Menstrual cycle awareness together with yoga, meditation and nature are my essential life supports and help me to navigate much of the emotional messiness that life and menstruation bring to the table but that is not to say that I always get it right. The premenstrual time can and does still catch me off guard and lead back down the path of habitual behavioural patterns and into some very unhealthy ways of relating to myself and to others.
Sometimes it can feel as though the premenstruum has absolutely no higher purpose, it is just painful , raw and destructive. What is there to learn in the very centre of a hot rage or a crushing low? The truth is, absolutely nothing can be learned from the very centre of anything. I either have to step out or somehow manage not to step in in the first place. Easier said than done but for me the key is holding the tension long enough to be able to distil the strongest sensations to the essence of their truth and then waiting for the fire to die down to smouldering embers, cool enough to allow for a clear, considered delivery of this essence of truth with kindness and compassion.
"the menstrual cycle is multifaceted and sneaky and at the same time thins the veil between the conscious and unconscious mind allowing me to sit well within my guarded tower whilst simultaneously sending out for help and breaking down the drawbridge to expose my protections methods for what they truly are."
This weekend I didn’t hold the tension, I didn't wait for the embers to cool and I stepped right into the centre of the raging fire without a second thought, delivering unrefined raw criticisms and unthinking remarks whilst I was still flaming. I have been so much better at this but in a moment of unconsciousness I fell off the wagon and straight into hot rage and reactionary behaviour, which in the moment left me feeling very righteous but afterwards left me feeling lost, confused and very, very guilty. The strong pull of the easiest way out and my habitual patterns were calling me in; stubbornness, refusing to acknowledge my wrong doings, reflecting the situation back on the other and if all else fails giving up and running away. But as life has a habit of doing, a stream of synchronistic situations showed me what was unfolding through this seemingly pointless and painful experience.
The first insight came via a menstruality teaching from Alexandra Pope via the recent Wild Power course she delivered with TreeSisters, adapted here into my own words;
Autumn’s remit is to criticise with a sting, to cause disruption and disturbance. A disturbance that cracks us open and breaks us apart, taking down our protection mechanisms in the process. It is a cyclical shedding of old skin and exposing of our deepest vulnerabilities, a rhythmic reminder to learn how to hold ourselves in our suffering and tend to our wounds. In its natural home of the inner autumn, the inner critic becomes a catalyst for change and growth.
The second came from some seemingly very mundane words about hamstrings in a yoga class. I was guiding the class through a hamstring stretch in class and without much thought said: ‘try to stay just behind the strongest sensation, it is here that there is the most possibility for change’. My inner wisdom clearly decided I needed to hear those words and delivered them to me through my own mouth. Very clever.
Stubbornness, anger, blame, giving up, shutting down and running away are a combination of learned behaviours and developed coping strategies, which have in the past served me very well in the face of violence, manipulation, abuse and control but now, in the context of a very healthy relationship with a very good man do nothing but restrict me from experiencing the depth of connection I have in moments of softness experienced that we are capable of. As my layers of buffering fall away during the premenstrual phase, my inner defences grow harder to compensate, I begin to feel hardened, cold and distanced. I begin to push people away, shut down my emotions and seek out anything to distract me from the truth of my experience, anything to numb the potential pain on the horizon. But thankfully the menstrual cycle is multifaceted and sneaky and at the same time thins the veil between the conscious and unconscious mind allowing me to sit well within my guarded tower whilst simultaneously sending out for help and breaking down the drawbridge to expose my protections methods for what they truly are.
Autumn exposes the best and the worst of who I am and I feel unbelievably grateful that after 18 years I can finally understand the role of this seemingly recklessly destructive force. I can’t take back all that I have done wrong and all those that I have hurt but I can accept responsibility, learn from my mistakes and apologise rooted in the knowledge that each cycle I learn a little more how to wisely wield the power of fire.
Previous blog: Menstrual cycle awareness saved my life (part 1)
Learn more about menstruality and menstrual cycle awareness here: www.moonforestflow.com/menstrualcycleawareness