The incredible Jane Hardwicke Collings joins Tahnee on the Women's Series today, to explore the cyclic nature of womanhood and the potency of menopause. Jane is a menstrual educator, midwife, teacher and writer. It is an exquisite delight and absolute honour to share in the vast nature of her knowledge and wisdom. The conversation shared between Tahnee and Jane is powerful, an important listen for all the women out there, both young and wise, who are keen to learn more about their own innate rythmns. Or for the men folk who are eager to understand and support their female friends and loved ones.
Tahnee and Jane discuss:
- The cyclic nature of womanhood.
- The medicalisation of menopause.
- How to prepare for yourself for menopause.
- Menstruation, menopause and the lunar cycle.
- Birth, menarche, motherhood and menopause as rites of passage.
- The cultural shame that surrounds the menstrual cycle in Western society.
- What menopause or 'mimi' signifies in the cultures of Australia's First Nations Peoples.
- The concept of the "mother line" or "red thread" theme when going through menopause.
- Rites of passage as key indicators of how individuals are valued culturally, based on which phase of the cycle they're in.
- What our experience of menarche teaches us about being a woman and how that impacts our experience of menopause.
- How the menopausal shift in luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone can increase a woman's intuition and visionary capacity.
Who is Jane Hardwicke Collings?
Jane Hardwicke Collings is a grandmother, midwife, teacher, writer and menstrual educator. Jane gives workshops in Australia and internationally on mother and daughter preparation for menstruation, the spiritual practice of menstruation, and the sacred dimensions of pregnancy, birth, and menopause – a modern-day Women’s Mysteries Teacher.
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Check Out The Transcript Here:
Hi everybody. Welcome to the SuperFeast podcast. Today I have Jane Hardwicke Collings with me, and she's a grandmother, midwife, teacher, writer and menstrual educator. Jane was a home birth midwife for 30 years, and she gives workshops on mother and daughter preparation for menstruation and the spiritual practise of menstruation and the sacred dimensions of pregnancy, birth and menopause. She's a modern day women's mysteries teacher and she founded and runs the School of Shamanic Womancraft and International Women's Mysteries School.
I'm very excited to have you here today Jane. You were requested heavily by our community when we were reaching out about who people wanted to hear from. We had I think probably 50 plus emails and messages about you, so you're very popular.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (00:51)
Oh wow, that's cool. Thank you. Thank you so much for inviting me. I'm very honoured to be here with you.
Yeah, super exciting. I wanted to chat to you today about menopause in particular. You do have such a rich background, but we've spoken a lot about birth and menstrual issues and the younger women's journey, but we haven't spoken a lot about these later stages of womanhood and what it means to transition from a woman who bleeds to a woman who no longer bleeds, and what that kind of means both on a spiritual level and on a physical level. I know you've got some insights around this and have a course coming on your website soon, which is really exciting.
I wondered if you could, if you're open to it, share some of your journey with us and how you came to be interested in these topics. That would be a great place to start I think.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:43)
Yeah, for sure. Thank you. Like this hidden rite of passage of menopause that seems to have been either ignored or forgotten or at least not talked about. As a midwife, I absolutely thought that there could not possibly be anything more transformational than giving birth until I went through menopause. I learned so much from my experience, and there wasn't that much around to learn from, but that's not a problem because the experience teachers one everything one needs to learn if one is open to it.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (02:31)
I'm not sure which is feared more, childbirth or menopause. Probably childbirth because menopause is just not even talked about. It's something that we really, really need to reclaim and embrace because it's inevitable. You can avoid it if you like, but that would be a waste of an amazing transformational opportunity. My journey to menopause was, well it's kind of similar to other women who are obsessed with the menstrual cycle, which-
More and more women are, which is really exciting.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (03:17)
It's so exciting. Approaching my menopause, I was like, "Oh no, how am I ever going to be able to live my life without my menstrual cycle? I'm so obsessed by it. I use it all the time to guide me and working with the energies, et cetera. What would it be like without it? Oh no." I was approaching it with well I guess some worry about what life would be like without my menstrual cycle. It's very different. It's an interesting process to shift from the cycle of one's menstrual cycle into the cycle without the blood.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (04:05)
When you learn all about the menstrual cycle, one of the most interesting things that we learn is that the blueprint for the menstrual cycle is to follow the cycle of the moon, and we won't go into that in great detail now and it's very easy to find information about it, but the point of raising that now is that the moon doesn't go away when your periods do. So there she is up in the sky and there's a return to the lunar clock or the lunar calendar, like a recalibration for one from the perimenopausal journey on to reconnect with the original blueprint cycle of the moon and be with that.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (04:59)
It's not like there's no cycle anymore. There is that cycle that's always been there in the background anyway, and so the experience of or my experience of my cycle after my menstrual cycle stopped, which was to fully tap into the lunar cycle, is similar to the menstrual cycle but not as intense. There's not the high highs of ovulation and the low lows of bleeding, and I don't mean low in a negative way, I mean deep.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (05:32)
The heights and depths of the menstrual cycle and not there in the post-menopausal cycle. There's similarities, like I feel the fully moon and the dark moon and the journey there and back, but it's not as intense. In some ways and for very, very many, many, many women, there's a lot of relief in that too, especially if there's been pathology around the menstrual cycle through the journey. The cycle remains and yet it is gentler. Shall I just talk a little bit about the whole thing?
