This poem was written by a very special woman I know, straight after a menstrual cycle workshop. The words came flowing out.
I have her permission to post it (thank you), and am doing so in the spirit of celebrating any person’s journey into deepening their connection with their cycle, with the entire spectrum of emotions we all encounter throughout the cycles of our lives.
I also want to share it to celebrate the transformation of this monthly process from a place of unfamiliarity to a place where it’s presence is accepted and embodied and is an integrated ‘part of you’. Menstrual cycle work is magic.
Into the dawn I stride, reborn.
The green rising spring
Brings new hope and light.
I take time, to stand upon the
Cool grass and find balance.
The soft glow upon my face
Speaks to me of potential.
And from within the Fire rises
The pulsing passion swells my
Breast. My heart is wide open.
My hair flowing, my lips parted
The very spark of the Goddess
Is in my eye. I am Power
and radiant. I am Life.
Then the tide of time turns
The fruit is over-ripe and
Rotting. Darkness visits upon
My imagination and all begins
To chafe and wear.
RAGE. Intolerance of waste.
I feel the heavy thunderclouds form.
Finally they spill their rain
It feels like Death has come again
And loss, and grief, and futility
Drag my core down into the grave.
I weep; I weep for the pain of the Earth
and her children; for war
And the oblivion of the dark night.
Then… into the dawn I stride… once more.
During our December Red Tent all the women sat beneath the Winter tree and dreamed into their own meaning of Mid-Winter.
Awash in rich imagery and a feeling of togetherness each woman took it in turns to write a line of a poem and pass to the woman next to her. No woman could read what had already been written.
Once every woman had written on every piece of paper we opened them and were each gifted with a very special Winter poem.
Dear women of the Red Tent, these poems are beautiful and deserve to be seen. It is still Mid-Winter though the collective mood has shifted; now, very tentatively we emerge for the earliest signs of Spring. Let us celebrate these last Winter days together Xxx
Midwinter dreaming of light filled times to come
Sitting, thinking, connecting –
Flickering lights follow the
Cold damp dreary
Holograms glittering in each snowflake
Holding light in the darkness
Past and present, who said ‘presents’?
Rosy cheeks, wellies and mittens
The crystal Christ alive in me
Breathe, take a step back
A wish to be free, a wish to have space
Overwhelming love for the mother
Each one of us is so very special
The dark may be just the beginning
Let’s go home
Peaceful, calm and beautiful
I feel dark and sad and hope…
Mystical magical time
For winter gathers all around us
The trees are bare
Fired by saucy sculpture
Dew dancing as the sun rises to embrace the light
Chimes, bells, music, song –
Regardless of shape or form
Cards and greetings from friends far and wide
Have faith; the sun never left us yet
Finding stillness in the dark, being with what is
Make a wish upon a star
A flickering light in the window
Life slept, dormant, hidden
Honouring our deepest depths
White and crisp and pure and clean
Holly berries shining red
Bless,oh bless, this tenderness
Embrace, feel and give thanks
I wish all of us a merry midwinter
Generosity, beauty, love
Reflect, retire, reunite and replenish
Children smiling, voices raised in song
Midwinter dreaming of light dancing.
Amongst the depths of light
The coldness and the warmth
Witness to the stillness, the gods of winter watched
Honouring deep feminine wisdom
With glitter and tinsel in my hair
Christmas carols under the tree
Beloved star and twilight embrace
Read, eat and enjoy
Appreciating the beauty in every day
Firelight, warm bright, glowing hearts
Approaching a new year and new opportunities
I am an evergreen!
Black belt and peanuts
I see you in me
Mugs of hot chocolate warming you through
In the bleak mid-winter
As I rise to greet the day
In the air, an aching chill, a memory
A friendly face at my door
Untold joy at velvet winter
Sleep, relax and nourish yourself,
A time for harmony, peace and love
and dancing flames,
Bright Blessings to all
Only one more
Sparkling frost upon the grass
Untold truths like angel lights, shine
Trust, believe and thank
Dear Mother Christmas, I’ve been an authentic girl all year
Hands clasped around the mulled wine
A time of celebration?
The Oak and Holly Kings in battle
Kittens curling cosily
Grace and beauty
Stars sparkling in the frost clear night
Harmony and balance
Strangers becoming friends
Feeling the turmoil
Breathe in this blessed moment, each newly brought morning.
Gathered with those with whom we connect
Delving into the depths
Wind, rain, sleet, snow
Light sparkles dancing merrily in puddles
The warm glow within –
To love, to learn, to hold
Weak sunshine lifts our spirits
Inside the sleeping bear cave, dark softness
Sharing, loving, being together
Carol singing, frozen fingers
Excited children waiting for Santa
Holy holly pickles tickle
Look. Take stock. Thank.
After the rain.
bubbling up from the deep
Rain gorged streams flushing and cleaning
Meeting with friends – loved ones
As we danced and sang our voices high
Shards of possibility as yet unreal shimmer
Finding harmony within darkness
No more wind and wet for a while
Silly hats and party frocks
Trecking through the snow
Courageously love and give love
Please sit down, relax
When I hear midwinter
Hibernate, cuddled up in blankets
We wonder at the stars and skies
Candles shining in my window
Running hand in hand
Ice crystals tinkling as the wind blows
Gifts – the kind that no one can see – love care service
The constancy of hands held
Joining in song opens my heart
Echoes from the future of birth pains, life’s arrival
Finding beauty in the dark
I’m stuffed, never mind the turkey!
Kisses under the mistletoe
Honey-tipped lips of love sing of joy
Your love is like the wind in my sails
Guiding my ship to the long lost place I call call home.
Like a hand placed gently on my back you buoy me,
hold me steady me through the storm
with truth, love and laughter.
You have been friend to countless people along the way,
and will touch the lives of many more,
without even knowing where the ripples end
from the stone of love you cast into the pool.
And now our paths have crossed I am just learning,
what it is to be, how I can be, how to give with love
and endless vitality…
How to shake off my identity,
Letting it flow from me.
Births deaths life,
You have seen it all a thousand times
The wisdom of your soul is rich
Woven and gathered from threads of a Miracle.
Magical coincidence, tears and laughter
The joys and blows of life,
Like the wind in our sails,
On the ever turning tides
Carrying us all home once more.
I still get period pain – some months it’s awful, some months not so. It might sound strange but I don’t dislike cramps any more – I’ve learned how to ride them. Whatever pain comes I try to sit with it and observe my relationship to it, see what it brings out in me.
But what if I’m floored by the pain? Those times where lying down in a crumpled heap is the only option, wherever that may be… those horrific feint nausea months. Naturally I‘m always on the look out for things that might help me lessen that kind of pain. Things like baths, homoeopathic remedies, hot water bottles etc have become my self-care staples. Or things like doing less, moving slower (if my day allows) and resting… Those things all feel good and give me a lovely monthly ‘event’ to look forward, a series of treats, a psychological ‘lift’ when my moon-time comes. There is something I have been experimenting with that I would like to share with you.
Take this month’s Day 1, and the pain woke me up at 6am. I knew it was going to be ‘one of those’ months. But I did something different when I finally got out of bed – I listened to my body. I ate no breakfast, lunch or dinner, just freshly squeezed juices instead, cuddled up with a hot water bottle… and my pain has lessened significantly!!
Think back. Have you ever noticed a natural tendency of wanting to eat a lot less around the first day of menstruation, or the night before? Have you also noticed that the hours after a meal on Day 1 can bring on the worst menstrual pain? I have experienced this often in my life. I’m no doctor or health practitioner, but I’m guessing that solid food adds extra pressure on the womb because the entire digestive system is busy contracting grooving and moving, trying to digest the food that’s just been eaten. And pressure and movement equals pain.
I am a firm believer in listening to my body and going with what it needs (within reason – it asks for chocolate cake most days….hah!). Some months my appetite completely disappears, and some months I can’t stop eating around menstruation.
But sometimes even if I have lost my appetite on Day 1, I might go against my intuition and eat anyway. Words of conditioning echo round my mind like ‘eat to keep your strength up’ and ‘have a good healthy appetite’, encourage me to eat even if I don’t feel like it. Often it’s the irresistible food smell from when my partner cooks that makes me hungry too…heavenly kitchen delights and snacks lying around make it so difficult when considering missing a meal! Psychologically, the idea of missing the whole ceremonial/social aspect of sharing a meal together can make it very difficult to fast at home. Anyway the times when I eat against my intuition always bring me the most menstrual pain, and time and time again when I follow it (like this month) I survive relatively unscathed!
It’s amazing how fasting keeps popping up in my life at the moment – conversations with women who have suggested it as a weekly health tonic, opening a yoga book right on the fasting page, and most recently a book borrowed from a dear friend about women’s health – with a very inspiring section about fasting. I’m a firm believer in synchronicities and this feels like an unexplored challenge for me, a chance to explore my emotional attachment to food and an opportunity to feel lighter healthier and more vital!
Now, there are gentle fasts and there are serious fasts. Hard-core fasts recommend organic juices and herbal teas only (freshly made in a juicer) and suggest drinking at least 4.5 litres of fruit juice a day, and nothing else for three days (now that’s a lot of veggies!), but that’s not the one for me right now.
This time I decided to opt not for a full system cleanse, but for a way to keep the volume down in my digestive system and cut my period pain. To do this I decided on a mixture of juices herbal teas, thin vegetable soups, the very odd piece of fruit and handful of nuts only. No bread, rice pasta potatoes and nothing bulky. I started the whole thing very naturally and organically with no particular planning when I was feeling at my most bloated and uncomfortable (the late pre-menstruum) and now it is my day 3 and I feel amazing.
So the juices I have tried are:
Apple carrot beetroot ginger lemon
Apple carrot cucumber ginger lemon
Apple carrot celery ginger lemon
And the soups, both of which are in season at the moment and are utterly delicious:
Kale and herb
The amazing thing is that I am completely on a roll now; and feel really good about carrying on as long as my body wants to. I feel lighter and brighter and have kicked the cold that was lingering around. And I am on ‘day 3’ of my period!
