The burden of parents and lineage is painful to bear.
And then, and then,
It is enough.
(Editor’s Note: A long-time friend of The Zoo Fence wrote Nancy asking about hormone-replacement therapy, specifically The Wiley Protocol. Here is part of Nancy’s reply. As you read it, please remember that Nancy is not a medical doctor and that you should talk to your own medical practitioner before acting upon what you read here.)
I suppose the way I would look at it is that IF one wants to take hormone therapy, this (The Wiley Protocol) is obviously the way to take it. My question would be “why does one want to take the therapy”, or “does one want to take the therapy”. I have nothing against hormone therapy (except for the questions about breast cancer related risks but those risks only occur I believe with women who are pre-disposed to the disease in the first place, that is, who have relatives who carry the predisposition.) And in some cases, it most likely helps with hot flashes, and other issues that are hormone related. As for feeling better because of this therapy, maybe so, maybe not. Your skin may look better, and you may feel more attractive sexually, but there ARE downsides to subjecting an aging body to constant bombardment of estrogen, particularly after the usefulness of estrogen (for making babies) is no longer its predominant objective. It affects the uterus. It affects the breasts. And it seems to affect the brain as well. On the other hand, my grandmother took both estrogen and testosterone her entire life, and while she became demented in her 90’s, until then she was a very productive artist, and had great energy. She was also a flirt, even late in life, which I attribute to the hormones.
In my own case, once I got through the menopausal ups and downs related to estrogen depletion, I found my mind was clearer, my decision making ability better than ever, and most important, my sense of self-assurance improved. I frankly believe that the psychological or emotional effect of estrogen is to create and nourish feminine docility, nurturing, and gender based characteristics which make women good mothers, but not necessarily good all around and balanced humans. But that is just my own opinion, so I have a slight bias. There is no question in my mind, however, that the emotional and psychological effects of estrogen are far-reaching; it is just a question of what an individual woman prizes, or considers to be her priorities. With the lowering of estrogen, I think her priorities inevitably change; in my own case, for the better, I think.
This applies as well to men, and you have only to listen to the television ads for testosterone to get a feel for what the male hormone does to the psyche of a male. To see (much less be) a horny old man is not to my mind particularly attractive, but then, that too is just me. :-)
Ultimately, the question becomes, does age threaten us, or does age open different or new horizons for us, and are we willing, men or women, to rise to the new opportunities that aging brings us, and are we also willing to leave behind the priorities and rewards of youth in exchange for the priorities and rewards of aging. If we only consider ourselves to be physical bodies, obviously the answer will be that we prefer to remain youthful and vital for as long as possible, and no doubt, hormone therapy will assist in that area, usually. But it also brings with it an emphasis on youth, and the consequent stagnation, or even regression, of the psyche. You get the pros with it, but also the cons. In my own life, I would not ever give up the wisdom, the perspective, the enlargement of my understanding, which, in some measure, was facilitated by less estrogen and a more balanced, and more hermaphroditic (if you will!), state of mind brought on by menopause. I could see the world more as both a woman and man, in other words, because of the more balanced hormone levels in the body. Likewise, I think men who are not taking testosterone supplements probably experience the same.
I suppose it comes down to who you think you are. Are you a woman? Or are you a human, and your gender is secondary.
Certainly health-wise, I am not sure that hormone therapy does a whole lot for any body other than to maintain one’s gender perspective. In some manner, it may even retard the expansion of consciousness since it creates a hormonal fluctuation similar to what one goes through when young (something that I do NOT miss at all.) There is also some research that suggests that estrogen therapy of any kind facilitates dementia (but that is not universally accepted.) There is also the definite link between estrogen and the uterus. If the uterus is non-functioning, in other words old, I would imagine being bombarded by estrogen and progesterone is not anything good for it. Though there are plenty of women on therapy who never have problems with their uteruses, there are those who do as well. On the other hand, estrogen is also good for the blood vessels and the heart, so it is kind of a trade-off, you know?
