by Alexandra Pope How well do you really understand menstruation? Do you look forward to it? Is it a powerfully positive time in your life? In contrast to the messages you may have received growing up, and even from women role models in your life, perhaps that you believe to this day, let’s delve into the true nature, power, and beauty of this gift. Alexandra is here to shed light that the menstrual cycle is a hidden resource in a woman’s body that once tapped in to can become the means of a rich psychological and spiritual exploration. A woman can open to inner forces that illuminate, guide and support the unfolding of her life journey—this can help her manifest her goals, fulfill her creative calling, and deepen in to her spiritual nature. This is a process initiated at her very first period—menarche—and continues to unfold, becoming deeper and more refined, until the time of menopause.
There are two currents or impulses of energy in the cycle—the first is a movement of growth leading from menstruation to ovulation. This is a natural movement outwards away from a deep interiority—from an intimate connection to your inner self to a refocusing on your outer work and others. This time is about asserting your will and going out to create and shape your life. The second impulse of energy is from ovulation to menstruation and, like the tide retreating, gradually draws you back deeply into yourself again. This second movement creates more permeability giving you greater insight, a capacity to sense into the complexity and depth of things, and in so doing to mature. You move from a singular focus in the first half of the cycle to multi-focal awareness, channeling and managing much more tension and therefore creative potential. In the growth phase you have a natural clarity about what needs to be done and the focus and motivation to do it. As the cycle turns and you enter the second half it’s less about producing and more about sorting and refining what you have produced. You have a different kind of energy and motivation—it is insight in to what’s working and what isn’t, and a drive to sort it out. Gradually this may give way to a feeling of letting be and allowing that fully takes over once you begin to bleed. Don’t be fooled that this ‘letting be’ is somehow a waste of time. On the contrary you should think of it as a time of potentising what you do. By allowing things to just be for a while, something happens. Other forces can come in whether it is literally support form other people or your own deep wisdom that offers insights and clarity. As you pull back you create the literal and psychic space for these things to emerge.
These two currents of energy create the inner seasons of your body. Just as we move through the seasons of the year, so in the menstrual month you will feel those ‘seasons’ within you. Once you have emerged from menstruation you will find yourself in your spring phase, and just as actual spring awakens in us wonderful new energies to go out and experience life, this awakening happens within your own body. Each month you have a fresh start, an opportunity to rediscover the power of innocence and wonder and, like the Fool, to say Yes to impossible dreams and step off the edge to manifest them. Gradually your consciousness expands as you emerge in to the summer of your cycle, the ovulation phase, the time of ‘out there’ energy. Your spirit will feel a sense of ‘arrival’ and with that greater ease and flow. Your energy will spread more widely. It’s a natural time to connect, network, extend your reach and in all ways manifest. You might experience a magnetic quality where you draw things to you. As ever the wheel must turn and so you enter the autumn phase. Coming off the high of summer can sometimes feel like a let down. For women who don’t allow themselves to experience their changing rhythm this can feel like a problem, as though there is something wrong with them because they can’t maintain the same high level of activity and energy all the time. No one can. The only way to keep going all the time is to live on coffee and sugar or take drugs to keep your body hyped. This, as you well know, is not a recipe for success, well-being or healthy communion with others. And so, as you enter the autumn phase, you may notice that things might not look as sunny as before. Your inner critic has stepped to the fore. This is feedback time. You examine yourself self, others and what you do more critically. Along with heightened insight, you have added powers to deliver it, usually unadorned. It can hurt. Societally, we call this PMS. There can also be a feeling of urgency, as though there is no time to waste and there isn’t because the end of the cycle is nearly here and the impulse is to complete our projects, clean up our relationships and literally clean and sort our physical environment. You may find yourself having arguments, sorting out problems you’ve been avoiding, or have added energy for any difficult issues you’re negotiating. You’re in touch with many more layers of your being now and this can feel both empowering and enriching but also overwhelming if you are unable to handle the tension of greater complexity and feeling. But, each menstrual month you get another opportunity to learn how to handle this charged time, and in so doing you become stronger and wiser.
Finally you arrive at the winter phase of the cycle, menstruation, the time of deep rest and interiority. The increasing permeability of the autumn phase creates a heightened sensitivity—emotionally, intuitively and psychically—making you open to more subtle levels. This reaches its zenith at menstruation. If you value intellect over this form of sensitive intelligence then you will suffer, but if you’re are present to and respect this heightened sensitivity you can potentially open to a wonderful experience of love, peace and connectedness. In the wintertime you are entering that vital phase of the creative process where you simply have to let things be for a while, that means Do Nothing. Just as nature goes into herself and rests in preparation for the new season of growth, so your spirit needs to do that. This is the moment to really empty out, release the stress of the previous month, have a good cry if necessary, and, most importantly, burn all your lists of things to do. And then out of nowhere you will find new life and new ideas return without you having to do anything. Women often experience a release of energy though I caution against rushing out and dissipating it on doing lots of things. Rather, imagine the purpose of this energy is to renew you. Feel it course through your body reactivating your energy centres or charkas. It’s rebalancing everything, and brings with it an outpouring of creative ideas, inspirations, visions—this is the time of serious channelling, contacting the spirits, tuning into your deep still core and feeling the bigger purpose of who you are. Failure to stop at menstruation or, at the very least, to slow down and move at the pace of your body and not of your head, will deprive you of this profound opportunity for renewal, the sense of meaning and belonging that is naturally gifted at this time, and could result in increasing exhaustion and lack of effectiveness in your life.
