Women, Boundaries, and Autoimmune Disease

In the last few years my practice has taken a turn toward women's pelvic health. Specifically, I practice something called Holistic Pelvic Care (a la Tami Kent, who wrote "Wild Feminine", among other fantastic books), which is a form of pelvic floor physiotherapy that takes into account the energetic and emotional components of pelvic floor dysfunction, menstrual complaints, infertility, and more. In doing this work, I spend an awful lot of time hanging out with women's second chakras. Guess what happens at the level of the second chakra? BOUNDARIES! 

From a physiologic standpoint the area of the second chakra, which is essentially the pelvic region, our body is dealing on a very functional level with boundaries. We have the intestines running through the pelvis, where our body is determining whether the substances in the intestines are worthy of being absorbed, or need to be kept out of the bloodstream. Are there microorganisms that need to be kept out of the bloodstream? What needs to be made "mine" and what needs to remain "not mine?" Here we have the epicenter of "Me/ Not Me." 

One concept I bring to women's attention during our pelvic sessions is that we also have, here in the pelvis, a tremendous capacity for receiving (the uterus receives sperm and potentially an embryo, the bladder receives urine, the descending colon and rectum receive waste). We have a capacity for holding all of these things, and then we have an inherent wisdom to know the right timing for letting go. In all of these processes is, once again, the discernment of "Me/ Not Me." Beyond the very physical, this also happens on an energetic level, which is quite significant in the female system. Because we are built to grow and birth babies, our immune system must have the flexibility to accept a "foreign" body and support that little being until it is ready for the outside world. We are built to allow the presence of "not me". But we are also, sadly, trained by our culture to allow for the energetic presence/ burdens of "not me" and we carry a lot of "stuff" for other people. 

This morning a very old, dear friend sent this blog post to me: https://drfloriewild.com/2017/06/15/your-beautiful-sexy-boundaries/ , which thrilled me because this conversation needs to be spread like wildfire through our communities of women. I could fully relate to this author's experience of my complete and total inability to honour my own boundaries in my first marriage. My ex-husband would push and push and push and, for someone who had very weak boundaries to begin with, it didn't take long before I relented. Granted, I learned to fight being married to (and divorcing!) him, which helped me to gain a sense of what it felt like to really establish, hold, and honour my own boundaries. But at the end of it all, I think I could have learned to set my own boundaries in a far less dramatic way had I been exposed to this conversation 10 years ago. And what would our marriage have been like if I were able to stand up for myself in a more clear manner? 

In any case, our marriage hit the skids and things were nuts. I had completely lost myself and I remember standing in our kitchen, talking with my brilliant ND, Dr Dick Thom, and saying "if I stay I am going to become very sick with an autoimmune disease." I just knew that there was trouble brewing in my system. While I had no lab analysis to confirm this, I knew the voice of my intuition booming through, and she was not to be ignored. 

In the following months I continued to struggle to find my voice, to stand up for myself, to honour that wisdom within that was telling me to hold steady, to persist in the separation that we had both agreed to, and slowly, slowly I felt my system stabilize. However, it was not until almost a year later that I entered into my 2 year training in human energy systems when I was actually able to cement this understanding of just how hugely significant boundaries truly are for a woman's health physiology. My teacher, Lynda Caesara, helped our class through various exercises in "me/ not me" so many times that I finally gained a felt sense of where I end and other people's energies begin, and I started to actively heal. 

In these very difficult years of marriage, childbearing, divorce, and running a women's health natural medicine practice, I have gained tremendous appreciation for all that women take on, all that they endure, and the profound ways in which our bodies say "Enough!". For the lucky ones, something clicks early enough that they seek help before they develop full blown disease or dysfunction. But most of us are not that keen, not that lucky, or just don't know that we have healing to do. My guess, based on the experiences of my friends, colleagues, and most of all hundreds of patients, is that nearly every woman has some work to do around "me/ not me". 