Yeah, I'm super interested. That just brought up a load of, because I had this intuition that it was a steadying I guess of those rhythms or like a harmonising, I suppose, because I know so many young women go through really big ebbs and flows, like the tides are big tides. Yeah, I've seen what you're speaking to, is what I felt a sense of what menopause is offering. I'm really interested to hear you speak more about it, so please, go.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (06:36)
Yeah. Well it's a journey to that. I stopped bleeding when I was 56, and I'm turning 62 this year. I'm nearly six years since stopped bleeding, and is till have hot flashes. I have different sleeping patterns to what I used to have. It's not something that you go through and then it's back to normal. There is no back to normal. There is-
The new normal.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (07:07)
Exactly, which is what we're experiencing now with the pandemic. The big questions of what will it be like after this, when we get through this. What will happen? Will we be going back to business as usual? Those are all the same questions that women are asking themselves when they're going through the perimenopausal journey, and the answers to it are, well, let's see, or everything will be revealed or the unravelling will result in the answer to that, et cetera, et cetera, but the bottom line is that it's not business as usual. There's no return to normal. There is a new normal, which is something that we're all getting acquainted with now.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (07:51)
It's very interesting how quickly and maybe not easily, but we adapt to or adopt new normals. I think the experience with the pandemic will be something that perimenopausal women will be able to relate to, like the whole unknowns around it. I'm saying the word perimenopausal a lot, so I just want to define that. Peri means around, so around menopause. Menopause is a moment. It's the last menstrual cycle that you have, and you never know. You never know when it's going to be the last one, like you never know when it's going to be the last breastfeed or never know when it's going to be the first period or you never know when the baby's going to come or whatever, whatever. It's one of those mysteries, as they're called. The women's mysteries. There's lots of mystery to them.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (08:44)
Perimenopause is probably the term to use to describe the journey because, as I said, menopause just means the last period. Then there's post-menopause, which is when one has reached the medically designated period of time that you're meant to have no period for, to then be a post-menopausal woman, and different people say different things. Often it's one year without a period and others say two years to get your diagnosis of being post-menopausal, but therein lay the trick and the trap there because menopause is not a disease. It doesn't have a diagnosis, and therefore it doesn't have symptoms.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (09:32)
You can see with the language used around it that it's really been-
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (09:40)
Exactly, and unfortunately like the menstrual cycle as well. It's a rite of passage. Menopause is a rite of passage, and knowing that gives us the clues about what it holds for us. A rite of passage is a major transformation in our lives and there's physical rites of passage and there's cultural rites of passage. Cultural rites of passage are things like getting married, first job, graduating, getting divorced, going to school for the first time. First car.
First car. Yeah.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (10:21)
Oh, I said first car, I think we were in sync.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (10:26)
First car, yeah. The big one.
Yeah, 18th, all that kind of stuff, yeah.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (10:30)
All of that, yeah. Then there's the physical rites of passage or the women's mysteries, that they call the blood mysteries. Obviously I'm referring to the female experience of those. Men have these similar rites of passage, but they're nowhere near as intense as the female version of it, like menopause for a woman compared to a say-
Andropause or something.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (10:54)
Yeah, or midlife crisis. Same with giving birth, like the woman's experience of becoming a mother compared to a man's experience of becoming a father is very, very different. Not not significant, but different. A rite of passage is this time of transformation and whatever happens during the time, whatever happens or doesn't happen, whatever's said or not said and whatever's going on in the world around you or in your family or whatever, all of that teaches the person going through the rite of passage how their culture values the next phase they're going into.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (11:34)
With menopause, it's into the wise woman years or the ageing you, the middle aged you. What happens, teaches us how our culture values the next role we're going into and therefore how to behave to be accepted by the culture. So that's the case for every rite of passage. So birth, menarche or first period and then every pregnancy results in a birth regardless of whether it makes it all the way, and then menopause and then death. They're the physical rites of passage.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (12:10)
This is such big work and I just want to really encourage your listeners to think about what each of their rites of passage have taught them about how their culture values the next role they're going into and therefore how to behave by what their experience was. Just to focus on menopause, I guess the thing is that what we've already talked about is how it's hidden and not talked about and possibly feared and kind of ignored, and so what does that teach us about how our culture values it? Doesn't, or it needs to be hidden or covered up or whatever, and therefore, how do you behave to be accepted by your culture? You stay invisible.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (12:58)
You don't draw any attention to yourself, and you just keep it low and quiet and just carry on. There's even investigations by our scientific community, especially evolutionary biologists to ask the big question of why would it be that human women, human females, sorry, would live beyond their fertile years? What's the point?
I've actually read that stuff online. They're like, "Only whales and humans live past menopause. Why is that?"
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (13:27)
I know! As a post-menopausal woman to have one's value questioned, what is the use of me, that's a really-
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (13:41)
Yeah, and ridiculous and information. A bit of a clue, right? A fertile woman is the most valuable woman, and obviously on an evolutionary level, that's a very important role, to be reproducing, but the reasons they've come up with that you would have read the most popular hypothesis is called the grandmother hypothesis.
Yeah, the cultural reasons.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (14:10)
Yeah, that the babies, the children of a woman whose mother is alive and helping her last, live longer or make it through childhood. The value of the post-menopausal woman, according to the evolutionary biologist's theory of grandmother is that the use of us is to help our daughters and sons, children stay alive by gathering more food and all of that kind of stuff.
It's still so reductive too. I mean it takes away your value.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (14:47)
Which gives us a clue to how our culture values wise women. It's not that many hundreds of years ago that the wise women were burned on the stake.
Yeah. The witch trials [inaudible 00:14:58].
