Category Archives: inner peace

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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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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