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Kate Codrington attended the Wellmother Residential in Italy in May 2018. The theme was Women’s cycles. During this residential, I explored the Extraordinary Vessels and their importance in these cycles.

“As a non-shiatsu bodyworker I learned loads of stuff at the residential that I am using in my client work, with great results. Suzanne created a spacious, safe space to reflect on my practice and allow my own process to unfold. I’m definitely booking in for the next one!” (Kate)

Kate was attending this Residential as the conclusion to her menopause gap and here she reflects on how the residential supported her in her personal journey through the menopause and the Extraordinary Vessels.

Menopause Gap

Menopause and the Extraordinary Vessels

In the summer of 2017 I realised that menopause was working her magic on me. Although it felt that I had already let go and let go and let go, there was still room for more; my hands were stiffening and the spark had dimmed from my work with massage. I knew I needed to live and work in a different way but couldn’t see the wood for the trees (classic liver energy). It was clear I had to stop completely and see what emerged from the open space.

Once the idea of taking a Menopause Gap or sabbatical emerged it quickly became non-negotiable and in an act of blinding synchronicity, the finances were made available for me to have a Menopause Gap without anxiety.

It was about this time that Suzanne proposed a residential focusing on the menopause and menstruation. What a gift! Scheduled right at the end of my time off, it provided the perfect space for me to reflect on how I wanted to work in the future. She was including the Extraordinary Vessels, so I could experience the links between the menopause and the Extraordinary Vessels.

The rock anchors the menopause and the Extraordinary Vessels (heel) the second spring


It turned out to be a confluence of springs; I was hovering on the cusp of the second spring of post- menopause as well as the spring of my emergence into a re-imagined career after my Menopause Gap. It was perfect then, that the Shiatsu Suzanne taught us the stepping vessels which turned out to give beautiful insights both for my emergence from the menopause chambers and in how my work was going to be in the future.

Post-Menopausal spring: menopause and the Extraordinary Vessels

The heel vessels were the perfect way for me to support my process in the menopause, as well as learning how to support women in my practice too. As they regulate excess energy, they are perfect to rein back the yang energy I had been over-expending and to bring forward more the yin, reflective quality, necessary for my second spring to bloom. Issues around how I use my energy and aligning my projects with my soul, were also received spaciousness and clarity from the linking vessels.

Part of the initiatory process of menopause is that we must on some level surrender our ego, in my case it was about letting go of my role as ‘helper’ or being ‘good’ which had become a defensive manoeuvre. The heel vessels helped to process this re-calibration: can I wobble and recover, plant myself in a new place and yet still receive the nourishment from the earth?

All these questions about finding new ways to ‘be’ in the world were rather overwhelming, even in the spaciousness of the retreat. I tend towards the super-curious, which combined with a sensitive disposition AND menopause tipped me into overload. It has taken me a while to assimilate the wonderful work that I received so perhaps one day I will learn to regulate what I take in?

In Menstrual Medicine Circles I’ve witnessed many times how the quality of the surrender in winter and the pace which is taken in spring affects the rest of a woman’s cycle. How could this not be amplified in the menopause transformation?

Perhaps the most useful thing I learned on the residential, applicable to so many situations was how after a release, the importance of bringing the energy back home. In a treatment it might mean re-connecting with the midline or womb to invite the energy which way it could go. In menopause, when our energy starts to build again, the temptation is often to give it away and rush around getting busy with projects, but in my experience this leads to more depletion. So I am practicing bringing the energy home to myself and owning it, keeping my energy for my own pleasure and creativity.

Career spring: reintegrating the menopause and the Extraordinary Vessels

Though I had trained with Suzanne more than a decade ago, I hadn’t been using the extraordinary vessels so much in my work and re-engaging with them was a joy. It seems that they perfectly match my requirement for a slow pace, presence, and most importantly allowing. By which I mean allowing the client’s energy to find its way, rather than working for change in the body.

I was delighted to work again with connecting with the different energies of the vessels and the organs, which echoed the Biodynamic work I first learnt 25 years ago. This affirmed the inner spring theme by completing another cycle that reflected my training inheritance.

There always seemed to me to be a major conflict with massage. The word brings up the expectation of the pain being rubbed away and much soft tissue work does do this, but I know from my own process that true change is only possible when we accept what IS, a.k.a. The Paradoxical Theory of Change*. So in inviting clients for massage, I find both I and my client step into this conundrum. By inviting change in the body, I am not allowing the client to accept herself and maybe getting in the way of real transformation.

I brought many questions to the residential with me:

• How I can be present and allow flow without effort?

• Can I step forward onto the earth in a way that is safe and contained?

• Can I find the right pace for myself?

• Can I emerge tenderly allowing myself to enjoy the possibilities without squashing them by rushing on ahead into the world of ideal client briefs and marketing?

After the residential: integrating the menopause and the Extraordinary Vessels.

In the months after the residential I am still taking my time to emerge tenderly in this new cycle of my career. I have completed my training in Menstrual Medicine Circles and specialise in offering a space for women to explore their menopause process. At the same time, I’m developing grounding and protocols for my bodywork practice integrating my experience with Suzanne. Here’s the basis for my practice so far:

Show up

Bringing all of myself present gives my clients permission to do the same and maintaining high awareness of my own feelings and process means I can take better care of my boundaries.

Hang out

Following the ‘paradoxical theory of change’ by staying with the conflicts and holding as they are in my clients, rather than trying to change them. Holding the tension within myself when I become aware of the clients’ conflicts (this is a menopausal superpower!) but the client is not yet aware.

Be curious

Holding an attitude of friendly curiosity that invites the energy to move where it needs to on its own agenda, rather than imposing my own. Open and alert to the possibility of the healing process happening in its own way and in its own time.

A work in progress, I’m calling this integration of the extraordinary vessel work with Biodynamic, fertility massage and abdominal-sacral massage ‘Intuitive Bodywork’ and specialising in working with highly sensitive women.

Bringing a beginners mind to my work seems the perfect way to cherish myself as I enter second spring.


*The Paradoxical Theory of Change arises from Gestalt theory, and states that “change occurs when one becomes what she is, not when she tries to become what she is not”. i.e. the more you try to change the more you stay the same.

Kate Codrington: Kate offers Menstrual Medicine Circles for menopause, Intuitive Bodywork for sensitive women, retreats for women at Woman Kind, makes The Pants of Empowerment and is an excellent potterer.

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