Why we adore Menstruality
What’s not to adore? Menstruality is our in-built code, guiding us to self-kindness, power and agency; a source of empowerment within. It’s unique to each of us, allowing us to live authentic and energised lives. It gifts to us the authority of knowing when to rest, when to spring into action and everything in between. The term menstruality was created by psychotherapist and menstrual educator Jane Catherine Severn to indicate the time from the first period to the menopause moment.
How do we access the code?
It really couldn’t be simpler – we raise our awareness, we allow ourselves to be curious, and keep an open heart to respond to the shifts, gifts, and challenges that arise over the lunar or menstrual month. This is Menstrual Cycle Awareness.
Now of course, we know that it’s never that simple, particularly when the societal message of pushing through no matter what, has been hammered home to us for far too long. But the good news is, we appear to be reaching a time when there is a consciousness emerging. A realisation that those with a menstrual cycle are not linear beings who react, perform and exist in the same way over the course of our menstrual cycle.
Unless contraception is medicating our cycle, when cycle awareness may still be present but likely to be much more subtle, we naturally ebb and flow.
We are called to develop the art of listening. In each cycle, we’ll hear different words, different versions of ourselves. No two cycles are exactly the same, and our shifts may depend on internal and external factors. Pressures at work, relationships, the moon phases, even world events will change our experience. However, if we give our cycle full awareness, patterns begin to emerge, enlightening us to our inner wisdom.
In simple terms menstruality is the process of tracking the cycles in our life and noticing how we shift through our menstrual month, and gaining an understanding of our menstrual seasons.
The difference in Menstrual Cycle Awareness is that the map is not theoretical, it is already embodied in our everyday lived experience. We hold the information within each and every one of us.
In fact, Glinda the Good Witch couldn’t have said it better –
“You had the power all along, my dear”
The Menstrual Seasons
The Menstrual Seasons offer us a relatable language for us as we journey around each cycle, giving us a seasonal grounding to connect with. Everyone’s experience is unique to them, but having a tool to guide us, gives us awareness, and that awareness introduces the possibility of forgiveness, kindness and acceptance to however we show up in our cycle phases.
Menstrual Summer/Phase of Ovulation
We’re beginning with the season of Menstrual Summer, of ovulation, simply because that is often seen as the most ‘socially acceptable’ phase in our cycle. Oestrogen creates an open-hearted quality of YES! We may feel more aroused, more sensual, more flirtatious, more sociable, powerful in our own skin, and ready to take on the world. This is the Wonder Woman way of being that is so highly prized by our culture.
There is however, a shadow side. Overwhelm, for one; taking on too much in your summer, that when you move later into your cycle, you can’t fathom how or why you said yes to so much! Those on a fertility journey may also find this phase challenging, with so much riding on ovulation.
Menstrual Autumn/Premenstrual Phase
Depending on how you’ve managed your energy in your Summer, the slide into menstrual Autumn comes with a moment of clarity. What you accept and tolerate in Summer, becomes, sometimes suddenly, intolerable in Autumn! Suddenly the NO becomes crystal clear. We start editing as we see things around us with real discernment. We may not, though edit our language. High fives if you are more sweary in your Menstrual Autumn, especially your perimenopausal Menstrual Autumn!
Autumn tends to be when our inner critic starts shouting the loudest. It’s a useful time to have a sit down with that unkind inner voice, edit out what is not in the least useful (the critic can be a nasty piece of work) and seek out what is helpful.
Some aspects of grief, as we begin to prepare ourselves to release during menstruation.
Our physical energy changes in Autumn. Some may feel more fatigued, some may be buoyed to “get shit done”. It’s all about listening to what your body and psyche are asking of you. Welcoming spurts of action with more space for rest maybe?
Menstrual Winter/Phase of Menstruation
With the NO and editing of Autumn, we may have paved the way for sinking even deeper inwards for our Menstrual Winter. How we allow ourselves to bleed often carves out the energy for the rest of our cycle. Rest is usually what our body and psyche demands of us. Do you recognise an almost sweet spot of deep tiredness when your body says, OK it’s time to completely stop so I can bleed; that’s all I need to do right now?
Depending on your experience of your period, there may be an elation of release. There may be a rising feeling of grief with the letting go of the blood.
The shadow side is if it’s been necessary to push through, which may present itself in more pain, uncomfortable fatigue and resentment. Again when on the fertility journey it may be a time of more grief for no pregnancy or anticipation of an assisted cycle.