If this has worked for you in the past too, I would LOVE to hear from you in the comments section below. Happy juicing, and remember to listen to your body and what it tells you it’s needs are. If you don’t feel good with juices and soups, then just stop straight away and eat things that do feel good for your body instead! xx
The Pill is an icon. Proclaimed as one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century, enabling women’s liberation, the catalyst of the sexual revolution, the Pill gave women independence and ‘empowerment’…
…But this was 55 years ago!
A LOT has changed since then. The definition of empowerment has changed and so has the appeal of synthetic hormones in this ‘one size fits all’ approach. Empowerment today means EDUCATION and CHOICE!
“The pill is an unique drug in that it is designed to interfere in one of your normal bodily functions – with fertility itself – and is the only prescription drug used long term that does so.” Jane Bennett and Alexandra Pope
Hormonal birth control is usually the first (and most socially accepted) option women turn to when avoiding getting pregnant, and during these years many of us seem to find ourselves hopping from one type to another; never entirely happy with our ‘choices.’
10 Pill Facts
- 80% of women have taken or will take hormonal contraception at some point.
- Currently some 100 million women take the Pill.
- It’s the worlds most widely used drug and treats people who aren’t ill.
- The Pill is given freely on a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
- The dangerous side effects are not well-known (63.7% of women stop taking the birth control pill because of unwanted side effects).
- Synthetic hormones are easily prescribed for hormonal complaints, skin problems, irregular cycles, period pains, period-free exams, honeymoons.
- Taking the Pill doubles your chances of depression.
- The Pill can mask menstrual reproductive and fertility problems.
- The Pill stops the body being able to process some nutrients, leading to deficiencies and illness.
- The Pill can cause depression and anxiety which in turn affect libido.”Perhaps the most definitive research about the effects of the Pill on libido was carried out by Dr Irwin Goldstein and Dr Claudia Panzer. They found that for taking the Pill for as little as six months could potentially destroy a woman’s sex drive forever.” Jane Bennett and Alexandra Pope.
From a teenager’s perspective…
“Often we end up on the pill because it seems the most obvious thing to do as a teenager” It feels like a responsible way to deal with contraception. 10 minutes speaking to a doctor, a couple of questions like “Do you smoke?” and a little chat about what to do if you forget to take it…. and PRESTO you walk out of the surgery with 3 months of Pills in your bag! All you have to do is go back for a blood pressure test every few months and you get prescribed more! Your cycles are regular as clockwork, you get to feel ‘like more of an adult’, and then there’s the stress free contraception too. No one ever tells you about the chemical-free alternatives.
The good news…
“1 in 5 of women are interested in learning more about fertility awareness-based methods.” From ‘Sweetening the Pill’ kickstarter video
Body-literacy is empowerment
Many women are choosing to gain ‘body-literacy (learning to read and understand their bodily changes over the course of the menstrual cycle) and learn about ‘fertility awareness’ (specific practices such as charting basal body temperature and cervical mucus qualities) and use this knowledge to opt for non-hormonal options for contraception. Let’s stop supporting these big pharmaceutical companies and instead become EMPOWERED!
“A new generation of young women find liberation in not using the Pill.”
Click here to support Sweetening the Pill – a documentary made by Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake! Their video inspired this article.
Click here to buy ‘The Pill – are you sure it’s for you? Written by Jane Bennett and Alexandra Pope. This incredible book opened my eyes to the truth of the Pill and motivated me to write this.
Click here for the Natural fertility management website; one of the many natural fertility kits out there.
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Today, 28th May, is the big day! As I read the many positive tweets from all around the world #MenstruationMatters #MenstrualHygiene I feel a great deal of hope that attitudes towards menstruation are changing. Thank you WASH for all you are doing!
Reading deeper into the Menstrual Hygiene Day website, I learned about how women all over the world are still suffering. It reminded me what I have, and often take for granted, but am so so grateful for. It fired me up to spread awareness of the circumstances in which so many women and girls are living, all over the world. Please share.
Here are 10 reasons I feel grateful today:
1. I have access to safe clean water and I am healthy (In one study by HERProject, 73% of the Bangladeshi garment workers they interviewed miss work for an average of 6 days per month (resulting in unpaid work days) due to vaginal infections caused by unsanitary menstrual materials).
2. I can choose which type of sanitary protection I want to use. I chose pretty re-usable cloth pads that I can wash dry and care for easily. (In urban India, 43%-88% of girls use reusable cloth, yet they are often washed without soap or clean water).
3. My cloth pads are beautifully designed, comfortable and soft. (In rural India, many women and girls use unsanitary materials such as old rags, husks, dried leaves, grass, ash, sand or newspapers because they do not have access to affordable, hygienic and safe products and facilities).
4. I never have to stay at home because I don’t have sanitary protection. (A study at a school in Uganda found that half of the girl pupils missed 1-3 school days a month, or 8-24 school days a year. UNESCO estimates that 1 in 10 African girls miss school during menses, eventually leading to a higher school drop out rate).
5. When I was at school we had menstrual hygiene facilities and services. We had a school first aid room. (In India, 66 % of girls-only schools do not have functioning toilets and 83% of girls in Burkina Faso and 77% in Niger have no place at school to change their sanitary menstrual materials).
6. We had a presentation about menstruation and were taught about our bodies. (32.5% of school girls from South Asia had not heard about menstruation prior to menarche and an overwhelming 97.5% did not know that menstrual blood came from the uterus).
7. Menstruating did not prevent me from participating in class (In Sierra Leone, girls who are normally active classroom participants sit in the back because they worried about emitting an odor or leaking through their clothes while menstruating).
8. Or work…(Often, male managers do not understand why women need to use the toilet more frequently while menstruating. This adds to women’s discomfort and shame, which may result in women missing work).
9. I was never taught that menstruation was a disease (48% of girls in Iran, 10% in India and 7% in Afghanistan believe that menstruation is a disease).
10. I have a respectful partner and the men around me are supportive empathetic sensitive and aware of the ‘taboos’ surrounding menstruation. (Men’s and boys’ knowledge is sometimes laced with negative stereotypes, reinforcing the negative stigmas attached to menstruation).
I just feel more and more committed to spreading the positive word and opening up the conversation about menstruation! For the activism page click here, for information about taking menstrual cycle workshops out on the road, click here.
I love eating food and I love my menstrual cycle! So you can imagine my delight and joy when I discovered that this fascinating woman Alisa Vitti has put together research about foods that support feminine hormones and the menstrual cycle, and has come up with some week-by-week suggestions to “eat our way to better menstrual health, naturally!”
High five to that.
Over the last year or so I have been loving experimenting with the foods that Alisa recommended during the different phases of my cycle. On the whole, the foods I felt like eating were also the foods I needed according to Alisa, with the exception of when I went travelling and became obsessed with salad in the warmer climes and soup in the colder ones despite the phase of my cycle…
(Last night I realised that I cannot get enough cabbage and kale and green leaves at the moment…this article explains why!!)
I am completely fascinated about this kind of research, and have always loved nutrition and alternative health. Eating right for our menstrual cycles and for fertility just seems to make total sense to me.
Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” I’d also like to add “Let thy cooking be from scratch and let thy ingredients be whole foods.” It doesn’t quite have the ‘ring’ of Hippocrates’ quote (!) but to me cooking from scratch is great because you know exactly what’s in it, and you get to put in the single ingredient that I believe is missing from all factory processed and pre-packaged food…LOVE.
At the Beach House Kitchen we are so into food and nutrition and eating that it has become more like a hobby. Mealtimes are one of the highlights of my day, and experimenting with grains beans and spices and vegetables a new pastime. Lee is an incredible vegan cook so I’ve had a pretty good teacher… click here for a cool vid about Lovely Lee’s book!
Now let me share with you the work of Alisa!
The science-y bit and some tips
“Food is the most powerful medicine we have; it has been proved scientifically that the type of food we eat directly influences the balance of hormones, the performance of the endocrine system, and the menstrual cycle.” Alisa Vitti
The foods given below as examples are not the only thing you eat for that week of the diet. I think it’s very important to emphasise this, and suggest you just increase your intake of the recommended foods during the different weeks of the plan. This raises the levels of ‘food-medicine’ at the right time to help keep the hormones moving.
This is a healthy eating plan for everyone so you can include the rest of the family, men or women with no fuss. Eating more fruit vegetables good fats grains and nuts can never be a bad thing in anyone’s diet and healthy eating is in no way restricted to women.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and that you’ll share your ideas on the comments section below.
When to start?
If you are menstruating, start the day after your period ends. If you are not menstruating, start on any given a Sunday or any day you’ll remember.
If you are tracking your cycle already you will probably be aware when you are moving from your pre-ovulatory phase to your ovulatory, and pre-menstrual phases etc of your cycle. If you don’t know what tracking your menstrual cycle means, fear not! Just click here for your free menstrual tracking chart and then click here to read about why/how to chart your cycle.
If, like mine your cycles are irregular lengths these phases might not be exactly a week each. My recommendation would be to follow the pattern of your unique cycle and go with your own intuition about when to change to the next food group.
Of course, listen to your body too. It will tell you if it likes this whole eating plan or not….It probably will, all the foods in this plan are seriously healthy!!)
Week one ~ pre-ovulatory phase ~ sprouted or fermented food
Recommended Foods: Kimchi, sauerkraut, bean sprouts, broccoli sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, sprouted whole grain bread.
These foods provide your body with the right nutrients that can deal with the amount of oestrogen that is increasing during the first week of the cycle.
In these fermented groups there are key prebiotics, and a compound called indole-3-carbinol that break down oestrogen and gets it out of the system as quickly as possible.
Week two ~ ovulatory phase ~ raw juices and fresh veggies
Recommended Foods: Raw carrots, tomatoes, courgettes, apples, fresh herbs, kale, beetroot, lemon, ginger, red cabbage, celery, leafy greens.
Recommended Juice: Beetroot, kale, parsley, celery, lemon and ginger.
Oestrogen is surging at this part of the cycle and we need plenty of antioxidants for our liver to help it process it out. These raw veggies contain glutathione, which the liver needs and stores in its tissues, and uses to detoxify our bodies, especially from excess oestrogen.
