Sara Williams’ seminal text on the state of Women’s Health.
In this article practitioner Sara Williams explores the state of Women’s Health through personal experience interwoven with historical references. Her reflections reveal the limited ways in which we have previously viewed this important aspect of our lives and documents an Esoteric perspective which may just herald a turning of the tide, the beginning of a new chapter in Women’s Health internationally.
by Sara Williams – International Co-ordinator for the Esoteric Breast Massage – Healing Modality / UK
‘ADVANCEMENTS’ IN WOMEN’S HEALTH
Few would argue we have come a long way since the first female doctor of the modern era graduated from a medical school in 1849 (US). The concept of women’s health has come a long way in the last 50 years alone, as we witness more books published, more female voices on women’s health heard, more research conducted – with an expanded awareness in the field of Gynaecology and diseases such as breast and cervical cancers, less medicalisation, more humanising of women’s experience of medical care and more female medical professionals, including the first female dean of a major medical school in the US (albeit only in 2007).
But whilst female graduation from medical schools has increased dramatically across many parts of the modern world, in addition to more women publishing, researching and presenting on women’s experience of women’s health, the rallying cry that more women caring for, in charge of and researching women’s health has not halted the steady rise in some areas of new diagnoses in women’s illness and disease. (1)
We are better at testing and better at caring, but something must be missing if women now ‘accept as common’, ‘normal’ or ‘to be expected’ any of the following examples of indicators of disease and imbalance in a woman’s body: period pain, absence of menstruation, breast pain, endometriosis, cysts in the breasts and ovaries, hysterectomies, lymph node removal and even mastectomies, as is often the case today.
WOMEN’S HEALTH MEANT TO ME
I write this today as a woman, 43 years of age, who has been exposed to and educated through deliberate design in a wide variety of experiences in relation to women’s health. Ever curious, I set out from young to ‘go out’ and educate myself in many things including agitating for change for a greater representation of women’s experience in the public sphere in general and interestingly found a common theme when it came to the approach to Women’s Health in particular, no matter what I was exposed to or got involved in, until I was presented with the Esoteric way of living, a way of living and seeing things from a knowing I already held within.
DURING MY TEENS (1982-1988)
- First sign of a girl’s health being different to a boy’s was the advent of my period. Learnt it was a biological process but left unprepared for the mood changes and physical pain, with no idea ‘why’ they occurred. Introduced to painkillers by the school nurse. Interestingly, treating young teenage girls today, even though they are far more educated than I was with regards to their period, period pain etc. they present as just as lost with this as I was, with next to no awareness beyond function – as they often tell me “My period stops me doing things, I hate it”.
- Friends with anorexia and bulimia – stigmatised, no one spoke openly about it due to shame and as I experienced, no one knew what to do or say.
- Discovered a Women’s Health Centre, which represented a place where you weren’t judged for requesting the contraceptive pill.
- No specific women’s health – health was physical fitness.
At this stage in my life… WOMEN’S HEALTH MEANT: Painkillers for periods, taboo eating disorders and ways to avoid pregnancy.
DURING UNIVERSITY (1988-1990)
- Feminism in the early 1990s exposed me to the ‘bible’ on Women’s Health since the 1970s: ‘Our Bodies Ourselves’ – the first book with women’s voices on women’s health.
- Friends with anorexia and bulimia – stigmatised, still no one spoke openly about it.
- We thought tampons were god’s gift to women, as the less your period interrupted what you were doing, the better.
- I attended conferences of the National Organisation of Women Students where women’s health focused on women’s rights to healthcare, advocating for more female doctors and the right to have an abortion.
- I joined the city’s Women’s Health Collective, which focused on women’s right to female doctors, reproductive testing like cervical smears, the right to have an abortion and women’s sheltering from domestic violence.
- My sociology lecturer on Gender Politics introduced me to a stronger painkiller for my period pain.
- No specific women’s health – health was physical fitness.
