The Hidden Gifts Of Menstruation –
Podcast with Sally Cusack (Pregnancy Birth & Beyond Media)
The story of a Red Tent
A year ago my man went to a workshop, with one of my amazing teachers, about the Wisdom Of The Cycles. The evening also included information about the menstrual cycle.
Although I have shared my own understanding of my menstrual cycle and how it affects me, especially during my period, many times with my partner this workshop opened up his understanding profoundly and he came home full of inspiration.
His main inspiration was to create a Red Tent space for me where I can retreat to when I’m bleeding. Of course I loved his supportive intention as I have been claiming space to myself while I am bleeding since many moons but have never really succeeded to get his full attention for my request.
We decided to buy a bell tent and set it up on the land where we live. This would be my bleeding and retreat space when ever I need it. I’d like to add that we live in a very small home together with our to young children.
We got a gorgeous bell tent soon after that decision was made but we weren’t able to find a good spot to set it up. So I created a space on our fully covered back veranda for my bleeding days with the agreement that I would be left alone there while I was bleeding. Although a “proper” Red Tent would have been awesome this was still a very nice change in our family dynamic and I gratefully claimed that space when ever I had my period.
Of course the positive effect of having that space to retreat and dream was seen instantly and felt by everyone! I highly recommend to do the same :-)
Meanwhile I started to dream what I could use this beautiful bell tent for…
I visualised using it for coming of age programs, invite young girls to talk about periods and have soul nourishing circles in it.
Finally after almost 13 moons this vision manifested and after having a beautiful women’s circle at a little creek nearby as inauguration of my “Red Bell Tent” I have been running my first coming of age program at a public school in it passed Friday!
It felt so good to rock up at a public school and set this gorgeous sacred space up, which took me only 30min to do, and hold my coming of age program in my beautiful bell tent instead in a boring class room (no offense).
Young people absorb information on a much deeper level by feeling then just by intellect.
Entering in my Red Tent, which I prepared very inviting, had such a magical effect on them. I could see how they instantly felt comfortable and relaxed. The conversations we had in the tent were very open and honest with ease and trust. The girls could feel the sacredness of the space deep in their bones, it seemed like an ancient memory awakened, and I am sure that the experience of this day will be having a long lasting positive effect on all of them.
In fact, they didn’t want to leave and stayed their whole reset break with me in the tent until they had to go back to the classroom…
I wish that many more schools are open to invite me to come along and set my magical Red Bell Tent up on the school grounds to hold coming of age programs in it :-)
This is so much needed and very empowering work. Love it!
Why are you so passionate about sharing this information?
Reclaiming our Menstrual Cycle is very empowering!
Not many women are celebrated when they start bleeding. Back then Menstruation was a taboo topic and often not talked about. Our girls need to be informed and celebrated.
Positive empowering Menarche (Rite of Passage of the 1st blood) leads to empowered Womanhood and therefore supports better choices in life! That includes better sexual choices and better birth choices. Because she is used to be celebrate for who she is and knows her values.
Connecting with my Menstrual Cycle helped me to get in touch with myself and my needs on a much deeper level. It created a deeper connection with myself, with others and with my surrounding.
It is good to be informed and understand a cycle that’s predominant for most of us women over so many years and so powerful that it makes us even able to create life!
What is your experience of Menarche in Switzerland vs the experience in Australia?
I had the privilege to hear the Menarche story of over hundred women, from different places around the world, over the past few years. What stands out for me is how many women were absolutely unprepared for their 1st bleed. To the extend that some panicked thinking they were hurt or would die when they saw blood in their knickers. So in their families talking about Menstruation was a taboo or embarrassing.
I had a rather open upbringing and knew that women bleed sometimes. I knew where the menstrual products were and how to use them. But I had no knowledge about a Menstrual Cycle or why we bleed.
I wish I would have known back then that it is perfectly normal to feel more outgoing, active and switched on in certain parts of my cycle and feel the need for more rest, time to myself and nourishment before and while bleeding. There is no need to push through!
Benefits of charting my Menstrual Cycle
Charting our Menstrual Cycle gives us tons of information!
Have a look at what needs haven’t been met in the past cycle!
Have you maybe pushed yourself too far? Did you eat well and rest plenty?
I naturally struggle with feeling easily stressed or overwhelmed when I have much on. This feeling is amplified when I’m bleeding.
For most women the Menstrual Cycle is a dominant part of our experience. It is good to know our cycle and where we are at.
Our feelings are our allies!
Met needs tent to create pleasant feelings and unmet needs unpleasant feelings.
After our period the Oestrogen level rises and that makes us able to cope with many things. It is a comforting, accommodating and happy hormone.
Before Ovulation the Oestrogen and Progesterone level are at it’s highest. This is a Super Woman hormonal cocktail and makes us feel on top of the game!
After Ovulation the Oestrogen level drops, which changes the game completely, but the Progesterone level is still high. Progesterone is a calming hormone.
