Menstruation: The Sacred Cycle
Redefining our menstrual cycle and PMS by Gina Cloud © 2002
Men shed blood on the battlefield in the destruction of life. Women bleed monthly for the creation of life. War is celebrated, menstruation is denigrated. Why have these two things become so transposed, and why is the denigration of woman so profuse? Why is it that the mention of a woman’s monthly bleeding provokes fear and discomfort? Menstruation, which I have redefined and renamed The Sacred Cycle, is a natural, normal and healthy process.
Chinese medicine teaches that the body’s life force is contained within the seed. For men, the seed is sperm, lost through ejaculation, and for women our seed is the egg, found within the ovaries and lost through menstruation. Ejaculation is downright celebrated. Menstruation however is still considered a curse and an inconvenience.
The time is long overdue for us to reclaim our menstrual cycle and to celebrate our lives as women. Blood is a sacred fluid, without which none of us would exist. Menstrual blood is the blood of life. It is what nourished us, in the womb via the placenta (hence the absence of menstrual periods during pregnancy). It is our first breath, our first taste, our first experience. And one of the last true taboos.
How is it possible to degrade so consistently and constantly the beauty and magnificence we are as women? Our Sacred Cycle is one half of our biological creativity as women. In pregnancy it feeds and sustains the life of another. In menstruation, it feeds the creative life and soul of the woman. It is an experience that belongs only to her. The Sacred Cycle is rich in wisdom and power. It is looked upon with disdain by our society and it is sadly rejected by women, the repositories of this treasure. We must change this perception.
I have renamed our menstrual cycle The Sacred Cycle, because it is sacred. It is one cycle within the profound and rich life cycle of women. It ritually and cyclically leads us to ourselves and our truths – truth which we often repress all month long. But then we are hit with truth serum in its most potent form, PMS, which I have redefined and renamed as Powerful Monthly Sight. The week (approximately) before we begin to bleed is when and how we get clear with ourselves, with our lives, and with our relationships to others, if we know how to use it as a tool. It is, in my opinion, the most unused resource we have as women, due to the negative attitudes surrounding our cycle.
We have been convinced that EVERYTHING we experience through our biology as women needs to be medically managed via hormones, surgery and drugs. The worst part is that we have subscribed to the myth. The medical profession and the media have ingrained in us that we are defective as women BECAUSE of our biology; that being a woman implies great distress and suffering because we menstruate, give birth and go through menopause. In fact, an entire branch of medicine exists around these three events in our lives, known as obstetrics and gynecology. This triad; however, of menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, provides the doorway into our most magical and empowering experiences – all through the vehicle of our bodies.
We have been negatively programmed through the messages we receive constantly via media, advertising, doctors, and the world in general. Our perception about ourselves as women determines what we actually experience. If we change our perception about what we experience, we can then change the actual experience.
For example, let’s look at a common “symptom” of mainstream PMS, irritability, which supposedly accounts for one of the reasons we become “bitchy” raving lunatics at this time. During the week (roughly) before our Sacred Cycle, all of our senses are heightened: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing, some more intensely than others. Now I don’t know about you, but I think having all my senses more alive and more awake is a blessing, a gift. But being in a heightened state while in an irritating environment would aggravate anyone. I choose to refer to this “symptom” as a gift by calling it heightened sensitivity instead of irritability, and not as a symptom (which is a term that usually relates to disease or imbalance in the body). Doing so causes a perceptual shift, which brings about, by definition, a different experience. I could go on down the list of “symptoms,” but my space is limited in this article. In my workshops, we cover them all and learn to see them differently.
So still working with the irritability vs. heightened sensitivity model, how can we respect and use what is available to us during this wise time of Powerful Monthly Sight? We create, for starters, the seclusion ritual. “The Red Tent” has been a very popular book, and those of you who have read it are familiar with the concept. For those who haven’t, women used to sequester themselves during their menstrual cycles. Due to the absence of artificial light (light impacts the pituitary gland which triggers hormone production), most women menstruated together by virtue of something known as entrainment, or synchronicity with the moon (light). Contrary to most of the negative religious and cultural taboos around why women were “banished,” historical and anthropological accounts report in some cases it was a time of communal celebration and rest for women. Think about it, being “banished” meant time away from husbands, unwanted sexual advances, children and chores. Sounds like a vacation to me!! The sending away of women was also an acknowledgment of the “dangerous” power that bleeding women had, and was a method of preventing accidents and natural disasters of all sorts. (The history of menstrual taboos is fascinating, but a subject for a different article).
Women bled together in synchronicity, nurtured each other, shared and rested. It was a time of spiritual renewal as well as physical cleansing.
I am a strong advocate of reviving this practice by tailoring it to our individual and modern lives. Taking time for ourselves is usually the last thing most women do. There is no more important time during the ongoing cycle of our lives to do this than in that Powerful Monthly Sight window and during our Sacred Cycle.
