The last few months have really had me reflecting even more deeply than usual on cyclical living and the pace of modern life.
A couple of weeks ago I had scheduled my diary so that I had space during my period week as usual but then I'd also left the following week clear to prepare for the Women's Nature & Yoga Retreat and then we had to postpone.
So now I ended up taking a week off to take a week off to take a week off! What a fucking blessing and a privilege. My first instinct was to reinstate all of my plans and work but I stopped myself. Yes, it was bit of a financial set back but for me being time rich is so much more important than financial gain and so as long as I can pay the bills and put food on the table then I'll take the time every time! I spent over a decade working 12+ hour days 5-6 days a week and I'm over it (HUGE gratitude to my Patrons, 1-1 clients, online yoga class attendees and incredibly generous donors right now for supporting my work and keeping this tin roof over my head and a coffee in my hand).
Lockdown has really turned things on their head and opened up space for reflection for so many of us. For me I have been reflecting on how often, pre-lockdown, I was leaving the house when my heart wasn't it for reasons of duty, obligation, guilt or financial stability concerns.
Life is too short to live in constant opposition to my heart and womb
So I've been using this time as an opportunity to deconstruct my barriers to saying no and giving myself the space to decide how I actually want my life to look.
Don't we all deserve to live a life worth living?
I've also been reflecting on the pace of life and how crazy the expectations are for us to push beyond our natural energy resources.
For years I felt that my inability to cope with the pace of life was a weakness and that there was something wrong with me but thanks to Menstrual Cycle Awareness, a deeper understanding of female physiology, rewilding and an anthropological lens I now see that it is the cultural expectations that were the problem and not me.
In the words of fellow Menstrual Mentor Vianney Leigh:
'You don't have a time management problem, you have an energy management problem' ~ Vianney Leigh
Research suggests that hunter gatherer communities work around 15 hours a week (this varies depending on what you include as 'work' and which studies you look at). And I must emphasise that 'work' in this context includes ALL the work. Including the work usually undertaken by women for free and not generally considered work in our culture: Hunting and gathering (going to Tesco), cleaning, tidying, cooking, childcare, birthing and delivering babies etc.
And they don't work by a clock but rather when the work needs to be done and when they feel like it and this means that there is ample time for leisure activities.
It's been said that hunter gatherer lives look a lot like ours when we're on holiday
When I want to better understand how to live in tune with my body I ask: 'if I were a wild human what would I be doing right now?' Not because I'm trying to recreate something that has been and gone but because it provides inspiration for a way of life that is more closely attuned to the wildness within. The wildness that is still in there underneath the over stimulated, over worked, overly cognitive modern human many of us have come to identify with.
If you were a wild human what would you be doing right now?
Our bodies and nervous systems have not evolved all that much since our wilder days and to pile as much pressure, expectation and stimulation as we do onto them is depleting and depressing. We need so much more downtime than many of us are able to take but I truly believe that, even though it's hard and sometimes seemingly impossible, we can unravel this conditioning and start weaving more wildness into our lives, regardless of our circumstances (though I fully appreciate the differences in our circumstances and privilege of course make it much easier for some than others).
So many people I speak to can't imagine how their life could become more spacious and cyclical but I really do believe that if you take steps towards the life your heart yearns for that it will take steps back towards you, however small and seemingly insignificant those steps may be.
And I see this unfolding in real time in the lives of so many of the people I work with around cyclical living and Menstrual Cycle Awareness. It is possible but it takes work, commitment and a real shake up of beliefs, stories and expectations.
It's taken 6 years of consistent work for me to finally be in the position to live in tune with my cycle but it's been worth every single step. And yet some days I still let the conditioning of Monday to Friday 9-5 drag me out of my internal rhythms because it runs DEEP.
The challenge of unravelling the conditioning that says we have to be productive to be of value should not be underestimated. In my 1-1 Menstrual Mentoring work the first few sessions are usually spent exploring cultural, societal and familial conditioning and influence and the various barriers to cyclical living that we come up against every single day. This is not overnight work.
'If you want to restore your natural rhythm, you will have to squarely face the ways of our culture. It takes planning and mental fortitude to buck the do-more-sleep-less-ignore-nature-take-a-pill-if-it-hurts culture.' ~ Carol Venolia
Are you ready to slow things down?
