vendredi, 10 mai 2019 11:18

Menstrual Wisdom

It was in the spring of my thirteenth year that I bled for the first time. I remember the newly bare, dry sidewalks of Montreal. The unfiltered sun rays between the branches of street trees warmed my forearms hastily naked. 

It was in the spring of my thirteenth year that I bled for the first time. I remember the newly bare, dry sidewalks of Montreal. The unfiltered sun rays between the branches of street trees warmed my forearms hastily naked. How proud I was to show to my mother my little cotton underwear stained with clear red blood. A few days before, I had exchanged my first Frenchkiss with a classmate under maple buds swollen with sap. And this morning my menarche. I was undeniably a woman!

To celebrate the event, my mother and I took a trip to the Jean-Talon market in Montreal’s little Italia. We went to eat a pizza at Napolitena, wandered around the famous Dante’s hardware store, and stopped at Alati Caserta pastry shop to buy my favorite Italian biscuits; the rosette-shaped ones filled with marzipan. I walked with my head up, my heart proud, pounding between my tiny breast. The vegetable stalls, the handsome Italians, the early heat of April, all offered themselves to my pubescence. The world belonged to me.

Over the years, I learned that for many girls, the appearance of menstruation was lived in fear, disgust or shame. Through evolving in a universe that despises the wild side of nature and studying within spiritual traditions that were designed by and for men, I also came to see my period as a curse and my status as a woman as the result of bad karma. I had to leave the big city, spend a lot of time in intimacy with nature and rub shoulders with inspiring women to be able to once again celebrate my nature as a woman through all the phases of her cycle.

Except rare cases, every woman menstruates from adolescence to menopause. It is unequivocal!As I see it, we have the following choice: to undergo our periods as damnation or to live this time of the month as an initiation into the ways of regeneration.

Why are we ashamed to be menstruating? As if the blood flowing from our fertile bodies was unclean or evil. But first, what is menstruation?


The word comes from the Latin mensis, which means month, and is related to the Greek word mene,moon. Menstruation marks a rhythm. The cycle of life inseparable from death; like the abundance of summer withers at winter or like the bright light of day and the shadow of the night. As we saw in a previous article, the hormonal cycle of woman is in average 29.5 days, similar to the lunar cycle.

For millennia, man has calculated time by observing the revolutions of the nocturnal body. It has been only six centuries since the Gregorian calendar, based on the solar revolution, has overtaken the lunar calendar. But the moon calendar is still in use today in many traditions to determine religious festivals: Ramadan of Islam, the Easter of Christians, the New Year of several Asian countries, the Vesak of Buddhists and many others.

It is interesting to follow the menstrual cycle by comparing it to the phases of the moon to see the influence of the nocturnal body on our own.

Entering intimacy with your menstrual cycle allows us to organically connect with nature and more specifically with the cycle of the seasons. Menstruation is similar to winter when the soil regenerates, animals hibernate, light is at its lowest, trees rest, nature is silent and introspective.  Pre-ovulation is similar to late winter and early spring: the Earth awakens and warms with prolonged contact with the sun's rays, the streams laugh, the sap circulates again in the erect trunks. Ovulation is the mature spring and mid summer: nature is fertile, bees pollinate flowers, birds make their nest in between newborn leaves, and asparagus proudly come out of the ground. The premenstrual period corresponds to the ripeness of summer and early autumn: the flowers give their seeds, the foliage tarnish, the ears of corn are harvested, the light begins to diminish. 

 By comparing our intimate cycle with the phases of the seasons and the moon, we draw wisdom from the earth and the stars. We learn to rest when the body asks for it and to celebrate when life and creativity flow freely.

For those interested in experimenting with the moon cycle I suggest the We'Moon calendar 
You can also print moon charts to create your own lunar calendar

The wild woman
 "The woman has to assert her instincts in order to protect her wild soul. "
- Nikiah Seeds


As the antipode of ovulation, menstruation is the symbol of non-procreation. Indeed, if the egg has not been fertilized during ovulation, the endometrium (the vascularized substance that covers the walls of the uterus) is evacuated as blood.

In the West, since the ancient Greeks and maybe further back from the rise of agricultural empires, women have been relegated to the role-of-genitor while being denied the status of creator. The society, family and husband expected the woman to become a mother of hischildren and a devoted wife. Not only had she to endow the paternal lineage with male heirs, but was compelled to devote all her time and the sweat of her ambitions to raising and comforting children, caring for the house and satisfying her husband’s desires night and day.

Virginia Woolf, a writer of tragic fate of the first half of the twentieth century, nicknamed that woman, The Fairy of the Home. A role she was trying to overcome herself.

Even if the condition of women has evolved in the past century, the fact remains that the frenetic pace of life of today's society has its share of challenges for the modern woman (obviously for the man also). The desire to please the boss, to satisfy the husband, to take care of the children, to train to stay firm and beautiful and to cook healthy meals can quickly relegate a woman’s personal needs to the bottom of her list. Is it possible that the modern Wonder Woman does not give herself enough time to take a bath instead of preparing the evening meal? To ask for a day off because she has cramps and is in a bad mood?

The raw emotions that burst against our will during our premenstrual week are often due to ignored needs like extra sleep or time alone in the woods. Those needs are certainly considered counterproductive in a performance-oriented society. By listening to our menstrual wisdom perhaps are we afraid to be considered selfish, to hurt a lover, a colleague or our offspring? 

Menstruation becomes sacred when we listen to the inner self. When the uterine lining prepares to be evacuated, there is a purification that is emotional, physical and energetic. What has been relegated to the depths of the psyche throughout the month resurfaces with the flowing blood giving us a chance to review what we have experienced in the previous month.