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (14:58)
We got a long way to come back from that. The wise woman is not valued in our culture. Nobody's trying to dress up to look like her, are they? They're all trying to dress up to look like a 25 year old. She's actually the most loved and honoured-
Archetype sort of thing.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (15:20)
Exactly. The archetype of the wise woman is not one that's terribly honoured or cared about, and we see that through the experience that women have around the rite of passage. That's the whole thing about the rite of passage of menopause, and it's not an isolated event. Rites of passage build on each other, and one leads to the next. They are also massive healing opportunities because their transformation takes place there. To bring to menopause, what we would hope is that by the time women get to menopause, they've kind of awoken to their inner knowing and feminine wisdom and power and strength, but many don't and many haven't.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (16:06)
What we can do in a conscious way of approaching menopause is to remember what we've learned about ourselves so far, because that's the person that we're going to meet at the altar of menopause, so to speak. It's a really huge experience, and it takes some time. It can take 13 years, and it's an experience that is like a birth. It's a labour and a birth, and the labour is the perimenopausal journey and can take, as I said, up to 13 years. The birth, the baby is the wise woman version of ourselves, and the entrance into the maga life season, which is a relatively newly recognised life phase or life season in a woman's life.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (17:07)
Nature is such a great teacher. If we use nature as the teacher here, we can see our maiden years, which are like zero, from our birth to around 25 are our maiden years, and then at 25 we all go into our mother season, the summer of our lives. So the maiden is the spring, the mother is the summer and every woman goes into the summer mother season of her life at around 25 regardless of whether she has children or will have children. We enter these years from 25 to menopause, and in those years we are as if the creatrix. So we conceive, gestate and birth all manner of things besides human babies like careers-
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (17:55)
... [crosstalk 00:17:55], businesses, gardens, projects, whatever. Then at around ... Well the average age for menopause is 50, 51. So then we enter the second half of our lives. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, menopause is called the second spring, and so that gives a very nice perspective on it rather than the beginning of the end. Back in the day, when we were ... Well so the original archetypes of the female life story are maiden, mother and crone. That's the triple goddess that most people who are students of the women's mysteries are well aware of, and that's a very old story, maiden, mother and crone, and it comes from a time when we were mothers by the time we were 14, grandmothers by the time we were 30 and dead by the time we were 45 or so.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (19:08)
If we reached menopause, average age 50, then we must be very close to death. That little perspective has unfortunately hung on.
Despite many changes to life expectancy.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (19:24)
Exactly. Now when we get to menopause average age 50, we now live to, what, let's say 100. We're halfway. It's not the beginning of the end. It's the beginning of the next half of your life. Rather than that being crone, which crone is the old woman, the winter of our lives. Now with our longer lives, we can embrace and invite in the autumn season of our lives, which would go from say 50, average age of menopause to just say 70, which would be the beginning of the crone or winter season of our lives.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (20:06)
The menopause heralds the autumn season of our lives, which is a really powerful and potent and important part of the cycle of the earth. Autumn is the harvest season. It's actually, back in the day before we could go down to the supermarket at 1:00 in the morning and buy a mango in the middle of the winter, we were reliant on our gardening and farming capabilities to keep ourselves alive. Autumn, the harvest season was the time when we were so busy and so busy in community as well gathering together to do whatever we had to do with the 100 zucchinis that we had or [crosstalk 00:20:57].
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (21:00)
Pickling. [crosstalk 00:21:01].
Reaping what we've sowed, right, [crosstalk 00:21:03]?
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (21:02)
Yeah, and sharing. You've got all those whatever, I'll swap you my pumpkins for your broccoli or whatever. If we can remember, whether romantically or actually, the sharing of the harvest idea, then that's what we can bring to understanding the autumn season of our lives, that it's an important part of our lives where we get to see and share our harvest and shift into a different kind of living style and experience based on not having the menstrual cycle anymore.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (21:50)
The name that I was taught for the autumn season of our lives from one of my teachers in America, Cedar Barstow, is maga, M-A-G-A, and Cedar's about 10 or 15 years older than me, so she went through all of this before me, and was sharing her experience in her community when her group of similarly aged friends and colleagues, when they went through menopause, their mothers, many of them had their mothers still alive. They could see that they were crones, their mothers. They were old, wise women, and yet there was this cohort of them, around 50 or so shifting from the mother season into this other season, which they called maga, and they called it maga as a female version of the male term that's quite well known and used for men of that age called magus, which means magician.
[inaudible 00:22:49]. Yeah.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (22:50)
Yeah, exactly. Maga is one of the words that can be used, and there are many others that are used and that is enchantress or sovereign woman or matriarch or amazon, queen, warrioress, witch, priestess, changing woman. Get the picture, she's next level.
She sounds like a dude. I'm excited.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (23:26)
She's a total dudess.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (23:31)
She's very much one version of the woman we need now, the earth needs now. The earth needs now, these women who are aware of their sovereignty, who are aware of their power and their connection to the earth and magic and will. One of the most amazing things that happens post-menopause when two of the main hormones of reproduction actually change their role, that's luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone, which are part of the cocktail that make ovulation happen and sustain hormone levels for pregnancy, et cetera. They change their role post-menopause and they change their role to become neurotransmitters of the right side of the brain.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (24:29)
The effect that they have is that they increase our intuition and our visionary capacity.
Yeah, because I've heard they activate the pineal gland and that sort of third eye space I suppose, or the intuitive seat.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (24:46)
Yeah. Imagine if the women in this phase in their lives were really aware of that first, but using ... That's what we need. We need visionaries. We need the intuitive grandma to participate in life. It's not like it's all over situation. It's a whole new story. The maga life season, I think the work of that, the story of that, the information about that has probably been one of the biggest and most impactful things that I've shared in my work and my writing because when women who are approaching menopause hear about this whole other season, it's like a relief and a bit exciting and gladness making that it's not all over. It's actually next level.
It's just beginning.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (25:47)
Yeah, exactly. It has a lot of responsibilities. Post-menopausal women not being so under the influence of their menstrual cycle have more energy. They don't usually have little children anymore. They're more established in themselves and who they are in the world and what they do and all that. They're not trying to figure out what to do with their lives, they're doing it. With an increased visionary capacity and intuition, they're a very valuable member of the community that I think that would be a wonderful thing to harness, like a band of post-menopausal warrioresses. I'm [inaudible 00:26:36] with that.
