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Lifestyle & Spiritual Approaches

by Leslie Kenton(more info)

listed in symposium - menopause, originally published in issue 27 - April 1998

A Transcript     Contents     Introduction: Dr Goodman     Dr Bond (Intro)     Dr Lee

Dr Bond     Q&A: Drs Lee and Bond     Dr Smallbone     Dr Griffin     Beth MacEoin

Q&A: Smallbone, Griffin & MacEoin     Leslie Kenton     Q&A: All     Exhibitors & Speakers



Introduction: Dr Sandra Goodman


Our next speaker needs little introduction. Leslie Kenton is an award-winning writer, novelist, broadcaster, lecturer and social activist. She is the author of many best-selling books on health including the New Raw Energy, 10-Day Clean-up Plan, the New Joy of Beauty, Ultrahealth and Passage to Power – Natural Menopause Revolution. Leslie will be reflecting upon how life changes are reflected as much in the changes of the seasons as in the transformation of a woman's body. She will look at how the way you eat, think, feel and look after your body and soul can influence what she believes to be the most powerful transformation in a woman's life. Without further ado, Leslie Kenton.

The Joy of Menopause
Would you believe it that I didn't even realise that I was going through the Menopause. I would wake up at 3 am, have the most incredibly strong desire to go walking on the beach, barefoot, and wearing a white linen nightdress. I would wake up drenched in sweat – my entire body, pillow, bed would be soaked. I resisted the urge to go walking on the beach for a long, long time, and then, one morning, I actually got up from bed. I had been labouring to write my first novel, Ludwig, a book which encompassed both ordinary reality and the mystic realms. I just couldn't marry the spiritual aspects of the composer, Beethoven with what is known of him as a man. Then one time I actually got up from bed at 3 am in the morning and went into my study. I found that this early morning time was so incredibly creative. It totally unblocked me and gave me so much energy to finish the novel. Ironically, I finished it the same week I had my last menstrual period.

The joy of menopause is the world's best-kept secret. Like venturing through the gateway to enter an ancient temple, in order to claim real joy, a woman must be willing to pass beyond the monsters who guard its gate. You know in public buildings the way they have two lions in front, one with its mouth open and one with its mouth closed, in temples, in India for instance, in Buddhist temples, yes, courthouses as well. What these are from a mythological point of view is they're the guardians of the gate. They are warning us. What they are doing they are saying to us "Ye who enter here must be aware that this is a dangerous area," because what it will do, it will break down all of the structures that you know that you can rely on with which you feel comfortable and safe and introduce you to a new world – a sacred world.

Do you remember Star Wars? Do you remember Luke Skywalker? Do you remember they came and said to him – We need Obi-Wan Kenobe to take care of the problem that was going on in the Empire and save them from the bad guys and all this stuff, and Luke said I don't want anything to do with this, I have got to go back to the farm where my aunt and uncle are waiting for me. And then he went back to the farm only to find that his aunt and uncle were dead and the farm was burnt. That threw him into the beginning of his hero's journey.

What happens to women at menopause is that very often we have that kind of experience, our relationship ends, we find the career we have is absolutely not working for us. We have terrible physical problems, we have terrible hormonal problems, something that says you cannot go back, you cannot hold your life together the way it was, enter these gates. Now if we resist, if we look at these lions, the guardians of the temple, and we say no, they're too terrifying, I won't, then we live in an absolute unadulterated hell. Very much like childbirth – it's a funny thing about childbirth, I had two children by high tech American childbirth, and I had two by natural childbirth. Wow, what a difference. I learnt when you have children by natural childbirth, the dynamic process that is taking place within your body is so intense and so archetypal and so beyond the little personality, that we have two choices, either you say no I won't do that, in which case you suffer terrible terrible pain or you ride it, you go with it, in which case it's like riding waves, it is so powerful, you give your body over to it.

The Hero's Journey in Menopause
That is when it begins to work. The beginning of the hero's journey that we take in menopause is very much like that in the sense that each of us has to walk through our own gates, look at the guardians with their fangs and say "I nevertheless choose to go forward, I choose to let go of what was then because where I am going, I know is a different place". When we really do that, and unfortunately there is no way of cheating it, then something wonderful happens.

There is no way to cheat this. Once you actually choose to walk through the gate something miraculous happens. These terrifying beings that are warning us, that are threatening us become our allies. They transform like the Buddhist wrathful deities. You know in the Buddhist tradition, they are so wild with their fangs and all of this, what they are there to do is cut through illusion and protect you, and that's what happens as we go through the gate. But after we go through the gate, we then have to do the archetypal thing that all heroes have to do; make a journey downwards. You know the hero always has to kill the dragon or indeed make a friend of the dragon, transform the dragon. We all have to face the dragon and the dragon is always part of ourselves that we most repudiate, we most despise if you like. In doing this, in making this journey and in connecting up with the dragon what we do is we access the treasure. That treasure once accessed and transformed is our gift that we bring back to the world. The journey hero's isn't over once you've slayed the dragon, the journey only ends once you bring back the treasure as a gift to life.

