Category Archives: healing

lessening your period pain naturally

best-swirl2.jpgI 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.

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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!

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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

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And the soups, both of which are in season at the moment and are utterly delicious:

Kale and herb
Fresh tomato

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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

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hormonal birth control – is it good for you?

P1180928“The Pill is taken by healthy women whose only problem is their fertility” Jane Bennett and Alexandra Pope

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.’

P1180930“When the Pill is suppressing the hormone that is inducing ovulation it is also suppressing the person emotionally” Keith Bell, Holistic fertility Specialist.

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.

P1180931“The use of the pill must be regarded as one of the most serious and influential causes of iatrogenic diseases. (Disease caused by a doctor).” Dr David Lilley, Medical practitioner and Homoeopath.

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!

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“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.

Share this on Facebook Twitter or Google+ by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ below!

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eat right for your menstrual cycle

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!!)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

soup

A good excuse to cook a gorgeous soup, I say!

further reading

For more general information about the menstrual cycle, red tents, and woman’s wheel work/workshops I do ‘on the road’ click here and here.

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.

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why track your menstrual cycle?

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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why menstruation is beautiful Xx

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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.

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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.

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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….!

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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

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celebrating lammas and the early phase of the pre-menstruum

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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the joy of gathering nourishing weeds

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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ancient handicrafts and the loss of domestic arts

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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.

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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 🙂

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a truly inspirational woman

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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.

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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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