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A question to the women here...

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A question to the women here...
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6/12/15 1:01 PM
Here come a few questions to the female DhO community:
I notice every month how much my meditation practice is impacted by the menstrual cycle (apologies if I use any of the terms wrongly as I´m not a native speaker). Along with typical PMS signs, right before and during the first days of the period, I find it very difficult to do any meditation (be it concentration or vipassana). In addition, psychologically, there tends to be one evening with a terribly depressed feeling with virtually nothing in life being meaningful or joyful. Afterwards, concentration and inclination to sit tend to be much stronger in the days leading up to ovulation than afterwards.
For some reason, a short paragraph in Eckhart Tolle´s The Power of Now has always stuck with me, where he claims that "a woman´s pain body right before the menstrual flow affords an opportunity for the most powerful spiritual practice and a rapid transmutation of all past pain becomes possible" (although I have no idea how he is supposed to know this..) which seems quite alluring.

Do any of you have any experience or recommendations in using the hormonal cycles skillfully in meditation practice?

At the same time, I am also wondering if there isn´t a way to use physical / energy practices and/or meditation to lessen difficult PMS? I happened to be at a Buddhist monastery right before my last period where we practiced simple Tai Chi in the mornings. That seemed to have had a positive aspect on the physical pain, but hasn´t improved the psychological issues. I asked one of the senior nuns about it, who also didn´t know and had to admit that most of the Tai Chi and Qi Gong masters are still male and can´t tell. Does anybody happen to have any recommendations on that?

Any help is much appreciated!

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
6/13/15 7:59 AM as a reply to Caro.
Hi Caro,

In reading through your earlier posts, you've learned a lot, you have useful answers you're sharing.


At the same time, I am also wondering if there isn´t a way to use physical / energy practices and/or meditation to lessen difficult PMS?
(...) 
Does anybody happen to have any recommendations on that?

I would suggest, as an addition to your tai chi experience (I also like tai chi, chi gung for deep calm exercise), sleep and compassion, using your PMS experience to clearly understand that we living beings, regardless of cause, have physical discomfort, difficult sensations, and we may have fighting interactions and views of our own bodies (could be from disease, aging, distaste, inflictions) and these sensations easily can color our conduct and perspective on life in that difficult period.

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
6/13/15 4:49 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Thanks for the kind message, Katy!
I think I see what you mean about seeing how phyiscal sensations may influence our conduct and perspective on life.
Thinking about the whole issue again, I realized that I have so far mostly used emotions and psychological issues as a basis to practice as that has also been where most of the suffering has come from. So maybe it´s time to pay more attention to my body and work with that. Curious to see how that will go...

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
6/13/15 6:15 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Yeah, people typically want to run from the pain, to try to make it less painful.  But running won't do that. PMS tends to bring out the emotions, things that were well buried come out with a vengence.  That gives you a chance to look really hard at all that emotional pain and understand it better, sit with it, etc.  You have it for reasons you don't currently understand but could understand if you really really wanted to look hard into it.  It's normal to want it to go away but the only way it will is if you address those issues that are causing it.
-Eva

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
6/14/15 12:00 AM as a reply to Caro.
Okay, so I'm not a woman. Big deal. All beings have to deal with pain. Just not always on a monthly basis. It is the nature of samsara. For what it's worth, here are a few thoughts from a male who had an insight one day while dealing with a bodily pain. The insight doesn't make the pain go away, but it straightens out the attitude of the one perceiving it such that the pain is no longer used as an excuse not to remain mindful of the moment.  
Eva:
Yeah, people typically want to run from the pain, to try to make it less painful. But running won't do that. PMS tends to bring out the emotions, things that were well buried come out with a vengence. That gives you a chance to look really hard at all that emotional pain and understand it better, sit with it, etc. You have it for reasons you don't currently understand but could understand if you really really wanted to look hard into it. It's normal to want it to go away but the only way it will is if you address those issues that are causing it.
-Eva

Eva has the right approach. However, it is a subtle one and may be difficult to realize. But then, you're a woman and should be used to dealing with subtle mental phenomena. Especially when it deals with personal impressions of phenomena and the feminine ego.