At this stage in my life … WOMEN’S HEALTH MEANT: painkillers for periods, the right to have an abortion, eating disorders remained taboo, agitating for access to female doctors and contraception.
DURING MY 20’s TO MID 30’s (1990-2005)
- Regular cervical smear testing was common. My period pain continued.
- Regular self-breast checks. My breast tenderness around my period continued.
- I worked for a Women’s Crisis Phone line where the focus was on education in breast and cervical testing and women’s sexual health – contraception, abortion, access to female doctors and safe sex as the HIV Aids epidemic gained notoriety in the press.
- I worked in recruitment and later with the long term unemployed and immigrants where women’s health was predominantly about domestic violence and the safety of a woman.
- I studied nursing and disillusioned with the focus on the compartmentalised function of a person’s body in relation to medical study and care, I left early and delved into the study and practice of Shiatsu and its Chinese Medicine roots for the next 13 years, living 5 years at ‘source’ in Japan, where one of the only public nods to women’s health were toilet seats that played a recorded flushing sound to disguise the sound of what you were doing (a response to the digestive and reproductive diseases women were experiencing from holding on until they got home, to encourage them to go to the bathroom when away from home). I learned how to balance yin and yang forces in the body but not understand why I continued to have period pain.
- Same period pain, same painkillers (imported to Japan).
- I was increasingly exposed to a growing number of clients and friends with candida; absent, painful or overly heavy periods; endometriosis; cystitis; post-natal depression; food and body issues; breast and ovarian cancer; having chemotherapy and radiotherapy, mastectomies and hysterectomies. Conditions were becoming multiple in each woman, overall getting more complicated.
- I maintained an intensive Yoga and meditation practice for years where women’s health constituted avoiding inversion poses in practice during my period. I submitted my body to years of cleansing, fasting, macrobiotics, vegan, raw food, urine therapy, colon hydrotherapy etc. but their pursuit was insatiable, never supporting a standalone connection to myself, it always depended on my unabated practice of these things, feeding the belief I was not enough as I simply am.
- No specific women’s health – health was physical fitness with now more significant focus on food and cleansing.
At this stage in my life … WOMEN’S HEALTH MEANT: Painkillers for period pain, early detection tests for diseases of the reproductive system and safe sex education under the spectre of HIV Aids.
ESOTERIC HEALING AND ITS SPECIALISED WOMEN’S HEALTH
The Esoteric Way of Living, presented to me through Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine represented a sea change in what women’s health was truly about. It began simply with support to me to open to the possibility that the toned muscular and cleansed body I was so proud of may not have been serving me in a supportive, health-full way after all. As I committed to being more gentle in my daily movements, I got to feel how hardened my body was, like a protective shell keeping me safe from the world. This hardening peeled away bit by bit to reveal a tenderness in my body I had never consciously known before. Keen to feel more I was encouraged through the specialised Esoteric Women’s Health (EWH) modalities and presentations to feel more, to surrender more deeply – not to the practitioner, not to follow a practice, but to me, to what resided within me. I was not told I was hard, I was supported to feel the hardness in my body. I was not told or judged as not being a true woman or not feminine, I was supported to feel if it was possible I was not expressing the tenderness I naturally had? I was not told I was getting it all wrong; I was supported to feel I already held within me the true way of a woman.
Given all the formal and informal education I chose to involve myself in over years: the exposure to and education in illness and disease; the social, economic and power politics of women’s bodies; women’s health books written by women for women; educating, talking and listening to women on health; the dedication to fitness, yoga, meditation; immersion in Eastern philosophy and healing modalities and maintaining a body that was free of illness and disease apart from regular menstrual pain, I really had to stop and take stock of the way I had been choosing to live and look at the beliefs I had chosen to follow, as there were many things that just did not make sense:
- WHY is it that when I laid down for my first series of Esoteric Breast Massages, one of the specialised EWH treatments conducted with such gentle and tender touch, did I experience so much discomfort and pain deep inside my breasts?
