Since starting Lotus.Eco, I've found the conversation around menstruation is one with many challenges. When the topic arises - as it inevitably does when I'm asked what I do for a living - I've received reactions ranging from delight to repulsion. If only I could capture for you, the body language that goes along with it; a very curious sight!
Given the varied cultural interpretations of menstruation it's understandable that these reactions exist. But I question whether they still have a place in today's society. I also question whether our attitudes towards menstruation means we aren't taking care of ourselves the way we should, during menstruation.
I won't write in detail about each religious or cultural belief on the topic of menstruation but I will touch on the fact that most Eastern and Western cultures and religions view menstruation as unclean and taboo. With this comes the view that the woman who is menstruating should be banished from significant religious or cultural events and activities. If you've read my piece on social equity you'll understand how ostracising, would reduce her opportunity to build important relationships. Therefore, damaging her connectedness to her community, subsequently impacting her ability to access resources. Which, brings up the topic of missing school during menstruation. A topic that deserves a blog piece of its own so hold that thought for the near future.
There are however, exceptions to the prevailing school of thought towards menstruation - positive ones. Native Americans still believe that menstruation carries spiritual power. They believe it's a link between humanity and spirituality so they honour and celebrate menstruation with various rituals. Here's an excellent blog that tells the story of why and how menstruation has been linked to the cycles of the moon for generations of Native Americas: https://traditionalnativehealing.com/the-power-of-menstruation-native-american-moon-time-ritual
They story tells of "moon time" as a moniker for menstruation due to its synchronicity with moon cycles. Moon time is a time for inward purification, a time to seek guidance and assistance from the moon. I see this as a form of meditation and the moon as symbolic of our inherent calm, power & intuition that we turn to. This of course, is only one example of a positive view on menstruation there are far more examples in religion and culture that quick Google search will reveal.
There's also some modern arguments for menstruation being powerful and even contributing to enlightenment. Some of you may be familiar with the writing of Erkhart Tolle. In his book The Power of Now, he writes about why women are closer to enlightenment. Now before I go on, I must warn you that this part of the blog gets a bit, some would call it, hippy dippy or airy fairy. So, I encourage you to read on with an open mind. Here goes…
Tolle writes that it is generally "easier for a woman to feel and be in her body, so she is naturally closer to Being and potentially closer to enlightenment". He goes on to describe that the personal "pain-body", one of which is physical pain associated with menstruation may either restrict or become an opportunity for a woman's enlightenment. He describes (in much more detail than is offered here) the restrictive force, as being attached to the pain and building your identity around the pain which, in turn creates a victim mentality. Conversely, Tolle suggests transmuting the pain-body as an opportunity to become enlightened - "so that it no longer comes between you and your true self, the essence of who you are."
Now, if you combine the beliefs of the Native Americans and Tolle's writing you may start to question how you can purify yourself ritualistically, start to overcome the pain-body or just simply, take better care of yourself when you're menstruating. Each person may already have an idea of what they'd like to do to take time out for themselves if they had the luxury. What I'd like to do is encourage you to take that action. Let friends and family know that you're menstruating and you'd like to take this time to reflect, rest and relax. They may find that absurd initially but once you've allowed yourself to take care of yourself each month, then, return to them rejuvenated, they'll encourage you to do it every month.
If you’re struggling to come up with some ideas around self-care during your menstruation, perhaps the following can inspire you:
- Book yourself in for a whole day spa package.
- Head to a park for a meditation session.
- Find a quiet spot in your local library and get stuck into that book you've always wanted to read. A book that may inspire and rejuvenate the wild and free female spirit is the title Women Who Run with the Wolves, written by Clarissa Pinkola Estés; recommended to me by a dear friend. The book is a collective of myths and stories from different cultures that uncovers the wild woman archetype of the feminine psyche.
- Take yourself out for a nourishing and healthy dinner.
- Spend time with a friend who is also menstruating to discuss and share your physical and emotional experience. You may find that talking about what you're both going through a very cathartic experience. I've found that many women don't tend to discuss menstruation with each other however, once they do, they find it to be an enjoyable and emotionally connecting experience.
- Do that one thing that you love to do but never have time to do.
It's time to change our attitudes towards menstruation and it's time to start taking more care of ourselves during this special time.