Well it's funny, there's a group here called the Knitting Nana's and they send out all these amazing newsletters about fossil fuels, and they just dedicate their time to research and education around environmental issues. I'm thinking of them. I'm just thinking of also the Hindi life cycle has a similar arc where it's from zero to 25 you're sort of a student, and then from 25 to 50 you're in the child family, building stage of life and then 50 to 75 you're giving back to your community with your insight or wisdom. Then 75 to 100 is the spiritual years.
If you look at all the longevity communities, because I know the Taoist tradition has a similar life cycle, and the indigenous people of this country had that as well, like until 30 you were a baby and then 30 to 60 were kind of those community years, and then onward into your wisdom years and your spiritual years. I think it's such a call to arms to women to use this transformational time to step into some greater sense of their own purpose and power.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (27:43)
More so even than ... because I see so many young women seeking that really early, like in their 20s, and I'm compassionate and also remembering myself and thinking even from 18 to 35, I'm still not completely sure of what I'm contributing to the world yet. I'm still finding my passions and the things that light me up and things I can share without draining myself. I think that we've got to give ourselves more time, and it sounds to me like when you get into those 50s and 60s, you're starting to I guess condense. I think about Metal and how it condenses Water into something substantial and that wisdom of the Kidney energy and the winter energy in Chinese medicine. That's the kind of metaphor, I suppose, that's coming is that this is the time to condense all of your life experience into insight to contribute that back.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (28:35)
Yeah. Sounds purposeful.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (28:41)
Our culture needs that now more than ever.
Yeah. I think the leadership role, we're all obviously over this middle aged white men thing that's going on, it's about time we brought back some of this feminine power and wisdom. I've been reading a lot of the Celtic myths lately because I'm Irish descent and Scottish, and I've realised I've read a lot of the Native American, but not really so much from the Celts. They talk about the goddess of sovereignty, and when you're talking about that, I was thinking about that a lot, like that deep rooted connection to the land and that sort of sense of independence and self-composure and strength that comes from just tapping into those natural rhythms. This is all what's coming through for me listening to you speak.
I'm curious, so many women, when they hear the word perimenopause, they just freak out. They just immediately I think go into panic and I've spoken to a lot of women, because we work with herbs so a lot of women contact us in those times and they're looking for something to sort of I guess make it all go away, and I'm obviously uncertainty as how to advise a lot of the time in terms of the emotional side of it because I haven't experienced it myself that I often think this is such a potent time for self-reflection and probably to step back from things for a period while we I guess assimilate some of these ideas. Is that something you recommend? How do people navigate this time if they don't have structures and cultural support?
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (30:17)
Well it's really like a classic situation where wherever you go, there you are. Everybody is going to meet themselves at each rite of passage and really meet yourself. I just wrote down what you just said then about one of the main things women want to do is to make it go away. Where does that come from? I'm not going to wait for you to answer, I'm going to take us straight to the menstrual cycle.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (30:48)
She who was initiated into womanhood at the altar of menarche, so menarche being your first period, is the woman that grows up and goes through and has babies and then goes through menopause and into her old years and then dies. We are really looking at menopause, what we can really see is what was the experience that our menarche taught us about being a woman. The "make it go away" is the classic thing.
Sure is, yeah.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (31:28)
We've done some amazing research on the menstrual cycle and menopause. We did it in cahoots with the Victorian Women's Trust, and there's a wonderful book that was created out of all of the research and then the analysis of it called About Bloody Time.
I like that name.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (31:45)
The menstrual revolution we have to have, and anybody who's interested in the menstrual cycle and interested in the impact of it in our culture, it's a great resource and wonderful thing to read, and you can get it through the Victorian Women's Trust. Anyway, a big thing about the research there and anybody who is involved in menstrual education will know that most commonly the experience women have at menarche, their first period, teaches them that they need to just carry on regardless. Hide it. Don't really let anybody know about it and whatever you do, don't leak.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (32:40)
What gets set up there is shame, menstrual shame, and we know that menstrual shame is actually the pandemic and menstrual shame leads to body shame, which leads to low self-esteem, which leads to all the behaviours associated with that including at its worst, eating disorders and self-harm. Also, actually leads to dangerous sexual decision making, and also the large use of hormonal contraceptives, especially the pill to turn it off.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (33:25)
Our culture is very successful at making the menstrual cycle go away.
It's our specialty.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (33:33)
To our peril, right?
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (33:36)
The menstrual pathology and the denial of cyclical nature of women and even the denial of the cyclical nature of the earth has been one of the main things that's got us into the total fucking mess that we're in now. Then we see that "make it go away" happen in childbirth.
Oh totally, yeah. Numb me, inject me.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (34:03)
Yeah, make it go away, make it go away. By the time we get to menopause, if we haven't awoken to the idea that "make it go away" is actually part of the way to keep women oppressed. If we haven't figured that out and have risen accordingly, then "make it go away" at menopause is a very easy thing to do. There's all kinds of drugs that you can take to make it go away, but the problem is it doesn't actually go away, it just goes on pause. The same for-
With the birth control pill.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (34:40)
With birth control pill, exactly.