Sounds good, but you’ve got to work, you can’t afford to take time off, you’re a single mom, and an endless list of reasons why that’s just not possible; right? Where there is a will, there is a way, and when there is a deep commitment to self, you find that way. These rituals need not be elaborate or expensive, but they need to be focused around an intention to take time out for you, and that will vary from woman to woman. Single moms, who generally have the least amount of time, can do something as simple as taking a ritual bath, with oils and aromatherapy, mineral salts etc, while reading a book they have been longing to read. This can be done after the kid(s) go to bed. It’s simple, and you would be surprised at how effective it is at helping you connect with you, as well as taking the time to nurture yourself. For some women it’s a walk on the beach, a hike, you name it. But you should do it monthly at this time. Make it a priority, put it on your to-do list, but invoke it for yourself. Those who are willing to be bold about taking this time may choose to take one sick day a month from work. If they’re paid days, or vacation days, go for it! And who cares if your boss notices your absence each month. I cannot emphasize enough that if you don’t schedule the time and plan for it, it won’t happen. Creating a beautiful ritual for and around your cycle will enrich your life immensely.
Journaling at this time I find to be particularly powerful. For some reason, all my “solutions” to problems in my life come in the days before my bleeding. I’ve learned to show up for the answers. The insight and clarity that pours forth at this time of the month never ceases to amaze me. If you see this time as a resource and wise time and create the space to receive the wisdom, the blessings and gifts are endless and you will grow to value, look forward to and embrace this beautiful aspect of our womanhood.
I also can’t emphasize strongly enough that this is a time of the month for hearing (your inner voice) and feeling (your honest feelings about your life and all its parts). I firmly believe the primary reasons I experience no physical PMS “symptoms” are diet and the fact that I check in with me regularly and EXPRESS, EXPRESS, EXPRESS my feelings clearly and habitually. Emphasis on habitually. Speaking out, speaking our truths is like using a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. For women verbal expression is the most frequent avenue of repression. Holding back these forms of expression result in explosions premenstrually. That dam or facade known as “my life is fine” is let down at this time, and those waters of our emotions flood into our lives. If we consistently, daily, are true to ourselves and our feelings about all we experience, then that flood doesn’t happen premenstrually. We are then more able to focus our energy on receiving answers, intuitive guidance, heightened creativity, and pure magic at this time.
Ordinary PMS is when your body blows up at you, trying to get your attention, imploring you to make changes, so that you can feel you, without the illusory padding which keeps you from taking action. The rose colored glasses are removed forcibly at this time and all of your relationships, your job, your lack of commitment to self lies before you raw and uncensored, without the fluff. Because culturally we aren’t raised to be okay feeling or expressing anger, it sits at the base of the volcano of our emotions, and when we erupt, it is more than we can handle comfortably or feel others can handle comfortably, so we try to keep the lid on. PMS is the repression of expression, turned inward on the body, resulting in headaches, bloating, depression, cramps, etc. There are of course hormones which contribute, but with the right diet, exercise, and a new way of viewing your cycle, you can mitigate and even eliminate these negative experiences.
What fascinates me about PMS is that Western medicine only looks at the biological component. There is almost no research on emotional or spiritual experiences related to our cycles. And every woman knows these exist. The denial of the existence of these aspects contributes further to our self-doubt. We think it’s just that we are “hormonal,” rather than embracing the entire process and loving ourselves in it. There is so much more to what we experience and can experience during our cycles than what has been documented so far. The lens modern medicine is using is far too myopic.
Think back to any time in your life when you felt happy and things were going as you wished, that there was a flow (no pun!). Perhaps you were in a creative phase or happily alone, without a relationship. If you think hard enough, you will probably realize you had no PMS at the time, but instead experienced creative surges of insight, and felt incredibly empowered.
In indigenous cultures, women are considered wise or shamanic during their bleeding, and after menopause may become shamans or medicine women, as they are considered to retain their “wise blood.” Instead of having the wise time premenstrually, they stay in that state. In fact, hot flashes should be viewed as power surges. That’s what they really are.
I also believe that PMS is an untapped resource in healing our relationships. I have created a workshop for men which enlightens them about my more positive perspective and talks about PMS as Powerful Monthly Sight. If the same issues come up about your relationship monthly premenstrually, why not use it as a time to heal, to talk and to be open and make changes. If men can learn to respect our cycles, it will serve them as well. The current negative model of dismissing the women in their lives as temporarily insane simply creates more distance and maligns women and the wisdom inherent at this time. Powerful Monthly Sight is a window for change if acknowledged and used in this way.
We must teach and live the honoring of women and our bodies by first doing so ourselves. If we cannot love, accept, and respect ourselves, how then can we expect anyone else to? WE must reclaim and remember the sacred power of our female bodies and the wisdom imparted through our biological cycles. Simone de Beauvoir said: “to lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in one’s self.” We as women must take back control over our bodies. Our bodies are the beautiful temples of our souls. The ability to create, sustain and nurture life from these female temples is nothing short of magic.
Our power is not in our ability to seduce or be sexy. It is not in being physically “perfect.” Our power is in being simply who we are and embracing the fullness of our life cycles as women.
We must question the current role models and rebel against the media images in all their forms, as we strive to create images of woman that are woman-made. It is time to define ourselves through our own eyes and to honor what we see looking back at us. Isn’t it time we celebrated, rather than denigrated our lives as women? We are exquisite.
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WHAT DOES W.O.M.A.N. MEAN?
W = Wild
O = Open
M = Magical
A = authentically - empowered
N = Nectar
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You can find more on Gina Cloud and her wonderful work that "...teaches the embracing, honoring and celebrating of the rhythms of the feminine, the female cycles and most importantly, that fabulous temple known as a woman’s body"
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