I don’t remember exactly when and how it shifted.
How I changed from seeing my period as a monthly burden to bare – an uncomfortable consequence of having a female body that I found ways to manage, so that I could almost pretend it wasn’t happening – to something that felt special, worthy of honouring and even celebrating. A tidal-like rhythm, my very own internal cycle of seasons, inherently connected to my feeling of being powerful and the mystery of being alive.
It’s definitely not easy to feel positively about our periods.
Women’s bodies have historically been shamed and controlled. Everything I’ve learned from my surrounding mainstream culture perpetuates the idea of periods as a burden. Many adverts for sanitary products offer promises of getting on with life as normal so we can forget the unsightly fact that we are menstruating. Our blood is regarded as something unclean, to dispose of quickly, so very far away from the notion of it being regarded as sacred as it is and has been in several other non-mainstream cultures. Our collective attitude about our bodies in general, and the way we approach medicine and health dictates that the body is something to be controlled from the outside, not something with a wisdom and intelligence to listen to and be guided by.
Going against the grain and finding ways to honour my period each month has been profoundly enriching to my life, positively impacting my overall energy levels and feeling of well-being, but over everything, my sense of being a woman in this world, and the deep magic and mystery that comes with that.
We are in the midst of a global trend emerging, with more and more women getting switched on to the power of cycle awareness and honouring their menstruation through e.g increased self-care, ritual, meditation and creating period art. In my work I’ve had the privilege of speaking to women from many different parts of the world about their personal rituals. Here are some examples – I hope you find them inspiring!
“At the end of 2015, after a long year of making a conscious effort to connect more with being in a female body, and the cycles it goes through, I decided I wanted to learn to further celebrate that in the upcoming year and began brainstorming.
Sometimes our learned ideas of shame, guilt, insecurity (the list goes on) can run surprisingly deep and I found myself wanting to counteract some of these unhelpful patterns by honouring parts of myself that I had never embraced or nurtured before. I remember making rudimentary books with my mother when I was young and illustrating them, and thought through making a small journal specifically for the purpose of reflection during my period would be a healing, honouring and centering practice.
At the beginning of 2016 I sat with papers, needles and threads (appropriately red) to go with the basic book making instructions I had foraged from the internet to create my little Menstruation Journal. Through the past year, I have had the opportunity to sit quietly with myself, and reflect on the passing of each month and contemplate anything I wish to let go of, or work on, in the upcoming weeks until my next cycle. I feel that giving my period a designated space and time allows me to better understand and connect with my inner growth and changes as well as honor and respect my womanhood”
– Robekkah (33, student, Germany)
“Whenever I can, I take time off by myself, relax and focus on my body and my womb and meditate. I feel like this is the best time to meditate, as my body relaxes easily and my mind is naturally in a meditative state. When I meditate I like to listen to the signals of my womb – any feelings, emotions, images and ideas. I try to listen to and take care of my body needs – pampering my body, being outdoors, connecting with nature and making love. I sleep a lot and record my dreams as they are very vivid during this time and often pretty illuminating!
As a mother of 2 boys (7 & 10) I have to make an effort to guard this time to myself, but luckily a) my period seems to often come when I actually can take some time off like weekends and b) they know by now that when mommy can rest during her period, she is very loving and cuddly, but when she cannot, she becomes very grouchy – so it is in their best interests to give me time off!”
– Katerina (45, mother and psychologist, Czech Republic)
“The first time I used a menstrual cup, I was struck by the beauty of what I had collected. The wonderment I felt was much linked to my genuine fascination for colour. I found thrilling that it could be self-produced. The several times after when I had to empty the cup, I found a shame to throw away the natural paint which was generated by a female body. It took me some time to dare, one day, to lay it on to lay it on a sheet of paper and create ‘cup art.’
I like this idea that periods can lead to creativity and playfulness, and that we can celebrate this aliveness within us. And I love to share my work with others, because there is no reason for such a fundamental process like periods to remain unspoken about, hidden and hushed up.”
– Camille (26, dance artist, France)
“I take as much rest as I possibly can. I don’t work on the first day of my period. I found that when I honor this, especially on my first day of bleeding, my period is shortened by 2-3 days, and I don’t experience the same amount of discomfort as I did before. I feel very sensitive during my flow, and so I like to honor that through meditating. I do not think of my sensitivity as disempowering, but actually on the contrary, I feel super powerful! I feel like my senses are enhanced during my menstruation, which also can lead to exhaustion, if I don’t respect the fact that my body needs rest.”
– Penelope (29, sexologist, Indonesia)
“I cherish, celebrate and honor the power of my menstruation! Over the past ten years, I have been offering my blood in a ceremonial way back to the Earth as a gift, for all that we receive. I offer it with gratitude to my gardens and to my favorite trees in the forest. It is the perfect natural fertilizer due to its high nitrogen and protein composition and is full of important nutrients! But what truly inspired this practice was reading an ancient Hopi prophecy that stated, ‘When the women give their blood back to the earth, men will come home from war and earth shall find peace.’“
– Shannon (37, mother and artist, Canada)