Yet, when I think back to when my body was flooded with hormones, my brain worked well, but it had a kind of limitation to its parameters; it looked through the hormones at everything, everything was colored by my gender, in other words. And to my mind, gender is nothing more or less than hormonal. And presumably I am far more than just gender. And I truly realized that once I went through menopause.
In my own opinion, I do not think one should harken back to what it felt like to be a young, fertile, hormonal woman, but instead, one goes through phases in one’s life, and aging is one of those phases, and if embraced, is extremely useful and liberating. But that liberation comes only with acceptance of aging, and even embracing of it and all that it encompasses, including less than perfect health and other aging issues. Of course, if one can’t run about like one did when young, perhaps there is an advantage to that, because it creates the necessity to sit still, and get to know oneself. But most folks don’t want to do that. I suppose, in the end, it comes down, again, to who we think we are, and what we want to do with the rest of our lives.
Hope this helps.
(Editor’s Note: This was originally written in response to an email message received by Nancy. Of course, all personal references have been removed.)
You wrote to me at a moment where your questions were very apt to my own life, so you will get a pretty long winded response, I am afraid. It doesn’t matter how long one struggles with one’s own “issues”, they recur, over and over again, in a spiral like effect – each time less intense ideally and hopefully, but each time, the same issue. Some writer once described the evolution of consciousness as a spiral – this is proof, to my mind. Of course, those issues are always a result of some stuck ego-centric neurosis that can’t seem to allow itself to let go, however hard one tries. This of course is a case of letting the fox protect the hen house – the problem itself is the ego – how can the ego which is damaged goods in the first place, possibly repair itself?!
Regarding blame, good or bad, and no blame, the key line in your considerations is “albeit their definitions regarding good or bad are usually pretty personal”. That is the key – “personal”.
When I spoke of no blame, of everything being pre-set, and so forth, I did so from the perspective of a liberated mind that does not burden itself or others with “personal” definitions of good and bad. Sometimes we can see the world from that perspective, sometimes not. It is often a seesaw kind of thing. So long as we view the universe from a distinctly separate and personal point of view, then there IS personal responsibility. In other words, you cannot approach a buffered individual who believes adamantly in separative thinking, and tell them that they are not to blame or responsible for their lives. That would be not only irresponsible, but unkind to their own spiritual development. Indeed, you can pretty well ascertain the extent of ego-centricity by the extent to which an individual cannot, or will not, consider or embrace the concept that there may ultimately be no blame, depending upon the perspective, AND at the same time cannot attribute that blamelessness to all others as well. The ego bound personality simply is unable to fit its mind around the idea that ALL is blameless, and ALL is perfect, whatever the outward appearances. And that of course is because the mechanism of the ego is precisely to preserve separateness.
To my mind, this is the real division between fundamentalist religious perspectives, including fundamentalist Christianity, and less fundamentalist approaches, for example, mystical. This is not to say that there is not a place for fundamentalist religion, indeed there is a great need for an authoritarian church that helps the individual control his or her urges, instincts, and neurotic behavior. The Roman Catholic church is an archetypal example of this kind of guidance and direction, and interestingly enough, it also has a tradition of protecting and nourishing its more mystical members. But equally interesting, if those mystics get a little too “uppity” and “democratic” – telling the folks about the ease of communicating directly with God, they are censored!
