A Meditation from a Perimenopausal Woman

It comes without warning. You feel it perhaps in your hands first, or sometimes it starts in the back of your skull. It then radiates through your entire body. It’s a raging inferno from within. You strip yourself of any loose garment to let some cool air touch your skin. You get a taste of what hellfire feels like. Your own body has created it.

You’re having a hot flash.

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My hot flash in Washington, DC

It’s a part of life for most women in their late 40s or early 50s. Your body’s reproductive system has decided it’s time to close up shop.

I experienced this for the first time a few months ago, just as the pandemic arrived. I honestly thought I had COVID-19, and I raced to get my thermometer. But once the thermometer had beeped and told me my temperature was normal, the heat subsided.

At first, I panicked. I wondered, “Good Lord, how long does this last?” It was usually a minute or so. I knew because I timed it on my stopwatch. After several instances of this, I realized that it was “my time.”

Then the panic broadened as I thought, “I will never have children.” I remembered all the women from the Bible who had grown old and barren. They were scorned because they no longer served a purpose in society. Great.

But then I decided to think about them differently. Buddhism teaches about the nature of suffering and how the mind can escalate suffering if you let it. Recognizing that hot flashes are a part of my life now, I decided to welcome them — sort of.

My hot flashes are my teaching of mindfulness. Whatever I’m doing or feeling at the moment, a hot flash emerges like a mindfulness bell — a steaming hot mindfulness bell. It pulls me right back into the moment and I just notice where I’m feeling the heat. I even think about how the heat can be refining me — anything to steer me away from panic.

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Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Knowing that hot flashes don’t last long, I also consider them to be a teaching in impermanence. I might experience this suffering at a given moment, but I recognize that the moment will pass. Other suffering in my life will pass, too. I don’t add to the experience of the hot flash by imbuing it with my thoughts about old age or my yearning to be young again. I just allow the heat to infuse my body, then allow it to dissipate when it will.

I also know that with each suffering of a hot flash, I am in community with other women who are experiencing the same thing. I am grateful for the many experiences that have brought me wisdom at this age. Each hot flash connects me with all wise women through time, and I envision the heat imparting their wisdom to me.

Sure, I might adopt a different attitude a year from now. Perhaps they might become longer or more frequent next year. But for now, this mindset brings a little more awareness and peace not only with my hot flashes, but also the rest of my day.

Former TV person, current college professor and media researcher. Ironman triathlete, meditation teacher and yoga instructor. https://www.brad4d-wellness.com

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