Menstruating in a Modern World
As a woman in the modern age, I find it fascinating to think that once a month, half of the population goes through the concealed process of menstruation. Such a strange word, isn’t it? Menstruation. The word doesn’t necessarily lend itself to defining the incredible reality of what it encompasses: a flowing rhythm between moon, earth and her devotees. Nor does it describe the cycling pulse of our mother planet, her rhythm beating gently through our wombs.
As women, we wax and wane throughout the month – reflecting our ever wise moon, the tides, life forms of the oceans, the animal and plant kingdoms, and most importantly: our wombs. When you stop to think about it – it truly is an incredible process. The impact of this cycling on a woman and her daily life reflects a huge interplay of hormones, emotions, vulnerabilities, intuitiveness, and openness. This can also sometimes include, of course, pain, grief, depression and other reproductive concerns. It surprising to learn how many women live with painful periods, yet at the other end of the spectrum, menstruating can be a painless, gentle part of other women’s lives.
I’m not sure if there is a word that can encompass everything it means, especially since the experience is so personal. This monthly tide ebbs and flows within most women for at least a few decades of our lives, and it demands so much more from us than buying a packet of Tampax. Yet the idea of acknowledging this rhythm into the surface and daily routines of our work and social lives is somehow taboo. Modern life and its disassociation with this part of woman’s bodily function has created a culture where menstruation is kept both out of sight and sterile.
In fact, last time I checked, according to the media I would be socially accepted if, during my period I was bouncing on the beach in my bikini, surfing, running and doing cartwheels. How I am meant to do all that and also find somewhere comfy for my hot water bottle, is a mystery to me. All this is possible, of course, after throwing back a few pain-killers…just in case. I wonder, why haven’t they made them chocolate flavoured yet?
I must admit that the more realistic image of a woman at home in her comfy clothes, hot water bottle in full embrace, Toblerone within reach, cuddled up on the sofa…may not exactly amount to a flattering sell for sanitary protection, wouldn’t you agree? Anyway, we are pretty lucky to be ‘menstruating in a modern world’. We can’t exactly say with enthusiasm “Oh yeah, back in the good old days we women could bleed around a fire in the woods – just before we were burnt alive at the stake!”
In the last few centuries, women have been mostly isolated, punished or considered dirty and shameful during their moon cycle. Nah, no thanks. Not for me. However, if we go a little farther back in time, we find an era when our monthly bleed was celebrated and offered to the earth as nourishment in gratitude for her gifts to us. We are reminded of what has been lost over time, in the way we care for our creatively charged, life-giving wombs.
There is a seed inside all of us that remembers something, and even the whisper of the words ‘womb medicine’ stirs something within us. It rattles our comfy cages a little. Women today have many more choices in how they choose to either nurture or neglect this sacred part of ourselves. At present there is an increasing curiosity, longing and hunger for womb medicine amongst women with concerns for fertility, fibroids, cysts, prolapses, endometriosis and painful periods, to name a few. Could nourishing and deepening our connection to our reproductive systems – our woman centre – not only support the healing of these areas, but also help to prevent the increase in uterine diseases? Often, the first time we connect with the uterus is when a problem haspresented itself. We need to gain connection and awareness before imbalance begins.
So how did we get here – so far away from our true feminine power? Once upon a time, it became too dangerous to be womanly. It got to the point that the fear rubbed off onto women themselves. We have become afraid of our own inner wilderness and the pharmaceutical companies and multi-million dollar industry of over-fragranced-with-Goddess- knows-what sanitary protection are all cashing in on it.
Compare these images to the idea of us all living together, closer to and as a part of nature. Compare to a time when bleeding was accepted and experienced within the context of a whole culture rather than as a time of isolation and shame. We begin to feel the natural tendency to do exactly what womb shedding asks of us. This time of bleeding, going inward, cocooning ourselves in a timeless place within our bodies would perhaps be better represented by the ancients and through ritual. Our uterus whispers her need to connect within after having been connecting without for the previous few weeks of the month. The truth is: it is our time to stop and listen. This is when we are meant to nurture and nourish the woman that we truly are and relish in the uniqueness of our colour, shape and fragrance.
But back to the reality of how menstruation is experienced in the context of modern culture: Is it a coincidence that the increase of women living with endometriosis, unexplained infertility and other reproductive health concerns has something to do with this separation? There is much more information available on natural alternatives for reproductive problems, and growing interest on how to care for the female self and body on offer today.
A few suggestions:
- Take it slow during your bleed time, take the rest you need, go to bed early and unclutter your calendar.
- Drink less caffeine and alcohol and as always, eat healthy organic produce. Your body knows what it wants to eat, listen to it.
- Avoid lifting heavy things, vigorous exercise, stomach crunches etc. Walks, yoga and gentle cardio are recommended.
- Avoid walking on cold floors without shoes/slippers, or being in cold.
- Give yourself gentle belly rubs leading up to your bleed to encourage a gentle flow.
- Remembering that a uterus is also made up of muscle, indicating it can also contract and relax. Massaging the womb area can then help relax build up of tension.
- If you are unsure of what to do simply place both hands on your lower abdomen, below the navel and breathe long gentle breaths. Tuning into yourself this way is also very powerful.
- Tune in to your dreams and intuitions, as the connection to your inner guidance is enhanced during the time just before and during menstruation.
- We are the ambassadors, the carers, the voice for mother earth and to be true to our guardianship, we need to be true to our womanliness.