Yeah, like a weird faux pregnancy.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (34:43)
Yeah, like you're in some sort of limbo, weird limbo land, and look, to be fair, for some women, their experience of the menstrual cycle and childbirth and menopause are so extreme and they don't have the internal or external resources to be able to navigate it. I really support everybody's choices in whatever they choose; however, I really want to be sure that everybody has all the information so that they can be making informed decisions rather than just the current-
Yeah, well it's disgusting how little education is done by mainstream health when prescribing these things. That's something that I find so frustrating, and one of the reasons we're doing this series for women in the first place is just to have these conversations and for people to start to maybe at least educate themselves to a baseline level about what's actually happening when you take a hormonal contraceptive or when you medicate your perimenopause or something like that. The impact can be really deleterious, and people think it's themselves. They blame their bodies and they blame this ... Especially women because it's so easy for women to feel shame and to blame the body and to think of the body as something other than ourselves and something that needs to be controlled and managed.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (36:15)
It's like, no, this thing ... I mean even during this pandemic, I've just let my body go fully, just completely natural and wild, and I don't know, I'm feeling so strong. It's been such an interesting, because I've been pretty au naturale anyway, but even just with like I'm wearing softer clothes because I'm not having to go out as much. I'm just feeling very different in this time, and that's been a big shift for me and I'm trying to even imagine if you're going through menopause, it gives such an opportunity to heal some of these wounds if they aren't already things that you've considered or worked with or started to navigate.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (36:57)
Dr. Christiane Northrup has a lot of wonderful things to say about women's health, but she also has heaps on menopause, which is [crosstalk 00:37:05].
Yeah, [crosstalk 00:37:06] really great.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (37:06)
Yeah. She calls menopause the mother of all wake-up calls.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (37:11)
It so is, because it's like everything that you've swept under the carpet comes out at menopause, and that's due to what happens with the hormones, which I'll just mention in a minute, but the other quote of hers around menopause is that besides being the mother of all wake-up calls, it's an experience that's designed to heal all the unhealed parts of you. If you don't want to heal menstrual ... Well if you don't want to heal your body shame and you want to keep being ashamed of your body and covering it up and altering it in whatever ways that you can, then you can keep doing that, but it gets harder and harder and has to happen more and more often and gets more and more expensive and probably more and more dangerous too to be altering your body in all the chemical and surgical ways that you still can.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (38:12)
The opportunity at menopause is to heal all the unhealed parts of you. That's a big invitation, but it's an invitation that you need to be ready for and prepared for and open to. It's not necessarily going to be easy. It's one meets one's self there. It's not like some demon out of the cupboard, unless you've kept yourself in the cupboard and you've turned into a demon, then it probably will be. It's such an opportunity to grow up and to accept that there are things that are never going to happen again or things that are forever changed.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (39:07)
In a world that's fixated on youth and beauty and the growth cycle, that's all seen as useless. It's quite a big shift that needs to happen within one's self to be able to really get the most out of menopause. Many women sail through it and have no issues, but those who embrace it as the transformation that it's offering are going to have the experience they need to have to teach them whatever they need to learn. One of the best things in preparation for menopause is to make peace with all your experiences through your mother season. One of the biggest ways we see that show up at perimenopause or definitely post-menopause is that there's going to be no more babies.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (40:07)
That might be something that you're glad of or it might be-
[crosstalk 00:40:12] or relief or both.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (40:13)
Yeah. Relief or regret. There's so much of that. For some, the relief is like a whole new life opens up, and for some the regret is like the thing they've been trying to ignore for the last however many years they can't anymore. 60% of divorces apparently happen around menopause and initiated by the women. There's this them. It's like, "What have I been putting up with all this time," and that can be around anything. I mean it'll be around everything. At the first period, around menarche, it's like a veil descends on one, and it's the veil of oestrogen and progesterone.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (41:07)
Oestrogen is known as the hormone of accommodation. What that means is that through the mother season of our lives, we sacrifice ourselves for our children or our businesses or our careers, whatever it is we're mothering. We sacrifice ourselves for it, and we're richly rewarded for that. It feels really, really good to dedicate our lives to the things that we really care about and want to help grow and survive and mature and all that.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (41:48)
Then around say five years or so, before the last period, so you never really know, as I said, but there is some familiarity in family. If your mother hand a natural menopause, then your age will probably be similar to hers. About five years before that, this veil begins to rise, and so as the hormone of accommodation lessens within one's self, we're not so interested in sacrificing everything for everybody anymore, and the most uttered words are "How come I'm the only one who does anything around here?" or "Why can't you do that" or "You've been doing that for blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (42:36)
People say, "You've changed." Yes, I've changed. It was okay yesterday, it's not okay today. Yes, that's right, it's not okay today. It's up in the air and it's confusing and it's confusing for the woman and it's confusing for the people she lives with, and it's a whole new ball game. The woman who's going through the experience, she kind of doesn't even recognise herself either, and she definitely doesn't know who she's going to be on the other side of this because she's never ever been that person before. What we have never run on the cocktail of hormones post-menopause ever in our lives, so it's a whole new version of us.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (43:22)
There can be positives in that, and there can be negatives, especially around life purpose. For a woman who's had children particularly and post-menopause, there's her life, her children have probably grown up quite a lot and there's the negative version post-menopause called the empty nester where women's life purpose of raising their families is they're no longer needed for that, and that's quite a challenge. Christiane Northrup suggests to women around that that they try and remember what they were interested in pre-menarche, before they were socialised into being a woman through their menstrual cycle and being coerced kind of into being the way women need to be in the patriarchal culture. Prior to that, post-menopausal women who are looking for "What's my thing," can remember what their thing was before their periods started, that can be a bit of a clue to the un-brainwashed female version of themselves, and maybe they can pick up that interest post-menopause.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (44:43)
The thing is that everything's different after menopause. You don't have the same ... the same things don't matter as much. It's very interesting. I had a big conversation with one of our wonderful aboriginal elders who shares her wisdom, Minmia many-
Oh I've read her book. I love her book.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (45:11)
Yeah, Under The Quandong Tree Tree.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (45:14)
Exactly. I sat with her one day with pen and paper going as fast as I could asking [crosstalk 00:45:21], and I said to her, "So what about menopause?" She said, "I don't know any woman whose worthy of the transformation into mimi. I don't know anyone who's ready for that, koori or white woman." She said, "Everybody's just trying to look young and keep doing what they always do, and they all turn into cougars."