The question I would have you examine with some seriousness during your more lucid moments of contemplation during a session with the pain is: Are you finding that you "identify" with the pain? As in: "This pain is mine; I am this pain; Oh woe is me; How can I be rid of this pain I have so I can concentrate and stay mindful." If so, you need to make the pain the object of your contemplation, to view it from its source and learn whether the pain is part of a "you" or whether it is part of a body which is separate from a "you." Also, contemplate it with the concept of anicca in mind. It will only be painful for a relatively short amount of time, then it will disappear.

In other words, are you able to look at the pain as though from up above it, looking down on a body that is possessed of a pain. The body is only your vehicle, like an automobile, that you are using in the physical realm. If you identify with the vehicle, aren't you opening yourself up to more dukkha? More dissatisfaction and mental misery? If you can dissociate yourself from the body and see it as though it were a separate entity from that which you perceive to be yourself, seeing it as it is, this will go a long way toward easing your attitude about the pain and perhaps allow you to seek ways to make it more bearable or even go away.

Anyway, just a thought ... coming from a dumb male who probably has no idea what it "feels" like to be a woman living in samsara and what they have to put up with.

In peace,
Ian

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/2/15 8:10 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Hi, I just saw this thread and thought I'd add my bit. I've been post-menopausal for as long as I've been practicing (began in my 50s), so in some ways I'm no more experienced in meditation during menstruation than a man. However, I've also had fibromyalgia for the entire time of my practice, and flareups have the same effect on me as a PMS day might have. There's pain, fatigue, and depression all at once, and I have to admit that I have tended to let my practice lapse during these times, even though it's the very thing I need to keep doing. The emotional side effects are worse than the physical pain in both cases (bad time with a period, flareup), because the accompanying depression makes me feel that it's hopeless and all I can do is collapse. So in addition to examining how much ownership I assume of the physical pain, I also have to look at mood as not me, not mine. It's difficult, because during a sit I'll often get into nausea and my face will screw up into a grimace. As the sit progresses, there will be energetic phenomena, shaking, rocking, etc., maybe some heat as well. 

I have have had to let go of the expectation of meditation as something pleasant and relaxing. That may be what helps keep people going, but it is not the goal. The best remedy is making a daily habit out of meditation, whether you feel like doing it or not. Get to the cushion and do what you have to do, and see the painful stuff as part of the deal. 

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/2/15 11:25 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
I also appreciate how, Laurel, being a woman*, you've spoken of a healthy view of your/the body and its form and as being a human the challenge of care-giving a ailing parent. Thank you.




*I also as a born-female would welcome anyone sharing their identification as a female here; I've learned from friends who start hormone therapy that they can really offer some awesome insights as a) a person transitioning, b) a person having strong hormone influences and b) other great ways--- in other words I feel as being born a female, male-born females transitioning and identifying as female offer great insights, too (as do you male-born male-identifiers, and female-born male-identifiers (one of whom helped me tremendously in an animal training-learning event; his experience being a bit distinct from the team, rendering him comfortable in his own skin, and effectively senstitive)).  

When the new gender-equal Buddhist monastery Samita started mailings this year and enrollment for programs they responded immediately and I think aptly by adding "other" to the area of gender identification, givin their enrollment section at least a three part choice, "male, female, other" maybe they have also changed the language to just included "I identify as...".

There is, for Theravada buddhists as well, a sutta where the Buddha agrees that a nun-identifying monastic go live among the nuns. I heard this during Q&A with Bhikkhu Bodhi several years ago when someone asked him if there was a Theravada view on LGBT. Does anyone know the sutta? 


_____ 
edit x1 : "bio" to "born"

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/2/15 10:51 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Thanks, Katy! I also agree with Ian And that males have challenges as well; in fact, I think any and all of us can be coping with a state of depression, agitation, relentless desire, anxiety, rage, and so on varying on circumstances, stage of life, and hormonal activity. Stuff gets in our faces as we navigate this life we lead. The important thing is to learn how to practice through it.

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/2/15 12:34 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Thanks for all the comments!

@Ian: I hardly know any sutras but I do very much like the one with the two arrows, the physical and the associated mental pain. that seems to be exactly what you´re saying. I refrain from commenting about women specifically being used to dealing with suble mental phenomena ;)

@Eva: I was tempted to just disagree with you on the grounds that it´s simply a hormonal overreaction, purely physical and should indeed just go away. I have to admit it´s probably not all that easy, though, and maybe paying some close attention is useful after all...