In my practice I have found various homeopathic and herbal remedies, along with nutrient therapies, to help the physiologic process of re-establishing boundaries. And from a more energetic standpoint I find Holistic Pelvic Care to be tremendously helpful in helping women to gain a stronger connection to their pelvis and innate sense of connection to themselves and their own capacity to determine "me/not me". If you don't have access to these resources, my assignment for you is to practice the exercise that Dr. Florie Wild wrote about in her blog (linked above), check in with yourself, find your own voice, and spend some time clearing out the "stuff" you are carrying around (very likely in your pelvis) so that you can come back to a more distilled essence of who you came here to be. 


On "Yinning"

The solstice is drawing near. The season of yin is fully surrounding us. I was joking with a friend this evening, as I lay in the warm bath, that I was “yinning”. It has become my favorite activity of late, this “yinning.” Yinning, for me, includes long baths, cooking in a relaxed and inspired manner, following the flow of my 5 year old at play and in his curiosity, knitting, sitting by the fire, and listening to the rain on the roof, among other things. It is pretty awesome!

I am a Naturopathic Doctor and, not only does this job mean managing a lot of patients and their health concerns, but it also means being self-employed, which, for those of you who don't know, is a tiring, never-ending job. Because of several moves in the 8 years I have been in private practice, I have effectively become an expert in starting and developing small alternative healthcare practices/ businesses. To do this, each and every time, required me to be in what I will call a very “yang” mode of living. I had to go out, make connections, network, explain my work, promote my practice, advertise, market, and be “presentable” at all times. In Lissa Rankin and Christiane Northrup’s words, I was being “spermy.” Effectively, for a woman, this type of lifestyle can deplete the yin in our systems if we are not careful. I was not careful.

When I read Lissa Rankin’s book (The Anatomy of A Calling) this fall I was highly amused by her analogy of choosing whether or not we want to be “spermy” or “eggy” in the world. In recent years I have been grappling with my own masculine and feminine natures. Becoming a mother in the midst of trying to start and run a medical practice essentially meant that I had this constant tug urging me to stop being the way I had been all of my life: “spermy.” I pursued academics and my career, I went for my dreams, I pursued the people I wanted to date, I made shit happen and it was awesome! But there came a time when “making shit happen” no longer worked. It just has not worked for me in the last few years. Honestly, some days it has me quite baffled.  The message that comes through loud and clear continues to be: stop striving; be “eggy”.

So, here I sit on December 3, listening to the rain splat on the skylight, interrupting the space of silence that is my house, looking outside into the blackness, feeling soft and fresh from my long bath and allowing myself to sink into some active “yinning.” I am contemplating my practice of medicine and my business, wondering how I can continue to grow it if I am being “eggy” in my life. I have to trust that there is a greater context to this life and that the myopic focus I have taken all of these years is but a fraction of what there actually is to experience in this life. It is time for me to embrace the yin, to let my foot off the gas pedal and stop making so many plans. In the words of David Whyte, “What you can plan is too small for you to live. What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough for the vitality hidden in your sleep.”

This deep urge to engage in “yinning” feels like my soul’s wisdom coming through. In the context of the upheaval in our world today, I can’t help but wonder if this compulsion to stop pushing is yet another facet of the return of the Yin, of the feminine; a divine call that is bringing us back into balance. I hear it coming from the mouths of my friends and patients, I feel it surging in women’s emotions and struggles as they present in my office, knowing that something “more” needs to happen- something very different from how they have ever lived life before. I am deeply confident that we all (men too) would benefit from some “yinning”, especially right now as we move deeper into the season of Yin.

So, find some time and some space to stop doing and allow all of your senses to open up. Allow yourself moments of silence and stillness. If you have busy children, take this time to just watch them- the stillness is within you. Take a moment to step outside and feel what the plants and trees are doing at this time of year. Notice the cool air and the darkness compelling you to slow down. Now is the time, both seasonally and in the history of our earth and our society. It is time to slow down, to take note, to break down that which is not working and to allow ourselves to see and experience what emerges, without pushing, without being too “spermy.”

Stay tuned for another post to come on what "yinning" has to do with fertility....