Menstrual Spring/Post Menstruation and Pre Ovulation
Through our many hours of supporting our clients through Menstrual Medicine Circles, one particularly trippy tripping point is Menstrual Spring. Here’s the picture – you’ve listened to your needs and honoured your bleed, been gentle with yourself in your winter, maybe thrown out your to-do list; you’ve really listened to your body and rested, and then BAM you leap straight back into action after your period.
It’s a point in our cycle that can be a hidden gem of opportunity. If you find that you fall into overwhelm quickly in this season and the later seasons, bring your focus back to just after your period. What if you didn’t leap back into action, but give yourself a little more time of gentleness, let yourself ease back into the world?
After the vulnerability of early Spring, our shift may be less bumpy into a more playful and even joyous later Spring, before we turn in the cycle to Menstrual Summer and ovulation again.
Are your more Yin or more Yang?
The cycle can be simply divided in two, to illustrate the different qualities within it.
The Spring and Summer side is more Yang, when we feel the pull of the YES to the outside world more:
- Out in the world
- In charge
- Connected with others
The Autumn and Winter side is more Yin, and when you may feel more aligned to the NO of the outside world:
- Coming home to yourself
- Inner focus
There are different nuances to this model above, such as early Spring may feel more vulnerable and tender. In our current world, it’s the late Spring and Summer that gets the applause, the one who wins the Oscar and is adored. But can you imagine being at the height of ovulation all the time? Always giving out, being sexy and busy and giving our all? We’d crash and burn! And we often do!
Are you more aligned to Autumn/Winter?
It’s helpful to consider whether you feel you are naturally aligned more with the YES of Spring and Summer or the NO of Autumn and Winter.
High sensitives tend to find their home in Autumn and Winter, although it doesn’t make this phase less vulnerable and raw. The call to self-kindness may be strong and feel more challenging if our needs aren’t met during this time, it’s a great time to pull in resources to soothe our nervous system.
Are you more aligned to Spring/Summer?
If you relate more to the YES of Spring and Summer, there may still be challenges; knowing when to rest and when to let go for example. You will also have to face the monthly task of crossing the boundary from the more Yang energy of Summer to Autumn where we are invited to come into relationship with our inner self.
It’s also helpful to consider which side of the cycle our families and those you spend time with value more, and whether our own constitution fitted in with that, or not.
Whatever side you identify with, your task is to learn how to embrace the more challenging aspect, by employing self-care, kindness and, of course, menstrual cycle awareness.
What about other cycles?
For those who don’t have a menstrual cycle, whether it’s medically, surgically or postmenopause in Second Spring, feeling into the seasonal shifts can be just as supportive. However, the moon is always there as a guide and focus for where your energy and emotions are being pulled.
The full moon is considered the equivalent of Summer and ovulation, the dark or new moon holds the energy of Winter or the phase of menstruation, the waxing moon is Spring in energy and the waning moon is considered to be the equivalent of Autumn.
You may find that you are more guided by your natal moon. In this case, the phase the moon was in when you born becomes the equivalent of high Summer. You can find out your natal moon by Googling ‘moon phase on ../../.. ‘ just insert your date of birth. A couple of months charting will show you what has more influence over you.
You can download and enjoy tuning into the Moon by downloading our Moon chart.
Cycles all around
Once you start to become cycle-literate, you’ll start to notice the same patterns in other cycles in your life.
- Breath cycles
- Creative cycles
- Daily cycles
- Life cycles
Gaining a deeper understanding of your menstrual cycle can help you through the tricky bits in the other cycles, for example:
- Kate’s chart can help when you get stuck at a particular point in a creative project.
- How learning to let go at the end of the out-breath gives you more vitality and power when you run
- Managing your day to support better sleep
Once we give ourselves permission to recognise that there is a place for shifts in emotion, psyche, energy; we can acknowledge that when our body is screaming out to stop, to speed up, to socialise, to find solitude; we find it easier to notice the gifts and challenges in each season of our cycle.
And the pay-off is..? Our general well-being and health, physical and psychological have the potential to flourish.
The seasonal map also helps to illuminate our life cycle as a woman, where the same seasonal changes exist. We truly honour the transitions we move through as each one impacts the next and those that we go through in our future. Our experience at menarche can colour your menstrual cycle life experience, and each Autumn and Winter of your menstrual cycle is a practice run for the perimenopause and menopause journey, you can find out more about menopause phases here. You can see how becoming aware of the shifts that take place each cycle feeds your life journey.
Maiden, from the start of menstruation or menarche.
