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Retreating To The Inner Temple At Menstruation (screaming And Kicking!)

Retreating to the Inner Temple at Menstruation (screaming and kicking!)

by Mandy Adams

Mandy (one of our Red School mentors) has had quite a journey to find her menstrual downtime including the challenges of parenting three young children, but with persistence and allies (we always need allies) she’s found her way to honour her bleed. Her story is below.


My first inkling that something transformative could happen at menstruation was 8 years ago while pregnant with my second son. I was reading Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’ and he wrote at length about the individual pain body that we each carry around with us. He discussed that we also each belong to several collective pain bodies and that as a woman I also carried the collective female pain body. This he described becomes activated at pre-menstruum and that as women we were ‘blessed’ with this body based opportunity for awakening. It was a way, he trusted, into experiencing the present moment. I felt as if I had received an awakening just by reading this acknowledgement.

When my cycle returned I began tracking and watching for my own experience of the pain body at my pre-menstruum. It became clear to me that it was very difficult to ‘be’ with and ‘walk towards’ painful emotions in the busyness of family life and work commitments. I yearned for space but had no idea how to claim this for myself. When space for me did come it was often after an emotional outburst leaving me feeling ashamed that I had claimed it for myself in this way.

I enrolled on ‘The Journey’ at Embercombe, in Devon, and at this initiatory week of deep council I had a visionary experience during a breathing practice that changed the course of my life:

I saw myself standing on the cliffs behind my home here in Cornwall and I could hear the screams of women all around the Earth in that moment. Each was being medicated to silence their powerful cries. Some were giving birth, some were speaking up, some were in menopause, some were young girls and some were old women meeting their death. I began screaming with them at the torture of being unmet. Then out of the ground all around me rose the women of my home town, women that had lived on this land long before. They were the indigenous women of Cornwall. Each was woaded with lightening bolts and moon cycles on their faces and each wore swan feathers in their hair. They walked toward me and in their outstretched arms they offered me food. It started as corn on the cob and then changed to sheaves of corn. Their unspoken message was that I must now nourish myself because without nourishment they could not speak through me. Self care is not selfish – it is essential and non-negotiable.

When I returned home I began searching for female teachers, teachers who recognised menarche, birth, menopause and death as rites of passage, teachers who offered body based ceremony, teachers who understood the motherline and teachers who could bring me their own lived experience of menstruality.

During this time of research I began the Women’s Quest Apprenticeship with Alexandra Pope. It was in our individual sessions that I noticed what was coming up for me was my own lack of ability to give myself the space and rest that I needed at menstruation. I had now been pointed towards this time as an opportunity for experiencing a deep inner meeting with oneself, an inner council. This I had ‘heard’ from several different sources but never truly experienced. I saw what was getting in the way of allowing this for myself was my own deep shame around taking care of myself and resting. Alexandra repeatedly encouraged ‘doing nothing’ leading up to and during my bleed. On the surface that sounded great, in practice it took me at least a year to find the words to allow this for myself. Firstly I had to feel that I was even worthy of looking after, secondly that I could express this to my husband and ask him to look after the children and thirdly when I got the time to explore to know what ‘doing nothing’  actually meant.

At the beginning of claiming my menstruation as my spiritual practice I would simply retreat to our bedroom. Here I would wrestle with my inner critic screaming into my ears ‘what on earth are you doing??’ Then it would come up with all the undone chores ‘There’s laundry that needs folding’, ‘You haven’t got back to that email’, ‘You could be planning for the week ahead get a pen and paper’. Next I would let myself lie down on my bed and practice a relaxation. Now I could feel my inner critic emotionally kicking me for resting during the day, and then finally, I would fall asleep.

I continued this, often self-berating, experience month after month creating my own red tent in my bedroom. I began to recognise how deeply exhausted I was and that each time all that my body yearned for was sleep.