It is, to my mind at least, the normal evolution of the soul to begin at the fundamental level when all else has failed her – we turn to a power greater than ourselves when we recognize “ourselves” can’t cut it. We usually initially turn to clear, easily grasped dos and don’ts with little wiggle room in order to feel safe. What turns us to God usually in the first place is fear – fear generated by a sense of vulnerability and impotence in turn generated by a sense of isolation and separateness. This fear is legitimate, if all we are is a separate ego-bound entity. So a tight restrictive religious base is warranted in the beginning. Unfortunately, the inevitable greed for power seeps into religious groups, and the group then steps in and squelches the natural tendency of the mind, guided by the soul, to evolve OUT of that restricted mode of thinking into a more inclusive, loving way of thinking, and, as I see it, that’s where we are today, all over the world, in all sorts of religions. That inclusive inclination is NOT encouraged, often rejected, and seldom celebrated, precisely BECAUSE it removes power from the organization, be it a church or whatever, and returns it to the individual soul. If fear turned most of us to God in the first place, fear keeps us stuck together way beyond the usefulness of the early religious group protection. Even those churches that claim to encourage inner communion, control their members consciousness by means of demeaning other methods of inner communion, and thus, continue to pump up the ego, and its unique perspective in that church, only this time, dressed in “spiritual” clothing. (It is a slippery slide we walk when trying to extricate ourselves from the prison of the ego!)
So, discussing blame or non-responsibility can only be done “responsibly”, and with those who have already stepped out of the protective armor of the small self and are beginning to experience the “Big Self” or God flowing through them. To be sure, God flows through them, though each of us, all the time, but most of us are so encapsulated by self absorption that we can’t feel that Reality. To tell those that they have no blame is essentially to liberate the “fiends” that are feeding the ego – it is not a wise thing to do. And as you wrote, “If I spoke of giving up ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ I think I might be in line for stoning”. Just so! And until one gives up that small self – and mind you, doesn’t substitute that small self with a “Big God Out There Somewhere” who is STILL separate, only bigger and stronger – in other words, MY God, not your god (unless, of course, you join my separate and separative group, and accept MY God as your God, too) – we still have the problem of an ego-dividing entity, only this time it has extended itself to be part of “God’s chosen”. Dreadful! To confuse God with separateness is a fatal step in truly knowing God. Too often, this “Big Out There God” becomes a substitute for or a projection of the individual ego, and permits, even encourages, oppression and coercion, something no loving God would ever do.
You also wrote, “Is there really no blame – no consequences (that’s good news) no responsibility by anyone for anything – sounds similar to my recent musings that things are more predestined than we think, that free will is not as free as we think, although when I share this with others I don’t get much reinforcement. I have therefore begun to keep it pretty much to myself.”
Yes, there are no consequences, and no, there are. But that again depends upon the position you are standing in at the time. So that, the further along you move, you will discover that your perspective on good and bad shifts, and you find yourself more and more apt to forgive a situation, and recognize that there is truly no “good” or “bad” position any longer. The ego will still flare up, out of habit, but you will be able to disengage, in other words, a kind of discrimination automatically develops which allows you to see from a broader perspective. Ultimately, it is my understanding that you come to a place where disengagement is no longer necessary, you ARE that broad perspective, willy-nilly. Automatically, you check the old programs of “me, me, me” from acting out. It is an unconscious thing. It’s a good guide as well as to how expanded your consciousness is or is not, as the case may be. In other words, to what extent can you simply live life joyfully, and take its good and bad indifferently. To what extent have you surrendered to your circumstances, and loved them? This is a tough one, I grant you – and struggling with it never ceases – well, it does, so I am told …
As for karma – there IS karma for those who need it. It applies, once again, to the continuum of consciousness that we all slide along. If you take credit for good deeds, and you don’t take credit for the bad ones, then, that “you” who is taking credit, either good or bad, WILL suffer karma. Karma is another way of saying that so long as you believe in the separateness of life, then you will be buffeted about by that separateness, and the laws of a dual universe, informed by that basic separation, will prevail, naturally, and affect you. But, instead, if you are at a point where you are not so sure that there is any you that can take any of that credit, that you are instead just a vehicle of God consciousness, even just a creature of God, and the little you that postures itself as the doer, the separated ego, may still be there, but is pretty well laced up in a straight jacket!, THEN karma begins to fade away – because, after all, to whom will that karma confer? It all depends upon how much of you you think you are, and how much of you has been given up to God. When all of you is gone, and all of you has been given up to God, then, karma disappears, as does all the blame, credit, good or bad and whatever. You see? So, in advising you to reject the blame game, I was speaking from the ultimate reality, if you will allow that presumption for a moment, because, from the true perspective, as I see it, there was nothing else you could have done than what you did, because, in the final analysis, none of us is anything at all other than conduits.
