Menarche is the transition from child to adolescent and refers specifically to the time of the first period, or menstruation. In many traditional and indigenous cultures this time is celebrated through ritual. Sadly these traditions have largely been lost in our modern western cultures. Many of us had far from a sacred experience and for some it was even traumatic.
For me personally, I feel grateful that my mother explained what was happening and I was physically prepared for the changes in my body. Fifteen years later, however, I look back on this time and wish I had a deeper understanding of the more spiritual aspects of menstruation, as well as the physiological processes involved. I know my mother feels this way too and that’s why I am so grateful to be working with her on this topic, so we may both heal together the more sensitive parts of our inner girl-children. I put together this list as a guide for young people on the cusp of adolescence, but also for all of us that wish to connect with and heal our younger selves.
May we heal together and prevent the continuation of shame and ignorance around our cycles.
- Your cycle connects you to all things
Everything in nature has a cyclical pattern, used to restore and maintain balance. Your cycle is a gift that allows you to carry all the emotions it takes to live a fully-embodied life. We are of the earth, not separate from it. Our cycles connect us to the seasons, the phases of the moon, all of nature’s systems, and to all other people who menstruate, have menstruated or are yet to menstruate. The seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn and winter) are all represented within a monthly hormonal cycle and these metaphors can be used to guide your life.
- Treat emotions as visiting friends
All emotions come and go, and each one brings a message. Welcome your emotions like you would a visitor in your home. Listen to them. For example, anger may come to tell you a personal boundary has been crossed and can be avoided next time through clear communication. Sometimes friends overstay their welcome. How can we ask them, politely, to leave? Keep track of your emotions and notice if they change with your hormonal cycle.
- The way you talk to yourself matters
Be mindful of your self-talk as it affects how you view yourself and those around you. Does your self-talk change throughout your cycle? Is is mostly positive or negative? Can you practice loving and compassionate self-talk, the way you’d speak to a dear friend? You are in control of your thoughts and with practice you can alter even the most-ingrained thought patterns. Be body-positive: all bodies are good and doing their best.
- Pain is common, but it is not normal
The oppressive burden of painful cycles is not our price for existence. Pain-free periods are not only possible, they are our birth right. Pain (physical or emotional) is a sign of hormone imbalance and may have a subtle underlying cause. Find a natural healer who will address root causes rather than suppress symptoms with hormonal birth control
- Irregular is ok
It can take up to 12 years for a young women’s cycle to mature and “regulate”. We are not machines that automatically turn on. Each of us is unique and has an individual physiological make-up. Get to know your own cycle, and don’t try fit it into a box. If you are concerned about hormone imbalances find a healer who can guide you in nutrition and lifestyle choices that support maintaining and restoring balance. (Hormonal birth controls to do not regulate hormones. They suppress the body’s natural hormone function. A pill bleed is not menstruation.)
- Cervical fluid is healthy
Cervical fluid is completely normal and is a vital sign of fertility and health. There are many different types of healthy fluids with different functions. Learn to chart some of the types of cervical fluid, and the quantity, throughout the phases of your cycle. If cervical fluids have a very strong smell, or any color besides white or off-white, it could be a sign of underlying health issue or infection. Wear clean organic cotton or bamboo panties every day and night, or sleep naked. Wash your vulva (outside) with organic oil-based soap.
- Your body is your playground
We are here to enjoy life: to experience pure bliss and contentment along with all the more challenging emotions. We have an organ specifically designed to give us pleasure. Explore it by yourself first. Get to know it on your own. You don’t need anyone to define your value. When you know you what makes you feel good and you know you can fulfil on your own needs on your own, you are less likely to let others use you.
- Touch your blood
You are here because your mother bled and your grandmother bled. There is nothing ugly, dirty or shameful about it. It is a sign of life and connection. Use reusable menstrual protection and wash it with intention. Let yourself free bleed and feel the flow. Try bleeding directly on the earth. Allow your bleeding to be seen and heard. Talk about it in safe spaces. There is nothing to hide.
- Charting is the best way to communicate with your body
Consistently charting fertility indicators (such as basal body temperature and cervical fluid) alongside other factors, like emotions, libido, acne, physical pain, is an excellent communication method key to building a supportive and compassionate relationship between mind and body. Building a solid foundation of charting during adolescence will put you in a great position to take charge of your fertility as an adult.
- Gender and sexuality are fluid
The binaries of man/woman, gay/straight etc are false constructs. We all hold within us “feminine” and “masculine” qualities and they might change and transform within our lifetimes. There are many ways to lust, love and be in relationships. Don’t let societal boxes inhibit your adventures through life. Give love freely, but always protect your heart and your body. The way you look is only surface level, your heart is where the magic is.