She's been watching too much TV.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (45:56)
I said, "Okay, so in all the books around menopause and the talking about menopause, everybody says it's a time for renegotiating things, like renegotiating work/life balance, renegotiating relationships, renegotiating your relationship with your body, et cetera, et cetera." She said to me, "Oh that's such a western way of thinking, renegotiating." She said, "It's not that at all." She said, "Post-menopause, when you become a mimi," so that's their word for it, mimi, she said, "It's not business as usual, it's not renegotiated life. It's a whole new role."
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (46:39)
She said, "The role of the mimi, the role of the post-menopausal woman is to weave the dreams for the grandchildren."
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (46:49)
Yeah. It's not that you're trying to return to what life was like before the rite of passage of menopause, it's a whole new thing. It's not about trying to do what you were doing before. It's about weaving the dreams for the grandchildren. To my mind, that means preserving the world for our grandchildren and like that group that you just mentioned, the Knitting Nana's. You know the environment is a classic place where we have to be focusing for that.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (47:24)
It's a total cultural shift to embrace menopause in a way that nature teachers us about the autumn. It's not a carrying on of the summer. It's not a repeat of the spring. It's the harvest. It's the time when you need to give back and share everything that you've learned and to continue to focus on yourself in the way that you need to be able to to get on with your life. You really need to be healthy. I remember in my very first menopause workshop, Autumn Woman Harvest Queen workshop, one of the woman who was going, just entering her perimenopausal experience said, "Oh, okay, I get it. I can't live on Vegemite sandwiches anymore."
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (48:17)
You need to nourish yourself properly. I mean you need to nourish yourself properly the whole time, but the cost is higher post-menopausal. How you go through menopause, you're setting yourself up for your old age. So we need to train around menopause. We need to be doing exercise in the way that we would have been doing way back before everything got really easy. In the farming sort of way that we had to live, we need to recreate a lifestyle that's supporting our bodies and growing us strong and keeping us healthy, and we need to be nourishing ourselves on every level. Not just by food, but by adopting proper daily practises that include meditation and reflection and especially connection with nature.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (49:13)
I think probably if there's one thing that I would suggest to anybody going through the journey of perimenopause and postmenopause is to spend as much time as you can in nature and time alone. Lara Owen and Susun Weed, two people who have written quite a lot about menopause-
Yeah, I've spoken to both of them. I've been very lucky.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (49:38)
Yeah. Good. They suggest that menopausal women take a sabbatical, take a year off to remember yourself, to put yourself back together into your being so that you're ready for the second half of your life. Time alone in whatever way you can, a bit like a red tent or moon lodge experience to the max, as much time as you can have just on your own and as I said, especially in nature. I think that the other important things around menopause are around communication and education.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (50:16)
As the woman in the family starts to go through menopause, everybody needs to understand what's going on so that they can understand what her experience is and she can feel supported in that, in the same way that you would be around someone having a baby. If someone's getting toward the final days of pregnancy and the baby's coming and in the newborn period, that woman needs to be cared for in a particular way, and it's kind of obvious, and that's what's required, and same, same in menopause. It's a woman going through a rebirth and she needs to be cared for an understood in that process.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (51:01)
It's not just a normal time anymore. Education and communication within the family and the community, and menopause workplace policies are a thing, especially in England because a lot of the women who work there are post-menopausal too. Menopause workplace policies are a growing and very important thing to enable women to be able to self-care during their working hours, and that can be as simple as having a bloody window to open or a fan to access or more flexible working hours for women who are experiencing insomnia, which is a very common experience in perimenopause.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (51:49)
Rather than ignoring it or remember the legacy of the menstrual cycle, ignore it and carry on and don't let anybody know, but taking that into perimenopause makes life very, very difficult and a lot of women leave work because they can't pretend nothing's happening. A hot flush that comes, which affects about 80% of women in the perimenopausal journey, you can't ignore it. It's, say, a 90 second probably experience of an increase in your body temperature that takes all your attention and all your awareness, and if you're in a culture or in a situation where you have to ignore and pretend nothing's happening, that's going to be really difficult.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (52:38)
More often what happens is women isolate themselves or quit their jobs because you can't pretend it's nothing's happening. Or you can be medicating yourself so that it turns it off, which is the other option, but then you miss the opportunity that I think we can see quite a similar experience around childbirth, say. If you have a drug free birth, you have a very different experience to if you have a drugged birth.
I was wondering, are they kind of like a Russian birth, almost like a contraction in the sense of [crosstalk 00:53:10].
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (53:10)
I mean if you can give yourself that opportunity to be present with it, I imagine there's a lot of self-growth and discovery in that.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (53:21)
Yeah. My experience with hot flashes, to be fair and to be honest, I find them extremely annoying. That's no surprise to me because anything that stops me and brings me into the present moment can be a bit annoying to me.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (53:42)
And there in lay my learning and my important thing that my hot flashes are obviously remaining to teach me.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (53:49)
Yeah, like come into the present moment.
Totally. I feel that's similar with birth because I felt when I was birthing the contractions, when I was fighting them were much worse than when I learned to work with them, and the pain almost went away once I realised their function I suppose. I think sometimes we try and effort through things to keep ... I don't know what, I think I was like, "All right, I'm having a baby. We're giving birth." Its like, "No, you literally are going to ride the wave of this. You're not in control of this situation." I think that was a really powerful lesson for me, and I think in some ways that wisdom of the body takes over and it's humbling I think to be sat on your ass and told, "Sit back while we handle this."
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (54:42)
Exactly. The clues for what your experience of menopause will be lay in what you just said. It'll be the next level version of that teaching.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (54:56)
About surrender and about trust.