So, the process, as I personally have experienced it at least, is an incremental one. Yes, there are eureka moments when ecstasy and certitude prevail, but they don’t last. I am speaking of the progressive and irrevocable transformation of ego mind, the mind that is inculcated in each child as she is educated out of the bliss of non-ego into the suffering of ego-centricity. This ego mind is simply learned through the developmental process of a child. It is arbitrary, and it is insidious. It is the legacy of our parents and culture. It holds centuries of admonitions. It – the ego in its basic construction – is also necessary for survival, but it has evolved to such an absurd extent that its OWN survival is its most important project, and it will sacrifice everything to survive. Indeed, suicide is probably one of its most perverse acts in its effort to survive, even to the extreme of destroying its own home, the body.
To transform oneself from an ego dominated individual to a conduit of God takes time, and takes sacrifice, and takes constant surrender, and perhaps most importantly, it takes Grace, meaning it is ultimately God-motivated. (In reality, the statement should read: to rediscover that we are only conduits, and to purify the ego which obstructs that obvious fact, takes time! But even that is inaccurate, as the reality is that right now, we are THAT, and it is only a kind of hypnotic state induced by a misguided idea that we are separate egos which obstructs this vision.) But, for most intellectual Westerners, it does take time, more than likely because we are so intellectual, and thus so closely indebted to our minds, that we sacrifice our “hearts”.) There are those who in a flash of light lose themselves in God forever, but it seems to be rare, precisely because the mind is so overwhelmingly dominant in our culture. In many ways the Oriental approach helps in this regard, and perhaps explains why there are so many God intoxicated saints associated with those traditions. They have in part side-stepped the imbalance we find in our culture because of the great success of science and all its artifacts characteristics of the West. We have lost sight of this other side of ourselves, so it seems.
Finally, but not insignificantly, I applaud the following from you: “I have pretty much forsaken the idea of heaven and hell – I keep thinking of that scripture that says, ‘If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God …’ I have a daughter, and I know that no matter what she did I couldn’t punish it with hell – thus I don’t see how God would punish us. I share this idea frequently and often I think I’m not the only one that believes it. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.”
Precisely. This suggests that heaven and hell are no longer in your consciousness, “as it no longer makes sense”. Heaven and hell have always been used to control the crowd, the uncontrollable, the basic, unreachable consciousness that cannot be controlled otherwise. We all have it (heaven and hell) in us, and until we grapple with its ramifications, we probably need a projection of the concept. It should not surprise you to know that despite your recognition of the strength of love you feel for your daughter, there are many, many parents who do not feel the same, and many who would, will, and did reject their children for any number of reasons, some willingly leaving their children to a kind of hell. So, just because you find that resolved in your own life, does not mean it doesn’t exist for others. The fact is, it DOES serve a purpose in some lives. This is a rather clear and simple example of what I am talking about when I refer to the continuum of consciousness, and how various, apparently conflicting perspectives can coexist, and ultimately, they all make sense, if we only had a wide enough vision. That is the wonder and awesomeness of a God who “so loved the world” that it was created with ALL possibilities, and even those we have not yet discovered. Who but an all gracious being could have done such a thing?! Every possibility and every remote concept manifests itself right now AS God, in all its terrifying implications and wondrous possibilities. Good takes on a considerably wider meaning when you begin to embrace this idea.
A belief which leaves no place for doubt is not a belief; it is a superstition.
If we do not change directions, we will end up where we are going.