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Women’s Energy Bodies – Phases and Life Cycles

January 24, 2009

I have been wanting to do this post for some time. The cycles of women’s energy bodies is a neglected area, within both conventional and new age spiritual teachings, and also within both mainstream and alternative healing systems. My primary focus in this particular article is spiritual – how knowledge and use of our various energy systems can contribute to our spiritual growth, mostly through experiences that are only available when we have full access to our personal power. These kinds of teachings are primarily found in Vajrayana Buddhism and Kundalini Yoga traditions, but I have also found some in various shamanic traditions, pagan traditions, the medieval Christian women mystics, Kabbalah, and Sufism. There are also energy healing modalities that talk about these shifts in the context of a women’s reproductive phases.

I am using the generic term ‘energy body’, because I am trying to write from outside any one particular tradition, each of which have their own terms and mappings. This post is too high-level to compare and contrast the various mappings, but I welcome any comments on the subject. I also don’t have space to provide references for everything I am saying – this is my own take anyway – but I have included a few book suggestions at the end for those interested.

I have broken this down by life phase, and focused on what I think it is most important for us to develop within each phase from a spiritual perspective. This is pretty high-level (and long!) but I wanted to get it out there as a resource in this form, and I can do more detailed posts on each phase if there is interest(please comment to let me know.)

The Basics of Women’s Energy Bodies

In general, women’s energy bodies are more open, absorbent, and fluid than men’s. Men’s are denser and tend to function more naturally like a shield. We women soak in more of the energies around us – which can become the fuel for intuition, but can also become a source of dispersion and mental distraction.

The sensitivity of our energy body runs in cycles corresponding to our monthly menstruation cycle. During the first half, leading up to ovulation, our energy body is a little sturdier, and we are more outward-oriented in response. In the second-half, leading up to menstruation, we are more sensitive to external energies and often more inward-oriented.

Adolescence: Swinging, Deepening, Settling Into Cycles

Adolescence is when these monthly cycles first kick into gear. In addition to being a phase of intense hormonal and physical changes (including in the brain), it is a period of intense psycho-spiritual changes. Just as a girl’s body is transforming into a women’s, her energy body is transforming into a women’s energy body. And the problem in our culture is that this is mostly processed on a sexual level.

In addition to being absorbent, our energy bodies are more attraction-oriented. We are like little magnets, pulling other energies towards us, particularly in that first half of our cycle. And we are generally socialized to use this power sexually, to attract others (mostly men of course, but friends and admiration, too.) This can prevent us from recognizing that this power, the ‘yin’ aspect of creation, can be used for other pursuits, particularly creative ones (and I am using ‘creative’ in the sense of anything we want to create in our lives, not just artistic endeavors.)

So the most important thing for us to focus on in this stage is developing an identity and relationship to our power that is not based on sexual attraction.

Focus on recognizing that procreative energy is not just sexual; it is part of your overall personal power, and can be directed into all of your endeavors, particularly creative ones.

Early Adulthood: Sexuality, Mating, Conscious Understanding of Cycles

Ideally, our late teens and twenties are a period of developing our personal power, learning how to direct it through manifesting our goals, and consciously understanding our natural psycho-spiritual cycles. But if we have only come to own our personal power through our sexuality, our focus will be too heavily on attracting others. This happens to most of us to a certain extent, and few of us emerge from this period with our full personal power at our disposal. We lose an opportunity to gather ourselves up, in a sense, for our larger life’s purposes, including our spiritual realization.

I believe that from a spiritual perspective, owning our personal power is the most valuable thing we can do during this phase – more valuable even than explicit spiritual study or practice. And we can own our personal power through any activity that we feel passionately about, and strive to excel within. Having concrete external goals during this phase helps teach us about the ebbs and flows of our energy cycles. That being said, developing a meditation practice during this time is particularly beneficial.

Focus on developing personal power, and manifesting it concretely within your life, whether that be through higher learning, career, sports, the arts, hobbies, or (of course) spirituality.

Pregnancy: Ride the Bliss, Release/Surrender, Enjoy Increasing Connection to the ‘Other Side’

For those that choose to have children (more on that later), pregnancy can be an amazing time for developing your intuitive and creative abilities (nausea, backaches, and constipation aside, of course.) Ideally, you have come into this phase with a well-developed sense of your personal power and cycles (if not, these lessons are harder to access.) During pregnancy, your energy body gradually becomes more and more open, which can be disconcerting if you are constantly around people. On the other hand, if you can withdraw into yourself, you can sense your increasing connection to ‘the other side’ (I will leave this vague, like the term ‘energy body’, so that I can keep this non-denominational.) It is as if carrying a life within you has opened a doorway for that life to come through, and you can now go through that doorway the other way too.

