Sjanie: As a woman you have an initiatory process actually built into your body, it is part of your biology, it’s part of your blueprint that you will be worked from the inside, that you will be taken on a journey over the span of your life. And this female initiatory path is the menstrual cycle. Alexandra, I think if we are going to be talking about this today maybe we should say what we mean by initiatory as a way to start this conversation.
Alexandra: I think that would be essential Sjanie and I was just amused listening to you speak just then about how we think of initiation as how you have to go on some kind of grand experience, you have to go out and test yourself in nature or something like that, and what amuses me is that for us women it’s just happening in our day to day living. It’s like we’re washing up and then oops there goes the initiation or we’re sitting on the train going to work and oops there goes the initiation again. It’s just at work in us as we are going about our day to day business. I just think that’s so wild and wonderful that we are living our initiatory process on an ongoing daily basis. So yes, what do we mean by initiation Sjanie? I’ll ask you the question.
Sjanie: It’s good that you point out the sort of notion that we think it’s something we have to go out and do. So I would probably start by saying that the first part of an initiation is that it is something that happens to you, maybe that you are not necessarily consciously choosing. So it’s not something that you can control. I think that is quite a core element of what an initiation is. And then also, initiations are really connected to the archetypal cycles of life and the process of initiation follows that pattern or that rhythm of death and then reconstitution and then rebirth, being born anew and in that process of dying and sort of reforming and being reborn you are reborn into a bigger, larger maybe more expanded state or place. So there’s a kind of generative pattern overall, there is an evolution that is happening through this initiatory process. I suppose I say it like this because for a woman this initiatory process happens over and over and over again, so in the mini snapshot of it its death and rebirth but, in the bigger picture of it, it’s this evolutionary process, this evolutionary journey that we’re evolving through as we go through this process of initiation.
Alexandra: You are dying to an old self and birthing a more expanded version of yourself. So initiation requires an ego death. And it requires a loss of something, a sense of abandonment, and it’s very crucial that there’s this feeling of vulnerability and of abandonment almost. And then this reawakening into a more expanded version of yourself. That’s it in essence. I loved how you said there’s this evolution at work, and each iteration of ourselves takes us into a more evolved version of ourselves, a more mature self. And it is a journey isn’t it Sjanie from a me centred consciousness to an us centred consciousness. Moving from it being all about me to growing into this sense of myself and the world as one. So into a sense of service to a larger consciousness. That is what initiation is trying to do. That is why we need initiation and in a way our culture is really lacking initiated people today. It’s all about me me me and we need more and more people who have grown into a mature sense of themselves, that they can hold themselves and serve themselves but also be conscious of the fact that there is a larger process that they are serving as well. So it’s really growing into that, we use the phrase participatory consciousness. It’s a bit of a grand term, but it’s the sense that you are participating in a larger consciousness than your own small ego selves. That is in essence really what initiation is all about. It’s about growing up isn’t it.
Sjanie: Yes, exactly and as you spoke of participatory consciousness I thought yes and on the other side of the spectrum is my two-year old consciousness which is all me me me me me! It’s kind of the journey from that to this real sense of being a part of something larger and being a collective intelligence. The other element that comes to mind for me when I think of initiatory is initiations all hold some form of challenge at their centre. And for us women it’s not necessarily an outer challenge, although we can be initiated by our life circumstances of course, but for us women built into our menstrual cycle process comes this challenge, so for us our challenge is generally speaking really about facing ourselves. So as you spoke about that aspect of initiation that involves dying to youself in that there is a necessity to face yourself and to come to a deeper truth about who you are. And it’s that tussle, that courage, that vulnerability, that allows you to shed the old skin. That in a way is the sort of gateway through, that challenge opens you to something larger. So I think it’s important to name that challenge aspect of it and that will all start to make more sense as we begin to talk about this in context of the menstrual cycle as well I think.
Alexandra: Should we dive into the initiation process of the cycle now Sjanie and how it works?
Sjanie: maybe before we do that let’s give the bigger picture.
Alexandra: the whole initiatory arc, let’s start with that. Well, our initiatory arc announces itself at our very first bleed. Menarche is the moment when you step on to the female journey of initiation, and at menarche you are dying to your innocent self and you are now stepping onto the path of individuation. Actually, that’s really another good word for describing the journey of initiation, the journey to individuation. And this is really when it formally begins for us as women. And up until menarche you are held in this lovely bubble, we call it the womb of the family, and you are held in the womb of the family, and there’s this lovely innocence and hopefully you have a lovely feeling of protection from the vicissitudes of the world and you can be utterly innocent and playful and joyful and so on. And in a way menarche kind of pricks the bubble of that innocence, of that balloon if you like. And I always think of the story of Sleeping Beauty and the 13th fairy and actually that is a story of menarche. She comes, there’s this gorgeous princess being celebrated and she’s in this beautiful palace and all these lovely gifts and then the doors are flung open and in comes the 13th fairy, the cold wind comes in, and she stomps in and she says ‘on your 13th birthday you’re gonna prick your finger and die!’ That’s a little melodramatic, but that’s the statement of the beginning of the initiatory journey. You’re going to die to that innocent self and you’re going to have to now begin that journey to awakening to the complexity of being in the world and being yourself. Now it is not the death of innocence but it is about innocence having to co-exist with a multitude of other energies and forces. Of course your little self at menarche is innocent to the enormity of this, at least consciously and intellectually, your young self cannot name any of this but your deep spirit knows something. And so there is a death of that innocent childlike self and a stepping into now a more expanded world. It’s pretty unknown but it’s also exciting and I think what can happen in adolescence, you know things can get a little wild and you know how young people want to act out and take drugs and all the wild things we want to do. We’re not interested in our family anymore and we so don’t want our parents around, our allegiance turns to our friends and so on. And it’s just really classic actually, it’s just the beginning of the initiatory journey and it’s a little wild and loose but our teenage self is now trying to negotiate a larger consciousness and begin to answer this question ‘Who am I?’ You’re not maybe consciously up in your head thinking that but that’s what your deep spirit is beginning to negotiate. And then…do you want to take over here Sjanie and take the next piece of the journey on this initiatory journey and I’ll pick up again at the end with menopause?
