ok. I don’t know if I freaked you out or embarrassed you or if u had to hide your terminal at work from the eyes of coworkers to read this article but that is how we have been forced to feel about the topic of menstruation!
Well, I feel that that I was born to speak about menstruation. I am utterly and obsessively fascinated and in awe of Her. Yes. you heard me right, I addressed menstruation as a ‘Her’. To me, She is the Goddess – Shakti. I can’t describe menstruation in any other way.
My relationship with menstruation has been a journey of deep connection, love and several ups and downs, pain, deep spiritual transition, trans-state, visioning, dreaming – so much is there. I can write books after book just on this topic because I feel it is one of the greatest mysteries of our body that connects us very deeply to nature like in the Earth (& life on her) and the Moon and so much more.
Menstruation is one of our privileges as women. She gives us the experience of life in this universe as non-linear, non-static and unknown. She makes us realize that we are not in control and that all life is sacred – this body is sacred, her blood is sacred.
If we look at the social fabric of any indigenous culture in the world – there are a zillion taboos associated with Menstruation, which were strictly followed. The main important ones are common across cultures –there expressions may differ, stories associated or narrated may differ, meanings may differ. In fact, some of the meanings or expressions are exact opposite. I am listing some of the main ones:
– Menstruating women were separated from the normal flow of life or people. In other words, during her time of menstruation, she stayed separate from the rest of her family.
– Many cultures had (or still have) menstruating huts outside of the communal dwelling where women retreat. As cultures developed modernly, homes had separate rooms adjacent to the kitchen specifically for menstruation and childbirth. These areas only had basic necessities. Even light was avoided. Women slept on the floor or earth with few comforts. In some cases her body (head down) was submerged inside the earth, in some other cases contact with the earth was completely avoided.
– She was not allowed to engage in any household chores,
– She was seen as powerfully dangerous during this time. Thus her contact including her touch, gaze, words were avoided and believed to dangerous. Because of this, everything she touched, used or wore needed to be ritually purified before it could be in contact with other things,
– Her food was simple and differently prepared.
– Men and children stayed away from her
Over the years, as societies shifted from a mother-centered existence to a father-centered overly patriarchal existence, these taboos took on a fiercer expression. Menstrual blood that still adorns the inner sanctums of ancient human existence in the form of art, ritual and sacred space now just like the woman who beholds her became redeemed as impure, polluted, bad, dirty, sin causing. Patriarchal-ly organized religion in every part of the globe immensely contributed towards this resulting in also controlling women’s bodies, spirituality and sexuality.
Today Menstruation & Menstrual Blood are the least spoken topic in the world. Even if they are it is in a very scientific – biological sort of way. She has lost her sacredness, sanctity. Her appearance has been banned from the social fabric. She is unseen, unspoken of and unheld.
You may see all kinds of blood splattered on the TV screen – from war, rape, mutilations, annihilation, genocide, gang wars – gory details always go along with it to create more adrenalin rush. No – the one blood which flows out of the woman’s body naturally, peacefully, without a cut sadly, will not be in that category. Even the napkin ads choose to use blue as the blood.
I am completely in favor of Menstrual blood being unseen and unspoken and tabooed because I feel anything that is sacred and special needs to be held as a secret – in reverence, in close quarters. Although that was the foundation in indigenous cultures in the ancient times, today the reason she is hidden or not worth mentioning out aloud or not to be displayed publically is because she is embarrassing, shameful and dirty. She is Dirty!! She is bad!! She is a Sin!!
In our fight to reclaim our freedom and womanhood in the modernly masculine world, in order to prove that “ I can run with you”, “I can do what you do”, “I am like you” and that I fit into your modernly masculine establishment, we have given up many of our natural rights and one of them is menstruation and the ancient practices.
Yes. Our fast paced masculine-ly oriented modern consumerist linearly flowing life has no room for the complication of menstruation. Observing her taboes means slowing down, missing days of work, school, college and then having to catch up – all these present only one choice in front of us – escape her, shut her, force her out. We loose out on the biggest aspect of our life – our femininity, our spirituality, our sexuality – and most important of all – our connection to the Earth and all its elements.
To our modern eye, these old ancient practices may seem absurd and oppressive but when we as women reclaim them and incorporate them in our lives, we will be amazed at how it opens up so many connections in our body to nature and all the life around us. It is the deepest cleansing a woman can have every month like becoming new again – every month.
From my own personal experience in the last zillion years, I have gone through intense pain during menstruation to the verge of blacking out. The only one time that I took a pain medication was because I was not following my routine of staying home but was in a public place unable to get out. However in the last couple of years, I have changed my life choices dramatically to incorporate many things including Menstruation.
I am in ritual when she comes. I slow down completely. I take the day(s) off. Do not exert myself. For three days my focus is – rest – introspect – meditate – dream – sleep – move – do nothing. I avoid spicy food – eat simple – sometimes hardly any – do not cook. I do not wash my hair. I stay away or avoid from human interaction. On the forth day, when I have the whole body shower (including my hair), there is this sweetness in my body – I cannot describe it. Like I am delicious – my body becomes so light, happy and settled like never before. That day when I do yoga, I have the greatest flexibility – my mind is awake and ready to go. Now I track my menstruation with the moon and she maps herself exactly on clock with the New Moon. There are numerous situations when I have had to be in a conference or presentation, even in those moments, I am in ritual fully aware of her presence and in honor of her. I am still slowed down. She has been there for me fully and has made it soooo easy for me in those moments like a woman companion. It is so difficult to translate in words because it is an experience that is beyond words for me.
Is it an easy choice to make when we(women) to be plugged out of this consumerist hoarding culture we are immersed in? Not really because we, women, are the #1 consumer of most goods manufactured in the world. To have them, we need to be plugged in? It is not an easy choice but it is a wise choice.
Women were known to be wise naturally through birth and that connection came not from books/education but from her body and her connection to the earth/nature/life.
How connected are we to that wisdom?
Are we paying a heavy price to be plugged into this so-called fast-paced modern way of life?
How can we make our life simpler?
Are there other options?
Some questions to ask ourselves!
Just look around you: how many things do we really “need” for living “happily”?
As more women step into reclaiming their bodies and blood, this fast-paced world will have no option but to slow-down. I really pray that we do. We wake up and slow down now.
In my next Blog, I will continue the topic of menstruation and go deeper into my experiences of synchronicity with Nature, Moon and the wisdom of Ayurveda.
Hope u enjoyed reading!
Rekha Govindan Kurup is a social artivist, spiritual feminist and co-director and founder of She Stands Tall Project LLP. She has a M.A in Women’s Spirituality from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California (one of the only two schools in the world that offers a academic pedagogy in women’s spirituality and both are located in Northern California).
Website: shestandstall.com FB: https://www.facebook.com/sthreestandstall/