Week three ~ pre-menstrual phase ~ greens and grains
Recommended Foods: Buckwheat, quinoa, leafy green vegetables like bok choi, pak choi, kale, Swiss chard, rainbow chard, cavolo nero.
This is the part of the cycle where levels of oestrogen and progesterone are shifting quite dramatically, rising and falling.
Grains are good for moods, because they are low glycemic and provide the small intestine with the building blocks for serotonin production. This can help stabilise the mood.
The greens combined with the grains increases fibre content, which then helps the body to eliminate waste and literally get everything out!
Week four ~ menstruation ~ healthy fats and root vegetables
Recommended Foods: Pumpkin, squash, carrots, sweet potato, beets, avocados, seeds, nuts.
Root vegetables, especially the orange ones, are full of Vitamin A. The liver needs vitamin A so it can help break oestrogen down.
The healthy fats are really important to help keep the mood and energy levels staying stable.
A good excuse to cook a gorgeous soup, I say!
Don’t miss this ~ Coming soon on Woman’s Wheel ~ a free e-book of fabulous recipes for healthy eating and happy red tent times.
Thanks again to Alisa Vitti for all those years you spent researching how food is directly linked to our hormonal balance, and our menstrual cycle. I hope you continue to inspire many more women.
Dear woman, fight not the tides of sadness that come
Just allow, listen, learn, discern.
This temporary storm, the waves that crash,
and tear and erode. This too will pass.
Come morning, the night sky gently dissolves
In hues of rose and peach.
You will also slip into pure release, deep down within.
Dear woman, it will come. It needs no instruction, no help, from you
then you will float into the arms of the mother and be renewed.
Such gifts are abundant as your blood flows.
Hush now woman, surrender to tranquility and peace.
Let me cover you in jasmine flowers, comb oil through your hair.
Tonight you will dream anew and you will awaken energised,
fresh inspired in spirit,
as a new song given birth to sound,
or a glimpse of green on a winter tree.
Then you can run, with the wild Spring breeze in your hair!
Dear One, look, it is the rising sun!
The energy of the flames will infuse your heart with fire and sparks.
Live, love, express wildly the desires of your soul with passion and grace.
But remember dear woman
This too will pass.
The cycle will turn, your summer leaves will crinkle and fall.
Fear not to take refuge in the house of your heart
and know that the nature of life and death resides in your soul.
Written by Jane in tribute to Red Tent gatherings all over the world!
Outside on this bright and warm day the robin is chirping loudly in the apple tree, the grasshoppers are still singing away in the sunlit grass, and I can hear a frog croaking in the undergrowth beneath the bramble patch. The hawthorn berries are plentiful and our affectionately named ‘crone tree’ shines bright red with her burgeoning crop.
The last of the blackberries have been gathered and made into jelly for warm toast and chillier times. The path of the sun has been changing over recent days; shadows lengthening, and the point at which the sun sets is moving Southwards across the horizon. Sunsets at this time of year are spectacular with molten bronzes golds and peaches lighting up the sky, and at dusk the land goes quiet and chilly.
Sunday 21st September was the festival of Mabon – the part of the Celtic year that signifies the exact mid-point of Autumn. It’s also known as the Autumn Equinox because the length of day and night are equal.
This year my menstrual cycle fell on Mabon almost to the day, and it got me thinking about the similarities between the significant points of the menstrual cycle, and this important point in the Celtic Year – a time where the harvests are over, the fruits have been gathered and darkness starts to descend over the Northern Hemisphere. Mabon can be likened to the part of the menstrual cycle where the ovulatory fertile phase has finished and the woman enters fully into the pre-menstruum.
This is a powerful time for reflection; and how you relate to this season personally will influence your experience of it greatly. Fighting the change will only make it harder, whereas acceptance, letting go, allowing yourself to sink into it and celebrating the occasion can make it a lot easier. Take my friend who loves this time of year, she is positively relieved that the busy-ness of Summer has ended. She and her son can now snuggle and retreat and play and decorate the house with conkers, leaves, and beech nuts found on nature walks… That sounds gorgeous to me, but I on the other hand still really love Summer for it’s warmth and light nights, flowers and growth, sitting outside in the fresh air, swimming in the sea, eating fresh salads and juices and not having to light the fire every morning…. I find Summer so hard to let go of!
Because Mabon falls on the equinox where there is the physical balance of night and day, druid practice encourages us to examine the metaphorical aspect of balance, and encourage us to ask questions like ‘What do I need to let go of in order to find more balance in my life?’ ‘What sacrifices do I need to make to find balance’. There is also the parallel between the harvest of the Mother Earth with her bounty of fruits nuts crops and berries, and the inner harvest, asking questions like ‘What was your own personal harvest?’ and ‘Are you happy with that?’ In the menstrual cycle we are also coming back around into a place of balance at this point, because we are entering the ‘yin’ energy of the cycle after a prolonged period of ‘yang’. A useful practice here could be to hang out in the more introspective energy and notice what comes up for you.
Learn what you need to learn, change what you need to change, and make some decisions about what you would like to ‘harvest’ in your next cycle. Often the changes that need to be made rear their heads in the form of frustrations, annoyances, anger flare-ups, sensitivity and strong emotions. These kinds of feelings are often a good sign that something is trying to reveal itself to you. Take note of any of these emotions, and use a cycle chart to note down what comes up for you! There can be real gems hiding in dark places, and this time of year with Mabon, and the dark moon in a couple of days is a perfect time to uncover them.
Menstrual cycle tracking charts such as the one downloadable for free on Woman’s Wheel, or with Eco Femme’s ‘make your own cloth pad’ kits are a really wonderful way to raise self-awareness of your inner cycle.
It is possible to track several different aspects of the cycle, for example body tracking, emotional tracking, dream tracking, and moon charting (or all at once!) giving you the opportunity to ‘observe’ yourself each day; an invaluable observation practice that can give you clues about where your areas of difficulty lie.
Charting the cycle can be done by any menstruating woman, or even by women who have already made the transition into Menopause. It can be done as a mindfulness exercise. Mindfulness is defined as the ‘quality or state of being conscious or aware of something’. Or ‘as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations’.
The idea with menstrual cycle tracking is that each day you note down any general underlying emotional feelings, physical states like symptoms or body temperature (for natural fertility purposes), any really ‘big’ dreams, where the moon is in her cycle etc.
You can choose whether to write a few quick words or a longer description – the ‘how’ is completely up to you. The chart is circular and split into slices (like a giant pie!) with Day 1, Day 2 etc. listed around the edge and a space for the date so you can keep track easier.
Day 1 is the first day of full bleeding, so on that day you start a new blank chart and fill in the ‘Day 1’ segment with whatever’s going on for you. Sometimes I note just a few words, or I cram it full of tiny writing. Other times I have to continue on the back of the sheet because there is so much I feel is important to note.
If you can start to consider the menstrual cycle as something valuable (which I understand depends on your relationship with your body and your personal circumstances) you will automatically bring your cycle into awareness. Bringing something into awareness gives it energy, which then brings with it the potential for understanding and transformation.
The practice of recording the underlying emotion daily develops your ability to understand how you are feeling in the moment, explaining why and how you may react differently to the same scenario from day to day, and most importantly what you need. For example how many times have you done or said things in a fit of anger and then realised you were pre-menstrual and it was too late to take the words back? Ponder this one too; have you ever made any mistakes just because you were at the most sensual sexy ovulatory time of the month? We talk of these things often at our monthly Red Tent gathering and conclude that categorically YES! We made most of our ‘mistakes’ during those potent times.
But why didn’t anyone tell us to be aware of these fluctuations in our body rhythms? I believe that if mothers grandmothers and aunties have an awareness of the many changes throughout the cycle, then they can help guide younger women. Even if it is just the basics, hopefully it will help them to make the most healthy and appropriate choices in their lives.
The very act of cycle charting is self-affirming. Your cycle is your friend, an innate part of you, and will guide you through the menstruating portion of your life, over and over again. It brings with it a certain consistency (albeit in a seemingly inconsistent way) with the patterns that start to become evident in your changing ego qualities, energy levels, and emotions. This will allow you to understand and care for yourself better all round the cycle.
Like day and night (or the seasons of the year) the cycle as a whole is a balance of light and dark with shadowy bits in-between making a complete circle. We all know and love the happy times in our cycle – the clarity and ability to be able to cope with everything really well. But how about those times we are crushed and defeated and low? The pre-menstrual and menstrual times are phases that have been resented by so many people (women included) for many years and still ARE to a greater extent.
Both the ‘scary’ woman who is the archetypal pre-menstrual character with her ‘out of character’ and sometimes ‘out of control’ behavior, and the menstrual women who has often been feared and isolated by society for her heightened sensitivity and power, both have their valuable place in our cycles. The sooner society accepts that, the better!
As for me personally, I wasn’t aware of any relationship between how I related to the world and the pattern of my cycle when I was a teenager. Things just felt pretty chaotic in general; my emotional maturity wasn’t so great! In my twenties I was aware of very distinct changes throughout the cycle, especially pre-menstrually (when I got really angry with my colleagues). I was working as the only woman in my company ‘out on site’ in a very male industry. I’d have these foggy times where I was completely unable to manage the team properly or make decisions, but felt overly sensitive and powerless to know how to handle it, and so I rejected the cycle as being anything other than big trouble!
Now, thanks to the work I have done and the mentors I have had (thanks Alexandra and Sjanie!) I am living with my cycle not against it, and it feels much more in keeping with me in a much deeper sense. I usually find that my cycle follows a general pattern of highs and lows, change and stillness, ups and downs and often there are many days that don’t ‘fit’ this pattern, but that’s OK because it isn’t a hard and fast rule.
I don’t give myself a hard time any more, and I love being so nicely attuned to my physicality and in the habit of noticing how I feel.
I think the main misconception with the very action of repeatedly charting your cycle is that people think you are trying and force your cycle into a pattern. It’s not about defining your pattern and trying to force yourself to stick to it “I must feel good today” or “What’s wrong with me? I’m supposed to feel terrible but I woke up smiling!” It is about being mindful of the nuances within your cycle, noticing small changes, but not allowing them to become a rule or how you should ‘be’.
