Menstruality - Menstrual Cycle Chart
We found this Menstrual Cycle article from Kate Codrington from the UK really interesting, for teens and adults.
Menstruality is our own built-in route to self-kindness, actualisation, power and spirituality. And yes, it is a real word, it was coined by New Zealand psychotherapist Jane Catherine Severn to describe the arc of experience between our first and last period, between menarche and menopause.
We are already coded for balance, for health, for power with no need for systems or interventions or other people telling us what’s wrong with us; like the good witch Glenda said:
You had the power all along
In simple terms menstruality is the process of tracking the cycles in your life and noticing how you change through your menstrual month, this is known as ‘menstrual cycle awareness’.
It’s natural for us to ebb and flow and when to give ourselves permission to acknowledge that shifts in emotion we also learn how to use the gifts that each phase of the cycle brings.
The seasonal model of cycle awareness is echoed in many other modalities:
- Gestalt cycle of experience
- Biodynamic vasomotoric cycle
- Breath patterns
- Yogic cycles of pulsation and contraction
The difference in menstrual cycle awareness is that the map is not theoretical, it is already embodied in our everyday lived experience, with all the messiness and challenges that brings.
Menstrual Cycle Awareness
Menstrual cycle awareness is the process of tracking your energy through your menstrual month. Just the process of observing the changes in energy, mood and stress levels can make changes in your cycle. You can get started with a chart and also download a quick-start guide to symbols to quickly record your day here.
How is menstruality a route to empowerment?
Imagine you note down your feelings every month, and consistently on day 21, a dark depression descends like mist; every month. What once felt like a crisis, the loss of yourself, triggering fears of life-long illness becomes instead, day 21; it’s a day when I am vulnerable, I will turn off social media, work from home and read my favourite soothing novel. Recognising the patterns is empowering because it helps us to stop judging ourselves and take care of ourselves instead.
Menstrual pain and PMT is not healthy, it shows us that something needs to change in our bodies, but it’s become a phenomenon so widespread in our culture that it is considered normal. What if, instead of powering through our periods, we went slowly, delegated where we could, and rested? What could happen for you if you allowed yourself to be kind when your body was calling for attention? Many clients and colleagues have found that by resting and going slow at this time, the pain and even PMDD significantly decreases.
Where is the memo that said we have to function on full to-do list mode ALL THE TIME? This simply is not sustainable.
The seasons of the menstrual and creative cycle
Are you normal?
The cycle Leora and I describe in the video is an archetypal cycle, much like the average car seat, your lived experience of your cycle will most probably not be a comfy fit with the archetype. This is normal. I like Red School’s big red rule:
“Your own experience trumps everything else”
By mindfully tracking your own shifts and changes you will put yourself in the driving seat rather than look to change to become something else. There’s enough of that in the world already.
Taking hormonal contraception affects everyone differently. In some cases it can save lives, but often there can be a physical and emotional cost so it’s worth doing your research before making up your mind. The seasons are encoded in all humans, so the gifts of the cycle will still be available to you.
My experience has been that awareness of the menstrual inner seasons depends on what sort of hormonal contraception you’re taking and what kind of person you are. If you’re pretty sensitive, you’ll still be experiencing something of a seasonal cycle. If not, then the seasons of creativity, the moon, the circadian and annual rhythms are all still there for you to tap into.
I respect whatever choice you make in your healthcare and work with clients who use all sorts of contraception and hormone therapy. If you want more information about the hidden implications of hormonal contraception, this book might be helpful.
A cycle of two halves
The cycle can be simply divided in two, to illustrate the different qualities within it.
The spring and summer side is known as the via positiva. It is more:
- Out in the world
- In charge
- Connected with others
The autumn and winter side is known as the via negitiva. It is more:
- Coming home to yourself
- Inner focus
In our world, it’s the via positiva that gets the applause, she’s the one who wins the Oscar and is adored. But can you imagine being at the height of ovulation all the time? Always giving out, being sexy and busy and giving our all? We’d crash and burn!
Are you an autumn/winter person?
It’s helpful to consider whether you feel you are naturally aligned more with the via positiva or the via negitiva. As a sensitive person, the via negitiva may naturally be your home, but even so it may feel too vulnerable and raw. You will also have to hold the tension of the world’s negativity towards the negitiva! You will be in the process of becoming an expert in self-care during this time, pulling in resources to soothe your nervous system.
Are you a spring/summer person?
If you relate more to the via positiva there are still massive challenges; knowing when to rest and when to let go for example. You will also have to face the monthly task of crossing the boundary from via positiva into the via negitiva; a time when we can feel as though we are being destroyed. In fact on one level, we are being destroyed, the ‘out there’ self is gone and we are invited to come into relationship with our inner self.
It’s also helpful to consider which side of the cycle our families valued more, and whether our own constitution fitted in with that, or not.
Whatever side you identify with, your task is to learn how to embrace the more challenging aspect, by employing self-care, kindness and, of course, menstrual cycle awareness.
Cycles, cycles everywhere
Once you start to become cycle-literate, you’ll start to notice the same patterns in other cycles in your life.
- Breath cycles
- Creative cycles
- Daily cycles
- Life cycles
Gaining a deeper understanding of your menstrual cycle can help you through the tricky bits in the other cycles, for example:
- Why you get stuck at a particular point in a creative project
- How learning to let go at the end of the out-breath gives you more vitality and power when you run
- Managing your day to support better sleep
Practising for menopause
The via negitiva side of your menstrual cycle, the autumn and winter, are in effect a monthly rehearsal of what you’ll need in menopause. At this time in both the menstrual and the life cycle, it’s where the ego starts to shed away from us and we are invited to stand in our truth. If you can pay attention and be kind to yourself in your autumn phase, you will be doing more of your healing work before menopause and honing your skills to make the bigger transition much smoother for yourself.
The seasonal map also helps to illuminate our life cycle where the same seasonal changes exist over a longer time.