photo: Amanda Tress
Amber Bates is one of our Red School mentors. She is a powerful and wise intuitive who has kept a strong fidelity to her cycle process over a number of years in spite of the challenges she has had to face in her life. Recently she made the decision to document her experience of one of her bleeds.
“As I approached the void of my cycle at the end of September last year, I felt a deep urge to record my process as I moved through the five chambers of menstruation. I’m so glad I did, because staying so close to my journey has enabled me start a process of reconnecting with myself.
As of March last year I became a single Mum. The process of separating from a 16 year marriage is worthy of a whole other series of blogs (I’m warning you, they’re coming!) but it also left me completely adrift as to how I was ever going to be able to find the time and space to drop into the depths of menstruation in the way I feel I need each month, with a home and two young children to care for.
The first four or five months were not pretty. The incredible tension I felt in my body and spirit each month was excruciating, and for the first time since I started cycling consciously, I experienced physical symptoms. Not excruciating pain, but some pain at menstruation, and a very noticeable change in my blood flow. I could also feel the repercussions of the stress I was feeling at menstruation throughout the other phases of my cycle. And of course I experienced a tremendous amount of grief. I so missed the sense of coming home to myself each month in the way I was used to, my world was built around my cycle. There was also a lot of fear. This is my work…how on earth can I continue to mentor women if I can’t even receive the gifts of my own moontime?
But even in the midst of what felt like a very different cycle, I could feel my inner rhythms moving me and connecting me to Power much greater than myself, and each month that goes by I find a new way, a new insight, and a new series of miracles that are allowing me to still stay true to my own process and create a space that allows me to drop into my Holy Temple.
But it isn’t how it used to be, and it’s not even how I would like it to be..which would be tucked away in an earth lodge somewhere with someone leaving daily offerings of food without speaking to me for five days per month. It is how it has evolved at this point in my life. And do you know what? When I accept that, It can still be wonderful, as I discovered over the five days journeying in my new way through the five chambers of menstruation. What you have here is the essence of my experience, amidst what is still a very full, sometimes messy and practical life. The life of a modern woman.
Chamber of Separation: day 27
This is one of my most favourite and dramatic transitions, and has taken me many moons to be able to navigate this passage whilst keeping myself feeling safe. The feeling of permeability I experience here can be intense, and with the heightened sensitivity also experienced at this threshold in the cycle, caring for my vulnerability here is crucial. Like many women, at this transition point I feel an intense need to take myself away from the everyday world.
There is a calling from deep within my Soul that cannot be ignored. I am being prepared to enter into the Holy Sanctum, the depths of my own womb, the Temple of Menstruation. I turn away from the world and start my descent into the chamber of separation. I have a sense of being sweetly seduced, there is no way I can resist the call.
My descent is slow and deliberate. There is a deep deep sense of anticipation. I know that this is the beginning of returning home to bask in the healing depths of my very own soul.
First I must be prepared for such a powerful initiation. The imagery of this passage in between cycles always leads me slowly, dreamlike, down a set of cold bare stone steps into the dark. As I complete my descent I enter a chamber. Again, it is stone and bare. Like a fogu – an iron age chamber used for ceremony. Cool and dark. There is not much for the everyday senses here. It is a place for being alone with oneself. There are no distractions, no roles to fulfil, no one else to be or please. I am alone with the deepest truth of myself.
Do I like what I see? Now that the illusions of the everyday world world have dropped away, where does that leave me? I start to settle into a beautiful intimacy with myself. I become aware of every crevice and shadow. All that which feels too raw or vulnerable to show the world now feels safe to be explored. Grief, regret, fears and sorrow laid bare before me. Here they are welcome visitors, looked upon with love. I soothe and listen, cradle and hold.
I examine each one sitting in council with myself. Hearing and feeling the truths that go unheard and unfelt in the everyday world. A picture becomes clearer. My life, my soul story, my feminine process laid bare before me, scattered like runes. I honour and acknowledge each truth before I take my treasures and place them back into my wisdom bundle, ready as offerings at my own Holy Altar. I know now as I await my next passage that timing here is not of my own. I know she will come.
And now I wait, faced with the challenge of holding this space in a world which seems to have forgotten its existence. My quest as a modern woman.
Chamber of Surrender: day 1 and 2
A sense of having been granted entry into the sacred chamber of menstruation arrives with the first of my blood. Though the passage is long and slow, it takes me most of the first day before I feel I have finally arrived into my most holy sanctum and my blood is flowing surely. I am then able to sink into the depths of my own wisdom. If I allow myself to drop fully, I feel as if a child must do curled up asleep at the breast of her beloved Mother. My breath becomes the breath of the Earth, my body her body. There is stillness, nothing and yet I have become everything. I remember the truth of who I am.
