"The psyches and souls of women also have their own cycles and seasons of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questing and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul-place."
Clarissa Pinkola Estés - Women Who Run with the Wolves
Preface: While this is especially relevant to women due to a deeper connection to the earth cycles through menses, I still feel that it is extremely relevant for all humans (and all wordly life, really). On a broader level, life and death is a cycle that we all experience, yin and yang is within us all. And this cyclical and balanced nature exists in much more microcosmic ways in every living thing.
Inspired by a talk I gave at the Wholistic Care Center called "Go With the Flow", in which I discussed the menstrual cycle, I would like to discuss how we can embrace our cyclical nature. I was a bit mind-blown by this glaringly obvious concept when I first read about it, and nearly every women I have shared this with seems to have the same reaction, so I feel that the concept must be spread!
I am not one bit surprised by how much this information has surprised us all! There is a lot of mystery and silence surrounding women's bodies in our society, which has led to an awful disempowerment and rampant taboo. For evidence, one needs to look no further than our language surrounding menses. "The curse", "on the rag", "shark week". These are not positive pet names, these are ugly, shame-inducing descriptions. There is absolutely no reason that a natural bodily function should be degraded like this. I believe that as our society opens up, as women start to talk to young girls about their bodies and their menses, that this perception is changing. The more acknowledgement and discussion, the better. Shame can't live in the light.
The menstrual cycle connects us with the earth because ovulation is influenced by the moon, the full moon being the time we naturally ovulate, the new moon being the beginning of menstruation. The following is a brief description of our menstrual phases, both physiologically and energetically. A lot of this information is adapted from Dr. Christiane Northrup's book "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom", a massive and enlightening piece of work that I would highly recommend.
The follicular phase, between menses and ovulation, is when we are growing and nurturing the egg, thus this correlates to a time when we are doing the same things with ideas- you may sense that you have a greater desire to start new projects in this time. Follow this desire, initiate. Often, many women are more outgoing and upbeat, our energies are excited and inspired.
Ovulation is when we release an egg in hopes of fertilization (well, traditionally, anyway). This is thus a very fertile period for us, energetically- we are more open and receptive to others and to life. Furthermore, it is the peak of mental and emotional creativity. What a glorious time! Optimize this natural pinnacle in productivity by making ideas happen.
And the luteal phase, between ovulation and menses (or pregnancy), is a time of waiting, when the egg has been either fertilized or not, preparing to either initiate a new life within us, or to shed the lining of the uterus and start anew. This translates to it is a time of more contemplation and reflection, evaluation and introspection. The luteal phase encompasses the "premenstrual phase" in which many women experience issues emotionally and physically in the form of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. This time, as noted previously, is more introspective, and thus intuitive, we are more in touch with our unconscious, as well as what we want and need as we are looking inward and evaluating our lives. Thus, I cannot stress enough how important it is to not disregard your "PMS" emotions. Do not lay "fault" to your hormones. Do not downplay the emotions you feel. There is extreme power in the heightened awareness of life during this time. Pay close attention to the things that you are most sensitive to during this period, for they hold the most meaning, and address them. The things which you get upset about are valuable and important, not to be brushed-off. Also, the cravings you experience have deeper meaning- what do sugar cravings mean to you, for example? Are you craving love and sweetness in your life? If the symptoms, emotions and cravings are too strong, this likely means that you've been ignoring them, thus they have strengthened in order to more effectively bring themselves to your attention. Bringing awareness to this could help decrease those symptoms.
Menstruation is when the uterine lining is shed, and thus should be a time of cleansing and rest. Cleanse your life both physically and emotionally, and it is essential to slow down in order to properly purge, or, as noted previously, menstrual symptoms may arise to make you do so (i.e. crippling cramps that, curiously, are only better with sleep). If you have a partner, explain to them that this is a necessary part of your cyclical nature, so that they may support this time for you. For all the "pushing" we do in our culture, there has to be a reactive relaxation- this is the time. Take the time in order to return to balance.
In order to connect more with your cyclical nature, you could journal and chart your period in relation to symptoms, thoughts, and emotions. Even separated from menses (and in those beings that do not have menses), cycles exist in us, so honour that and embrace the phase of the cycle in which you are present. Pay attention to the ebb and flow of creativity, productivity, sexual desire, and emotional rhythms. And of course, always listen to symptoms, listen to the wisdom of the body.
Dreams are another great way to receive insight into our being, as they are our entrance into the uncompensated subconscious. If you initiate a dream-recording practice, you will remember more dreams as you have set the intention to remember them. You may also start to notice a trend in your dreams throughout your cycles. To evaluate those dreams, focus on the feelings that you have, and how those feelings connect to a feeling you have, or have had, in your life- that is where the power and the message lies.
Personally, viewing my life as cyclical and ever-changing has really modified my entire perspective. While before, I was unknowingly trying to fight the cycle, now I embrace the present moment, the present feelings. For example, if I do not feel social, I do not force myself to go and socialize, but acknowledge my introspective time and honour it, by spending time alone. It has accentuated intuition and mindfulness in my life by paying more attention to how I actually feel rather than how I should feel, or how I want to be a "consistent" person (such as consistently social).
The energetic implications of the monthly cycle extend far beyond what I have mentioned here, and I am by no means an expert. I just wanted to share what I have learned thus far, and encourage everyone to learn more about it, and to consider and embrace their cyclical nature. Align more with the natural flow of life, instead of resisting it. Furthermore, in terms of menstrual irregularities, investigating the possible mental-emotional contributions (as with any illness, really) can be extremely helpful in beginning the return to health. A naturopathic doctor considers all aspects of health- mental, emotional, physical, spiritual- and we would love to help guide you to wholeness. If you'd like to book an appointment, please feel free to contact me.
The painting at the top is called "The Guide Within: A Meditation", which I painted after an especially relevant meditation on intuition, and can be found at paintwithlove.com.