This is great piece by Kate Megeary about the amazing revelations that can come when you can really give time to bleed. Kate lives in Cornwall and has been exploring her menstruality with Red Tent Cornwall for the last two and a half years under the guidance of Mandy Adams, one of our apprentices.
“I’ve been practising conscious menstruation for two and a half years now: charting my cycle, taking time to bleed. This practise has had a massive impact on my life. When I spoke to Alexandra Pope in a menstrual medicine coaching session last September, I mentioned how it was hard to find time to bleed each month, to defend that space around family, work and obligations. Alexandra suggested I focus instead on giving myself at least one ‘big bleed’ occasionally where that space and time was clearly delineated and I was on my own.
Usually, when I bleed, I practise what Jewels Wingfield calls a ‘drop’. That is I go to a space in nature, usually a forest, to simply be as long as possible: no phone, no book, minimal movement and no agenda. I’ve found this practise of doing nothing in nature quite different to simply resting at home where perhaps I might paint or read or cruise the internet or check my phone.The drop is simply to be.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book called Time of the Black Jaguar by Arkan Lushwala, an indigenous Peruvian. He talks about the Vision Quest tradition, when people sit out on a hill on their own for days, with no food or water and ‘crying for a vision’. The isolation and physical hardship bring about profound insights. My understanding, imparted by my dear friend and teacher Mandy Adams, was that as women we have the potential to access the same state of consciousness each month through our bleed without the need to push our physical limits by abstaining from food and water.
These three prompts led to me to plan my own menstrual vision quest.
On day 27 of my cycle, I left my home and went to a nearby spot in the countryside where I had set up camp. I took food, wood, a mountain of sleeping bags, blankets and tarpaulins to keep warm (it was late April) and my notebook. I left my phone at home and my child with his father. I had a tent set up just in case but I intended to sleep outside.
It was such a relief, as it always is, to drop my bundle and just lay there all afternoon in a leafy hollow, still and silent, watching the wind rustling the trees, dozing. As dusk fell, I leant my back against a rock whilst a song thrush called in the gorse. I was at a lookout point and could see for miles over the woodlands and hills. I watched the transition from light, through twilight, to dark. A time of liminality.
When it was dark, I lit a fire and warmed some food. Then I lay there and watched the fire whilst I drifted to sleep. I had never slept outside alone before and wondered if I would be scared. I wasn’t. It showered on and off in the night and I pulled the tarp over my head to protect me from the rain.
The following day brought sunshine. I climbed down some rocks to a nearby woodland and spent the day amongst the trees. I had expected to revel in the space and freedom of not having any obligations, any clock, being alone and still, waiting to bleed. This is what I crave each month just before my bleed when I want to separate, and there is never enough time. The most time I’ve ever had is about 4 hours to fully drop.
But when I finally had that time, I found it hard. I was waiting for the washes of pre-menstrual oxytocin that feel like ecstasy, but they didn’t come. I cried, a lot. I felt uncomfortable in my skin. My inner critic told me how useless I was, how my life was a failure. I talked to the trees but they didn’t answer me. Why, I wondered, am I sitting in this wood doing nothing when I am always desperate for time to do the things I love. Why aren’t I doing those things now instead of just lying here talking to the bloody trees? I wasn’t even bleeding and I was irritated by not knowing when the blood would come, I wanted it to come now.
Then, at some point in the afternoon, I got hit by an oxytocin buzz and lay there spread eagled on the floor under the trees, barely able to move. This was the strong, heavy, dreamy menstrual feeling that I had imagined I would be spending the whole day luxuriating in. It passed after about half an hour.
When evening came, I sat in the same spot as the night before to watch the transition from light to dark. Around 9.30pm I began bleeding. It was such a relief. I built a fire and lay in my blankets, watching the stars appear, one by one, looking for constellations I knew.
It was a clear night and late April, there were still frosts on the ground in the mornings. I couldn’t get warm, despite my multiple layers. I decided to walk back home at 11pm as I could not get warm.
I was completely unprepared for the insights that came on day 2. I had intended to spend the following day out on the land again, but for some reason I got involved in daily life: I was back with my phone, family called me and I answered. This re-engagement with the world brought grief, sorrow and tears. But when I finally sat out on my hill alone again, I was hit by profound self-realisation. I finally understood something about myself that had been troubling me my whole life but that I had been unable to see as it had been in my blind spot. I was, and still am, completely knocked out by the depth of clarity I experienced. This was something, I feel, that I could have gone my whole lifetime without knowing, constantly running into pain in my personal relationships because of it, yet unable to see what was causing the problems.
At the end of day 2 and on day 3, I experienced a massive elated high, an oxytocin buzz and I just wanted to tell everyone about what I had discovered: this was a completely new experience for me too, feeling such elation after (or rather during) a bleed.
I am absolutely stunned at the awesomeness of the power we have within our bodies to bring about this kind of knowing, just by being still and silent during our bleed. I am completely sold on this now. The value not just of rest, but of complete disengagement with the world. This is now my number 1 priority! Although I have paid lip service for a long time to the idea that we hold all the answers within ourselves, for the first time, I actually feel this is a truth: that I am enough, that I hold all the wisdom and truth inside me and that I can access it. Of course, my teachers have been telling me this for years, but until you actually do it, you have no way of knowing how it will be for you. And that’s what I love about these menstruality teachings: experience cannot be replaced by words.
What is most exciting for me is that I know that I have experienced just the beginning, merely a whisper of what is possible. I did 30 hours in all of total non-engagement with the world. Imagine, I am thinking to myself, what will happen if I take the whole bleed to be still and silent and solitary? I can’t wait to find out…”