Maree reflects on her journey to listening to SHE
I’m not sure when SHE first started beckoning. I think it was when I was 10 or 11. I was always more interested in the women of my Roman Catholic upbringing – the Marys (Mary Mother, Mary Magdalene) and the feisty female saints like Thecla, whose name I took for my confirmation name. (They tried to kill Thecla but she wouldn’t die – burned her, hanged her, threw her to the lions – but nothing could touch her). What a woman! – Thecla was my first female superhero.
After school, I took the path of the scientist at first – but even there SHE had her hand in (SHE’s such a trickster sometimes!). I studied the chemical structure of the hormone Oxytocin for my Chemistry Honours thesis. Little did I know that in years to come, I would be extolling the virtues and qualities of the bonding hormone oxytocin to birthing/lactating mothers and to women in sacred circle. Now I know, it is this hormone that gets released when we women tell our stories to each other – and have them listened to and acknowledged with respectful gratitude by other women. Oxytocin heals us and nourishes us. Who knew when I was 19?
My 20s were my ‘getting’ years – getting the job, getting the husband, getting the house, etc. Then at 34, I became a mother – to a beautiful little daughter. And my world was turned upside down – the ‘shock’ of motherhood. I didn’t know who I was anymore and I couldn’t work out what had happened to me. I felt like a totally different person and there was really nobody I found that wanted to talk about that – they just wanted to talk about the baby and the household logistics.
Hardly anything I read was about this – the psychological/spiritual transition of a woman when she becomes a mother. Until I picked up Susan Maushart’s book The Mask of Motherhood and then I felt understood. I felt Susan was writing about me and what I’d gone through. Susan wrote that perhaps what we needed was initiation rituals for new mothers to acknowledge the huge transition that they had just gone through – and many tribal cultures have rituals to honour this transition – but we didn’t. My dear old friend Alison Tuck had also just become a mother and so she suggested that we devise a ceremony for ourselves and some other friends who were new-ish mums.
So in 1997 we did just that – and I then ran several of these ceremonies for other new mums. That year, I also underwent my first acknowledged female initiation through the Unveiled Retreat: Rites of Initiation for Women – which was the most powerful thing I’ve ever done. I felt ‘home’ again. I did this Rite five times over the next three years and I knew when I was done. It was there that I ‘received’ and understood my life purpose – to not only be working with mothers – but to work at reclaiming and celebrating all three female rites of passage – menarche, motherhood and menopause. The female blood mysteries.
At first, I shook my head at the sky in disbelief – you want me to do what? Talk about menstruation and our monthly cycle? Taboo subjects like periods and menopause? You’ve got to be kidding! But you know SHE doesn’t go away once you’ve heard her call. I pretended for a while that I didn’t hear her – yeah well I didn’t have much luck with that …
So SHE told me to start with the girls and menarche. Lo and behold, teachers and colleagues in the form of Alexandra Pope (The Wild Genie: The Healing Power of Menstruation) and Shushann Movsessian (Puberty Girl) miraculously appeared in my life and the three of us designed and ran ‘Let’s Talk Growing Up’, a weekend for 9-12 year old girls and their Mums to prepare them for puberty and the menarche transition. Shushann and I still run this today, nine years later, and it is a blessing and a privilege to offer it. I often feel quite ‘drunk’ on bliss at the end of this weekend!
At around the same time, I was asked to work as a facilitator for the mothers of the teenage boys going through the Pathways to Manhood program for the Pathways Foundation. I was so impacted by watching the boys and their fathers go away in the bush for five days – and the transformation I saw when they got back – that I knew that I wanted the same thing for my daughter. So myself and several other great women (Marybeth Zang, Leonie Deuis, Bodhi Priti, Moana Pearl, Dianne Ryan, and Elvian Drysdale) spent two years designing and planning – and Pathways into Womanhood for 13-15 year old girls was born in 2006.
I was ecstatic in April 2009 when I was able to fulfil my dream of taking my own daughter along to this program and celebrate her own rite of passage into womanhood! I am SO privileged to continue working in this program today to assist mums in guiding their girls through this powerful transition.
Then the great SHE also asked me to work with the motherhood transition in a different setting. Women as working mothers are crying out for help and support in how to make the whole ‘working mother’ scenario less fraught and anxiety-filled. So along with my wonderful friend and colleague Virginia Herlihy, I facilitate programs for working mothers in company/corporate settings. This assists them in managing their busy lives and to achieve more success (and less guilt!) at work and at home – and introduces them to the concept of a Feminine sanctuary in the workplace.
I always knew that SHE had plans for me in menopause – the last blood mystery – and I felt her calling me in late 2010 to start investigating this momentous transition. Little did I know, that very month would be my last ever period – in my 50th year. I had a women’s ceremony to mark this and went on a pilgrimage to Stonehenge and Glastonbury in the UK called ‘Mystical England: Journey to Avalon’. I felt l totally changed by walking the sacred land there and doing ceremony – I feel like the wheel is turning again! While there, I received more information about setting up a spiritual retreat in Australia for women to come for peace and healing and to celebrate the blood mysteries. To honour the deep wisdom held in our beautiful female bodies and spread HER compassion throughout all the world. And so it continues…
I am so thankful for my life. And I would like to honour all the brave women who are singing the new Feminine dreaming into being. I am privileged to be in your company. Blessings to you all.
Maree Lipschitz – Women’s Rites
Maree is the The Puberty, Motherhood and Menopause Mentor who guides women through the feminine transitions in life. She is the mother of two lovely kids and speaks and writes about female rites of passage and how to connect more deeply with the Sacred Feminine. She also loves singing, beach walking, reading great novels and concocting fabulous meals out of leftovers in the fridge. Maree can be contacted at www.themidlifemidwife.com .
Life Balance = Meditate. Walk. Laugh with kids.