Is it my menstrual cycle or a saṅkhāra? Maybe it doesn’t have to be one or the other, maybe both are a seamless part of my purification process…
A female friend and I both agreed the our menstrual cycles sometimes took us into mind altering states; along with the negative emotional states and physical pains most women complain about, we both had experienced unusually positive states of elation! At that time in my life I explained my menstrual cycles as having a magnifying effect on whatever emotional state I was in, and my life was certainly filled with emotion!… juicy, unruly, unconscious emotion!
Since I began to witness my emotion, and later began vipassana, I’ve become highly aware of my cycle. This may have already been the case for some women, but certainly not me in the past. For most of my life it was normal for me to get all caught-up in some mood or reaction I thought was tied to an external event and then, SURPRISE!!!…it was the start of my cycle! This never happens now, because I can feel exactly where I am in the cycle at all times, and when it’s getting close to what used to be the turbulent time …I’m just waiting for something weird to happen.
It’s been pretty neat because not getting caught means I might get a massive on-surge of emotion with no thoughts or stories attached to it all….just like some of the saṅkhāras I’ve passed. I might find my body overwhelmed with, stabbing, wrenching pains in the heart and the need to sob intensely for an hour, for absolutely no reason at all. If I’m out in public, I’ll drop what I’m doing and go find a private place, if it has to be a bathroom that’s fine; there, I’ll just observe while I let my body go to it. Even if it’s painful it feels good because it’s authentically what needs to happen at that moment. Also I feel safe within the chaos because I know I’m purely releasing and not generating anything new.
At previous times, I also realized the emotional anomaly; when I’d be bawling my eyes out over the beauty of someone, or nature, or with gratitude for my incredible luck! Sometimes realizing my cycle was at play would cause my crying to turn to laughing, or me to laugh so hard I would cry, but it would all start with me being caught in some kind of drama, so it wasn’t quite as pure a release.
Many ancient and indigenous cultures connect the menses with a time of psychic openness, power, vulnerability, and purification, and suggest that women…
“Move to that inward place that is more about ‘being’ than ‘doing.’ In the dark of the moon, when bleeding, the veil between you and the Great Mystery is the thinnest. Be receptive to visions, insights, and intuitions. Go to a quiet separate place such as a Moon Lodge. Later, come out of the dark, a woman with a cleansed body.”
~Native American (Lakota)
Sounds like a great time for women to meditate, I’m not an anthropologist, but it does feel like they were on to something.
3 thoughts on “Menstrual Awareness”
I definitely agree! Even before I started meditating, the monthly waves of pain and relief-from-pain were an incredible experience–utterly overwhelming, but I feel like they were already beginning to teach me about impermanence and the liberation to be found in accepting pain. For some reason, I seem to have a period on just about every 10-day course I sit, and it’s a very immediate incentive to deepen your equanimity and focus! I think that’s also what convinced me during my first course that Vipassana was REAL: I was amazed that these debilitating pains just vanished when I sat to meditate.
Now, meditating during a period is always a strong sit for me. As I think Ryan observed in an older post, it feels easy to neglect your meditation when pleasant things are happening, but pain makes coming back to the cushion look a whole lot easier. Those of us who menstruate are just lucky enough to have a very obvious and relatively-unavoidable demonstration of the impermanence of pain and bodily infirmity every month–not to mention the capriciousness of strong emotions!
Gratitude for the monthly “demonstration,” yes, cheers to that! 🙂
I realize males have monthly hormone fluctuations too. I’m curious if vipassana brings more awareness to it?? maybe some of the other bloggers here will have an answer for me.
I haven’t become aware of any regular monthly fluctuations so far.