It’s July and there are heat waves all over the country. I am no exception. I am a living heat wave. I am HOT! Since Sunday evening I’ve been experiencing my first true waves of hot flashes – SIX the first night….TWELVE the next day. This may sound crazy, but I’ve actually been awaiting this day with a sense of excited anticipation thanks to Dr. Joan Borysenko. While most women are afraid of hot flashes or complain about them, I’ve actually been looking forward to them. Why? Because in 1996 I read Dr. Borysenko’s book “A Woman’s Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle” and I was captivated by a section about menopause and hot flashes. At the time I was in my late 30’s and hadn’t even given birth to my first son, but there was something so powerful in the way she described hot flashes that I committed it to memory and I’ve been waiting for my turn to experience them.
Here’s what she says on pages 164 – 165 of her book as she describes the research of a spunky Frenchwoman by the name of Alexandra David-Neel who left her life of privilege in Paris, shaved her head, dressed in saffron and crimson robes, traveled halfway around the world to the forbidden mountains of Tibet, and sneaked into a monastery by impersonating a male lama:
“During the Full moon one February she attended a ritual in which monks stripped naked in the freezing temperatures of a Himalayan cave, wrapped themselves in wet sheets and proceeded to dry them when their bodies liberated prodigious amounts of heat during a meditation practice called tumo yoga. The monk who dried the most sheets was considered the highest adept. Tumo means ‘fierce woman’ in Tibetan. It refers to a life-force energy of every human being (regardless of gender) that circulates in thousands of small channels called nadis, similar to the acupuncture meridians.”
“Tumo yoga was practiced primarily for spiritual reasons. Through a series of meticulous visualizations and the repetition of sacred sounds, the monks raised the life-force energy through the lower energy centers up to the highest chakra at the crown of the head. In the process, they believe that they are burning away mistakes, erroneous beliefs, and ego attachments that keep them from fully recognizing the nature of their True Self.”
What does tumo yoga have to do with my hot flashes? Well, as Dr. Borysenko points out in her book, menopausal women can use hot flashes in the same way the monks did: consciously thinking of their self-limiting beliefs, erroneous thoughts, stresses and ego attachments and allowing them to be burned up in the inner fires of transformation.
So six to twelve times a day (and night) I now have the chance to consciously burn off anything that might be blocking me from realizing my full potential. That thrills me!!! Am I still using my bio-identical hormones, following a healthy diet, exercising, meditating and doing yoga in order to lessen the frequency, intensity and severity of my hot flashes? You bet. But when they do come, I ride the heat wave with excited anticipation and I am grateful for all that is burning away.