You have to give it, you know why you have to give it, because you are virtuous, because if you don't give it you don't fulfil that beautiful seed of what you are, you don't fully develop into what you really are. At the point that whole dichotomy between being selfish and being selfless dissolves away because what you love most and feel most passionate about, what you actually live through, touch the core of your being on the soul level, touch that treasure and bring back and present the world is also the greatest gift that you can bring to your family, the community, and I believe to Gaia, the living planet as a whole. It works, it is biological, it's organic, for we are the living cells of the body Gaia, that's what we are here to do but it's never easy.

Life Changes
For me it's particularly difficult, I'm a Cancer, I don't know how many of you like astrology? I think it's quite fun. Cancers are the timid ones, they are always wanting to run back to mother, they are always wanting to be told they're good girls etc. etc. The thing that is interesting about Cancer is it is supposed to be the most whimpish of all signs.

Some of history's greatest generals have been Cancers. Of course I know it's all a big cover up, they're trying to pretend they are not wimpish that's how they got to be generals. I resist like mad the breakdown of structures. I don't know about you, I hate it. I have had a wonderful relationship with a younger man I've lived with for over 3 years now. He is 30 years younger than I am. It has been the easiest relationship I've ever had. It has been a source of absolute unadulterated joy that I thought was going to go on for ever.

We were in New Zealand recently. We had an absolute wonderful time. I was researching a book I am writing. All of a sudden he said to me one day: "I want to be friends with you, I don't want to be your lover anymore." I went into a tailspin, I lived through 4 weeks of absolute unadulterated hell, because it triggered in me all that stuff about being a baby, my mother didn't love me. You've no idea how blissful this relationship was. It was absolute joy. It was wonderful and I resisted, in the beginning I felt bad, I hated him, I felt grieving, then I felt righteous, I went through all this stuff.

Then finally I came out the other side. I didn't think I ever would and I realise that actually I have greater freedom than I ever had in my life and that the relationship, wonderful though it was, was actually inhibiting me enormously from what I need to do and what I want to do with my work because I was putting too much of myself into it. So now we still live together, but he has his own room and I have my room and we have an absolutely wonderful friendship and it is just fantastic, but I have this freedom I didn't have before, thanks to him. He had enough sense to be able to say "Leslie it's time to change."

The secret about making the transition through menopause, so you actually come to the place where you really hear the authenticity of what you are about and begin bit by bit to weave this bridge between your inner and your outer world so that it becomes very very strong, so that finally your expression in the world, your work, your relationship with people, your creativity becomes an authentic manifestation of who you really are, beautiful, beautiful, individual seed within. We had to make this journey that goes deep and that asks us to accept what is unacceptable.

A Story from the Arthurian Legends
I want to tell you a story because it probably expresses better than anything I could say what this process is about. It is one of the stories from the Arthurian legends, you know the story of the Loathely Lady some of you? Oh good. OK.

Sunday afternoon at Camelot. The knights and Arthur are sitting around the big table eating pieces of venison and throwing pieces to the dogs and drinking a lot of mead, wonderful mead. One of them says let's go hunting, you know what men are like when they get together, let's go hunting. That is a great idea. So they charge out on their horses, out into the woods, out into the fields and they go out hunting for wild boar. Arthur somehow gets separated from the other knights and ends up going through a wood. At the other side of the wood where there is a huge blackish pond that is very very dark, and he suddenly looks across the pond and a black knight is approaching him on a horse that is 20 hands high.

He is all dressed in black and he has a black visor so you can't see his face. In his hand he holds a black sword. He says to Arthur "I am going to cut off your head" and Arthur says "Oh please don't do that" and of course as all of you know you can't cut off Arthur's head because he has the sword Excalibur which renders him completely invincible. The only problem is they drank rather a lot of mead that afternoon and Arthur trotted off away from Camelot without his sword and so he has to say to the black knight "Please don't do this because you see, it's not just for me that I ask it but I am a king and I have to look after Camelot and if you cut off my head this beautiful country will be destroyed it will fall apart".

The knight says "In that case I'm going to ask you a riddle and you must promise to return within 3 days and tell me the answer, otherwise I will cut off your head" Arthur says "I will do that".

The black knights says "What does every woman want?"

Arthur say "I will be back in 3 days with the answer". He goes back, he goes to the great hall and they wondered what happened to him and he explained that something rather nasty happened, he's met this black knight who asked this riddle, if he can't find the answer then he has to return in 3 days and have his head cut off. They say "what is the question?" He said "What does every woman want?" One knight said "That is easy, every woman wants beauty". "No" said another knight, "Every woman wants power". "Don't be ridiculous," said another knight, "Every woman wants jewellery," and so on and so on and so on for 3 days and nobody comes up with the answer.

