Reading your way to health and wellbeing...
Even as I sit down to write this blog I feel a frission of anxiety and uncomfortableness about subverting the dominant patriarchy of our society by recommending a book that is so overtly celebrating women and their innate wisdom and beauty. But it is a book I really do want to share and tell people about as it has been such a positive influence for me over the last season.
Health and wellbeing is not something that is given much direct attention in Transition Initiatives, at least not the ones I've experienced. It could be argued that it is inherent within lots of the other Transition themes and projects that they are increasing our health and wellbeing. However, I think they probably deserve more attention in their own right. After all they play such an influential and pivotal part in our lives and the once visionary organisation that is the NHS is not going to last long without cheap fossil fuels unless it transitions, fast. We did have a fledgling Health and Wellbeing group in Transition Norwich and we had some interesting discussions, but it was at the time when everyone was starting to get meeting fatigue and this particular theme group didn't morph its way into a practical project.
The book I am recommending is not really traditional holiday reading, it is more like an encyclopedia, but don't let that stop you, every page is full of valuable information. It has been around for quite a while now, I think around 30 years, and therefore conveniently there are many very cheap secondhand copies available. In fact I think you can download it for free. And it is definitely still relevant today and has been updated more recently.
Womens Bodies, Womens wisdom is in someways just what it says it is, although there is a lot more to it than that! It is written by an american doctor, Dr Christiane Northrup, who has worked all of her career in womens health and now runs a practice specialising in it. What she has learnt over this time is fascinating and has been lovingly crafted into this book. It offers both an overview of women in modern society, our health, how societies views are damaging it and also an in depth look at every single female specific medical condition, why it has occured and how it can be treated. It also looks at birth, menstruation, the menopause, sexuality and a plethora of other topics. All of the explanations are really clear, but are then underpinned by all of the medical explanations and supporting scientific research as well as lots of brilliant case studies and years worth of experience.
As I have mentioned it is a substantial book and I am not going to be able to do it justice in one blog post, so I think I will just stick to the general overview for now. I didn't truly understand until I read this book how patriachal our society still is and how damaging some of the accepted cultural views are to womens health and wellbeing. I always thought of myself as a pretty together and fortunately untraumatised person, but through reading this book I realised how many of the things I can find difficult in myself or with life are actually products of our cultures viewpoints. My understanding in essence is that how we feel, how we deal with out emotions and what we believe have profound impacts on our physical (and mental) health (whether or not you are a woman!). Different beliefs and emotions relate to different parts of the body, for example the womb and ovaries are both the seats of female creativity (as in giving birth to new ideas) and therefore if you are ignoring your need to express your creativity then you are prone to developing problems in these areas. Although I hesitated to call them problems because they are often the bodies way of trying to tell us something that we are ignoring. If we take the time and willingness to listen to what out inner wisdom has to tell us then we often know exactly what is negatively affecting our health, even if we are currently unwilling to admit or act on it.
I could write an epic blog post on it, there is so much wisdom to share! But I would just like to clarify why I think this book is so relevant and important to Transition. Firstly, it is going to be really important if we want to create a cooperative, community based and resilient society that all of its members are truly valued, appreciated and celebrated. This means in practice a society where matriachy and patriacy take equal roles, which will be much better for everyone because men need the feminine energies as much as women do. This is something that transition would benefit from considering more. And I don't just mean involving women, we are often equally blinkered to the entrenched inequality in our society, I was.
Secondly, this book is all about prevention and getting to the heart of a problem, not just looking at the cure. It is a holistic approach, one that is arguably much more effective, is much more human-centred and would I'm fairly sure use considerably less resources. I think it offers a brilliant foundation on which a new era of healthcare could be built. The conventional medical establishment is slowly moving in this direction, but there are many entrenched beliefs that are going to hold it back.
Thirdly, it's about reconnecting with ourselves and with the world around us. Truly (physically as well as mentally) realising we are part of something bigger. This is a core part of any self-respecting heart and soul group and it is going to be the fertile ground in which transition ideas, creativity and approaches can grow.
I strongly recommend this book to all women, and interested men. And actually I wish there was an equivalent for men as I'm sure there is a lot for you to learn and gain too through this approach to health and wellbeing.