Tag Archives: pre-menstrual

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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celebrating lammas and the early phase of the pre-menstruum

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The skies are bright blue this sunny evening with only faint wispy clouds at the horizon. The golden sun will soon set over a perfectly calm and flat sea. The rise and fall of distant landscapes cast their shadows shapes and colours giving the impression of a comforting crumpled blanket.

The breeze this night brings with it a faint chill. I turn to notice that some of the foliage, once green and vibrant with fresh sap is browning, and that the garden is now lit by a different array of flowers. The cool sensation on my skin is a fleeting reminder of darker nights and crisp winds, as the earth shifts and turns on its yearly wheel.

As I slowly walk up through the rough grass to the stone circle and turn take a seat in the sun, my eyes are drawn to the sea. The lazy sounds of late Summer fill the air; the humming of bees, the rustling of tiny animals beneath the hay, birds calling on the wing and gathering together on the wires. A bright model aeroplane buzzes and swings and dives against the backdrop of blue. It is Summer still yet it is not. Something intangible has changed.

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Traditionally the time for the first harvest, and the first of three Autumn celebrations the celebration of Lammas gives thanks to Mother Earth, the giver of life, for her bounty of crops. It is also time to start the journey inwards; giving gratitude for all that has been harvested by the soul; all that has been learned during the intense activity of Summer. The days still feel long but they are getting shorter, lazier, and slower.

For women this can be likened to the phase of the menstrual cycle after ovulation, where the high and creative natural energies of the inner Summer are starting to turn; much like a tide, or when a ball is thrown in the air when it’s not going up, and not yet falling. It is a natural stasis; a point to reflect and to understand that soon we will come face to face with our own shadow side as we descend within ourselves and move towards the pre-menstruum once more. Towards the place of inward reflection and contemplation, where we can review and discern, prune and crop our metaphorical harvest. As with the seasons of the year, this is natural, just the way it is meant to be.

Even though menstruating women have monthly reminders of this feeling it does not necessarily mean it is easy for us! What comes up for us as the ‘party ends’ can be difficult, as we are so heavily influenced pressure for perpetual growth in our culture, a physical outward state where women are so accepted by society. It can feel hard to let Summer go for many, and welcome the slow transition to Winter because it involves shedding off this shiny bright exterior and becoming more like a wild woman once more.

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In spirit of focusing on the gratitude, and thanking the Earth Mother (and my body) my friends over on the Llyn Peninsula held a wonderful celebration to welcome Lammas at their land, Cae Non. The ceremonial ritual (which was beautiful) started by creating a bower made of stems of Willow representing the Feminine, Ash representing the Masculine, and Hazel representing Divine Wisdom. The bower was decorated with flowers, gifts to the Earth Mother from our garden, and items that represented our own personal harvest from this Summer. Then there was a big feast, and lots of tea, singing and laughter!

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Personally I am at this stage in both my own inner cycle and in the seasonal cycle – believe me, this year I am feeling the transition powerfully. It has been such an affirming practice to spend a moment in ritual to thank the Summer and welcome the new, even if it is difficult to embrace a ‘darker’ phase. With different phases come different gifts too, keeping life in balance and celebrating all the parts of our inner selves and our outer earth seasons.

For more supportive stories and feminine sharing head over to woman’s wheel.

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