At the end of 3 days Arthur has to return to the blackish pool to meet the black knight and there is much to do about this because, of course, they all realise this is going to be the end of Camelot. They say goodbye to him with much grieving and he gets on his horse and sets off through the woods, through the path and his head is down because he is very depressed about what is happening. Do people get depressed in those times? Dejected let's say. OK.

He suddenly hears this voice. This voice says "Sire, why are you so down-hearted?" and he's going along on his horse, and you know when you see something out the corner of your eye, you don't really see it directly but it's kind of there and he sees this hag at the corner of the road. She is the ugliest human being that anyone has ever seen. Her fingers are gnarled, her body is totally misshapen and he has a very uncharitable thought. He thinks "If I pretend not to see her perhaps I can get by without having to stop". He hears the voice again. "Sire, I was speaking to you, why are you so downhearted?" He thinks "I must stop." He goes over, he climbs off his horse, he comes up to this woman, he can't even bear the smell from 6 ft away she is so revolting. He says in his best chivalrous voice "Madam, what is it that you want?"

She says "I asked you a question"

He says "Oh madam, it's terrible I'm going to lose my kingdom you see, I met this black knight and he asked me about this riddle and I don't have the answer and he's going to cut off my head".

She said "What is the question?"

He said "What does every woman want?"

She said "Oh, I can tell you the answer to that, but it will cost you."

He said "Oh anything, up to half my kingdom to be able to save Camelot."

He holds his nose, trying not to smell her, he leans over and she whispers the answer into his ear. The moment he hears it, he know that that's the answer.

He said "Oh madam I'm so grateful I must go now and meet the black knight, I will return immediately and we will talk about your reward." He goes off the blackish pond, he meets the black knight. The black knight with the sword says "Have you got the answer?"

Arthur says "I have." He tells him the answer, the black knight is a bit disappointed because he likes cutting off people's heads. He lets Arthur go. Arthur comes back to the Loathely lady and he says "Madam, I can never thank you enough. What is it you want?"

She said "Oh it's very simple, I want the hand in marriage of your handsomest and most noble knight."

Arthur says " Madam, I have this wonderful castle up on the hill and there are lots of diamonds in this chest."

"No," she says, "I want the hand of your handsomest and most noble knight."

Arthur thinks, how on earth can I do this? "Very well madam, I will go back to Camelot and arrange that. I will return at 4 o'clock."

He goes back, and because they are overjoyed to see him come into the great hall because they thought he was dead and Camelot was lost. He says, "do not celebrate yet, I did find the answer but it was costly, I had to promise something." They said: "What did you promise?"

He tells them and at that point all of the knights suddenly remembered that they had lots of things to do with other parts of the castle and they all disappeared except for one. Sir Wayne, who is a John Wayne type figure. You know the type who says "Well gee Art, whatever you think is necessary, I am here to help." Thank God for John Wayne figures every now and then.

Arthur says "I can't thank you enough, Wayne," and he goes back to the Loathely lady and says "Madam its been arranged, we are having a small wedding in the chapel." And she says "No, no I want a big wedding in the great hall," and indeed that is what she has. The wedding takes place and the feast goes on into the night and finally the Loathely lady says to Wayne "My lord, is it not time that we went upstairs?" He sighs bleakly and they go up the circular staircase into this chamber and just then Wayne remembers he has all these thank you notes to write for the wedding. He is too busy to go to bed, so he sits down and starts to write them and pretty soon dawn is coming up. At that point she puts her hand on his shoulder and she says "My lord, is it not time we were in bed?"

He looks down and instead of this gnarled hideous hand he sees the most beautiful hand and he turns round and there instead of the Loathely lady is this magnificent woman just radiant, dressed in all this finery, beautiful skin, blonde of course, they always are and he says, "Madam, what happened to you?" she said "Well my lord, you see, I was enchanted by a wicked wizard who said the enchantment could only be broken and I could be my true self, if Arthur's handsomest and most noble knight would consent to be my husband." Well Wayne couldn't believe his luck, you know chivalry is all very well but chivalry has its own rewards.

"Well madam I think its time we were abed." And she says "Well my lord there is a slight problem, you see, the enchantment is only half broken because as you see me now, I am my true self, I am my true soul, but you see tomorrow I will revert to being the Loathely lady. You have a choice, you can either have me my true self now and the Loathely lady in the daytime or you can have me the Loathely lady now and my true self in the daytime."

Wayne has no problem making that decision. He says "Madam I would much prefer you to be your true self now at night."