It all became easier for me to understand when I accepted that women naturally are change; just as the river flows towards the ocean, down glistening waterfalls into dark sinkholes, compressed between rocks, emerging at springs and wells, and providing nourishment and life to so many on her journey. But also like the river she depends on the goodness of the environment that is feeding her. She will never ever be the same from day to day, and that is how it is.
Charting your menstrual cycle helps you to embrace that change and embrace yourself in the process. So, happy charting women, and leave any comments below about how you find the experience!
On Saturday afternoon the women of Red Tent Gwynedd (a monthly public woman’s gathering centred around women’s empowerment, honouring menstruation and the environment in Wales UK) gathered for their very first ‘Eco Femme make your own pad’ stitching workshop.
Before the event the women took some time to read a little about the kits, the pad for pad scheme, and making re-usable pads in the larger context of the environment. One woman wrote “I am already feeling connected to other women just thinking about such an important step in creating this circle of pads.” I felt exactly same; the feeling of unity and harmony in knowing that similar groups and workshops are taking place all over the world.
As we gathered around in our sewing circle and opened up the kits, I noticed that every woman was smiling as she commented on the fabrics and the colours, the cycle chart, and the clarity of the instructions. For a while we took our time familiarizing ourselves with all the bits and then we started to create, joking that we would ‘stitch ‘til we drop’.
It was a lovely peaceful afternoon and we spoke of many things; inevitably we discussed the impact of disposable pads on the environment, and that by using cloth pads women (collectively) could cut down on millions of tons of needless waste. We felt very aware that the ‘birthing’ of the new pad in our hands represented at least 75 disposable pads (probably many more) from being used and discarded.
We touched on whether cloth pad sewing workshops could work as part of the curriculum for UK secondary school girls (why not?), and wondered how the modern young woman at menarche age really feels about her menstruation ‘these days’. Whether she would happily carry clean or used cloth pads in her school bag (cloth pads look very different from plastic ones and can be ‘disguised’ a lot easier in pretty pouches) or if she would be embarrassed like we used to be at school. The thought of our young women still feeling awkward about ‘being found out’ made us feel more determined than ever to spread the positive word!
Talking about our own school days made us recall and share stories of our own experiences of menstruation as a young woman, some positive and some negative. Sewing together as a group brought back all sorts of long forgotten memories of our own home economics and sewing classes, which we had fun sharing.
We also spoke of how we wished we could had been given cloth pads by our mothers. And that if good quality reliable cloth pads had been invented sooner our mothers could have used them too. So many generations already have passed with the pollution of plastic disposables taking 500-800 years to break down in landfill sites all round the world.
There was also silence for a while; with each woman quietly absorbed in her own activity. I reflected on this too, about how natural it felt for us women to sit together and take part in communal activities, exchanging information and tips, working together naturally and effortlessly. Exactly what I saw so often on my travels to different countries, with crinkly old bright-eyed women sitting on the ground, chatting laughing and cooking together around a fire. Sadly in our culture we are often isolated, with no circle of women to sit in at all.
Having this special pad workshop allowed us to set aside quality time and space deserving of this important activity, and made it really fun too. One pad took about 2 hours to stitch, including time to figure out the instructions and make some cups of tea. Everyone commented how great it was to be able to see inside the pad and feel the fabrics, and to see just how many cotton layers make up the pad. We chatted about general care instructions for cloth pads, the simple washing process (soak them rinse them then add them to the wash with your underwear), and how best to dry pads in our cooler rainier climate, where strong gusts of wind and warm fires make drying fairly easy.
This workshop also helped us to gain a new appreciation of the skill of the women tailors working from the Auroville Village Action Group campus, who produce the pads for Eco Femme! Some of our pads ended up a bit wonky, untidy, and a little uneven but despite some comical shapes and cries of “I’ve lost my wings” or “Which way round do the poppers go?” we still all produced functional cloth pads. Sewing our own pad was in some ways more meaningful than buying one, which happens when we create anything for ourselves. We all decided to love our newly stitched pad for all its imperfections.
What I was touched by was the enthusiasm for the sewing – women wanted to create nappies next, then breast pads, then pads of different sizes. It also turned out that the women were not just sewing for themselves but wishing to share the pads with their loved ones. One women was sewing for her niece, one for her friend, and another was sewing quickly so as to finish the whole set of three for herself ready for her menstruation in a few days!
For me, I just love that the pads are so pretty, and that the process was really enjoyable. The fact that I have sewn them with my own hands makes me look forward even more to using them each month, and that even in using the pads I have a connection with all the other women who have made them too, and who use cloth instead of plastic.
So today, as I write about the event, I feel enormously privileged to be a part of the movement towards re-usables; spreading the word about this positive action to my sisters, contributing in a physical sense by making a pad that will save dozens of plastic ones from being thrown away into our Earth. I would definitely love to run another pad stitching session again in the future, because in doing so it somehow feels as though the world is waking up, one pad at a time.
Awareness, understanding, knowledge and open frank discussion can all be catalysts for amazingly positive change. One of my personal passions is to speak about a source of pollution that we don’t often talk or think much about. An environmental/ ecological issue that is escalating all over the globe and will continue to do so unless we care enough and do something proactive about it. The issue is menstrual waste, namely the disposal of non-biodegradable sanitary towels and tampons.
Do you ever think about the pollution associated with disposable menstrual products? What happens to the used pad or tampon? Up until a few years ago I didn’t. In places around the world that have under-developed waste management systems you just see used pads lying on the road, like the photo above taken in the Himalayas of India. And sadly this will only get worse the more women who are ‘converted’ to plastic disposables by government incentives sponsored by giant pad making companies.
Closer to home, I always recycled glass, plastic and paper, but somehow I didn’t relate to menstrual disposables in the same way. I felt dis-empowered; I realised these products and their wrappers were made of plastic but there was nothing I could do with them. I didn’t know the alternatives, so I carried on throwing them away.
I’m sure we have all felt like this at some point. We know that media and big brand ad campaigns like the current ‘Help keep your period out of sight’ slogan directly influence our society and our thoughts. But what kind of message are these companies sending out? And why? Despite being such a normal healthy and natural process, menstruation is a taboo subject. Fortunately though, more and more people are becoming to understand that menstruation is an inbuilt natural time for reflection and renewal. It’s often HONOURED by ceremonies and celebrations in other cultures.
There are nearly nearly 3.6 billion women in the world, so the scale of this environmental problem is huge. If every woman in India alone had access to disposables they would collectively need 58,500 million pads per year. Staggering beyond comprehension considering how much plastic is used in just one. An average US woman throws away 16800 disposable pads and tampons in her life-time. In the UK 200,000 tons of menstrual waste is generated annually which is either incinerated, buried in a landfill site or flushed into the sewerage system. The average disposable pad contains 5 carrier bags worth of plastic, a myriad of chemicals, and takes 500-800 years to decompose in a landfill, and never truly breaks down in the sea.
Tampons, applicators and panty liner waste makes up 7.3% of items flushed down the toilet and in 2010 the Beachwatch survey weekend found an average of 22.5 towels/backing strips/pantyliners and 8.9 tampon applicators per kilometer of beach. More than half of sewer flooding can be attributed to such waste that is flushed away, even if it is described as biodegradable on the packaging. Incinerated waste causes toxins to be released into the air, and buried waste poisons the ground and can be dug up by animals risking the spread of disease.
And then there’s the impact of these products on our health too. Disposable pads are said to contain a combination of plastic based materials such as polythene, polypropylene and polyacrylate super absorbent gel, surfactants, and chlorine-bleached wood pulp as well as the occasional fragrance preserved with parabens. Tampons are commonly made from chlorine bleached, highly absorbent rayon or a combination of conventionally grown cotton and rayon. The chlorine bleaching process produces an unwanted by-product called dioxin – a substance linked to cancer, endometriosis, low sperm counts and immune system suppression.
So what are the alternatives to disposables? Many companies are out there selling ‘washable cloth pads’ and ‘menstrual cups’. Just search on Google and you will be able to choose from a wide range of wonderful good quality products. I had the privilege to volunteer for an organization called ‘Eco Femme’ www.ecofemme.org earlier this year, and was really impressed with the quality of their pad range and amount of charity work they do in India. There the problem of menstrual waste is escalating, the systems can’t cope, and socially the women are confronted with huge taboos around menstruation often leading to young girls missing school each month and women getting diseases due to lack of adequate sanitary protection. Eco Femme’s charity ‘pad for pad’ scheme means that every time they receive an international order for a pad, they ‘gift a pad’ to a disadvantaged girl in rural India with a 45 minute educational session, covering things like anatomy, taboos, and pad care instructions. Also the pads are all stitched by women from rural Indian villages who are part of the local ‘self-help’ action groups.
So what are cloth pads like? The soft cotton finish is comfortable and feels like underwear; they are as effective as disposables, often the same shape as disposables, easy to wash – after soaking for half an hour in water they can be put in the washing machine along with your clothes. They come in a range of sizes from the panty-liner (that can be worn with a menstrual cup) to a night pad size, and they are free from harmful chemicals.
It was during my time volunteering that I made the decision to speak out to other women for the environment. I consider myself very lucky to be in a position to talk about the alternatives to disposable products. I’m not judging women for their decisions, and I don’t want to push people far out of their comfort zone. My dream is to raise environmental awareness around this issue so that women and their daughters feel empowered to act and make changes – to understand that they have a choice and a say in improving their own health, and subsequently to make a better world.
For more on eco-activism and menstrual activism click here
Menarche is perhaps one of the most significant and powerful stages in the life of a woman. The word ‘Menarche’ pronounced men’ar’key comes from the Greek words ‘Moon’ and ‘Beginning’. At menarche there is a psychic opening (the pineal gland undergoes much activity) and these changes often make the young woman feel permeable and easily imprinted, vulnerable, unsure. I can certainly vouch for that from my own experience of Menarche.
“At Menarche a girl is opened to her spiritual and creative powers but is ignorant of what is occurring” Alexandra Pope.
According to pretty much everything I have read on this topic so far, I have seen that Menarche was once a respected and celebrated event by many of the world’s cultures – rituals were held to mark the importance such as green-tea celebrations in China, Moon Lodges in Native America, body painting in Aboriginal Australia, feasts in India with gold jewellery given to the girl.
