Entering the mid-life cave
More people than ever are entering the second half of life and so often not prepared. Numbers are growing rapidly as so many are now able to live longer as elders than did their grandparents. Modern western culture has lost the traditions of older cultures who valued their elders and who called upon them to bring their wisdom and experience to their communities.
From 50 on we know that things have to change and for women in particular, menopause signals this threshold. Sadly, so many women still rage against menopause, wanting to cover it up, pretend it’s not happening, complaining about its effects but not understanding its purpose and powerful rituals for transitioning from the morning of life to the afternoon of life.
Angeles Arrien, a wonderful cultural anthropologist, award winning author, consultant and educator drew on the wisdom of Indigenous peoples, and symbolism and myth to help us understand this transition to the second half of life. She speaks of the eight gates through which we need to pass during this time and narrates this story:
An old gnome wearing green boots and a rust-coloured felt hat stands at the base of an oak tree, tapping his foot on the tree’s exposed root and shaking a ring of rusty old keys. With a gnarled finger, he beckons us to come closer and says with irresistible conviction:
“There are ancient mysteries to remember and never forget as you pass through eight gates in your later years – listen closely…
“You came through the Silver Gate, and you will leave through the Gold Gate. At the Silver you are born. At the Gold, you will die. You will pass through many gates in between”.
“The Silver gate heralds the beginning of your adventure. Its reflective, shimmering surface will mesmerise you. It will urge you to leave the safety of your familiar world and approach the inner mysteries. You will be asked to summon the courage to face the unknown”. (2005:25)
The Silver Gate is the entrance to the afternoon of life and women usually come upon it in the time of menopause, when physically it seems life is being turned upside down or inside out and we are confronted with the reality that we are no longer so young. How we try to turn back the clock, keep things as they were and maybe fear what lies ahead. Why is it that in today’s culture there is a scrambling to hang on to youth, a denial that we are all ageing?
But it heralds a wondrous surprise if we accept to open the Silver Gate and leave behind what no longer serves us. It’s the gate that leads us into the cave we are afraid of entering, not sure of what we will find. Yet if we take that small step and open the gate, we will find hidden treasures that we didn’t know existed.
Menopause is far more than just a physical event in our lives, even though that is what seems paramount. We don’t have many positive images for menopause today, and how we ‘name’ menopause for ourselves will determine how we experience it. Do we see it as inconvenient, frightening, enlightening, joyful, something to get over and get on with being the way we were???
Menopause signals the threshold of entering the mystery of the afternoon of life. It is a time to integrate the two halves of one’s life – the life within and the life without.
We are giving up something when we move through menopause, and there is a tendency to focus on the negative aspects, less energy, wrinkles, weight gain, graying hair, and for some, depression. When a woman can’t cope with this, she maybe goes to the doctor who recommends drugs – but drugs simply cover up the symptoms and deny – they don’t heal. Only when you can connect with your depressions and deal with it in a spiritual way can you then transform.
It’s a time of transition – a shift which can often be abrupt and with an unexpected change such as divorce, change of career, a significant loss – something that comes with an initial restlessness, or anxiety or irritability, even discontent, and often a deep questioning about our situations and our relationships.
Menopause is the threshold – a call to deeper self-autonomy, a time to rewrite the next chapter in our lives, not just replicate what has been. It’s a time to go deep into our feminine consciousness – a new quality of being, a time when we integrate our mind, our body and our heart and build deeply loving relationships where our values are owned and honoured.
It’s a time to honour your body and soul, your inner and outer and to take better care of your body and your mind.
Your inner holds the wisdom of internal and external experiences, your outer holds your career, your present relationship, your life as your ego knows it. To bring them together requires a descent into the inner, the dusty cellars of your morning of life and to uncover what is there and what is no longer needed and what needs to be transformed.
If you’d really like to learn more about this wonderful journey of transition join the podcast series: Alchemy in the Mid-Life Kitchen
The podcast is also available on
And better still, if you are ready to start the journey sign up for a free discovery session with me on annmoirbussy.com