Before we start bleeding Progesterone and Oestrogen are at it’s lowest level. Not being under the strong influence of these hormones any more creates a reality check and everything that doesn’t work in our life shows up.
I highly recommend to take some time for reflection before starting to bleed. A great way to do that is by going for a walk in nature and sit down somewhere to reflect and journal. Exercise in this phase also helps to release tension.
The premenstrual window is a golden opportunity to reflect on our life and to let consciously go of everything that doesn’t serve us any more. To let go of everything we don’t want to take into our next cycle. Even if having a conscious look at our life, feeling deeply and acknowledge our needs, might feel overwhelming at times!
During menstruation we experience a heightened awareness. Our senses are sharpened, we are more receptive and connected to the Earth. We are in touch with our inner knowing, guidance and surrounding. This is a magical window to set new intentions and manifest what we want to see flourishing in our life. A golden opportunity to sit still and listen to what we need.
Why is it important for men to know about menstruation?
There is a myth that menstruation is women’s business.
Probably that was true back in times when bleeding women were honoured and we had tribal support. Today, especially when raising children, partners rely on each other a lot. They need to understand and support each other.
Understanding the Menstrual Cycle, which is an essential part of most women’s fertile years, creates not only a supportive environment but also better communication and deeper connection.
If a men lives with a woman it is very helpful for him to know what’s going on for her.
For instance that it is not personal when she’s more affectionate and caring during the parts of her cycle when the Oestrogen level is high and more withdrawn when the hormonal levels are low, before and during her period.
A part of my 6-weeks ‘Coming of Age Circle for Girls’ program I offer in my community is to hold a circle just for the dads of the girls enrolled. We talk about coming of age, puberty, menstruation and how dads can support their daughters. It is often the first time that these dads get a deeper understanding of what a Menstrual Cycle looks like and they seem very grateful to receive these pieces of information.
On that note, men have cycles too!! We all are cyclic beings.
For example, most men are strongly influenced by the Moon Cycle. Especially the Full Moon stirs up the intensity of emotions and life itself. But the Menstrual Cycle is inside our body and therefore amplified.
It is new for most women to step up and commit to self-care, especially during her period. We didn’t grow up learning how to nurture ourselves, that it is ok to take time out to ourselves. We learned to push through and be productive at all costs and at all times. But this is not sustainable on the long run! Yet still there is a lot of shame and guilt involved for many women when it comes to taking time out for self-care.
If we honour our periods and take the time out we need to replenish, nourish and dream, it will most likely positively pay out in the cycle to come. This kind of self-care has great benefits for a woman’s health and well-being but also affects family and close friends in positive ways.
More information about a Menstrual Cycle
Unfortunately it is also a fact that 10% of the women living in western countries suffer of severe Menstrual Conditions like Policystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS) or Endometriosis. This changes the whole game and can create great discomfort, pain and frustration during periods and during the cycle! My heart goes out to these women and I’d like to raise awareness to please be support-full to any women suffering from menstrual diseases.
In the case of a healthy Menstrual Cycle, having the period can be a very beautiful experience if we honour ourselves:
Ideally you’d take a day off work, family commitments, school… But if this can’t be done give yourself a special treat like a nice bath, a nap, time out to listen to music, eat good food etc.
Red Tent traditions
It is said that traditionally women would retreat from their families and commitments during their periods and go to a special place – Red Tent.
This was important back in time as women often would receive visions or insights that could be crucial for the survival of the tribe.. Like where to hunt or where to find water.
So a bleeding woman was sitting with her bleeding sisters in a special place, lovingly held by the others (not bleeding women), to dream, rest and replenish. She would be served nourishing food and her children looked after by the other women (and maybe men) of the village.
I think most of us would be looking forward to bleed if we would be treated like that!!
Unfortunately this beautiful tradition was misinterpreted later on in history and women sent away, in shame, from their family space because they were seen as impure. Many traditions still belief today that women are dirty and impure while bleeding, which of course creates deep traumas about being a woman.
What do you recommend for young girls reaching menarche?
Make sure they are informed and know what to do!
I recommend using menstrual pads (especially in the beginning). Best reusable ones but if not make sure they are organic cotton to avoid toxic chemicals.
Speak in positive terms about menstruation!
Think of the effect your first reaction will have on her for the many years to come.
The extend of that celebration depends of course on your daughters willingness to be celebrated. It can be as simple as a little present (necklace, bangle, crystal…), a special dinner or as extravagant as a Red Party. There are many amazing Rite of Passage retreats happening in our area. Also a mother / daughter trip away can be very special.
Remember: What we experience in each Rite of Passage informs us of what society expects from us in our next chapter of life! The more positive and empowering the experience the more confident we step up and this creates a setting for healthy choices and actions.
As a mother or aunty role model a healthy relationship with your menstrual cycle, self-care and self worth.
And as an extra note for the dads:
Remember that the way you talk about women and the way you treat women will have a lasting impact on your daughter(s) and inform her how to expect to be treated as a woman (by men) later on in life...