In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the
stage in a woman's life following the cessation of the flow of Heavenly
Water is referred to as 'second Spring' to represent a renewal of
energy and opportunities. In the West, the transition is known as
menopause, a term derived from Greek that means the stopping of the
monthly period. However, the association of menopause with an abrupt
absence of periods is a limited view of this complex transition. Our
passage to Second Spring takes place over a number of years and
involves an intricate and complicated series of changes that is not
restricted to our periods or the physical realm. For a small percentage
of us, our periods will stop suddenly, while most of us will undergo
irregularity in our cycles for
two to five years before the permanent loss of our menstrual cycle.
Some of us will notice changes a decade prior to the beginning of
Second Spring. Generally, a woman is said to be menopausal when there
has been a complete cessation of menstruation for six to twelve months
after the age of forty-five.
According to Western medicine, this is due to decreased production of
hormones in mid-life. The number of ovarian follicles, which are
responsible for our reproductive force, decreases from approximately
600,000 at birth to 300,000 at the onset of menses, to about 10,000
when our periods stop. Thus, menopause is a progression that begins at
birth. According to the Nei Jing, Second Spring is the third important
phase in a woman's reproductive life, following Heavenly .Water and
childbirth. As we know, a woman's life evolves in
seven-year cycles, and after our Heavenly Water begins to flow at the
age of fourteen, we reach our peak time of development from age
twenty-one to twenty-eight.
When we reach thirty-five (seven times
five), our Spleen starts to slow down, and the production of Blood, Qi
and postnatal Essence decreases. Because muscles are also governed by
the Spleen, as it weakens, muscles start to slacken and wrinkles form.
By the age of forty-nine (seven times seven) we have less Blood, Qi and
postnatal Essence and must use more of our stored prenatal Essence.
With less Blood produced, the Penetrating Vessel, which carries Blood
to the Uterus, will not be full, and as a consequence, the Uterus will
not overflow with its excess. Our Heavenly Water will diminish and
eventually cease. In an effort to conserve our Essence as much as
possible, the wisdom of our bodies stops the monthly discharge of
Blood. It is interesting that the cessation of our periods is generally
perceived as the advancement of aging, when it is, in fact, our bodies'
natural effort to slow down this process and bring new balance to our
Women's Health After Menopause
Since Blood and Essence are no longer
being lost on a monthly basis, the energy that had been used to ensure
an adequate supply of Blood is freed up for us to do with as we choose.
As a result, we feel rejuvenated and experience an awakening of new
potential - Second Spring. The transition marks a change in Yin
relative to Yang energy, since less Blood, which is Yin, is produced.
Traditionally, in our
pre-menopausal years, we are focused on
relationships, careers, creating a family and home. Our attention is
often on nurturing and caring for others. 'Women who have careers
outside the home are, typically still
responsible for looking after the children and the household. Often our
self-esteem and identities have been defined and also compromised by
our relationships. We are a wife of so-and-so, or the mother of, or the
daughter of. Even though we may have a career the cultural pressures to
be identified in relationship,
traditionally with a man, are very strong.
In many cases, then, being in the world comes later for women, as we
develop an independent sense of self. Our power and achievements very
often manifest at mid-life and beyond. This is a manifestation of our
more apparent Yang energy. We become more passionate about our beliefs.
We're able to express our anger. We are more apt to stand up for
ourselves. There is a well-known Chinese saying: 'Women in their
thirties are wolves; in their forties, tigers, and their fifties,