As women (and men in their own way), an essential key to unlocking our innate ecstasy is honoring our natural cycles.
This previous Sunday, I led a class on Super Herbal Elixirs. The energy and information downloads and exchanges were spectacular, and it progressed into another ecstatic, high energy community event with much love, laughter, sharing, and celebration. The next day, I felt intensely sensitive, reclusive and sleepy, and I just wanted to crawl into a cave and hibernate for a while. When I had the chance to be in complete quiet, resting with my eyes closed, I was in Bliss. I felt the same way the next day.
The day after that, I found myself in a solid, earthy state, protective of my "space", a familiar energy I recognized as leading up to my bleeding time. For most women, the resistance or rejection of this natural energetic becomes something commonly labeled as "PMS". I allowed and honored this energy the space to be, and it became an earthy sort of silliness, and a relaxed acceptance of whatever existed in the moment (a temporary dissolving of goal-oriented thoughts of the future), with moments of almost-pretend moodiness. My bleeding time arrived the next morning, which I had felt/known in advance, simply from energetic cues (because I don't have physical "PMS" symptoms).
Women often view their cycle as a monthly mundane repetition of menstruation and ovulation, a purely physical phenomenon with maybe a few mood swings or other emotional changes. However, like the tip of an iceberg, these events are only the most physically obvious signs of MUCH larger and more vast energetic and creative cycles. Becoming aware of and attuning to these energetic ebbs and flows results in optimizing our creative energy and experiencing much more efficiency in our lives and harmony in our bodies, minds, and emotions.
What Really Happens During Our Moon Cycles
Here's how it works. A woman's cycle "starts" when she begins her moontime bleeding. In past times, before artificial lights and arbitrary schedules, women always bled together on the new moon. The energetic of the dark (new) moon and of a woman's bleeding are similar. It's a time when we are called to go deep within, intuitively examine the entire structure of our lives and Life itself, and naturally cleanse and renew our whole selves. Our hormone levels are low at this time, and our left and right brain hemispheres synchronize, allowing us to tap into much greater levels of intuition and knowing about areas of our life that we have yet to fully understand or resolve. We can access a state of consciousness that gives us the power to sort out extremely complex aspects of life in almost a "dream state", below the level of our surface minds. We may not be fully aware at this time of all that we are learning, but if we allow ourselves the time and space to go deep, ask for divine guidance, and "dream while awake" (go on an inner journey), it has been my experience that my newly acquired wisdom now becomes part of me and expresses through me at a later time.
Women no longer bleed only on the new moon. Our bodies are adaptable, and it often seems as if my body factors in my mind's awareness of plans when choosing the best time for me to rest and bleed. For example, if I know I will be traveling or teaching a class at the time when I expect to be bleeding, my body will postpone it until afterward, since I will be able to align more fully with the introspective and reclusive energy of my moontime after all the outward activity has slowed down. I have learned from that, and since I enjoy having regularity in my cycles, I do my best to plan events with consideration of where I'll be in my cycle during the event.
After bleeding time, which lasts for a couple days up to a week, depending on the woman, our hormone progesterone slowly starts to increase. Energetically, this is a time of gradually increasing activity, creativity, and socially interactive energy. It is a good time to start new projects. This creative, active, social, and procreative energy, along with our progesterone levels, peak during ovulation, which happens around two weeks after the first day of bleeding. Naturally, the energy of ovulation is similar to the energy of the full moon. Feelings are heightened, creativity is at its peak, we feel social and magnetic, our communication skills are increased, and we're fully present and engaged in our interactions with other people and in the world.
After the progesterone peak of ovulation, this hormone starts to lower and its counterbalancing energy, estrogen, starts to increase. This begins to bring our energy back inward, inviting us to begin reviewing, contemplating, and integrating the heightened experiences of our cycle's energetic peak. We move gradually from the outward, social energy of ovulation to an inward, "home-tending" energy. This can be a good time to focus on home and family responsibilities. About two weeks after ovulation, a sudden drop in both estrogen and progesterone initiates menstruation, and we come full circle.