Photo by Stephane Desmeules

Being attentive to our moods and needs during our menstruation means we are listening to our inner wisdom and all that has accumulated in the psyche over the previous month.  This can take the form of an angry voice, becoming irritable or overwhelmed with sadness.  Irritability can mean that we have put too much emphasis on the needs of others and not enough on ours. Anger can be a manifestation of a wound that requires time and attention to heal. Frustration or sadness can mean a need for rest that we always postpone.

Intimate needs change from month to month and season to season. Sometimes we may discover a desire to be surrounded by women and sometimes to retire in the most complete solitude. Sometimes a simple raspberry leaf tea sipped in tranquility is sufficient and sometimes a ritual with candles and drum is necessary.

Being in touch with your menstrual cycle allows a better listening of the subtle psyche’s needs, which may otherwise pass into oblivion.

Menstruation is a time to celebrate the wild woman who belongs only to herself. During her period, she is neither a genitor, nor a wife, or a saint. Contrary to what I have long believed, there is no necessary contradiction to a woman’s multiple roles: She can be married, a mother, a committed citizen and also a raw and primal wild woman during her red moon or at any other time of the month.

Chinese Medicine
According to the classical texts of Chinese medicine and Taoist philosophy, the spirit of an individual is anchored in her blood. The blood is produced by the spleen and the stomach by the absorption of the nutrients contained in the food we eat and then combined with the vital energy of the kidneys (jing). The blood circulating at the rhythm of the Heart, stores emotional debris and excess fat and protein. During menstruation, a portion of this debris flows through menstrual blood, providing women with the opportunity to cleanse both their body and mind. Working to consciously eliminate these debris (see suggested practices below) contributes to a better emotional balance and a reduction in premenstrual symptoms or as some women call them ‘Prelunal’ symptoms!

On the other hand, because women lose blood every month, they may be subject to conditions that affect the blood. There are two approaches to help nourish the blood: supporting the digestive organs and eat nutrient-rich foods (see below).

Paul Pitchford, in his « Healing with Whole Foods Bible », describes menstruation as follows: "During menstruation, the emotional and hormonal conditions buried in the depths resurface with the blood to be evacuated, producing a purifying effect. This state can cause fragility due to the emergence of yin (inner) aspects which requires protection of the yang (external) environment, especially cold, moisture, excessive physical work and strong emotions. It is important to keep your legs and feet warm, to avoid having your hands in cold water for a long time and to rest if the body asks for it. "

There is no magic diet that suits all women, because each has an exclusive constitution. But here are some guidelines that can help ease discomfort:

1. Avoid cold food or drinks.
2. Reduce the consumption of dairy products because they affect the absorption of magnesium.
3. Avoid refined sugar and frying, as these foods promote moisture and stagnation of Qi.

After menstruation it is appropriate to consume proteins and green vegetables to rebuild the blood. Unless under extreme conditions, it is beneficial to consume the following foods in order to rebuild the blood: leafy vegetables (spinach, kale and Swiss chard), beets, red and black beans, whole grains (oats, rice, millet, barley, quinoa), green molasses, bone broth, raspberry leaves. 

Feminine hygienic products
Did you know that manufacturers of feminine hygiene products are not required to list the ingredients in their products? This is not surprising since the majority of feminine sanitary products carry traces of chlorine, dioxins, pesticides and transgenic cotton. In North America alone, more than 20 million sanitary napkins and tampons are buried in garbage dumps every year.

Washable sanitary products (therefore reusable) are both beneficial for our own health and for the environment. Here are two products I have used with great satisfaction for many years:
Diva Cup
Luna Pad
A friend suggested to me the use of Blue Giraffe. I have not tried them yet, but I have read good comments about them.

Rituals are an opportunity to withdraw from everyday life to create a sacred space. When I have my period, I take refuge in the basement to play drums and listen to what's going on inside. What do I want to evacuate with my menstrual blood? What do I want to manifest at my next ovulation? Sometimes I burn a red candle to honor my blood, to honor life. I offer this blood to the moon in a vase reserved for the occasion and then give it to the Earth.

Sometimes I buy flowers or I drink a lunar potion with a good book, comfortably installed in the couch on a Wednesday afternoon (or the day of your choice!) I massage my belly, lower back and sacrum with warm oil and then wrap myself in a blanket.

I like to practice a version of a technique called ‘The inner smile’ when I have cramps or upon waking up. This technique popularized by Mantak Chia seems simplistic, but it is very powerful: comfortably lying on the back, put warm hands on the lower belly and smile to the genitals by lifting the corners of the lipsand sending loving and caring energy under the hands. When the region gets warm, place a hand on the heart and inhale from the lower belly to the heart and then exhale from the heart to the lower abdomen. This connects the center of instinctual wisdom (the genitals) to the emotional center (the heart).

I invite you to gradually shift the perception of your period as something shameful or dirty to an experience of organically understanding who you are. Entrust yourself to a diary, write a letter to your inner teenager, meet with other women and share this experience. 

Circle of menstrual wisdom
If you are interested in organizing a menstrual wisdom circle in your community do not hesitate to contact me through my website


EDLUND, Roni and MITCHELL, Damo, Daoist Nei Gong for women: the art of the lotus and the moon, London, Singing Dragon, 2016.
MAOSHING, Ni, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine: A New Translation of the Neijing Suwen with Commentary, Boston, Mass., Shambala Publication, Inc., 1995.
PITCHFORD, Paul, Healing with Whole Food, Berkeley, California, North Atlantic Books, 2002.
ROCHAT DE LA VALLÉE, Elisabeth, The Essential Woma: Female Health and Fertility in Chinese Classical Texts, Monkey Press, 2007.

* Article translated from French by Jessica Renaud and Laura Melling