Unfortunately these rituals seem to have gone awry over time, and instead of joy and celebration many young women are faced with heavy negative cultural taboos about menstruation – ranging from preventing them to go anywhere near the livestock, touching food, even touching men or any of their possessions in case they brought bad luck!
In ‘modern’ Western society menstruating women are seen as less productive and emotional and as a disadvantage to the workforce in general due to their ‘unreliability’. Menstruation does not fit in with the general industrialised work ethic of the West – but does that real make a natural bodily process wrong?! Of course Not!
So this is what our young women are up against when it comes to the bigger picture and societal beliefs. Women, we’ve got a lot of work to do!
The Importance of Menarche and of our role
“The importance of Menarche experience affects her experience of menstruation each month / how her life might play out. Approaching it as a powerful and sacred moment can ensure this is beneficial and empowering” Alexandra Pope.
This is big stuff. So we discussed it at our Red Tent Gathering – a place for important things to be spoken about.
It became clear to all of us that the pivotal role model needs to be the mother – as a mother we need to first address these issues in ourselves, and then let this positive attitude shine and radiate from us to our families. If this happens right from the start when the children are young, they will grow up with the understanding that these processes are normal and natural healthy and positive. Things you can do like openly changing sanitary towels in front of your children if they happen come into the bathroom at that time, washing out your cloth pads so they can see the blood (and not be afraid of it or squeamish), talking about your needs in terms of your menstrual cycle (when the child is old enough to understand that childhood is linear and womanhood is cyclic), maybe describing the cycle itself using nature as an example – like the moon and the earth and even the cycles of time itself!
What did become really apparent in our discussion, is that this is one of the ONLY things left that we as mothers aunties or friends can TEACH our daughters and our sons about! With the internet taking such a huge role in our lives, and school education rarely speaking of anything other than the biological processes and promoting large disposable sanitary companies … It is essential that we tell our story, share our own personal experiences and be open with our children. This way, these concepts are not alien to the young woman, and there is less to learn all in one go. Miranda Gray put it wonderfully, describing the need to “awaken the idea and experience of womanhood in her” so that the whole experience becomes as empowering as possible.
I don’t know about you, but my menarche came and went and overall felt pretty ‘icky’. It was plain embarrassing and I was not happy about changing into a woman at all. Being the younger daughter and the tomboy joker of the family the whole idea of even just wearing a bra alienated me (I am still so thankful for my sister helping me so much with everything)!
So how do we help our young women with these natural feelings of embarrassment, of not wanting to change? Again it comes back to us as women, our reaction to our bodies and to her special moment, and the upbringing she has had since she was small. It’s not about overwhelming her but gently showing her that she is changing and we are changing in our attitude to her as a response – that we are letting her child-self go. I think the main thing here is for a long term approach, long term support – so that the young woman is allowed time to learn about what being a woman means. If you are a keen menstrual cycle charter like me you know that even no two cycles are exactly the same (although the general pattern is the same). These concepts are complex, and in order to pass them on much sustained support and gentle guidance is needed.
Before she reaches menarche talk to your daughter explaining menstruation both in physical and emotional terms so that the girl has some idea of the gifts of womanhood and cycles of moon/nature/woman. Depending on the emotional capacity of the young woman it may be a good idea to use characters or story for this, for example the story of Demeter and Persephone, where Persephone eats the fruits of the tree of life (representing menstruation) down in the Underworld and must therefore live half of the year with the Lord of the Underworld, and half of the year in the light with her mother Demeter. The mother/child bond is broken because they cannot be together all the time, and menstruation is the point where the cyclical nature of womanhood begins.
There is also a wonderful children’s book called ‘Cycling to Grandma’s House’ by Jac Torres-Gomez which I would really recommend, as it really presents menarche in such a special mysterious magical and almost exciting way. The ladies of the Red Tent loved the story too (and all commented that they wished the world was more like that kind of naive world portrayed in the story)! I think this book could be given to the girl to read as a preparatory ‘tool’ (maybe when she is showing signs of approaching menarche (i.e. when emotional changes are occurring, breast buds are growing etc).
Also in this preparatory time it may be worth sitting down with your daughter and asking her some of these questions (borrowed from Miranda Grey’s book Red Moon) about what she would like on the special day: Would she prefer it if it was just you and her? Outside in one of her favourite places or in her bedroom? Would she like any special objects with her, like her roller-boots or favourite bracelet(?!), would she be happier in her normal clothes or dressing up in a costume? Is there something physical she would like when the time comes like a haircut or having her ears pierced?
So how can we celebrate this in a socially appropriate manner?
If you are both happy to mark the occasion in some way, have a think about what you want her to feel and try to make those feelings arise in her – it may be taking her out to dinner, writing her a letter or card, giving her a ‘Red Box’ (Home-made of course!) with some of the following inside: a ‘moon’ journal for writing her feelings down, a simple menstrual cycle chart, some new bath towels (maybe red ones?), a piece of jewellery, cloth pads. It could be giving her flowers, a cake… Whatever will make her feel special and honour this rite of passage. The main thing is to communicate and discuss with your daughter by asking her questions about what she wants (such as those above). The women at the Red Tent loved the idea of having a special piece of jewellery ready to give the girl and showing it to her before she reaches her Menarche. This could be a perfect opportunity to explain what will happen when she reaches this special rite of passage.
On the Day…
This of course very much depends on the girl, but my friend Marisa from Canada gave me these suggestions which I LOVED –
- Girls and women could have a red party with not only red cake but red foods (e.g. strawberries or maybe even a bit of chocolate to represent the Goddess)
- The girl or girls taking part could get hand massages with beautiful essential oils, or have a flower wreath made and put in her hair.
- She can sit in the middle of the circle and older women in her life can give her advice, each woman coming to the party can bring a bead and then when they are all together they can string the beads together into a bracelet that represents all the strength and support of all the women in her life.
A lovely idea from a book called Moon Time by Lucy H Pearce was for you (as the mother) to sit down with her on her special day and quietly reflect on and share your memories of your first period. Even, and gently, discussing your own fears as a way of reassuring her. Also, your memories of being a teenager, your pregnancy and birth, your hopes and wishes for her in her life, acknowledge her growing beauty power and spirit, acknowledge the letting go of her as your little girl and embracing her as a young woman forging her own life.
A question that came up during the Red Tent was ‘should we tell our daughters if our experience was bad in case we frighten them?’ The answer that came was that even if our Menarche experience wasn’t as positive as we would like, to find a positive in our own story.
Encourage her to diarise her dreams… “in Native American tradition it is said that the vision for the girl’s life comes in dreams around her first menstruation” Alexandra Pope
The discussion at the Red Tent emphasised the value of continued support and teaching our daughters about the powers of the pre-menstrual phase of our cycle. How many of us have made massive mistakes during this time of our cycle – said things we didn’t mean, did things we didn’t want to do, hurt other people… And what of the relationship between alcohol and the pre-menstruum!!? Why did no-one tell me that I could get overly sensitive? And about diet too – why it is better to try and eat leafy green vegetables during pre-menstruum rather than high sugar food like sweets or chocolate (even if I am craving them) and drink less caffeine even though I want that! And the equally powerful pull of the ovulatory phase… sexual desires and feelings linked purely to our menstrual cycles.. How could these be omitted from the general education system!!! Lets tell our girls!
And lets not forget about our boys – the fathers of the future! It is equally important that they are included in the experience of a women’s menstrual cycle from a young age too, so that one day they may recall a dim and distant memory of their mother’s attitude to the menstrual cycle and this will cultivate healthy relationships in their futures. As one of our Red Tent women said ‘their girlfriends will thank me in the end!’
Finally, it is worth remembering that all of us are different and unique and there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ answer to the process of helping our daughters on this transition. Some of the ideas listed above just might not fit in with the personality of you or your daughter, and that is fine. The main thing is that somehow a healthy attitude towards menstruation and becoming a woman is passed down to the next generation, who can then pass down positivity to their families to come. And that collectively we end this ridiculous taboo and restore a bit of balance to our societies!
A Big thank you to the Ladies of the Red Tent in Gwynedd, North Wales – what a wonderful and productive discussion! And thank you to Alexandra Pope for her inspiring words, Miranda Gray for her ideas in Red Moon, and Lucy H Pearce for her ideas in Moon Time.
For more about menarche and loads other feminine topics, head over to woman’s wheel by clicking here
I have been staring at the screen for a good 10 minutes, wondering how on earth I am going to be able to a mange to write an article about the beauty of menstruation (whilst in the deeply sensitive state of menstruation), until this voice in my head said – “Go on, just start writing – it doesn’t matter what you write because you can always edit it”!! So I did!
It is like all logic has left the building today….. Today is ‘Day 1’ of my cycle, the first day of bleeding and I feel sore and bruised both physically and emotionally. I’ve cultivated quite a negative attitude about anything and everything imaginable, sat distant contemplating life while staring at a wall, slouched round the house in my comfy leggings and an ill-fitting vest top, and been irritated and impatient, because with the dull pain everything today is hard.
I am in the early hours of the bleeding phase and I feel like I am falling somehow. The familiar way by which I perceive my surroundings and life has dropped away too. Life is all going along as normal, yet it is not. This ‘altered state’ has occurred in my life a few of other times before, sometimes at fairly ‘big’ moments – while being ill, on hearing of the death of my nan, whilst falling off my bike (where the seconds feel like hours), and upon waking from particularly vivid dreams… Life’s normal yet somehow intangibly, it isn’t.
What I have learned (and I want to pass on to you) is that there is nothing wrong with being in this state during menstruation, it is as normal and natural as the flowers the trees and the stars. And when you think about it – WOW – Just WOW. Our bodies are fascinating and intricate and wonderful and amazing to undergo such a process. The delicate balance of hormones rising and falling, all designed in the most complex way (that only Mother Nature could ever dream or imagine), ultimately allowing women to create and nurture new life inside their bodies (Women were once worshiped because of this gift). And with the gift of possibility and growth also comes this gift of menstruation – of a temporary death.
