for so much joy.
My story is not your story. My grief is not your grief but my advice is the same: do not measure or judge your grief but feel it. Move through it in whatever way and whatever speed is right for you. Allow the clouds and I hope that, like me, one day you will find a rainbow bursting through them.
photo credit: grimeshome <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/73653333@N05/9267662070">Rainbow Across Yellowstone Lake</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>