I'm using descriptive signposts here that only apply to menstruating women, but this also applies energetically to women who are not experiencing these obvious physical events (such as during pregnancy, early breastfeeding, and menopause), because we are still feeling the cycles of the moon. Women seem particularly linked to the moon's rhythms, which is why I'm speaking about women only with all this... and I'm curious if any men are aware of cycles of their own (if so, please share!!)
Menstrual Cycle Nutritional Support
There are ways you can support yourself nutritionally during the different parts of your cycle. Since salt is contractive and holds fluids in your body, it is beneficial to lower your salt consumption for the few days before and during your bleeding time, so your body can have a full cleansing. During this time, I crave more naturally sweet, expansive foods, and much less savory, contractive food. Leading up to and during ovulation is the time when salt is most appropriate, as its contractive nature helps the egg pop out of the ovary. When I say salt, I'm referring to natural sea and rock salts, or naturally salty foods.
It is also important after menstruation to replenish your blood, using mineral-rich foods and drinks like nettle leaf infusions, green juices, seaweeds, blue-green algae (especially spirulina and chlorella), blood-building tonic herbs, and other things. One of my favorite blood-replenishing beverages is a fermented beet drink called Beet Kvass, made with beets, salt and spring water. It's tangy, salty and sweet, and after bleeding time, I often can easily guzzle large amounts of it!
My Personal Journey
I have been very interested in this topic for the past few years, but I didn't always feel this way. I had my first menstrual cycle at age 12, and it was horrible. I didn't feel ready at all, emotionally or physically. I was at a summer camp and I didn't tell anyone all week (I just bled in my underwear the whole time). I told my parents when I got home, sobbing, like my cycle coming was a tragic event. I just didn't want to be a woman yet. For all my teen years after that, my bleeding times were long and heavy, with days at a time of extremely painful cramps. I have always been natural-medicine-minded, and never took pharmaceutical drugs for anything, except for my unbearably painful menstrual cramps.
At age 21, I stopped bleeding entirely for about 4 years, as a result of a prolonged experiment with a very cleansing type of raw food diet (high-fruit, very-low-fat). My hormone levels bottomed out and my blood volume was too low to spare any blood each month. About a year after changing my diet to include lots of superfoods, healthy fats, and blood-building tonic herbs, my cycle returned. Immediately, it was completely different than before. Its monthly timing was regular, my bleeding was light to moderate and only lasted 2-3 days, and my "cramps" were really mild... just some tender contraction feelings during the first couple days that were not only tolerable, but actually enjoyable, because they put me into an effortless meditative state.
After those 4 years of "rethinking" menstruation, my feelings about it were so different. I was actually ready to be a woman this time, and I delighted in the awareness that I have a cycle I can attune with.
When I gave birth to my son a few years later, he was an avid breastfeeder (still is!), and my menstrual cycle waited until he was two and a half to return. When it did return, nearly a year ago now, it became even more enjoyable than before. I attribute this continually increasing enjoyment of my bleeding time to how I have consciously embraced it more and more over the years.
Honor Your Cycles
Our creative power is greatest when we consciously align with our cycles. In our culture, we are instructed to follow an activity pattern determined by outside systems, and these activity and rest cycles are not aligned with nature's cycles (and our bodies' cycles). If we push through, and try to work hard during our natural resting and contemplation time, we will be moody, irritable, tired, AND we won't get anything accomplished anyway! Then we'll be dragging during the naturally creative and energetic time of our cycle, not able to fully utilize its energy because we didn't replenish at the appropriate time.
When we honor our cycles, we experience ourselves as the wise, powerful creators we already are.
Are you aware of the energy shifts of your cycle? How do you honor these shifts, or feel you could do better in honoring them? Please comment below!