I am going to share some explorations and ideas below that have been shared with me over the years. Feel free to share yours with me but first let's dig into those barriers...
Photo credit: @asverna
Explorations in Slow and Soulful Living
How many hours pre lockdown (or during if nothing’s changed) were you ‘working’ including domestic duties?
How many hours are you working (again including domestic duties) now?
What time(s) of day do you typically do your best work?
How much sleep do you really want and need?
Do you act preventatively or reactively when it comes to rest?
What are your barriers to cyclical living?
How might you begin to take them down?
What would be a sustainable rhythm for you life?
'To slow down is to be taken into the soul of things.'
~ Terry Tempest Williams
I am not naturally a slow person, I walk fast, think fast, talk fast and work fast, I like coffee and loud music and high pressure work environments. Or at least that's what I have always told myself but the more accustomed to slowness I become the more I am enjoying it.
Here are some of my favourite slowness rituals I have picked up over the years.
Feel free to share yours with me too!
1. Tea Ritual
Make every cup of tea a ritual. Choose or buy a special tea ritual mug and take a moment out of your day to pause and really soak in the moment. You might like to light a candle, pull a card, burn some herbs, listen to your favourite music or a song you know slows you right down.
2. Three Breaths
If you feel yourself getting drawn into the spiralling vortex of busyness, stress and pressure. Stop as soon as you can, ideally take yourself outside, close your eyes and take 3-6 long slow breaths.
3. Move Slowly
If you're anything like me this one's going to be hard. Can you slow your movements down and really notice what you're doing and do it intentionally.
4. One Thing At a Time
Women are programmed for efficiency and multi-tasking which is a really excellent skill but it makes us more tired and in need of more sleep and can cause the brain to set up an automatic pattern of sending info to the wrong part making memory and recall harder. Try to do just one thing at a time and keep a notepad/phone to hand to write down anything that pops into your head so you don't end up with 15 tabs open on your laptop (and 10,000 open in your mind).
5. Do Less
For me this is one of the hardest of all. Expect less of yourself, drop the weight of expectation, let some people down, set a slower response time expectations and unravel the deeply ingrained conditioning around how much you 'should' do in a day so that you can feel accomplished.
6. Rest More
Rest is rebellion. Reclaim the nap. Plan space in your schedule. Stop when you're tired even if it's just for 10 minutes of viparita karani (legs up the wall) or savasana (lying down).
If you have less than 20 minutes before your next appointment don't start anything new. If that means stopping then so be it. Maybe refer back to points 1, 2 or 6 as to what to do with that time. Try not to just pick up your phone (not being judgy, I do it too).
8. Nourish Yourself Before You Pick Up Your Phone
Turn off your phone, keep it on airplane or DND as often as possible. Delete social media from your phone for a few days or a week every month. In the words of one of my favourite guides and mentors, Aubrey Renee: 'You don't owe the internet anything'.
Honouring My Mentors
And it wouldn't be right to share on slowness without a shout out to my BIGGEST inspirations on slow and soulful living...
Naseem - my mentor and guide - in the moments where I have felt less than for not being able to show up consistently and for the need to drop out cyclically I have been consistently and continually reminded of the ritual importance of darkness and the rebellion of rest and self-care.
Josh - the love of my life - this man knows how to live. He's the only person I know who looks out the window as an activity. He finds my puritan guilt around rest hilarious and confusing and living with him for the last 8 years has been to learn slowness from a master.
Cherry - my bestie, my wife for life - she role models living to live rather than living to work and has always inspired me with her commitment to making every moment magic.
Latham Thomas - author and founder of Mama Glow - I learned from Latham that self-care originated with Women of Colour and how it was an integral part of the Black Panther Party. Latham shares the tea ritual and so much more in her gorgeous book 'Own Your Glow'
Aubrey Renee - another of my mentors and guides, Aubrey is a breath, movement and mindfulness guide and the founder and camp leader of Restore Kentucky - A woman after my own heart, it was from this beautiful creature that I learned how to 'do' Instagram. I learned I could still harness the beauty and power of the platform without becoming depleted and exhausted. Whenever I'd see her disappear from socials for a few weeks or only post a few times a year my heart would SING and I vowed to also lead the way with a slowed down approach to my work and social media.
Lots of love,