Spring qualities – new shoots, vulnerability, rising playfulness
Creative activation, motherhood, birthing projects, business and/or babies.
Summer qualities – pleasure, changing the world, action, celebration.
Enchantress, warrior, perimenopause, refining and consolidating who we are.
Autumn qualities – truth, sorting, editing, getting real on all levels!
Menopause, attending to our inner work
Winter qualities – inner wisdom, knowing, stillness, deep healing, snuggling down.
It’s not that many generations ago that surviving up to or postmenopause was less likely. What an incredible time we live in now that we have so many educated, conscious menopausal women to turn to. Just to clear things up, menopause or our life Winter does not been we reach THE END, oh no, we’re heading instead for a rebirth, with a newly arisen consciousness…Welcome to Second Spring.
The time when having emerged from the refining process of menopause, we can engage with our passions and projects in the world with fresh power and authenticity.
This shows the life seasons and phases of menopause
We want to acknowledge our menstruality teachers Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo- Wurlitzer of Red School for all they have taught us.
Your normal is the only normal when exploring your cycle. Educators can present archetypes and possibilities for what to expect in each season. However, your emotional responses differ from the archetype; you may feel energised during your bleed in Winter or feel like hibernating while ovulating in Summer. There is no wrong response. In fact we love Red School’s big red rule:
“Your own experience trumps everything else”
The benefits of menstruality
The practise of observing the variations in your cycle helps us to integrate the parts that are challenging; our shadow self, inner critics, vulnerabilities, lack of kindness and judgments about ourselves become very clear as they are repeated over the months. We literally get to practice! Month after month, cycle after cycle, menstruality offers us another opportunity to integrate and heal ourselves.
As we observe our cycles, it becomes clear where we feel most sensitive and what triggers us. Over time it becomes possible to develop successful self-kindness strategies that will ease us through our most vulnerable times. We also learn how strategic pausing can help, for example at menstruation, or other tender moments.
For highly sensitive women, Summer can be particularly tricky at ovulation because that’s when everything feels so intense. If this is you it can be helpful to pause and rest here to manage the intensity, before coming home to yourself in the Autumn/Winter half of the cycle.
Pain, PMS, rage, endometriosis and fatigue can all be affected by the quality of kindness that menstrual cycle awareness encourages. Noticing when you ‘over-do’ yourself, expending energy that is in short supply, noticing what sort of rest or exercise you need at different times of your cycle will become clearer.
When there is pain present, the question of “what do I need to support myself right now” becomes even stronger. Looking at meeting our needs while we’re in menstrual winter pays itself back in droves over the rest of our cycle.
Menopause and Perimenopause
During the shifts of perimenopause, tracking our cycle can be an anchor at a very challenging time.
If you are still cycling, the more you can understand about your autumn/premenstruum, the more kind and resilience resources you will have to support you in the stormy seas of perimenopause! View this time being in training for menopause!
In menopause, that being a year from your last period in medical terms, the psycho-spiritual process of menopause can still continue; the physical menopause and the psycho-spiritual seem to have their own separate time-frames. A knowledge of the phases of menopause is really helpful here as is feeling certain of the coming of the Second Spring.
Be kind to yourself first
You can see how much self-care and kindness menstrual cycle awareness generates. And if we can be kind to ourselves first, then we have the resources to be kind to our family friends and the wider community. We are well resourced. You might enjoy support for being kind to yourself in the Woman Kind community.
Menstruality in community
An understanding of our cyclical nature of enhances not just our own empowerment, but others around us. It helps to create a mindset of tolerance and empathy for everyone’s menstrual and menopausal journey. And an opportunity to create community.
Understanding the changes that happen in Autumn, for instance, can help when dealing with challenging behaviour from other those around us.
Cycle awareness can also be an excellent management tool in the wider world.
For some, sharing their cycle has become a way of managing their relationships and work. TMI? Well imagine that your partner or co-worker could check a little chart to find that you’re in Autumn, so to leave you alone or to pay attention to the truth speaking which is more available to us in Autumn. A whole load of difficulty has been removed. Leora’s husband has a little photo of her which he moves around a cycle chart to keep up with how she might be feeling and responding.
Educating those in your life about cycle awareness will not only improve your relationship but may also re-connect them to their own cyclical nature; what an amazing gift!
Woman Kind Resources:
Get going by downloading your own Menstrual Cycle Chart
If you don’t have a menstrual cycle, download our Moon Chart
Our musings on how to chart your cycle
Medicine Circles and how we take cycle awareness into process