- WHY when I received the tenderness of an Esoteric Arm massage did my muscles remain hard as I relaxed on the massage table?
- WHY when I received an Esoteric Ovary Massage did my body reveal the pain of unresolved hurts from events I thought I had left in the past?
I was left feeling the rawness of the possibilities of what this all meant about my life and experiences thus far – could it be that all of my previous education and practice, ranging from conventional to underground, ancient to modern, scientifically measurable to energetic, had schooled me in women’s health beginning from what happens outside of me back towards my body? Is it possible that even our biological processes are outside of us, outside of an innermost core or essence? Nothing before had focused on or even named the source of my true health as being something that I already held within, but could this be what was always missing? Even meditation and yoga were practices I had to commit to doing endlessly, for my connection within was ever reliant upon them. As challenging at times as this was to all that I had previously learnt, the Esoteric way presented healing modalities, tools and techniques as stepping stones of support on my path of return to claiming me from within and as I live and express that outward. These healing modalities, tools and techniques only ever remained support, never things I should rely on to save me from any ill I felt, in acknowledgement that we are the ones who make the choices to live and love, or not, that ultimately result in the state of our physical body. And thus began my relationship with what I now live by, Esoteric Women’s Health.
EWH and the specialised women’s health modalities start from the inside, not just the physical body and its systems and organs, physiology and chemical makeup, but from the esoteric or inner-most part of you, where the source of our knowing of what it is to be a true woman has remained undiminished. I have discovered and felt that it is accessible through stillness in the body. I had believed I was versed in what I thought was deep stillness practice that included years of chanting sutras, facing the wall in silent meditation, silent retreats of ten hours of meditation a day, intensive yoga practices, weeks of fasting without digestion of food to name but a few, but NEVER was the stillness I touched sustainable once I left the retreat or interrupted the practice.
If true healing is the restoration of one to know themselves in truth by the exposure and discarding of what is not you from the body, then my healing only truly began when I began to receive Esoteric Healing and live from what I re-discovered within me, re-claiming myself in truth. My healing deepened further with specialised modalities that focused on women’s health in particular and under the umbrella of EWH, I began with the Esoteric Breast Massage, uncovering a living gentleness and tenderness that had remained unacknowledged in me throughout all the political women’s meetings, nursing lectures, yoga and meditation classes, alternative healing sessions etc., throughout all of which I had only become harder. And as everything I express, every conversation, every relationship, every interaction comes from my body, it understandably follows that every person I come into contact with benefits from the changes arising from my self-honouring.
TODAY: WOMEN’S HEALTH MEANS TO ME:
- A way of living in truth as a woman that begins from acknowledging and honouring my first feeling in everything I do.
- Connecting to and cultivating stillness – letting that be the foundation from which I live, think, speak and do.
- Dropping the self-criticism and approaching everything as a learning.
- Accepting my body is different to a man’s and not designed to do everything he does.
- Living my days in a cherishing and adoring way, working on not compromising on my true tenderness, no matter what the demands of the day are.
- Allowing the support of conventional medicine if a condition manifests in the body to clear.
- Honouring my menstrual cycle as a marker and reflector of how I live.
And as my way of living adapts to my unfolding on this path of return to myself, I have no doubt there will be so much more to add.
Women have long sensed something is not true about the way we have experienced, lived and been treated in the world. But up until now the major social and educational movements have agitated for change ‘out there’ and either sought equality with the dominant paradigm or fought against it to set up a new one, instead of questioning the need for a paradigm itself, with all its imposed ideals and beliefs from outside a woman’s inner-heart which holds what it means to be a woman and that is accessible by every woman through her own body. Esoteric Women’s Health represents a new view for many in modern times, rising from an ancient wisdom that has always been known: The key to your true health as a woman rests on you living in honour of what you have always held and known within.