When eventually I was able to retreat without needing to simply sleep I would be aware of my husband and the children in the house too. I found it hard to stay with myself as I began to experience the permeable and expansive states of consciousness as I bled.  I moved my retreat to the futon in my husband’s office at the top of the garden. This served for a time too but there I became aware of traffic or passers by and I recognised that in order to stay with myself I needed absolute silence.

I began retreating to a friend’s wagon on a field that they own. Each month I would prepare food, snacks and drinks and drive off to be alone. Now courting the phases of surrender and renewal with dedicated commitment. Then the call to my inner temple would come and I would resent the preparation and 30 minute drive and found myself wanting something simpler. I used my bleed to find what my ideal solution could be. I knew that when I felt the unmistakable need to retreat when everything felt suddenly loud and intrusive – this was my call to my inner temple. I needed a simple solution so that I could allow my consciousness to expand and become diffuse. I knew that my body’s urge is to lie belly down upon the Earth needed to be swiftly met and if possible to listen to the birds and nature. Clarity and direction soon came flooding in, and as always it was so simple!

I ordered myself a pop up (red!!) tent that didn’t even need pegging down unless it was windy. Two red sleeping bags that I could zip together and a red fleece covered hot water bottle. They waited in my porch with ground mat and torch. When my next call to the temple came it was during our family evening meal. I explained to my husband and sons that my sacred time was approaching and that I would be leaving now to camp at the bottom of our garden. I kissed them each goodnight and walked the 20 paces to the bottom of the flowerbeds. I popped up my tent and lay belly down on the Earth with my hot water bottle on my lower back. My consciousness joined the birdsong and my body deeply melted into the Earth as I returned home and began my bleed.

As the months have passed in this very beautiful way my sons have loved to visit my sacred space (on a strictly invitation only basis!). I have noticed that in my expanded awareness and surrender from responsibility I am able to ‘be’ with them and deeply answer their questions about what happens during my bleeding time. My eldest son, now 9, has saved his pocket money and also brought his own pop up (blue!) tent now. Last month he went to the top garden with his brother in his words ‘to have their own sacred time’, my heart was proud to bursting. Even though their sacred time meant reading the beano until dark and heading out periodically to the trampoline! All the while my husband was in the house (while our third son was asleep) enjoying an evening to himself. Everyone, it seems, benefitted.

As I close it’s hard to imagine now not having my bleed as sacred time in council with my deep and holy self. I honour that part of me that resisted out of shame and fear of  my own self care. I also give gratitude to my husband and to my mum for taking on my role in the family in order that I am able to retreat. I am sharing this story as Alexandra asked me to write my experience and I am reminded in doing so how much we can all learn from each other. I would love to hear, if you feel drawn, how you too carve time to enter your own inner temple at menstruation, what set of life circumstances you have to navigate in order to allow this for yourself. I honour Alexandra’s courage to remain true to her calling these past 30 years of tracking her cycle and am deeply grateful for the map home to my own.

This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. This is powerful stuff. I love how you point out the benefits of taking this sacred time. By taking time for the magic of self-care and discovery, you provided a magical experience for the entire family. You’re exploration and growth encouraged the exploration of growth of your boys. I’m sure it did that also for your husband.

    In modern society, women have such incredible responsibilities. They did too back in the day, but now women face upholding a household without support. So, even though we may not have to hike to fetch water or live in a teepee during the winter, things are harder in a way. Anything seems possible when you have the care and emotional support of others. When you don’t, even the simplest things can evolve into dark and heavy burdens.

    The need for acknowledging our needs and the necessity of self-love is something I have been exploring both as a woman and a writer….