This is a wonderful time to go inward. Meditate, read spiritual books, explore intuitive and creative interests, and of course, prepare yourself for the challenges ahead.

Focus on developing intuitive abilities and riding the bliss as part of being increasingly connected to the other side.

Motherhood: Carrying the Load, Balancing Energy Needs of Mother and Child

The ‘doorway’ of pregnancy closes pretty quickly post-partum, generally in the first eight weeks. In addition to the hormonal changes and sleep-deprivation, it can be brutal. That being said, some women glide right through this transition phase (more power to them.) If you have developed your spiritual awareness, this phase will be easier, as you will be capable of continuing to ‘travel’ to the meditative planes you discovered during pregnancy on your own.

Whether you will have the time or energy to do so is another matter! Your energy body is now literally extended outside your body, to encompass your baby (they don’t call it the ‘fourth trimester’ for nothing.) You will not fully reclaim that energy for almost two decades (and some women never do). And the same is true for each additional child you have. On an energy level, motherhood is a sacrifice, plain and simple. Hopefully, it is a sacrifice of love. If so, it can bring you as much back spiritually as you put into it.

For that to happen, you have to make peace with the sacrifice, and you have to pace your energy use and development in accordance with your children’s maturation. Ideally, at each phase of growth, your children own more and more of their own personal power, and you can take just a little bit more back for yourself. Gradually reclaiming this energy is key, and taking good enough care of yourself that you are not entirely swallowed up by motherhood, psychologically and energetically. This is primarily what spirituality is about during this phase.

Focus on striking the right energy balance between sustaining your child/children with energy appropriate for their age, and reclaiming your personal power as he/she/they grow up.

Maturity Childfree: Increased Gathering, Exploring Advanced Teachings

For women who do not have children (by choice or circumstance), the pre-menopause adult years are a tremendous spiritual opportunity. I feel it is very important to say this, because in many religious traditions, a women’s spiritual worth seem to be equated with motherhood (check out my post on the Religious Mommy Wars for a semi-rant on this.) Those who put this forth seem to be forgetting that most of the better known mystics in all religious traditions, male or female, have not had families, and in most cases, have been celibate (see Women Mystics for some.)

While many people think this is for moral reasons (sex is impure and all that BS), if you read the actual teachings in mystic traditions, it is clear that originally there was a recognition of the energy benefit of celibacy and/or childlessness. In fact, in the more complex energy-based yogas, such as some lineages of Tantric Buddhism and Kundalini yoga, remaining childless is considered a benefit or even a requirement in order to receive advanced teachings, especially for women. That is because in order to technically accomplish some of the practices, you must have access to 100% of your procreative energies, which these practices help you redirect into meditative techniques. A woman who has children simply has too much of her energy dispersed for much of her life. (Of course, a lot of women didn’t live much past their childbearing years until the last century, so perhaps more mothers with grown children who have fully reclaimed their energy will explore this.)

This is not to say that we mothers cannot achieve enlightenment, or spiritual liberation, or whastever you wish to call it. It just makes certain energy techniques, and certain paths, more of a challenge, for certain periods of our mothering years. And childfree women do not have these particular challenges. So the sky’s the limit! Explore your personal power, and spirituality of all types, particularly energy-based ones. Intuitive fields, divination, energy healing systems, and the creative arts also draw on this energy.

Focus on expanding your intuitive and energy knowledge, and redirecting your procreative energies into the mystic teachings of whatever spiritual tradition you are a part of.

Perimenopause: Transition to Mystic-hood

Perimenopause is the transition period leading into menopause, which physically can last anywhere from 1 to 10 years (which for most women would fall in their mid to late forties and early fifties). Unfortunately, this phase is not even recognized as a phase by many doctors and healers, because the signs can be slight and fluctuating, and because these traditions were originally developed primarily by men, based on an understanding of men’s bodies.

Just as this is a period of physical transition with fluctuating symptoms and signs, so it is on the energy and spiritual levels. Ideally, a mother has reclaimed much of her energy for herself (or at the very least is out of the intense early childhood days), and a childfree woman has explored the mystic levels of her awareness. Both are now preparing for what can be a complete rebirth as a mystic during menopause.

On the energetic level, the entire perimenopausal period is a prepatory one. The monthly energy body cycles are starting to dissipate, and with appropriate preparation will settle into a permanent state of increased intuitive sensitivity and strength.

