Monday, July 7, 2008

Hot Flash as a Call to Prayer

So, I’m laying in bed in the wee hours of the morning, wide awake after yet another flash of heat yanked me from a sound sleep. I’m knowing I really gotta find a helpful way to look at this particular challenge or I’ll make myself nuts. My dear husband, having heard more than he ever cared to about this transition of mine, is having challenges of his own in this regard. For both our sakes, I gotta get a grip!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in whining. Just ask those who nicknamed me Mona Lott during our ill~fated women’s hike through the mountains of Maine! Whining. An important activity, but only to a point. As a way of life, it leaves something to be desired. After the moaning is done and the groaning spent, it’s time to get down to figuring out a way of relating that works. That’s where I was regarding my hot flashes. It was time to get serious about living with them, perhaps even using them to live more fully.

So, here I lay, now in a pair of dry PJs, but finding no amount of position~ shifting or pillow~fluffing effective in returning to sleep. And I’m trying. I really am. I’m thinking I need to put my money where my mouth is~~we’re not given challenges without the tools to meet them...there is help available even in difficulties...all is holy...blah, blah, blah~de~friggin’~blah!

But I know it’s true. Or at least I know that it is a much more helpful way of looking at life’s challenges than getting stuck in victim mode. So, I set about finding the gift in this. After all, it’s not like I’m sleeping, am I? I have time to burn, so to speak. And this is what comes to me...
  • Christ’s exhorting us to love our enemies. While I know this is usually seen as advice on how to relate to those who don’t have our best interests at heart, I don’t believe it’s the only interpretation. Couldn’t the enemy be seen as something unwanted in our psyches, in our lives~~even in our flippin’ hormones? If our true challenge is our own nature, perhaps this teaching is urging us to take a softer, kinder, and more helpful view of our internal foes. 
  • The Muslims call to prayer. I’m touched each time I hear the rich, haunting voice of the muezzin calling followers to ‘hasten to prayer’. I love the image: a whole community, five times each day, ceasing all activity save turning attention to the Divine. How wonderful to weave worship throughout the day! 
These two thoughts meld together to suggest a helpful coping strategy. Could I use my hot flashes as reminders to turn my attention to what really matters? I could hear them as my own personal muezzin, calling me to prayer at random times of the day or night.  I could recognize in them the whispered voice of Spirit urging, “Pay attention. Breathe. Be here, right now. All is well (albeit a bit toasty).” On a night such as this, after I stop feeling sorry for myself because I can’t get back to sleep, I could decide I’m being offered a chance to rise up and meditate instead. It could work.

However, I do get stressed about the fact that I likely won’t be my best in the morrow with so little sleep. Notwithstanding the spiritual lessons ripe for the taking within this tendency, my mind moves on to...
  • Feminist explorations of how things would be different if men had some of the challenges women do. (Just google ‘if men could menstruate’ or ‘if men could get pregnant’, if you need a refresher!) Our society insists that women hide their menopausal symptoms, pretend their bodies are the same each day, deny the existence of the overheating furnace within. It doesn’t have to be this way, does it?
  • Some native traditions seeing women’s transitions as beneficial to the whole. For example, in some tribes, women are seen as particularly powerful during menses, with dreams important for the welfare of the whole tribe.
These ideas press my thinking further. If our society were woman~friendly, how would it deal with hot flashes and other indications of movement into later life, our wise years? Honor them, of course. A gal would be free to dress comfortably, would be proud of her sweaty brow. A woman who didn’t sleep the night before would be given paid leave, a flexible schedule.

And then my two images merge, and I envision a society where women’s hot flashes are honored as calls from Spirit. Hot flashin’ souls would cease all activity~~albeit after shedding a layer or two~~to attend to an inner voice. Others around them would drop into awe~filled silence, privileged to witness such a divinely~inspired moment, a visitation from beyond that was surely a gift to the whole community. Nearby The Red Tent would be The Cool Pool, welcoming amid an oasis of shade trees. CITs (Crones-In-Training) would be encouraged to retire there as often as needed, allowing cool waters to freshen, time apart to replenish.

A bit out there, it’s true. But it was 3:30 a.m. and I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep! Still, there are truths within such wild visions.

Hot flash as call to prayer. Why not? The alternative may be to feel victimized by evidence of a natural passage into our later years. While I’m a firm believer in doing anything possible to bring our bodies into a balance that will soften this transition (hey, just cause ya can learn from difficulties, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything you can to minimize them!), when a symptom remains, you may as well seek a positive interpretation of it.

We humans need reminders. Our lives are so busy, with numerous squeaking wheels clamoring for our grease. Markers that remind us to pay attention, to remember what is truly important, are of great benefit to us all, from whatever source they arise. And the reminders that most interest me these days are the ones that come from the stuff of my life, those that are organic, personal.

Hot flash! My own form of adhan, a call to prayer.

May you see each of your challenges as a call to prayer. May your inner muezzin ring out in a voice rich and haunting. And may you heed the call.


Loanne Marie
a.k.a. Svetta Lott, or at least Svetta Tuddon-Mutch

PS. As an aside, this essay has been percolating for many months. However, in our group meditation last week, an incident occurred that propelled me to write it. I’d been having great trouble staying awake, kept nodding off no matter what I did. I asked for help. Within minutes, I was hit with a hot flash. That certainly woke me up, and I had no trouble remaining alert for the rest of the time. When I shared it with the other folks afterward, I found that 2 other women had also hot flashed. Now this could just be a coincidence as many of us are CITs and the day was hot. Or it could be that, not only should I be careful when the gods give me what I ask for, but that my requests oughta be a bit more specific! My fellow meditators would be grateful.

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