She says "Oh, then you would subject me to the ridicule of the court by them seeing this ugly body during the day." She cried.

He thinks to himself, remember he's John Wayne now, "Oh, how awful that I've done this to this woman, Absolutely not madam you must be your true self in the daytime in the court and the Loathely lady at night." She cried even more.

Do any of you men in the audience ever have this experience with women?

He said, "Madam what are you crying about now?"

She says " Our marriage would never be consummated because you would never bed a woman as hideous as I." At that point Wayne throws his hands up in the air and says "Oh, for God sake you decide!"

At that point this woman who is so beautiful begins to radiate light from all areas around her. She was magnificent. If she was beautiful before she was ten times as beautiful now. He says "Madam what has happened?"

"She says "My lord you have now broken the enchantment completely" because the answer to the question "what does every woman want?" is that every woman wants her own way.

Now that sounds like a shaggy dog story; it is not. It is a myth that is radiant with power because the soul within each one of us, male and female is female, and the soul has one reason for being and one for pulling at your clothes and saying pay attention, whether that comes through physical symptoms, whether it comes through dissatisfaction with jobs or life and that is because she absolutely has to, must live out her own truth, her own way and the thing that is so interesting with this is invariably within each one of us it's that part of us that we dislike most, that part of us that we try most to hide, that carries the greatest creative power. In my belief, it is that part that is calling to us at menopause and it is demanding that we listen, and when we begin to listen and allow her freedom then the difficulties become transmuted into creative energy. But it is a passage and it's a hero's journey that each one of us has to make in our own way with friendship I think, from all those who have made it before. Really, that is what I would like to share with you this afternoon.

Goodman: Are there any questions?

Kenton: I laugh because Sandra said are there any questions and one of the things that people have given me every now and then, I wrote a book years ago, for my sins, called Raw Energy that talks about raw food and I get these letters from people that says things like, "Isn't it wonderful that you and I know the secret about raw food and don't you feel sorry for all these other people who don't eat enough carrots?" and then they go on to say, "I've eaten raw food for 20 years." I always call these the people who think that God lives in a carrot. I'm sure God does live in a carrot, but God is in a lot of other things too. I always think that they mistake that for the territory. So thank God nobody has asked me how many carrots we have to eat.

Goodman: Well I also think that truth is a very big issue in our society. Leslie you've been a role model and a hero. You've spoken today of some of your despair and some of your insecurities and problems in life and so on, but I just wanted to say that most of us would never have thought these possible. We would have looked up to you and envied you and thought, well she's got money and she's been the editor of Harpers & Queen and has had several partners and four children and so on. Can this be the same Leslie Kenton? How could Leslie Kenton be despairing and depressed and not know what to do?
     I think the problem is with the media – the hype it promotes, so you think that because I have written a book about nutrition and cancer that somehow I know everything there is to know about medical research or that Leslie knows everything there is about health because she's written about raw food or whatever. The trouble is that we all don't know, we are all trying, we all have our own problems or insecurities in different ways and it is just a plea for more truth. I despair that our society will ever get to that stage.

Kenton: What I think is so exciting particularly in the areas of menopause, is people like David Smallbone and Shirley Bond and John Lee and many of the others that are working in this area. They give us the nuts and bolts that can help us in very practical ways as tools and techniques they can help us make our passages easier, provided we do not mistake the nuts and bolts for the end product. Those are the carrot worshippers, and what is happening, what I see that is taking place in menopause is what happened 20 years ago in natural childbirth. Women began to have a few voices like this, that said there is another way, and you know who took the ball and ran with it? It's us, it's women ourselves, we did it and we shared with other women. Where you can ring a woman and say, this is what I feel and she can say, I know what you're talking about. Do you know what it means to have someone who knows where you've been?
     Just the presence of another being that has actually lived in their own way, what you are living now. It empowers us to say its OK, to go through the passages we go through to become more fully human, become more fully who we are. To me it is enormously exciting, I love it. One of the things I love about working with women is I get as much from them, I think more than they get from me because I mean there is so much life there and so much joy and straightness and truth. Women are tough creatures too, women don't like bullshit and they're not into theory either, they are not interested in recipes. To make a soup you cut up the potatoes, you cut up the onions, you put it in the pot, you boil it you add your herbs and you taste it, that is what soup making is about, it's not a theory.
     It's one of the things I love about female energy, it's this very grounded quality of women knowing about what they experience and what they don't experience, does not have any real relationship to them. I love that, I trust that and I trust personal experience.


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About Leslie Kenton

Leslie Kenton is an award-winning writer, novelist, broadcaster, lecturer and social activist. She is the author of many best-selling books on health including the New Raw Energy, 10-Day Clean-up Plan, the New Joy of Beauty, Ultrahealth and Passage to Power – Natural Menopause Revolution.

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