Women aren’t meant to be/feel the same every day – in fact nobody is. But menstruating women are cyclic beings and we are cradled by our own comfortable and reassuring monthly pattern. Menstruation is just a small part of the bigger cycle (of the bigger cycle of the bigger cycle). We just notice it more because it can’t be ignored. And I cannot ignore my womb today – the dull aches are pretty intense and it feels heavy like a big weight. In a way I like the cramps and the heaviness. I get to be reminded each month exactly where in my body my wonderful womb lies, the muscles are contracting, working, my body is functioning! And I am not consciously doing any of it… it has got to be worth asking ‘How.” How did any of this happen? Life? WOW.
What is crystal clear for me (behind my temporary brain fog) is that in my life I want to spread the positive word about Menstruation. Why? Because menstruation is a difficult time for many women – cramping, nausea, aches, bloating, spots, tiredness, anxiety, fogginess, memory loss, drifting off, feeling low, numb, raw. Then there’s the job to do, the children to look after, the busy every day life. And I want to help women cope with all of that and enjoy the whole ride! Women are generally expected to think be and act exactly the same as any other time of the month by society in general (but more specifically their bosses, families, partners etc). This expectation and pressure is what makes women fight the natural impulses and keep on pushing – when really what the body is asking for is to be allowed to slow down and be listened to. Ultimately the problem is that our society in no way supports this particular state.
It’s not just our society either. In Afganistan women who are menstruating have to sleep separately from the rest of the family. When women have their periods in Kenya they are not allowed into the goats den, walk near the livestock, or eat certain foods. In India women who are menstruating are not allowed to touch cows because there is a belief that it will make the cow infertile. There are myths that women who are menstruating make the pickles go sour! All kinds of crazy things that are born of societies gone mad – instead of supporting the woman in giving her well-earned rest during hear menstruation, she is alienated from her society, ostracised, made to feel unclean or second best. This kind of thing always gets me firing with premenstrual anger….!
Even though I have felt low and down today, I am still really grateful that I don’t have to face those kinds of obstacles, and I am privileged enough to live in a society where I can host a ‘Red Tent’ have access to the loveliest of cloth pads, amazing books, and be empowered enough to create the time for myself each month to really sit down and get to know myself during menstrual times. Because of this I know that this time of the month has much to offer. So here are some menstruation positives…
Self-Evaluation Opportunity: Because I am sensitive today I have been much more emotionally aware of my own faults and personality traits at times I have reacted ‘badly’ to things today. Journalling about these moments can be a gentle self-enquiry that will make me a better person for next time! Such insights are really an invaluable way to learn about the personality/way of thinking/conditioning. All very juicy stuff to explore and deepen into oneself, and of course to know and love oneself. Also the heightened sense of self means the potential for better communication with the people that you love!
Pampering Opportunity: Menstruation is a chance to have that lovely warm bath in the day-time, and to do all the little things we maybe normally don’t prioritise the rest of the month because of time. Make yourself some ‘me’ time even if you are a busy mum and it is just 15 minutes. In the Native American tradition they had a Moon Lodge – a place where all the women gathered during their bleeding time. In this moon lodge the women cared for each other and brushed each other’s hair, they told stories and and sang to each other… ahhh bliss!
Resting Opportunity: Menstruation is a great excuse to sit in PJ’s and dressing gown with a hot water bottle and a nourishing audio book (I recommend Clarissa Pinkola Estes), either on the settee or in bed. Why Not! Rest is essential during menstruation as the body’s vital energy is at it’s lowest. Napping, dreaming, meditating, breathing exercises will all help soothe and restore your body ready for the next month of activity. And putting the to-do list away…And asking your partner or family to help out with chores etc…
Feeling of Connection: Personally menstruation also gives me a feeling of connection to other women. We all go through this process, we are (I think) blessed and lucky to have this monthly cycle so that we can deepen into ourselves with every turn of the ‘wheel’.
The last ‘menstruation positive’ for now (before I go for a snooze) is that the slowness of my mind during menstruation allows for a really mindful approach to day-to-day activities. And with mindfulness practice comes along gratitude. Menstruation for me gives me so many feel-good moments. I can be sitting there and it feels like my feet are roots and there are stars in my hair! I am that plugged in and grateful for every atom or molecule or millisecond that brought me here to this exact moment. It is a beautiful feeling that I don’t get in the same intensity at any other time of the month!
So lovely women, I am going now, but as a last word on Menstruation, please take care of your heightened sensitive state and be gentle with yourself. It does matter what you expose yourself to during this time, try to nourish your mind and body with good healthy food and healthy movies or audiobooks and avoid situations which you normally find hard to cope with. Take some time to appreciate life, your wonderful body and it’s magical processes. Menstruation is beautiful.
For more nourishing information, head over to woman’s wheel by clicking here
It was through two wonderfully knowledgeable women, in the dark folds of the Red Tent, that the gift of the mystical story of our local and incredibly powerful Celtic Moon Mother Goddess Arianrhod was unfolded to me for the first time.
The name Arianrhod (ah-ree-AHN-rhohd), is from arian, meaning ‘silver’ and rhod meaning ‘wheel’ or ‘disc’. She is the Welsh moon and star Goddess. The ‘Silver wheel that descends into the sea’ may represent the moon or circumpolar stars, to which souls withdraw between incarnations. She is often identified as the Goddess of reincarnation. The silver wheel is also likened to ‘a cylinder through which deities, gods goddesses and ancestors become accessible; like a silver bridge into the void’.
She is the Daughter of the Mother Goddess Don. She is also ruler of Caer Sidi, a magical realm in the North. She was worshiped as priestess of the moon (the archetypical female symbol) coming down in her pale chariot to watch over her tides. Representing the Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess in Wales, her palace was Caer Arianrhod, or the secret center of one’s spiritual being, where at low tides, horses ‘dart and play on the surf’.
She also carried the dead on her Oar Wheel to Emania, the Moon-land or land of death; she represented the archetypal cycle of womb, death, rebirth, and creation. Ancient astrologers took their observations from the position of the moon and its progress in relation to the stars – the starry wheel of Arianrhod. Albion, the old name of Britain, meant ‘White Moon’. The Celts “know well the way of seas and stars”, and counted time not by days, but by nights, and made their calendars, not by the sun, but by the moon.
Arianrhod is said to be able to shape-shift into a large Owl, and through the great Owl-eyes, sees even into the darkness of the human subconscious and soul. The Owl symbolises death and renewal, wisdom, moon magic, and initiations. She is said to move with strength and purpose through the night, her wings of comfort and healing spread to give solace to those who seek her.
Her Festival is on 2nd December, and she is also honoured at the Full Moon.
One of many stories of Arianrhod forms part of the Mabinogion, a collection of 11 ancient pre-Christian Welsh myths, some dating as far back as the Iron Age.
This story tells of Goddess Arianrhod, daughter of a Goddess, and niece to the Math the King of Gwynedd.
King Math, was compelled by a taboo to keep his feet in the lap of a virgin whenever he was not actively engaged in battle. After his first ‘footholder’, Goewin, was seduced by Arianrhod’s brother, Math asked Arianrhod to take her place. She is forced to step over a magician’s rod to prove her virginity. As she does so, she immediately gives birth to two sons; one called Dylan, the other who is eventually named Lleu who is taken away to live with Arianrhod’s brother and raised in a magic forest.
Arianrhod is enraged at the humiliating virginity test she endured at the court of her Uncle, and directs the anger she has for the Masculine towards her one remaining son.
She places three curses over Lleu during his life: He shall have no name except one she gives him. He shall bear no arms except ones she gives him. He shall have no wife of the race that is now on the earth. These deny him the three ancient aspects of masculinity.
Her brother cleverly manages to trick her each time, dispelling all of her curses, and eventually creating Lleu a bride, Blodeuwedd, out of Oak blossom, broom and meadowsweet. Arianrhod retreated to her castle Caer Arianrhod. Here she later drowned when the sea reclaimed the land.
The sunken ruins of the island on which she dwelled, Caer Arianrhod is to be found off the coast near to the pre-historic mound of Dinas Dinelle, in North Wales. On a low spring tide this ancient relic can sometimes be viewed from the shore. I can see this exact spot of coastline from my bedroom window, and now the incredible view has taken on a new meaning as I inwardly reflect on, and celebrate the Goddess of the Silver Wheel.
Once, Caer Arianrhod would have been on dry land and forested, according to ancient sea level studies. There is lots archaeological evidence to suggest that humans occupied the area from as early as the Neolithic period, though to take a boat to the island it would have been more likely to be Bronze age times, when the sea levels rose slightly. There are recorded stories about women living on Anglesey who, upon looking into the waters saw a town that had been flooded by sea, and who’s walls could still be seen at low water. One local blogger reported sightings of the Island in April of this year.
Hymn to Arianrhod
Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel
By all the names men give thee –
We, thy hidden children, humbly kneel
Thy truth to hear, thy countenance to see.
Here in the circle cast upon the Earth
Yet open to the stars – unseen, yet real –
Within our hearts give understanding birth,
Our wounds of loss and loneliness to heal.
Isis unveiled and Isis veiled, thou art;
The Earth below our feet, the Moon on high.
In thee these two shall never be apart –
The magick of the Earth and Sky.
Thanks very much to all the incredible web sites there are out there which gave me inspiration and information, especially the white goddess who wrote the prayer and passages about the Owl and Celtic astrologers.
For more information about size and shape of reef click here.
Balls of tension hang motionless in mid-air
transformed into bright stars of an empty sky
I float free of this illusion and of me
the clock stops and I am a million worlds.
Awakened travelling, cycles of fate
endlessly interweaved spiralling paths
of souls somehow destined to re-unite
change the future and the past.
I dream, I feel, memories not mine.
Visions shimmer through the stillness
behind the veil of the world in my eyes.
Vague remnants of parallel time.
The skies are bright blue this sunny evening with only faint wispy clouds at the horizon. The golden sun will soon set over a perfectly calm and flat sea. The rise and fall of distant landscapes cast their shadows shapes and colours giving the impression of a comforting crumpled blanket.
The breeze this night brings with it a faint chill. I turn to notice that some of the foliage, once green and vibrant with fresh sap is browning, and that the garden is now lit by a different array of flowers. The cool sensation on my skin is a fleeting reminder of darker nights and crisp winds, as the earth shifts and turns on its yearly wheel.
