honoring menstruation in a western world
Honoring the menstrual phase of our cycle is severely under-appreciated in modern western societies. This is because the needs of menstruation quintessentially oppose the ethos of western capitalist societies. In a culture that values hard work, profit, and production, more inward activities such as rest, reflection, and imagination tend to fall to the waist side.
This is the blind spot of the modern world. And we need not continue this story within our own bodies. In the same way that the seasons of the earth create health and balance within organisms & ecosystems, the inner seasons of the female fertility cycle engender balance within our own bodies. Allowing ourselves to rest during the pre-menstrual + menstrual phase is essential to the wellbeing of our body, psyche, and spirit.
If we continuously work without the authentic aim and intention that comes from creating space in our lives to reflect, we will likely be working hard for something we may not even not even want, enjoy, or believe in. Without this spaciousness the fires of our creations & accomplishments may never warm us. This spaciousness we create blows on the embers of our creativity and creations, keeping them live and well before burning yet again during the more active phase of our cycle (pre-ovulation + ovulation).
The truth is that we cannot live authentic and fulfilling lives if we never give ourselves the time for assessment, evaluation, and reflection. For women, this time presents itself every month during menstruation. Each time we give ourselves the time to rest, imagine, and traverse the subtle edges of our consciousness, we inform our inner compass. With this space to explore, we give ourselves the opportunity to live more embodied, authentic, and fulfilling lives.
What a western ethos also fails to grasp is that the menstrual cycle is also a tool that can be used for productivity and efficiency. By working in correspondence to each phase of our menstrual cycle we can become more efficient and effective in the way that we work, create, and relate. Our menstrual cycle is like a programmed tool that can help us plan, navigate, strategize, and yes, r e s t . The health and balance we cultivate during this time ripples outward to our families, communities, societies, and world at large.
It is my belief that when women live in balance with their reproductive cycle, the society at large also benefits. The abusive neglect of women’s biological needs is starkly evident in America’s high maternal and neonatal mortality rates. Blatantly calling out for help within our high rates of postpartum depression, menstrual pain, and pre-menstrual syndrome.
The problem is, that we as a society fundamentally don’t understand the biological experiences of women. We don’t understand menstruation and we don’t understand the experiences that branch off from the female menstrual cycle (menarche, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and menopause). We don’t understand these experiences and thus we don’t honor them. The experience of childbearing, birth, breastfeeding, postpartum, and menopause go over our hearts and heads.
Most of us no longer live in communities where we are raised in close proximity to the biological experiences of women, and thus how could we understand them if we haven’t even witnessed it? Especially when images the media feeds us are often inaccurate and insensitive to the reality of what these experiences actually encompass. These inaccuracies confuse and outcast women whose experiences don’t mirror what the society expects of her. We hide this reality from our friends and loved ones and this vicious cycle continues generationally. As we hide and fail to share our experiences we deepen the shame we hold around these essentially female rites of passage. We then the run the risk of missing out on the transformative gold these biological rites of passage of carry.
The separate lives we lead are lived in ignorance to the biological experiences of women. In the land where we are free to be our individualistic selves, we have forgotten the experience of the mother. Of the multigenerational support she needs from her family, friends, and community. The injustices we do to our mothers, we also do to our blooming and shedding women. To the women who are just starting to bleed at menarche and to the women who begin to hold onto their blood during menopause.
All of the biological experiences that arise from the female reproductive cycle are connected, and when one is suppressed, so is another. It is my belief that this knowledge gap starts at menstruation. And it is here that we begin to balm and remediate this huge injustice we do to ourselves, our mothers, and our women.