Moon Time - Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle

Many women dread “that time of the month”. So do their partners and children. But did you know that PMS is unheard of in certain cultures? It is thought to be a direct consequence of Western lifestyles – and the demand for women to be always on the go.
PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) or PMT (pre-menstrual tension) can include a long list of symptoms including abdominal bloating and water retention, being snappy, and feeling angry, short-tempered, impatient, tearful. There can be painful cramping, and lower back ache. Dizziness, nausea, diarrhoea, constipations, headaches and migraines are all common. And don’t forget forgetfulness, or difficulty making decisions, spots, greasy skin and hair.
For some women these symptoms may start over a week before their period comes and may continue throughout their bleeding time. This is no small matter if two weeks out of every month are filled with physical and emotional suffering. PMS has been attributed to a range of causes. Some say it is down to a combination of pollution, poor diets, raised stress levels, 24/7 lifestyles and the status of women in our culture. Other researchers put it down to mineral deficiencies—most notably in magnesium and calcium. But again the lack of these or poor absorption of them can be put down to poor diets, toxins and stress. 
In the afterword to The Wise Wound, authors Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove state that  ‘Society apparently has amplified the menstrual taboo by creating a diet [and lifestyle] that is OK for men but which harms women’s menstrual cycles.’ It seems that we have built a culture which optimises PMS, depression and exhaustion, rather than women’s health. It is time to start taking this back, one woman’s life at a time.
Biologically speaking the purpose of the menstrual cycle is to clear out the womb from the potentials of life which did not take root. It is a clearing of the old womb lining no longer needed from the previous fertility cycle, to allow space for a new, nutrient rich lining. We accept this biological level. But we lack understanding that this cleansing and purifying actually happens on every level of a woman’s existence and consciousness, not just in her physical body, rooted in the womb, but also in the emotional body. And our bodies in this modern world have a lot more to eliminate and purify.
What if we had a culture where women were encouraged to rest and retreat when they had their periods? It may seem far-fetched, but awareness of women’s cycles is beginning to become more main stream. Japan legally enshrined the right for menstrual leave in 1947, and Taiwan in 2013 (although admittedly Taiwan’s only legislates for an additional three days sick leave a year). In Indonesia women are entitled to two days off a month for menstruality, and in South Korea too. Stop and take that in for a moment! Women get to work around their menstrual cycles. It is a real thing, not just a utopian feminist dream. And it is happening now in some of the most technologically advanced cultures on the planet. 
From the age of 12 to 51, unless you are pregnant or on the pill, every single day of your life as a woman is situated somewhere on the menstrual cycle. But we are not taught about how these constant shifts affect us. 
We are taught the basics of the menstrual cycle in school. But most women’s knowledge of their bodies extends little further – despite the fact that each phase of the menstrual cycle has a direct impact on their libido, their fertility, their energy levels, and their creativity. Their cycle also affects their hormones, body temperature, concentration levels, and even dream life is impacted directly by the menstrual cycle. And yet nobody talks about it. Women are expected to be the same, day in, day out. Despite the fact that our bodies are cycling through the various parts of the menstrual cycle. Just keep calm and carry on. As girls we may have been taught to look out for our first blood. And told what to use to absorb it. But after that: silence. Hide it, ignore it, and make sure no one notices. And so we think we must be a little crazy as we experience these massive fluctuations every month. Unless we are lucky enough to have a close girlfriend who shares her inner world with us. But many of us do not. And so we are alone in our bodies. 
Each month our bodies go through a series of changes, many of which we may be unconscious of. These include shifts in levels of hormones, vitamins and minerals, vaginal temperature and secretions, the structure of the womb lining and cervix, body weight, water retention, heart rate, breast size and texture, attention span, pain threshold . These changes are biological and measurable. They are most definitely not ‘all in your head’ as many would have us believe. This is why it is so crucial to honour these changes by adapting our lives to them as much as possible.  
We cannot just will these changes not to happen as they are an integral part of our fertility. The author and menstrual educator Alexandra Pope makes a sharp analogy when she says that “Going against natural bodily rhythms can create stress ... Imagine a doctor telling you to ignore your circadian [daily] rhythm. Ignore the natural inclination to sleep at night, just keep going till you drop. Not only would it be difficult to order society, it would be madness for your wellbeing. But in essence that’s what’s happening to women when we’re told to ignore the rhythm of the menstrual cycle.”
Our cycles ensure that we do not live static lives. Instead they demand that we live dynamically, constantly exploring the different gifts of feminine power that each portion of our cycle holds. Part of learning the art of being a woman is learning to honour each element of our cycles and ourselves. The menstrual cycle is, in the words of Alexandra Pope, ‘our inner guidance system, initiating us into and anointing us with ever deepening revelation and wisdom.’
Other cultures and other times have had different understandings of the female body, its innate rhythms and wisdom. Other cultures have honoured the menstrual blood as wise, the moon as a powerful force and the ability to give birth as a miracle. Learning to live in harmony with our cycles is key to health and well-being of individual women, their families and communities. Relearning the wisdom inherent in our cycles is one of the simplest, yet most effective forms of healing there is.
About the author: 

Lucy Pearce is the best-selling author of Moon Time: harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle which has struck a chord with a generation of women and has been hailed as 'life-changing' by readers around the world. Her version for girls aged 9-14 is Reaching for the Moon. Lucy is an East Cork native, author of four women’s non-fiction books, and sought after speaker on women’s cycles and creativity.

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