Focus on developing or continuing to deepen a meditation practice, and on exploring energy and mystics teachings that appeal to you.

Menopause: Birth of a Mystic

I use the word ‘mystic’ loosely on this site, to refer to spiritual seekers and teachers that focus on personal and direct experience of divinity. To be a mystic does not imply enlightenment, but it does imply a certain approach to spirituality – not a philosophical one, but an awareness-based one. Our awareness is infinite, but we are usually too weighed down by our human thoughts and emotions, and our own sense of self, to experience most of them.  Put generally, mystic spirituality is about getting outside of that human self, and travelling through our awareness, to other planes. This requires an unusual level of knowledge and control over both our awareness and energy body.

We can practice mysticism at any point during our lives, but as I’ve tried to ouline here, there are challenges and distractions to our doing so at each prior stage of our lives. Ideally, at and after menopause, these are all gone. If we own our personal power and have developed our knowledge of the mystic levels of our awareness, menopause is a time we can take this to the limit, if we haven’t already. Many Eastern and native traditions acknowledge this phase as the most spiritual time in a women’s life. If we haven’t become a mystic before this, know is the time.

Focus on fully reclaiming and/or owning your personal power, deepening your spiritual understanding and practices, and go for it – become a mystic, whatever that means to you.

This post has gone on long enough, so here’s a brief list of some books that have related material.

The Subtle Body and The Complete Book of Chakra Healing by Cyndi Dale

Energy Medicine for Women, Donna Eden

The Sorcerer’s Crossing: A Woman’s Journey, by Taisha Abelar

Women of Wisdom, Lama Tsultrim Allione

Lady of the Lotus-Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal, by Gyalwa Changtub

Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism, by Judith Simmer-Brown

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause, by Dr. Christiane Northrup

Initiation, by Elisabeth Haich

The Female Brain“>The Female Brain, by LouAnn Brizendine

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2009 7:17 pm

    This is a wonderful, informative post, MM. I appreciate all the research you put into it. I’m going to share it with others.

    I believe you are “right on” about how the phases/ages we move through are central to our spiritual growth. Did you ever read Joan Borysenko’s book, A Woman’s Book of Life? It’s terrific! The gist of it is that every 7 years women go through a major physical, psycho-spiritual shift. She’s got plenty of research to back it up. I found it quite compelling and true to my experience, as are your research and post. I love that your sources are interspiritual. (Now I’ve got some more books to add to my ‘Must Read’ list.)

    Blessings all around!

  2. mommymystic permalink*
    January 30, 2009 7:57 pm

    Jan, thanks so much. I have read Joan Borysenko’s book, and it is on my Women’s Spirituality Book List. I think it is a terrific book – my only issue with it was that I am not sure it goes in 7 year phases, I think it differs more than that per woman. But I like the concept.

  3. January 30, 2009 8:13 pm

    MM-
    Yes, thanks for that reminder about Joan B’s book. It’s been a long time since I read it. Best not to be too rigid on the length of the cycles. We ARE more fluid that that.:-)

    Question, I’ve read the Simmer-Brown book. Knowing me and my interests, which of the books on your list here might you recommend as a good next read for me? I’m on the hunt, also headed to FL soon where I hope to get in some good beach reading time!
    xxoo

  4. mommymystic permalink*
    January 30, 2009 10:50 pm

    It really depends what you are interested in. The Northrup books (which I suspect you have already read maybe since she and Joan Borysenko do a lot of cross-referring in their books?) are more of mind/body/spirit health reference books, but the beginning of each covers some good stuff on women’s bodies and cycles. The Sorcerer’s Crossing is really out there – she studied in the same circle of Yagui ‘sorcerers’ as Carlos Castaneda if you have ever read any of his stuff. Initiation is also pretty out there – a past life Egyptian memory, and I don’t like all of it, but I do like the past-life Egyptian stuff. The Female Brain is scientific – the changes in the brain as we go through each of these phases. And The Subtle Body is not out yet, I have just read excerpts so far and am hoping to review soon. So far it is my favorite chakra/energy book I have seen.

    Have you already read Dalai Lama’s latest that was just released, Becoming Enlightened? I have not, but have heard good things. Also, right now I am reading Tsultrim Allione’s Feeding Your Demons and really liking it, if you are interested in more Tibetan based wisdom, but from a different tradition. And have you read Caroline Myss? Her book on St.Theresa of Avila’s teaching, Entering the Castle is fascinating.

