Category Archives: inspirational

menstrual hygiene day ~ 10 reasons I feel grateful

20150528_134346Today, 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.

P1210795 (Large)“A lack of adequate Menstrual Hygiene Management denies women and girls their right to education, right to health, and right to work in favourable conditions.” Menstrual Hygiene Day

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beautiful red tent quotes

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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the red tent ~ a place to celebrate our womanhood

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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.

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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.

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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.’

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“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

See how the red tent has grown! Visit woman’s wheel for more advice and red tent information by clicking here.

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a practice of compassion

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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.

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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.

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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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