In July 2019, I sat a thirteen-hour plane ride to Amsterdam, to take a course in Mindful Self-Compassion. I had learnt of the course whilst researching for a Masters course assignment I was taking then.
What actually drove me to action was when my family said that my moods had become so bad, it actually deterred them from returning home earlier. Those words hurt but they were also good feedback that I needed to take action – my distress with menopause was no longer contained within myself but were also affecting those around me. I needed to seek help.
It was not my first foray into a Mindfulness course though. I had taken a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction course, locally, but I found this arm of mindfulness, not so relevant for me then.
I would need one to embalm my heart as a caregiver.
The female body is highly complex. Like what a Yoga guru had told me, a female has menstruation, experiences childbirth and then menopause. When the hormone changes hit home, during menopause, varying in certain female bodies, and depending on one’s medical history, one can be the most self-disciplined person ever, but you are, overnight humbled, as your body has taken a ‘larger-than-life’ force, it will not listen to the Mind. For me, it was ‘expressed’ in weight gain .. 2 kg within 3 months. Very unprecedented because, I had always been quite resolved! But, suddenly, with every dieting trick demonstrated (working information gained since I was a teenager), they no longer worked! ** And the pounds continued to pile on! And I grew increasingly frustrated. For the first time, I had been served a ‘mandatory’ order by my Body – let go, human, let go!
**Through the phases of wisdom, gained along with the better part of aging, I no longer subscribe to dieting and would not recommend it to any younger adult. Let’s just say it is a fellow female passing on some advice to a younger adult. A healthy body is attained through eating a nourishing diet and consistent movement to age harmoniously
I was honoured to have the creators and founders of the programme partnering each other to deliver the course). By the end of five days at the Mindful Self-Compassion course, I learnt (I was part of ) common humanity, I learnt self-forgiveness, I learnt about being worthy but most importantly, I embedded the seeds of forgiveness. That there are two sides to a coin and whatever indelible scars one’s childhood had left behind was also accompanied by constructive skills that made one the successful person of today.
I was amongst 120 people, in the audience, attending the course; and everyone, coming from different parts of the globe, were experiencing suffering.
This was my biggest takeaway! Mind blown! As a human being, I was NOT alone. Everyone in that hall was undergoing suffering, like me…
How the course really helped me was, after I returned to Singapore, for the better part of most times, I became very kind to myself. Whenever I felt discomfort, from the side effects of menopause, I would practise mindfulness breathing and meditation and the other skills I had picked up from the course.
Quite importantly, when I found myself alone, suffering, I applied the skill of turning inward, and practising kindness, through affectionate breathing, compassionate phrases, ‘rest-and-digest’ practices and meditation. That helped me with the constant fluctuation in moods caused by disturbances in hormones.
It has been about twelve months since I have taken the course and I am still practising it. I believe it is an invaluable skill, helpful in recent times, and through my ‘Circles of Practice’, where I continue to keep in touch with like-minded self-compassionate practitioners, I have maintained a progressive journey of accepting oneself, being kind to oneself and then disseminating this loving kindness outwards to others.
My menopause is not over, and my capability to cope with mid-life transitions is still evolving. But love, hope, faith and positivity, are restoring, and perhaps given a new lease of life. These values, then complemented by a new skill, have enabled me to continue my work roles of being a more effective caregiver, spouse, mum and mentor to others.
Kindness really kind of rocks😊!!
Germer, C. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. New York: Guilford Press.
Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself. USA: William Morrow.