Control. Yeah, totally, which is like them of the last time anyway.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (55:03)
Yeah. It's not usually a surprise to people what comes up for them in their menopause. It's the usual, yet it's the opportunity to really deal with it.
Do you recommend women seek solace in circle with other women? I have a friend who works for us here at SuperFeast who I'm not completely sure how old she is, but I think she's around the 50 age, maybe like 40s. She is in a group with women of a similar age and they all discuss their experiences, and she started to have hot flushes and things. I know from her, just from speaking to her, that's been a really enriching experience and has given her a lot of confidence. Even, I'm her boss technically, so she communicates with me when she needs temperatures changed or to be in a different space.
I think I've seen her really strengthen through that. Is that something that you recommend or are there other?
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (56:05)
Totally. Women's circles, in whatever stage you are in your life, that's becoming a more and more common thing, but there's been a reclaiming to do that. I think that there's real benefit in women's circles with a variation of ages and that's basically what our four seasons journeys in the School of Shamanic Womancraft are circles of women from teenager even up to 65, 70, and there's an amazing teaching being in a circle with representatives from the whole cycle of our lives, and especially for the younger ones. Then the specific age circles, like as you're saying, are such opportunities to learn.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (56:59)
Just thinking about circles of women who've got newborns, how much they learn from each other by just watching each other. Oh, I see she's fed off that boob and now she's going onto that one. Oh she's going back. They're watching each other, learn from each other, so we know that. By the time we get to the menopause experience, sharing our journeys with each other, just the very simple thing of realising, "Oh my god, I'm not alone," is so huge, and it normalises the experience that you're having. It makes your individual experience more real and accessible once you realise that everybody's going through something, and then individual stories are the things that are playing out with the actual sort of things going on in our relationships or with our body or whatever.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (57:52)
It's so important to share with each other and to understand the process together, and the other really big part to remember is that each of us are simply and complicatedly the representative of our red thread or our mother line in our story of our lives. Each of us, when we come to these transformational rites of passage are doing our mother line story, so there'll be a theme or a pattern that's been going on in your mother line or your red thread forever, and it's not like it means that everybody has the same experience. You might not have the same sort of life story as your mother or your grandma, but there will be common themes in them.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (58:47)
Helping ourselves understand what the story is in our mother line is so powerful because it's the healing opportunity that comes through these rites of passage where the pattern can stop and a new story can begin if somebody, and the person who's going through the rite of passage now decides, "I'm going to do the inner work so that the pattern stops repeating, the pattern of low self-esteem or depression or addiction or whatever it is. It's in their rites of passage where we can really do that big transformational work to not go down the well greased pathway of doom that's been playing out, I'm exaggerating, but in our red thread.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (59:44)
Being together in circle and talking about all of these things, like what's arising and how am I experiencing that emotionally and physically and spiritually and stuff is really like the wonderful way and place that we all learn from each other. Women's circles are I think necessary all the time, and then especially during our big rites of passage.
I mean I guess, I obviously want to be conscious of time and I want to wrap it up, but I'm thinking about communication skills. Is there any advice, because I think it's such a foreign, it's like foreign territory I suppose. A lot of women struggle to communicate their needs at that time. Is that where that sabbatical, even just a period of internal exploration I suppose is useful that you're able to stake a claim and ask for what you need? Is there any tips you can give in that space for people, because I think that's something I've observed in women I know going through that period of time that don't know how to communicate?
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:00:54)
Yeah. Well for those for whom it's still in the distance, they can practise everything they need for the perimenopausal journey within their menstrual cycle. Perimenopause has been likened to the experience of the pre-menstrum. It's like during the say week three and week four of your menstrual cycle, everything that's not working in your life shows up.
Yes, it does.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:01:27)
You can let go of it with your blood.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:01:30)
If you don't let go of it, it just gets bigger, and that's an example of something getting swept under the carpet. For those for whom menopause is approaching but you're still menstruating, then pay attention to the second half of your menstrual cycle, so from ovulation or halfway if you're not ovulating anymore, so the week or two before the blood's ready to come, and if you're in perimenopause and the cycle's all over the place and you don't know when it's going to come, you're probably in that state all the time, so to pay attention to what you're feeling and what's arising and what you feel physically, what your emotions are telling you.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:02:11)
I think before we can communicate with anybody about what we need and what we're feeling, we have to be able to communicate with ourselves. That's what the menstrual cycle gives us, like a bit of a feedback loop about what's working and what's not working. In the perimenopausal journey, the first person we have to listen to is ourselves. We can use mythopoetic language and archetypes to help us, and probably the easiest one in this situation would be to listen to the dark goddess within.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:02:45)
The dark goddess is the aspect of ourselves who is telling us about all the things that need to change. If we could practise listening to her and not telling her to fuck off, really-
I've been thinking about Kali this whole conversation. That ruthless cutting cords, cutting heads off.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:03:16)
Whatever needs to happen, yeah.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:03:17)
Exactly. If we can firstly establish this communication with ourselves about what needs to change, and this is the biggest trick. We've probably been ignoring these things forever, so here they come very big and loud, and they burst out. First of all, establish a communication with oneself within about the things that need to change, and then start sharing that with the people we're in intimate relationships with, like especially our partners or our children or our work friends and colleagues and circle sisters, et cetera.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:04:00)
One of the things that menopause is quite famous for is losing your memory, and I've forgotten why I've started ranting about this, so what was your question?
I think we were talking about communication.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:04:13)
It's interesting you touch on that because I've just been doing teacher training with a woman who is in her 70's. We were talking about memory and how sometimes ... Well I'm curious as to your thoughts on if you have any thoughts on why we lose our memory in menopause because we were talking about how sometimes with meditation and things, you lose your memory as well. Yeah, it's just it was an interesting conversation. Do you have any thoughts on that or is it just a phenomena that occurs?