As I slowly walk up through the rough grass to the stone circle and turn take a seat in the sun, my eyes are drawn to the sea. The lazy sounds of late Summer fill the air; the humming of bees, the rustling of tiny animals beneath the hay, birds calling on the wing and gathering together on the wires. A bright model aeroplane buzzes and swings and dives against the backdrop of blue. It is Summer still yet it is not. Something intangible has changed.
Traditionally the time for the first harvest, and the first of three Autumn celebrations the celebration of Lammas gives thanks to Mother Earth, the giver of life, for her bounty of crops. It is also time to start the journey inwards; giving gratitude for all that has been harvested by the soul; all that has been learned during the intense activity of Summer. The days still feel long but they are getting shorter, lazier, and slower.
For women this can be likened to the phase of the menstrual cycle after ovulation, where the high and creative natural energies of the inner Summer are starting to turn; much like a tide, or when a ball is thrown in the air when it’s not going up, and not yet falling. It is a natural stasis; a point to reflect and to understand that soon we will come face to face with our own shadow side as we descend within ourselves and move towards the pre-menstruum once more. Towards the place of inward reflection and contemplation, where we can review and discern, prune and crop our metaphorical harvest. As with the seasons of the year, this is natural, just the way it is meant to be.
Even though menstruating women have monthly reminders of this feeling it does not necessarily mean it is easy for us! What comes up for us as the ‘party ends’ can be difficult, as we are so heavily influenced pressure for perpetual growth in our culture, a physical outward state where women are so accepted by society. It can feel hard to let Summer go for many, and welcome the slow transition to Winter because it involves shedding off this shiny bright exterior and becoming more like a wild woman once more.
In spirit of focusing on the gratitude, and thanking the Earth Mother (and my body) my friends over on the Llyn Peninsula held a wonderful celebration to welcome Lammas at their land, Cae Non. The ceremonial ritual (which was beautiful) started by creating a bower made of stems of Willow representing the Feminine, Ash representing the Masculine, and Hazel representing Divine Wisdom. The bower was decorated with flowers, gifts to the Earth Mother from our garden, and items that represented our own personal harvest from this Summer. Then there was a big feast, and lots of tea, singing and laughter!
Personally I am at this stage in both my own inner cycle and in the seasonal cycle – believe me, this year I am feeling the transition powerfully. It has been such an affirming practice to spend a moment in ritual to thank the Summer and welcome the new, even if it is difficult to embrace a ‘darker’ phase. With different phases come different gifts too, keeping life in balance and celebrating all the parts of our inner selves and our outer earth seasons.
For more supportive stories and feminine sharing head over to woman’s wheel.
It has been a pleasure and delight to wear my thick gloves and walk along the local lanes hedgerows and our garden to pick nettles. Dark green vibrant beauties, tall, strong, fibrous and tough. Or to gather edible primrose flowers from the back garden in spring. Or elderflowers with their scented heads and beautiful tiny snowy flowers, that cover my fingers in yellow pollen and give me the gift of the joyous smell of early Summer. The dandelions are out in flower too. From the bathroom window I can see their bright heads, along with the golden buttercups dancing in the breeze in amongst the lush grass. One day out walking I discovered a huge clump of wild apple mint, with it’s furry soft leaves and fresh homely smell.
Hawthorn too is just starting to lose it’s pure white blossom petals to the wind (it has been a very late start for lots of plants here in Wales). This was the tree that was planted in olden days to protect the household from all ill and bad fortune. Said to be inhabited by faeries, the mystical Hawthorn tree (nicknamed by me as our ‘Crone Tree’) is a wise and very welcome member of our back garden. Ancient British folklore connects it with the fertile festival of Beltane, May day, and Goddess-centred worship practices by priestesses in sacred groves of Hawthorn planted in the round. Drinking an infusion of the blossoms and leaves of this tree, or an infusion of the berries, come Autumn, are good for the heart and circulation. The heart is a central theme of this tree of wondrous natural beauty, strong wood, and herbal medicine.
“The etheric signature of the Hawthorn appears to have a pulsation which is similar to that of the human heartbeat. Before taking Hawthorn, herbally or as a flower essence, it is a good idea to tune into your heartbeat for a few minutes, to help you consciously align with the energy of the Hawthorn. The Hawthorn will help release blocked energy, not only releasing stress, but creating an ability to trust and let go of fear. The energy of love is opened. For this reason, the Hawthorn is particularly potent as a tool for healing affairs of the heart and can be given as a token of friendship and love.” Glennie Kindred.
I have been cackling with joy and skipping down the lanes at every opportunity since discovering all the uses and healing properties of all these incredible plants… and we call them weeds – how terrible! Susun Weed, a wonderful author and herbalist has been excellent help and a huge source of inspiration to me as I have sat for hours reading her quirky books with delight and wonder, with the excited feeling that I am entering into a whole new secret world of vital ancient knowledge. Viva nourishing herbal infusions, herbal vinegars, and elderflower champagne!
The act of foraging, picking, de-insecting, rinsing, drying, labelling, and storing all bring out such a sense of child-like joy in me! I feel like it is something I was born to do; earthy and freeing, and a huge step towards the increasingly natural life I want to lead. It is even stirring old memories from my childhood, of picking up rose petals from the ground and making rose-water ‘perfume’ with my sister, the sweet smell of mum’s apple mint plant that used to dominate the garden and spread like wild fire every year, the intriguing mystical dark and shaded place at the bottom of the garden, where fairies were felt and stories of magic were told beneath the crab apple and plum tree.
Foraging, gathering, tending to, blessing and caring for the plants, fresh and natural, local and chemical free, is like some kind of living dream!! For more recipes like the primrose dandelion and sorrel salad, visit the beach house kitchen.
So many creative skills have been lost over the years. Picture your own Grandmother – even 30-50 years ago there was such a greater focus on mending, re-using, recycling materials in the home, and making gifts and trinkets for the house. Very little was thrown away back then, things were built to last, there was simply not so much waste.
I remember at the age of 8 making lavender bags with my Mum and Nan out of old cloth and dried lavender that we had harvested a few weeks before that just smelled wonderful.
If I really think about how many of my Nan’s skills I could have acquired but I didn’t – maybe I didn’t have the time, I wasn’t interested, I thought the skills were useless; sadly when I was at school the thought knitting was highly un-cool… Out of her wonderful depth of knowledge gained from her 97 years of life, my nan had many life skills such as knitting, darning, sewing, weaving, embroidery, how to re-use old fabrics and make clothes, gardening for flowers and vegetables, keeping chickens, DIY, cooking…. and probably so many more I never even knew about.
Nowadays we have this totally crazy culture ‘the throw-away society’ where we seem to be obsessed with consuming. Cheap, disposable, probably highly toxic mass-produced items are so commonplace. Acts such as consuming lifeless un-nourishing pre-packaged food, and trading in our car at only 3 years old have become normal as we lurch uncontrollably towards the latest accessory or fashion. Items have become status symbols; we seem no longer interested in home-made heirlooms due to their often low financial value.
Traditionally both the creation of handicrafts, and inheriting skills such as weaving, embroidery, calligraphy, pottery, quilting, papercraft, spinning, sewing, handicrafts were essential to that culture. Women would teach and practice their art with patience and dedication, learning many lessons along the way. Many of the crafts would be sacred and grew in value, so were placed under the care of a custodian. Often they would be passed down through the generations of the clan, becoming family heirlooms. Story-telling sessions in the community would keep the memory of the maker and their clan very much alive; so in this way the worth of the handicraft was very much in the spiritual and energetic connection with the maker. It is no wonder we feel no connection with the world if there is no story behind our factory-produced ornaments.
It has been found that the repetitive nature of such craft activities does actually calm and still the rational mind (in the same way that we use mantras during meditation). This would have also allowed the women access to light trance states and assist in connecting to their intuition; to receive visions and insights. Due to the cyclical nature of our seasons, these handicrafts would make up an essential part of the Winter months; a time known for inner work, reflection and solitude.
Bringing back the lost tradition of craft is essential if we are to escape from the material consumer-driven world that we are inevitably part of in the West.
My friend Shira in Canada has regular ‘crafter-noons’ with her female friends where they make things from driftwood, make cards, get together and have a chat. We were laughing about it the other day, coming up with other names like ‘crafter-nevenings’ or ‘crafter-lunches’.
Hope to see you on woman’s wheel soon! Click here 🙂
Drawing from nature
my roots twist deeper
Spiralling tips enter crystal caves
sucking at creation
drinking in the glory of the Earth Mother
My eyes are stones that glitter and shimmer
red womb the rose of the fertile plane
The mind is the sky lark
singing of new worlds
Heart shines, joy divine
Innate perfection in my boughs.
“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go…a place of women, to help you learn the ways of women… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself… waiting to be released… A place of women…” ~ Judith Duerk, Circle of stones.
“The world is changing, rapidly & women in particular are actively seeking ways to empower themselves & change their lives for the better. A tradition which has been missing for modern women & was once considered intrinsic to a woman’s experience is the omission of the Red Tent, a moon lodge gathering undertaken by women of all indigenous cultures to mark their monthly lunar cycle which was honoured accordingly as a time of rest, reflection & renewal.” ~ Tanishka.
“In response to an intuitive calling from the Earth Mother to seed Red Tent New Moon Circles in every suburb, town, state and country to reawaken the gifts and wisdom of the feminine to balance the planet.” ~ Operation Red Tent.
“What would the world be like if young women were mentored by older women? What would the world be like if we knew that we could have a place for our stories to be told?” ~ Red Tent Movie Trailer.
“In the ruddy shade of the red tent, the menstrual tent, they ran their fingers through my curls, repeating the escapades of their youths, the sagas of their childbirths. Their stories were like offerings of hope and strength poured out before the Queen of Heaven, only these gifts were not for any god or goddess – but for me.” ~ The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.
“I want to build a moon lodge, where old womyn braid my hair, brushing slowly, gently, the tangles of my life free, where there are no walls, only painted cloth, flowing, circling, blanketing me from the world.” ~ Jessica Todd.
