by guest author Lynda Wisdo
It was while making my way around a local Celtic Festival, complete with bagpipes and caber tosses, Irish step dancers and fiddle players, that I noticed a Tarot reader sitting among the vendors. I’d never had a Tarot reading before but was at my wits end, having spent the past two months battling an array of physical and emotional “disturbances” that had me confused, frightened and running from doctor to doctor, desperate for a diagnosis—a racing pulse, skyrocketing blood pressure, intense trembling, hot flashes, cold flashes, and night after night of little to no sleep. Terrified I might be dying from some dreaded disease and hoping the Tarot reader might be able to shed some light on my situation, I approached her table and reached into my wallet.
“I…I was wondering if you might be able to help me,” I said, handing her a few sweat-covered bills. “I…I have something wrong with me…something physical. I keep going to all of these doctors.”
The woman eyed me curiously, asked a few questions, then sat down and drew some cards. Although I can’t, for the life of me, remember which cards the woman laid on that table that day, or a word of what she said about them, I do remember the simple advice she offered me as I gathered myself up to leave.
“You’re going to need to find a new way of taking care of yourself,” the woman said, looking into my eyes. “It’s not so much about going to all of the doctors. It’s about finding a new way of taking care of yourself.”
“I see,” I mumbled, then stood up and hurried back into the crowd.
Although it would take a few more months of shaking and sweating, a few more doctors’ visits and even a brief trip to a psychiatric hospital, in time I came to realize just how right that Tarot reader was. Come to find out, I wasn’t dying from some dreaded disease and neither had I lost my mind. What I was experiencing was actually a type of healing crisis, a mind/body healing crisis known in Transpersonal Psychology as a Spiritual Emergency or Spiritual Crisis. While there are many different situations that can trigger a Spiritual Emergency, things like deep meditation or prayer, childbirth, or even a near-death experience, for me it was the hormonal changes of menopause and my history of childhood trauma that led to my midlife “breakdown,” or rather, my midlife break-through.
The reason I say “break-through,” is that according to many women’s health experts, the years of perimenopause (the eight or so years before a woman’s menstrual cycles cease) can actually be a time of profound healing. It’s a time when a woman’s mind, body, and spirit begin working to release the unprocessed emotions and energies from her past so that she might enter the next stage of life, the Wise Woman stage, with a sense of renewal.
For women who have experienced some type of trauma or injustice, this time of healing can be especially challenging as the mind and body are likely to be overloaded with unprocessed energies, leading to perimenopausal issues that may become difficult to manage. It is at this point that the menopausal transition has the potential of becoming a true crisis or Spiritual Emergency. Hot flashes, cold flashes, insomnia, a racing heart, mood swings, feelings of outright madness—these are just some of the challenges a midlife woman might experience as her mind and body begin working to release the long-held emotions and energies from her past during midlife.
What’s important to keep in mind is that perimenopause is a temporary stage, not a permanent one, so many of the mind/body challenges a woman may be experiencing will, in time, begin to fade, as long as the woman is careful to honor what she is feeling and takes the steps necessary to help her heal.
As a way of offering some support in this process, I’ve created a Tarot spread specifically designed for the menopausal passage and the years beyond. I call this spread The Cross of the Wise Woman. The intention of The Cross of the Wise Woman is to offer the midlife woman insights into the ways in which the issues from her past may be affecting her in the present and to determine what inner strengths she might use to assist her on her journey. Depending on how deeply a woman might wish to explore her issues, I’ve created several variations of this spread ranging from four cards to eleven.
The four-card version is as follows:
Card #1- The energies and strengths the woman is bringing into peri-menopause from her Maiden years.
Card #2- The energies and strengths she is bringing from her Motherhood years.
Card #3- The energies and strengths she is bringing from her early midlife years.
Card #4- The challenge or issue to focus on at this point in her midlife journey.
Once a woman is able to identify some of the issues that may be contributing to her midlife challenges, she becomes better equipped to understand what she is going through and to release the emotions and energies that may be adding to her distress. Some of the mind/body practices that may be helpful during this time of transition include yoga, Chi Kung or other types of movement, dream exploration, journaling and creative writing, massage therapy, various types of group support, and one-on-one talk therapy or counseling. As every woman is different, the best advice is to find what works for you and stick with it. It may take some time but, little by little, you’ll find yourself feeling a bit calmer, a bit saner…a bit lighter, and a bit less burdened by the past.
Today, nearly twelve years after that Celtic Festival and the early days of my crisis, I remain amazed by how spot on that Tarot reader’s advice was. I really did need to find a new way of taking care of myself, a way that would honor the amazing transformation I was undergoing and the Wise Woman I was becoming. For those of you who may just be starting out on your midlife journey and feeling a little less than enchanted by the whole process, do try to trust that better times are on their way. If you’re anything like me, they may even be some of the best times of your life!
*Because of the very profound way in which the mind and body are changing during perimenopause, should a woman be experiencing any midlife issues she is concerned about she should always see a doctor, preferably one with an understanding of perimenopause as a rite of passage and healing journey. This will enable her to rule out any conditions that may require medical intervention.
Lynda Wisdo holds an MA degree in Trans-personal Studies/Spiritual Mentoring with a focus on feminine spirituality. Now a full-fledged Wise Woman Crone, she uses the Tarot and other trans-personal practices to offer support to women undergoing various types of transitions. Lynda is also the author of a memoir/research project about her experience during perimenopause titled, Menopause in Crisis—When Spiritual Emergency Meets the Feminine Midlife Passage. You can read more about her and the issues surrounding menopause, childhood trauma, and Spiritual Emergency on her websites at: lyndawisdo.weebly.com and menopauseincrisis.weebly.com