Each woman will come to know this unique rhythm in her own way and find her natural openings to other layers of herself. Your experience of the cycle will be affected by your nature—your strengths and weaknesses and overall health—and the environment that you live and work in. Equally the seasons of the year and the phases of the moon will cast their influence too. This is not a fixed process but rather one that responds at all times to who you are on the inside and what you have to deal with on the outside. The emphasis is, as always, on you feeling and sensing your own singular experience and respecting that. Each step of the creative process is encoded in your body as a living experience that’s guiding you in what’s required to both birth yourself and your goals. The cycle doesn’t stop you from doing anything but rather enhances what you do do.
The more you pay attention to the cycle the more you will discover hot spots—times of heightened or more intense feeling. If you have menstrual problems, it is the time when the symptoms are most acute. Whether pleasurable or challenging these days are moments of power, as though you are being charged by another level of reality. You’ll find hot spots for such things as: causing trouble—a good thing—that’s the moment when you’re not censoring yourself; high productivity; least tolerance or conversely a time of feeling very magnanimous; a high time for partying or the secret time for dreaming or getting guidance; the darkest, most alone time; and the time of most tenderness when you can experience exquisite intimacy. Make a mental note, or mark them in your diary, especially if you find yourself caught out by the challenges of your hot spots. And then capitalise on them! Some of the hot spots are associated with feelings of vulnerability. Generally we see vulnerability as weakness, and nowhere is this truer than those times of the cycle when we might feel overwhelmed, emotional, or highly reactive. Vulnerability is what you need to cross over into the deeper parts of yourself, to experience a larger consciousness and to know the possibility of love. Regard vulnerability as a doorway. To handle this doorway without being overwhelmed or shamed slow down, rest more, eat well, don’t pressure yourself in the same way, and socialise less so that you have space to court this delicate sensitivity that holds so much promise. Overtime you will come to cherish and feel strengthened by this experience, rather than dismissing it as a problem you have to cope with. Far from the cycle providing you with feelings of wellbeing and empowerment, if you suffer with menstrual problems, you may feel very dis–empowered. Women suffer menstrually for many reasons but at the heart of the suffering is the severing of a woman from the inner power of her body. The first remedy is to restore that knowledge, to work with the rhythm of your cycle. As you do that tension falls away, and this alone can ease symptoms—often quite markedly. Awareness of the cycle can unlock an understanding of yourself and your problems that is also healing. This newfound awareness starts to build a quiet inner strength that will support you to take the other necessary self–care steps for healing, of which there are many. Just as at menstruation a woman is birthing herself anew each month, so menopause is the birthing of a new phase of a woman’s life—the post child–bearing years. Her focus becomes simultaneously both deeply with herself and awake to the world. She will find these two are intimately connected. Psychologically the menopausal transition is akin to the autumn phase of the menstrual cycle only it is slightly more amplified lasting over a number of years rather than days! The rumblings of a woman’s soul will be clear and unequivocal. This is the moment when any lingering self–denial and self-rejection will be most acutely exposed and must be abandoned. Now you must say Yes to yourself—to all the complicated messiness of being human, of being you. For better or worse, you ‘marry’ yourself. It is the time of big insights and radical changes. You are forming the conditions for the new ‘home’ you want to live in so that you can manifest your life calling—the work you were born to do.
Overtime time menstrual cycle awareness generates feelings of love and tenderness. A woman can build a sure self–knowledge, handle deeper instinctual and intuitive powers, integrating both the intelligence of her intellect with a more embodied, ancient knowing that is eminently practical and relational. She moves from an intelligence that is isolated with in the walls of herself to a knowing that is merged with the world, from an intelligence based on her own needs to one based on the needs of the world. It is as though she begins to think as the world, becoming the world’s knowing[i]. This is the coming of Wisdom and is an extraordinary blessing.
[i] I am grateful to the writings of Robert Sardello for this deeper appreciation of midlife— Love and the World, Lindisfarne Books 2001 Great Barrington, MA, p. 33 Would you like to hear more about other women’s health topics by amazing, inspirational, and educated authors like Alexandra? Check out the WISH Summit, where 39 other speakers present their expertise on women’s health and wellness, too.
Alexandra Pope works as a women’s leadership coach, facilitator and counselor She is also the author of a number of books. Along with her colleagues in Australia, for the last twenty–five years she has pioneered a ground–breaking approach to women’s physical, psychological and spiritual well-being based on the cycle and the journey from menarche to menopause.
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