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:04:50)
Well it seems to be a phenomena that occurs, but there's reasons why and apparently it happens at every big rite of passage. The parts of your brain get used in different ways, not shut down, but other things are more important.
Like baby brain and all that kind of stuff.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:05:13)
Yeah, all of that kind of stuff. It's not a problem, it's an important change. I find that the things that I forget, like if I ... After a period of time, I remember them. It's still there, but the things that are on instant recall are different now because different things matter.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Different priorities, yeah.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:05:36)
Yeah, but it is a thing. It is definitely a thing, and thing, the word thing becomes such an important word in my vocabulary because it can mean so many different things. Like "That thing," or "Let's talk about the thing about ..." [inaudible 01:05:52]. [crosstalk 01:05:52].
A multipurpose tool. Your Swiss Army knife of vocabulary.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:05:59)
Yeah, exactly. Communication and education, prepare yourself for this. In the way that women do childbirth preparation and education, we need to do that for menopause too.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:06:14)
One of the ways I've seen that really work is within the four seasons journeys that I mentioned before, the School of Shamanic Womancraft. We have, as I mentioned, all variations of ages in the groups, and part of the yearlong training includes going to two of the Autumn Woman Harvest Queen workshops, which are the one-day workshops all about menopause. Mostly the women that come to those are women that are in it or have gone through it and want to understand what happened or women that for whom it's coming soon.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:06:50)
With the four seasons journeys with the whole range of ages, there are many very young women that do these Autumn Woman Harvest Queen workshops, and they're learning about menopause like in many cases before they've even had children. It's so epic to see what these young women who learn about menopause, how their attitude to menopause changes in an instant, well not an instant, in a day, having learned about it and seeing that it's not this end story or this doom situation. There's a lot of amazing things that lay ahead.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:07:35)
I've been able to see young women finish the day's workshop saying, "Wow, I'm really looking forward to menopause now." That's awesome.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:07:48)
I think education, which involves communication obviously, is what's required for so many things. We could be having this same conversation about death. Preparation-
Yeah. My favourite topics. Why aren't we preparing for death when we're young?
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:08:05)
Exactly. In many traditional cultures, that's what everything's about. The least we can do is prepare for menopause.
And then prepare for death. I know you're not able to actually run your in-person retreats at the moment, or sorry, workshops and things, which is a shame obviously, but that will shift as things do. You mentioned I think before when we were talking about having a course coming soon for women about the maga stage of life. Is that right?
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:08:40)
Yeah. I've recently just put out a pregnancy eCourse. It's called Pregnancy: The Inner Journey eCourse. Now I'm doing an Autumn Woman Harvest Queen eCourse, so all about harvesting the transformational potential of menopause or something like that. I can't remember what the tagline is, but I'm gathering all the bits and pieces for that. I've got some beautiful artwork that's just been made of an Autumn Woman Harvest Queen and a poem that's just been written, and I'm pulling together all the information and the process for women to do in the comfort of their own home in their own time. I'm very excited to have that in the mix.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:09:34)
I would imagine it'll probably take our southern winter for it to fully-
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:09:41)
... yeah, and then be born in the spring, or sooner. We'll see. These things run on goddess time, they're not to be ... they've got their own gestation. Yeah, I'm very excited to be bringing that eCourse out soon, and eCourses, pandemic or not, are really definitely one of the things of the future as we-
Yeah. That's such a powerful way I think for people to explore these topics without the geographical boundaries limiting them.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:10:12)
Yeah. I mean obviously it's not the same as sitting in a circle with everybody.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:10:16)
But there's very good things from them as well.
Well I think for a lot of people, it's a place to start or a way to explore, especially what we were talking about earlier where some people don't have the resources to travel or afford many, many courses. It's nice to offer things like that.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:10:38)
It's something we wrestle with a lot because we used to do a lot of in-person stuff, and now with our daughter and the business, it's tricky, so we've been offering stuff online. A part of my soul misses the contact and the humans, but then another part of me is like, well, we're affecting people all over the globe, which we wouldn't be able to do if we were doing a workshop in our backyard.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:11:01)
Absolutely. That's the point, right? We need to be the women the earth needs now. That's those who are soft and strong and resilient and adaptable.
Full of love.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:11:19)
The pandemic has pulled the rug out from underneath us, so we need to adapt. In order to adapt, we need to be resilient. That's like another great lead-in to menopause. It's all about adapting and developing resilience, to be able to do that. The best thing anybody can go into menopause with is inner strength.
Well that's a powerful note to end on. I wanted to say thank you so much for your time. I've really enjoyed speaking with you, and I'm super excited to get to do some of your workshops some day. I'll link to your website, Jane Hardwicke with an E, Collings.com, but I'll put all the show notes and everything in there. Is there anywhere else people can find you? I know you have social media.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:12:10)
Yeah, Instagram and Facebook. Lots of stuff going on there. We've got a very big project going on at the moment with the pandemic, that's all about supporting mamatoto's through birthing crisis. Lots of social media action.
Great. Well I'll link to those as well, and we will follow up with you when the maga course goes live.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:12:35)
We'll put that in the show notes as well for people who listen a bit later on. For everyone out there, please get on Jane's mailing list and get involved. This is important work for women and men. I'm really passionate about, my poor partner gets the down low on all this stuff, but he loves it and I think as we have a business full of women, it's so important to be conscious of their cycles, and we also have a daughter, so I think if anyone's listening and you have men folks that are interested, please pass on these messages to them or let them listen to the recordings.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:13:07)
Thank you so much for inviting me.
Oh, such a pleasure to speak with you Jane. Thank you so much.
Jane Hardwicke Collings: (01:13:11)