    Your story is beautiful. Thanks for sharing. <3

  2. Thankyou so much for your comments and affirmation dear Asha I am looking forward to reading your experience in the links that you have shared, Warmly Mandy xx

    1. Dearest Ash I have now read your articles and warmly invite all reading here to take a look. I love the style that you write in I can feel your honest enquiry and willingness to reveal yourself in your words. Self-love is such a vast topic and your own journey speaks volumes. I particularly LOVE where you write ‘squash fear with bravery’ and for me I gain more and more courage from hearing other Womens stories. Thankyou so much for bringing your story, I’m delighted to be connected xx

  3. My journey comes on the back of learning via Jewels Wingfield and Mandy, who both studied with Alexandra. I added to their knowledge with three years of research into writings and courses in holistic women’s health and menstruality from around the world. My two day break now can’t be a total break because I’m a single parent, but my sons are old enough to cook, make a cup of tea or a hot water bottle for me, or themselves… so we three have our own routine. When I feel my time drawing in I ask them if either of them fancies cooking or if we get a takeaway; we eat then they’re free to watch a movie, play together or amuse themselves however they like. They know that the washing up and dog walks are their responsibility for 48 hours but of course I’m on hand if they need anything. I pre-order some decent dark chocolate and epsom salts and we all take turns to bathe, munch chocolate (high in magnesium which is good for cramps!) and relax a bit. I stay in my room but they come in when I’m feeling sociable; my cramps are the barometer, their masculine voices sometimes bring on stronger cramps! We’ve learned to hang out under my electric blanket or split off into solitary activities as my womb dictates and they both love the change in pace. We can let the housework and chores slide for two days because we’ll all get back on it later, but those two days are sheer indulgence for the boys and for me, a welcome space to relax and retreat. I used to need to get deep by distraction; watching movies or tv shows via my laptop in the dark until I could sleep. My cramps were telling me to go deeper though. Now I don’t need even a little cramp bark herbal medicine despite having severe endometriosis, I just read a book, meditate, stay warm and eat what I hear my body wants. My plan is to have a she-pi (like a teepee but red and womb-like) when we move into our own house next year. Replete with a little wood burner and some himalayan salt candles, I’ll take some music and just be with what comes. And I can’t wait!

  4. Oh my dearest Ayla thankyou so much for taking the time to share so fully your experience. It means a great deal to me to hear how as a single parent with two very fine sons AND endometriosis your ability to surrender to your self to allow your bleed. As a mother of sons myself I trust that they will grow into men with a deep appreciation of what it is needed to truly ‘be’ with a woman. I also look fed to when mine are old enough to take care of making their own meals 😉 I love the idea of your ‘she-pee’ and warmly look forward to hearing more of your voice from what you receive within it xxxxxxxxc

  5. Ohhh, this is so rich and inspiring. I don’t know where to start…
    I am heading into perimenopause, getting irregular cycles either very close together (21 days), or this time around very far apart. It’s day 43, and I still haven’t bled. My emotions are a rollercoaster, and I’m feeling very PMS-sy. I homeschool three children and run a homestead and several businesses, so my default mode is being “on”. What I’m really yearning for is what you describe: just doing nothing. I honestly don’t know what it feels like to do nothing, because I’m a type A German workhouse who values productivity.
    My soul is yearning for a red tent.
    I live on our beautiful homestead, surrounded by gorgeous nature. When my moon time comes, my red tent experience is by the river, with bald eagles soaring overhead, and my belly to the ground in the sand. Even though this only lasts for 30 minutes max because I have to go back home to take care of the kids, it does nourish and refresh me.
    Still… to take a whole day away to be with myself sounds like heaven, albeit unattainable at the moment…

  6. I am listening to my body. She gives me very little choice lol! Watching my son play in the park and my belly needs to be supported by the earth as I bleed. It prompted me to Google this strange and sudden urge and I found this post! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For sharing, and teaching.

  7. Thanks for sharing this beautiful experience. For nearly 25 years I monthly suffered through menstruation, numbing my wobbling feelings and painful cramps with medication till about 2 years ago during my education to become a Yoga-Teacher I found Asanas that finally helped my body to relax and allow myself to stay closer to me and allow myself the rest I need during bleeding.
    Still it is hard to stay true to myself and so often I’m still struggling with my own commitments I think I have to the outside.
    Its so good to hear from other women how they handle their journey, your story made me cry.
    Thank you.

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