“In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks — for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood.” ~ Anita Diamant, The Red Tent.
“In the native American tradition if you wanted to destroy a village you simply destroyed the Moon Lodge – the place where the woman gathered every new moon to intuit insight to govern the tribe. So it stands to reason that the fastest way to rebuild our global village is to re-instate the tradition of the Moon Lodge or Red Tent.” ~ Tanishka
For beautiful quotes from the women of my local tent, about how much the red tent means to them, or for top tips to set up your own, click here.
I have just finished my 9 month apprenticeship training with Alexandra Pope called ‘The Way of the Menstrual Cycle;’ a wonderful experience for me – not only a fascinating topic, but also it was the first time in my life I had experienced sitting in a circle, surrounded by a loving wise experienced and supportive group of just women, all sharing their truth. It was so refreshing and honest, frank, deep, funny, and grounding. I learnt so much.
Several of the women I met already hold Red Tent groups around Britain, and the conversation sparked something within me. I had read Anita Diamant’s book ‘The Red Tent’ a couple of years ago, and had dreamed of the possibility of this becoming a reality. And now I know I am not alone. There is now a world-wide Red Tent Movement, which aims to ‘‘seed Red Tent New Moon Circles in every suburb, town, state and country to reawaken the gifts and wisdom of the feminine.’ Even a film has been made about such gatherings of women, called ‘Red Tent Movie – Things we don’t talk about.’
I now feel SO inspired to do something to help my fellow sisters, that I am writing this with the intention to attract other women who share the same passion! I would love your comments about the Red Tent movement, your experiences of circles of women, or if you live in North Wales and would like to come to my new circle…please feel welcome come along.
Visit woman’s wheel for more advice and red tent information by clicking here.
Traditionally the Red Tent performed a number of functions, including: rite of passage instruction and ceremonies, teaching and sharing of healing methods, teaching and sharing of pampering and beauty treatments, meditation and healing for self and the greater community, sharing of recipes, child rearing tips and life experience, sharing of personal stories and parables for spiritual teaching, counselling and emotional support, lunar and seasonal sacred ceremonies, and teaching and sharing of crafts, to name but a few.
A modern day red tent usually involves a circle of like-minded women sharing with each other and allowing each woman to have some time to express herself. It might be enough for the rest of the circle just to listen to her, to witness her. Or it might be a discussion on spirituality, astrology, menstruation, health, some kind of support on her life journey, gentle motivation, setting an empowering intention, or simply a back-rub! It is really to create some special time to express her own needs; a gift that women rarely bestow upon themselves with the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Women can also contribute something to the circle – whether that be a song, a poem, a piece of art, an inspiring quote, reciting a dream or story, an insight into their last menstrual cycle, or just to have a discussion about ecological cleaning products or household tips! Occasionally one of the women may want to lead an activity, such as craft or an alternative therapy. Anything goes, but generally the red tent gathering just flows along beautifully with no rigid set pattern.
The following information has been copied directly from a free download available by visiting Tanishka’s website.
Why is the Red Tent held at New Moon?
‘New moon is the time of the month, 2 weeks after full moon when we tend to feel tired, inward & vulnerable. It’s when our insecurities & old wounds surface… our shadow self that we often try to hide from others. But if we don’t learn to accept & heal our shadow (like Peter Pan) we never grow up & so we end up with a society so afraid of aging we think it normal to carve ourselves up rather than be publicly seen as an elder.
It is for this reason women of all indigenous societies for thousands of years gathered together at his time to reflect upon their lives, offering emotional support & healing to one another rather than expect their partner to intuit & fulfill all their emotional needs. The new moon is also the time when most women experience their ‘moontime’ or ‘heavenly water’ as it was known in traditional Chinese medicine.
So this custom offered a time out to working women & mothers, enabling them to turn inwards & rest & replenish when their lunar tide was out each month & their life force at its lowest ebb. Another reason for this time honoured practice was that during one’s moontime (the most common time for women to menstruate) & generally at new moon, women are at their most psychically open. When they were considered to be, ‘closest to God’ as it’s the most inward time of the cycle, making it the ideal time to meditate on behalf of themselves, each other & for the greater good – channelling intuitive insights & guidance.’
The Cultural Cost of the Omission of The Red Tent
‘The Red Tent also helped to sustain healthy partnerships & marriages. Because just as our bodies are ruled by the moon, so too are our emotions. And just like the moon women are changeable & emotional beings. So when we experience the dark time of our emotional lunar cycle, it is best for the longevity of our relationships that we take sacred space from our partners & children so they don’t experience our destructive side when we are in the little death phase of our monthly mandala.
If we take this time to focus on our inner needs at this time we can return to our loved ones full of self love & nurturing so we have it to give to them the rest of the month without burning out. Without this cyclic acceptance of our need to give back to the self we end up with a Western epidemic of breast cancer in the ‘civilised world’ where women are culturally expected to nurture 24/7 without asking for anything in return. Just as we need to breathe in before breathing out, so too women need to take time & sustenance for themselves if we are to continue giving to others from a centred & full sense of self.
Similarly, by taking responsibility for our emotional well being through a monthly practice we lessen our need for emotional comfort through overeating, as the sacral energy center which resides in the abdomen is governed by the moon. When women don’t honour their emotional needs the result is gluttony, the vice of the sacral chakra.
So with the omission of Red Tents giving women a regular time to process their emotions we see eating disorders as common place, particularly amongst teenage girls. Other feminine health complaints such as menstrual disorders & depression are also often alleviated through this simple, cyclic practice.
For women raised in a Western (masculinized or yang) culture that had no understanding of ancient women’s traditions so dismissed them as old wives’ tales or feared them as the work of the devil, we can now see the physical cost of women who aren’t in touch with their feminine essence as infertility is now at an all time high in the West. New moon circles offer the most fundamental & practical way to attune women’s natural hormone cycles to the moon, regulating their endocrine system without the invasion of synthetic hormones.’
“I want to build a moon lodge
where old womyn braid my hair
brushing slowly, gently
the tangles of my life free
where there are no walls
only painted cloth
blanketing me from the world”
~ Jessica Todd
See how the red tent has grown! Visit woman’s wheel for more advice and red tent information by clicking here.
Wild Woman Soul
Lost in dreamland, a dismantled skeleton
alchemical abyss shrouded by the mundane
Her instincts ripe from the depths of souls nature,
She clamours for the fragrance of silent mountain air.
Clawing at the earth, squatting, the initiated Warrior,
Burning and potent, robust, wide eyed.
Singing for soul and for blood and for babies,
Roughshod and free, the wild woman soul.
In Buddhist teaching the symbol for compassion is one moon shining in the sky. The moon does not demand “If you open to me I will do you a favour and shine on you.” The moon just shines. The point is not to want to benefit anyone or make them happy. There is no audience involved, no “me” and “them.” It is a matter of an open gift, complete generosity without the relative notions of giving and receiving. -Chogyham Trungpa Rinpoche.
Here is a little something I want to share with you – a secret kindness practice that I heard about one day. It can be done anywhere; any time you see suffering, sadness, or confusion. It is based on the beautiful thought that we can always send out goodness kindness and loving energy, and that compassion towards others really has a positive effect on them, and on the whole world. First, sit quietly in a peaceful place where you know you will not be disturbed, and close your eyes. Imagine that there is a beautiful still lake in your heart. It can be golden, misty, hazy, there may be mountains surrounding it, stars, the moon reflecting over the glassy surface, but it is completely still and peaceful and safe and just so so beautiful. You are now connected with this everlasting lake of healing and cleansing, and it is here that you will visit when you want to practice loving kindness.
When you next see pain; whether it be family, friends, work colleagues, it could be a stranger on the train; calmly observe the situation you are witnessing. Silently and from your heart, send out a loving intention that you want to help the person or situation. Then take a moment to really try to understand their pain. Imagine the circumstances of this person’s life that could be causing them to act this way. Slowly breathe the pain into the divine and beautiful lake. Allow it to gently float, as it is transformed and cleansed in the soft golden haze. As you send it out with your mind and your heart right back to that situation or person, take a moment to really feel the love within your body.
It really is incredible what a huge and endless capacity we have to love. The act of sending loving positive intentions thoughts or prayers for those we love (especially to those who challenge us in life!) is wonderfully uplifting and energising, because these kinds of thoughts are lighter and freer than the heavier critical or judgemental thoughts. For me, the most beautiful part about this practice, or by simply sending love through thought, is that I can do it to all the people I come into contact with, and that no-one knows.
Over a year ago I was lucky enough to have met Christine at a residential workshop. She immediately struck me as an incredibly warm and big-hearted woman. Great compassion and love flowed from her naturally both as she participated, and allowed others to open and share during the retreat. In her presence I felt an instant heart-connection, and great almost motherly love.
Some time after our meeting Christine was diagnosed with breast cancer. Our recent conversations about this illness have deeply touched me. I feel so blessed and honoured that Christine shared her feelings so openly with me, I have been completely inspired by her positive loving attitude to the illness.
I feel utterly compelled to share her beautiful words with you in the hope that they can inspire you too, and it is with Christine’s blessing that I do so.
Christine explained “So many of us miss the signs by being too busy. It was the most powerful gift I’ve ever received and it turned my life around for the better. I’ve never felt so connected to my body and conscious of my health, which feels amazing. A whole new way of living my life is showing up and I’m being so kind and loving to myself, and everyone I know is reflecting that back to me in ways that touch me so deeply, it makes me weep at times. I can hardly believe the ways I and my life have changed in just a few months.”
To me, Christine’s philosophy of illness truly comes from a place of love, which for me is the truest place. Christine is approaching her challenges with a softness and an open heart; with love and positivity. Her powerful words are a shining example of living in a free, fearless and powerful way.
The very act of self-love and kindness promotes healing on many levels. Giving time and space to ones self is a gift that women rarely bestow upon themselves. Yet rest, relaxation, allowing ourselves time to listen to what our bodies are telling us is vital. Focusing on/communicating with different parts of our body during relaxation can be very nurturing and healing. Our bodies are incredibly intelligent and will respond to such loving intentions. Take time if you can today to breathe some love into your body…..
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