Category Archives: menstrual cycle

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.

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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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the menstrual cycle and mabon

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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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cloth pad stitching ~ a woman’s gathering

P1240437On 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’.

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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.

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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.

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how can we help our young women on their transition through menarche?

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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!

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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.

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Before Menarche…..

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?

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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.

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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

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After Menarche….

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!

Thank you’s…

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

 

 

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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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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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