On the onset let me thank all of you for the overwhelming response for the ‘Reclaiming Menstruation’ blog entry. That encourages me to continue my writing on menstruation. In this entry I am going to again speak based on my own life experiences around menstruation – its synchronization and women’s health.
One of the most fascinating mysteries of menstruation is the synchronization of our blood with the moon and other women. Like for instance, if you start paying attention to the moon and the arrival of your blood, very soon you will notice that the arrival of your blood begins to align with the New Moon cycle and you are ovulating around full moon. It happens naturally by just putting a little attention on the moon cycle. Yes. It is true that women kept the earliest calendar o track their ovulation cycle, mating, pregnancy, etc. And even now in some of the most ancient caves (dated back to over 30,000 BC) menstrual calendars can be seen on the walls.
In fact, Judy Grahn, poet, feminist, and co-director of the Women’s Spirituality program describes this entrainment of menstruation with the moon and women’s bodies using the metaformic theory (Grahn, 1993, 1999). According to Metaformic theory (postulated by Judy Grahn) what differentiated the ancestral human consciousness from primates was the entrainment of the female menstrual cycle with the lunar cycle (exactly 29.5 days) resulting in human females bleeding in seclusion as a group with the dark of the moon, followed by entrainment of the males to the lunar and menstrual cycles using parallel menstruation rites (Grahn, 1999, pp. 1-15). These steps pulled the human consciousness outside itself, establishing “an externalized languages of cultural containers, artifacts and gestural acts” (Grahn, 1999, p. 15) called metaforms that formed the basis of human social and cultural evolution. Based on the metaformic theory it is possible to trace connections between ancient menstrual rites of seclusion and the development of agriculture, mathematics, geometry, writing, calendar, horticulture, architecture, astronomy, cooking, money, and many other realms of knowledge in most cultures. You can read about this in great detail in Judy’s Book, Blood, Bread and Roses – my all time favorite book (http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/wstudies/grahn/). There was a time the potency and power of the menstrual blood graced every sacred ritual of the old religion facilitated by the priestesses.
Women’s health is deeply connected to menstruation. Her body gets the opportunity to renew itself every month like the waning and the waxing of the moon. The more we start paying attention and journal our observations, the more we will start noticing the synchronicity. Most women have noticed that when women start living together, our bleeding begins to synchronize. Sometimes even if we dont live together but have a deep connection with another women, we speak and meet often, our blood will start synchronizing. Imagine in matriarchal cultures where communities where centered around women and mothers, how this synchronization must have happened. Women bleeding together – nurtured by grandmothers or crone mothers of the community. What did they do in those moments? What did they speak of? What rituals did they perform? What stories did they share? Have you wondered!!
Did you also know that the sanskrit word for menstruation is R’tu meaning season. Just like earth goes through seasons, our body also goes through seasons every month.
What happens in our body during menstruation is also of immense importance.
Before we do that I am going to briefly describe the flow of energy in our body. Our entire body is a function of the flow of subtle life-force energy called Prana or Che or Ashe. Ayurveda categorizes this energy into five types:
1. prana vayu: associated with the element of air andthe heart chakra. Eenergy that moves up between throat to navel.
2. apana vayu: energy that moves down. It helps in elimination from the body. Apana vayu is associated with the element of earth, and Muladhara Chakra. It moves from the navel down to the floor of the pelvis.
3. samana vayu: simply put it is the digestive fire and moves between navel and the heart. Samana vayu is associated with the element of fire. It is associated with the Manipura chakra
4. Udana vayu: Udana vayu is associated with the element of ether and It is associated with the Vishudhi/Ajna chakra. It moves between throat to head.
5. Vyana Vayu: Vyana vayu is associated with the element of water , responsible for distribution and circulation, and associated with swadishtana.
Of course, there is so much more that these energies are associated with in the body. They keep the entire body in check with its innumerable functions. So as you can see menstruation is associated with the apana vayu connected to the Earth element which facilitates the downward flow of energy. So to have a pain-free flowing menstruation, our apana vayu needs to be in check – unaltered and uninterrupted. Any spiritual activity like chanting mantras, deep breathing, yoga poses – all shift the flow of energy in our body and affect the apana vayu. Even an act of cooking can transfer the energy of prana vayu from the food to the body. Unnatural light also effects our body and the flow of blood. In fact, when you move away from city lights into the deep darkness of the wood, and let natural light prevail, you will notice pain around menstruation reducing immensely.
Prana vayu and apana vayu move in opposite directions in the body. So when apana vayu is dominant like in the case of menstruation, women are advised to stay away from all the activities that can lead to the flow of prana vayu in the body. There is also a lot of heat generated in the body at the onset of menstruation. You will notice it especially when your menstrual flow is delayed. Our body is like parched heated earth – hot, fiery and dry. That is when women have outburst of acne on the face, ulcers in the mouth and anger is on our nose. Just like the downpour of rain brings solace to the earth, so also the onset of menstrual blood in the body brings immense solace. Body begins to cools down and with it flows out of the body – emotions, unfulfilled dreams, desires and so much more.
This heat is another reason that women are asked to stay away from anything that needs to be preserved for a long duration like pickle or canning , etc as the heat can cause the latter to decay or have fungus in it. So also sensitive plants like Tulasi (Holy Basil) which can begin to burn and die when in contact with a menstruating women. I have seen both these activities happen through my own body. As we start paying attention, we realize that there is so much meaning behind the taboos and the seclusion that women were encouraged to observe. We can reclaim them and begin incorporating them back into our lives. There may be so many other observations we will begin to have with our bodies which we can write and share with other women. We need to learn about our body and sexuality ourselves, honor it and give it more space in our life.
To me, most importantly menstruation is a testament to the fact that women are so connected with each other. We need to start coming back in circle with each other. Support each other more. Listen to each others stories. Trust each other. That is the way for change on this planet. Women getting in sync not just with their bodies but also with the bodies of other women and the earth. In the process we will heal ourselves and also the Earth of pain, trauma and disharmony.
If you are beginning to enjoy reading about menstruation, here are couple more blog entries which I have loved reading:
Three Days of Impurity: Menstruation and In-auspiciousness: http://swordandflute.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/three-days-of-impurity-menstruation-and-inauspiciousness/
Menstrual Taboos and Ancient Wisdom: http://mythrispeaks.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/menstrual-taboos-and-ancient-wisdom/