My womb, connected through the Earth’s womb, connected with the galactic womb, all receiving from the Great Womb of Creation. A divine portal of love that I am able to receive and offer here in my capacity as Woman on Earth. Such power we are gifted. And yet how easy it is to become disconnected from the truth of our majesty. As I lay in my bed I have a sense of the enormity of the Divine potential we are opened to at menstruation and a whisper of how a future might be when we truly step into our worth as a collective. I hold this space in reverence. I am healed and humbled. I sleep. Afternoon comes and school is finished. My intergalactic womb travels are over for the day and I return to my everyday role of menstrual Mama and dinner maker. There is a sense of restoration for my feminine soul.
Chamber of Renewal: day 3
The next morning as I wake I notice a difference. I am still at the heart of my own inner labyrinth, but there is a soft call to turn away from the deepest point of my inner world and face outward. I am surprised at the intensity of emotion I feel about this change. I feel uncomfortable thinking of joining with the outer world. Fear starts to bubble up, And I start to feel an incredible sense of overwhelm at the outer world that awaits me. Too big, too loud, too bright, way too complex. I’m surprised to find that my urge is to hurtle myself headlong into it like a forward in a rugby match, ‘Come on life, throw your best at me, I can take it!’
I stop myself amidst the morning’s preparations for school. I sit and breathe. I am still in the heart of the labyrinth. I am still in my womb cave. My attention turns to the altar standing in the centre of my inner world. Here I placed my wisdom bundle with such reverence when I arrived. She’s still there, to me her image is of a beautiful silver white ball, like the moon. She holds my true essence. All the gifts I have incarnated with are contained within this magical sphere. I marvel at her beauty. I remember who I am. It is my quest to journey with this Spirit bundle, journey with her through all the different phases of my life and my cycle, allowing her to illuminate and awaken my path. Allowing me to bring my gifts to the world. I sit resting against the wall of my womb cave. I can still hear the call of the outer world, though somehow now it’s lights and noise are not so overwhelming. Just a reminder. Again I feel firmly rooted in my feminine process, allowing myself to receive rest and nourishment to sustain me for the quest ahead.
Chamber of Visioning: day 4
The last twelve hours have felt excruciating. I have never tracked my journey through this fourth chamber so closely before. I guess I usually just go into rugby forward mode. I have felt so uncomfortable in my own skin, and have spent most of it under the covers of my bed, just too excruciatingly vulnerable to move. I’ve felt such an awareness that I was leaving the richness of deep menstruation, my mind has turned to the outer world and all I feel awaits me there. I am certainly shifting from that Whole World consciousness where I am able to access a much larger perspective on my life and process. I’m moving into a territory I find very uncomfortable, into a much smaller, emotional human body and everyday world. I don’t like it. It has the quality of waking from a dream I’m not ready to leave. Issues in my life I’ve experienced such an expanded perspective of in the last two days, I’m suddenly feeling in my heart. And they are painful and overwhelming. I feel a deep deep need to grieve.I don’t want to enter into what feels like such a harsh reality.I decide to take myself for a walk in nature to remind myself of the beauty and Magic of this life and our Earth. It brings me some soothing, but I am still very very raw. As evening comes I start to feel a subtle shift in my energy and I sense movement towards the next chamber. It is very very welcome.
Chamber of Clarity and Direction: day 5
Again, I feel I am really shifting. I feel life is really rising up to meet me. I have a sense that the rugby mode I had been using to cope was protecting me, but also shutting me off to the beauty of this place. I feel an enthusiasm and gratitude for life. I don’t feel quite like I’ve arrived back in my body and I’m having trouble feeling grounded. There is a sense still of being in transition, but rather than the power and depth I feel moving into menstruation, I’m feeling enthusiasm and excitement.
There’s also a forgetting, like an amnesia setting in. All those incredible ideas and insights that felt totally possible and that I was born to do are seeming an already distant memory and possibility. I’m glad I have written this piece so I am able to hold on to them.
As my blood is coming to an end, I’m also finding writing much more difficult. It’s like I’m having to pluck my own words rather than have them flowing through me from somewhere else. I’ve also lost focus, the depths of menstruation no longer call to me, my interest now is about rising to meet the outer world. My challenge…to hold on to my experience with the preciousness it is worthy of and not to launch into it rugby forward style”.