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/2/15 7:34 PM as a reply to Caro.
Caro:


@Eva: I was tempted to just disagree with you on the grounds that it´s simply a hormonal overreaction, purely physical and should indeed just go away. I have to admit it´s probably not all that easy, though, and maybe paying some close attention is useful after all...


I liked the previous advice to kind look at it scientifically but don't identify with it as 'you.'  I agree, you don't want to wallow certainly.  However, I do think that it brings up old crap that lies under the radar much of the time.  As for men, I think they have their own distractions to deal with like testosterone..  ;-P
-Eva

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/4/15 3:47 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Eva M Nie:
As for men, I think they have their own distractions to deal with like testosterone..  ;-P
... which is why I´m happy to be a woman ;)

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/4/15 11:02 PM as a reply to Caro.
Caro:
Eva M Nie:
As for men, I think they have their own distractions to deal with like testosterone..  ;-P
... which is why I´m happy to be a woman ;)

Have either of you seen Amy Cuddy's TED Talk on the value of all of us raising our testosterone a bit through body posture? It's just shy of 20 minutes and her journey is amazing and she asks that people share the data for all of our well-being. It was surprising to me, but I now regularly (not always) end yoga in tree pose in the morning, when most people's testosterone is naturally elevating. Her findings are lovely, useful.

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/6/15 7:20 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Hi Katy, thanks for sharing! I watched this last night and it just happened to be useful today. I tried what she´s suggesting for an event, not in the sense of being aggressive rather just taking more space. Seems to work emoticon 

RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/17/15 7:50 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Someone kindly sent me an answer to the question about the Theravadan Vinaya Pitaka (the Discipline text for monastics said to have been written up through the parinibanna of the Buddha) in the matter of transexuality among monastic disciples.

So it was not in the sutta pitaka as I thought I recalled. Anyway, the contact provided the following link: http://www.pucsp.br/rever/rv3_2006/t_scherer.htm where interested people may read more on the topic and how transexuality is percieved from what is attributed to The Buddha (equal treatment no matter which way the gender change occurs) to, say, the later buddhist scholar Buddhagosa (wholesome and unwholesome karma depending on the direction of gender change).

To isolate a few pieces of that linked text by Burkhard Scherer:
Gender transformed and meta-gendered enlightenment: Reading Buddhist narratives as paradigms of inclusiveness
Burkhard Scherer


(...)
The Buddha answers in the case of the male to female (MtF) transformation: Monks, I allow a preceptor, I allow her the ordination, I allow her the ordination years [or: the monsoon periods, pointing either towards prestige or the general permission to stay with other nuns during this period] and the presence of nuns…

The Buddha’s laconic and pragmatic reaction towards sex/gender-crossing within the sa≡gha (the Buddhist community) is striking. The bottom line is, the Buddha changed the status of the transsexual from Monk to Nun, with all implications for the keeping of the specific precepts of the other sex but with no consequences for the continuity of spiritual guidance (preceptor) and prestige (years of ordination).

The female to male (FtM) is treated analogously.

(...)

So, we find here a laconic, basically non-judgemental reaction* of the Buddha, which can provide a valuable paradigm when applied within modern gender discourses towards transsexuality / transgenderism. However, this initial pragmatical approach towards gender-crossing is later modified in the authoritative commentary (attakathā) to the vinaya, the Samantāpassādikā by the 5th century scholastic Buddhagosa, (...)


Caro, this may be a bit off topic from your outset thread... just let me know if you'd like this posted elsewhere. Else, perhaps it is a nice inclusive place for the information, too, not carved out into an 'other' category, rather for MtF persons a fitting place with the gals.


*Vinayacommentary may not be so gender-equanimous, but a point is transgender monasticism was permitted and simply addressed.
A canon scholar and practitioner added in private correspondence,"I have not seen any canonical statement that rates the two genders as superior or inferior."


RE: A question to the women here...
Answer
7/19/15 1:05 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:

Caro, this may be a bit off topic from your outset thread... just let me know if you'd like this posted elsewhere. Else, perhaps it is a nice inclusive place for the information, too, not carved out into an 'other' category, rather for MtF persons a fitting place with the gals.


Perfectly fine with me to keep it here. I actually find it quite an interesting perspective.