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The Myth of Climacteric (Menopause)

By Frederick E Steinway, Licensed Acupuncturist/Herbalist

"We have forgotten
How it was before..."
-- Sixpence None the Richer

Anyone who has wakened, heart pounding and sweat pouring off, or endured sudden redness and heat flushing up while talking with a friend would never say climacteric was a myth. Yet one researcher at UMass Amherst discovered indigenous Mayan women experience cessation of the cycle uneventfully. Her study did not extend on to causes, but an acupuncturist might see a difference between the herbal-based, slow, easy pace of life in the hills of the Yucatan, and the 'type A' perpetual panic of American culture.

Acupuncture and herbology correlate the rush and push lifestyle with yin depletion--'running on empty' in common language, and yin depletion characteristically results in bothersome syndromes at climacteric time. Could they be prevented through changes in lifestyle and through judicious use of herbs over time? One of the medical issues is thought to be absence of estrogen. A millennially-used Asian herbal formula has been found to nourish the body to both produce estrogen and to generate more estrogen receptors, so utilization of any available estrogen increases.

Ovulation and periods cease permanently, and significant hormonal changes occur--yet why does this have to reduce viability? There was a time before when there were no periods and no ovulation; why does this particular life-gate have to be conceived of as a loss anymore than adolescence was considered a lessening of the benefits of childhood? In many indigenous cultures such as the Maya a woman is seen as reaching adulthood not at menarche but at climacteric, often then to undertake some spiritual leadership.

The more public form of Asian traditional medicines portray a person's life like the skyline of Mount Fuji--a peak or 'climax' of activity followed by an inevitable decline. Yet the esoteric, or closely held form of traditional medicine emphasizes the continuity of a body's functioning, and its capacity at any chronological point to renew itself, even physically. How people interpret their experience can influence what happens in the physical/emotional self. Though periods and ovulation leave off, why does this have to be construed as a decrease in functioning, and why could it not be seen instead as a shift in emphasis in the body's physiology? If climacteric were viewed and anticipated in a new way, it might lead to a lessening of physical liabilities currently seen as necessary and appropriate fate.

There is a subjective experience in the body--a feeling of pure vital forces coursing through body channels, that is somewhat independent of the physical self. This may be another name for the 'wise blood,'--that when menstruation ceases, it goes inside to become a kind of spiritual substance. Sensation of this wise blood can be developed long before climacteric; a part of acupuncture and its physical medicines--the peaceful exercise of Qi Gong and T'ai Chi--are to nurture this inner 'liquid light' which is like an 'elixir of life,' because of the sense of Vitality and viability associated with it. Many illnesses of later life develop because they're expected as inevitable and almost planned-for over many years. If life were lived in a consciously different way perhaps much of 'climacteric' would remain myth.

1998 Frederick E Steinway, Licensed Acupuncturist/Herbalist


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