Many of us honour the cycles of the seasons and the moon. As women, we can also allow ourselves to be consciously worked by our inner cycles, uncovering the body wisdom that ripens through the sacred gift of menstruality.
To live cyclically, attuned to the rhythms of life and the waxing and waning of our energy, is to live sustainably. Just as on an environmental level we’ve seen the dire consequences of taking from the earth regardless of the soil’s need to lie fallow and replenish, and of valuing economic growth above respect for the planet, so too we cannot expect our bodies and minds to keep going without listening to the need to slow down, stop, and rest at times.
The consequences of driving ourselves on throughout the month, no matter how we feel? Fatigue, depression, rage, pain and illness. By working with each different phase of the cycle and listening deeply to what it wants to unfold in us, we invite in more wellbeing and healing and start to thrive.
Looking around, however, we see a world that is structured to function the same way, day in, day out, regardless of our internal rhythms. Modelled on patriarchal values that ignore the reality of most women, consistent productivity is the gold standard for our capitalist society, and if we’re not able to keep up, we can lose our clout at work. If you’re a mother, dropping the ball often just doesn’t feel like an option.
So what can we do?
First, begin to track your menstrual cycle. If you no longer menstruate or currently don’t have a menstrual cycle, you can track your emotional and physical changes in accordance with the moon’s movements. While each woman is unique, there are general ‘maps’ that can help us to understand the shifts at different times of the month.
Keep a diary to log how you feel emotionally and physically on each day of your cycle. Look for patterns of differences between the two ‘poles’ of ovulation and menstruation. In ‘Winter’, the ‘menstrual zone’, it’s ideal to take it slow, retreat and receive vision and direction for your life and community. Emerging out of Winter into the ‘spring’ of pre-ovulation, it’s a chance to be playful and experiment with new ideas.
The energy rises until ovulation, or ‘Summer’, when you can be highly motivated and often ecstatic, with plenty of energy for work, play and pleasure. Pre-menstrual time, or ‘Autumn’, is when we strip away illusions about ourselves, others and our life – not so comfortable, but also a ‘harvesting’ of wisdom when you can channel your warrior spirit in the service of truth-telling.
By working with these tendencies, instead of holding ourselves to the rigid consistency expected by the system, we harness the power of our ever-changing nature as women to become more aligned with our true desires and visions – and also more productive over time, with the things that truly matter.
Living cyclically is a revolution from the inside out. Once you are working consciously with your cycle, you can start to speak about your cycle to others. This not only empowers other women but also normalises the concept so that eventually, it’s embedded in everyday consciousness. Already there are promising signs such as ‘period leave’ in certain companies. Educate your children about cyclical life at an age-appropriate level and they will be more likely to understand your need for more space at certain times. Plus, they’ll grow up thinking it is totally normal.
If you’re thinking, Rest all day when I bleed? Yeah right, give yourself what you can: for example, an hour at either end of the day to simply stop. Let go of all doing and simply be. Give your system the message to unwind and do its job of healing and repair. Gradually allow this small yet precious investment to expand into a full day of delicious rest and replenishment, or more. This will reap dividends for the rest of your cycle as you’ll be ‘powered up’ rather than running on empty.
Ask for help. When you know your bleeding time or natural energetic ebb, is approaching, get as many hands on deck as possible so that you can truly let go. You might get a friend or neighbour to have your children, delegate a few more tasks at work, or ask your partner to take on some household chores.
This takes courage and belief in yourself, and others may well require educating, but remember, you are working towards a world where we live in tune with our cycles, which benefits us all.