    As you can see, it is very dangerous to ask me for book suggestions. I suspect the same is true of you!

  5. October 12, 2010 1:26 am

    This is a beautiful post. I’m going to refer to it on my Childless by Marriage site. I think your comments on childlessness will be some comfort to those struggling with their lack of children. Thank you.
    I wonder if it’s any coincidence that most of the women in my yoga class, including the teacher, are childless and past menopause.

  6. October 12, 2010 5:05 pm

    Thanks Sue, I’m glad you liked it. Although I did choose to have children, I think that choosing to be childfree really needs to be a more supported choice, especially for women, for all the reasons I mentioned. There are just way to many messages out there that seem to say motherhood is a woman’s sole path to fulfillment, which is bollocks. I don’t think it’s an accident in your yoga class – I have a lot of single and/or childless woman in my meditation classes too. And per your recent post, that has freed many of them up not only to focus on their spiritual growth, but to ‘mother’ and create in other areas of their life. Life is an adventure, with many experiences to be had, and everyone needs to feel free to experience what best suits them, and to put their energy where they choose…

  7. Anonymous permalink
    July 17, 2012 5:19 pm

    @mommymystic
    Wonderful work here..this is the first I have come across that focuses on women …I’ve read a lot of spiritual and chakra books but had never seen something so specific for women.
    Appreciate sharing your knowledge and helping heal.

  8. July 19, 2012 1:11 am

    Thanks Anon. I think energetics for women is a burgeoning field, as energy medicine and energy work within spiritual fields becomes more widespread. Just as in conventional medicine, where research is uncovering just how differently women’s and men’s bodies may respond to certain medications and treatments, so in energy medicine and subtle anatomy studies teachings and practices specific to women are being uncovered and shared. The standard in both used to be ‘gender-neutral’ but unfortunately that usually just masked a male bias. And while there were many historical traditions that had some of this knowledge, much of it was lost or is hard to find in texts that have not yet been widely translated or disseminated.

  9. Elizabeth permalink
    December 22, 2013 6:28 pm

    I just found your article and am happy to see it. I am 49, have been going through peri-menopause and pondering the mystery of why in some parts of my cycle it seems to take up so much more of my body’s physical and mental energy than it used to. Yoga seems to free up some of the energy but I don’t want to do yoga every day, only as needed. I appreciated what you said about celibacy. I seem to have been guided into a life of mostly celibacy (and not becoming a mother) by my guardian angels or guides. My life purpose seems to be/have been growth toward enlightenment through experience, study, and musical expression (writing, performance, and music ministry). Needless to say, most of my friends don’t understand this and their priority has been the opposite, to find a relationship. So I have had to trust the Divine about my own life. In dreams, I have been shown comforting visions in response to my early life worries about being “alone.” In one dream I was shown a vision of a feminine me sitting back to back with a masculine me and knowing I/we were also one with God or Christ, when I was also told my soul mate was not a guy I knew back then in my twenties. In another dream, I was shown a map of my life written in starlight and told by an unseen narrator than at least two thirds of my life would be for growth, not a relationship, because my growing was to be uninterrupted, and that I might meet my soul mate in the latter part of my life. I would definitely like to learn if there is a way to free the feminine energies I feel during my cycles, so they do not drain my physical and mind energy. I will check out the books in your recommended reading list above. If you have heard of other women having this peri-menopausal “trapped energy” problem and have any further advice about things I could look into, please let me know. Regardless, thank you for the article.

  10. December 23, 2013 10:28 pm

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks for your comment. Perhaps you’ve already found them, but I have a few more articles that may be of interest to you.

    http://mommymystic.wordpress.com/womens-energetics/your-chakras-life-lessons-and-menopause/

    http://mommymystic.wordpress.com/womens-energetics/honoring-our-sacred-cycles/

    http://mommymystic.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-energetics-of-midlife-burning-in-the-fire/

    The two on perimenopause and menopause are especially relevant for this stuck energy. Although it’s hard to read your energy for sure online just from the information you’ve provided here, it’s very common at your phase of life to be working with karmic energies that are being pushed to the surface for you to work through. Especially for someone who is focused spiritually as you are. Perimenopause is a time when kundalini is pushing through and upward through each chakra, especially for those women who have focused their intent spiritually. It is the transition into our wise woman years, and so everything is brought to the surface that is preventing us from knowing ourselves as pure Source/light. I suspect that what you are experiencing as ‘stuck’ is something along those lines. And wherever in your body you are most feeling it will provide you clues on what karmas or life lessons are coming to the surface.

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