Sjanie: yes, so as you described when this bubble is popped you are birthed from the womb of your family into what we call the wombing process. That is really your menstruating years, that’s where you are dropping into the support of your menstrual cycle, the womb of your menstrual cycle, that becomes the container for your own being and your own becoming. And the menstrual cycle itself offers you these kind of initiatory opportunities through the rhythm and pattern of the menstrual cycle process. So, we are going to talk about this in a lot more detail we just want to give you an overall sense of it but in later episodes we’ll describe more about this initiatory process that happens through the menstrual cycle. Essentially its through your menstruating years that the initiatory process is working through you to support you to get to know yourself and to begin to grow up and begin to mature, to begin to find what it is you are interested in, what excites you, what calls you, what speaks to you. This is your calling beginning to work through you and through your menstrual cycle, and it happens at a very particular time in the cycle which is menstruation. Menstruation is itself a peak moment of initiation. It’s the time when that calling that Alexandra spoke of that’s ignited at menarche, it’s the time when that calling gets reignited, it kind of resurfaces, you get a sort of hit of it each month at menstruation. That obviously unfolds as you get older and you deepen into it through your menstruating years, I love that expression that through your menstruating years you practice your power and really that is what is happening through the cycle and through the month, you hare having these opportunities to practice your power, to flex your muscles and get the work out, the psychological, emotional, energetic work out, that happens through menstruation and through the monthly round of the menstrual cycle. Do you want to add something?
Alexandra: Yes, I just really want to emphasise that you go through this mini death and rebirth every month, every menstrual month. As you are coming into menstruation there is that moment when the rug is sort of pulled out from underneath your feet just before bleeding and that is the death moment, and then you bleed and that’s the beginning of the new cycle, the rebirth moment. And psychologically that’s a very powerful thing that is going on each month. You initially get in the first half of the cycle this lovely affirmation of yourself and then it’s as though that has to be undone and there’s this moment of losing yourself and then you bleed and you find yourself again. So you go through this version of losing yourself and finding yourself each menstrual month. And it is this process over time of losing yourself and finding yourself that something starts to deepen and grow and strengthen in you. We talked, I think in the first podcast, about how the cycle tunes you up and this is part of the tuning process. It’s tuning you up to be more and more aware of who you are and aware of the bigger consciousness around you. That is the initiation, the process of individuation going on. And then eventually, you’re doing this for what thirty odd years or something, man we get initiations every month over thirty years! That is serious work Sjanie, men haven’t got a patch on what we’ve got going on for us.
Sjanie: And it looks like we’re doing nothing. Especially at menstruation.
Alexandra: Exactly! Here we are going about our business looking entirely normal but inside, oh my god there goes the death, oh, I’m just being reborn again! It’s wild! As we get closer and closer to…actually I’m suddenly pausing here as we should acknowledge that there is another huge initiation that goes on for women who choose to become mothers and because I’m not a mother I’m putting that over to you. Not all of us choose to go down that path but for those women who do that is a separate initiatory journey that we might just want to say something about here.
Sjanie: Yeah, it is a separate initiatory journey and I think it’s really good just to name that the menstrual cycle process and this process of initiation through the monthly round of the cycle is the ground and the preparation for that journey into motherhood, and that initiation into motherhood. And wow, motherhood is quite an initiation having been through it twice, I’m still sort of recovering. I’m still slowly emerging in the rebirth space but it has its own pattern or its own kind of unique colouring. But essentially it has the same process, you die to the self that you were, you let go of who you used to be and when you give birth to that baby you are reborn as a mother. It’s following that same initiatory process and the menstrual cycle is the ground out of which that whole experience arises. The awareness of the menstrual cycle prepares you in a profound way for that.
Alexandra: Alright, so now we are passing through our menstruating years and now we’re coming to the end of the female initiatory journey which is menopause. And menopause is the final big initiatory hit. It’s huge, it’s a real final clean-up operation too I think. Now, we are actually really prepared for menopause, or if we are working with our cycle very consciously then we are in a sense organically delivered to the door of the final initiation. We are in a sense prepared for it, we should be arriving at the door of menopause in a sense with the instruction manual for it already built into our bodies. A bit like the menstrual cycle prepares you for pregnancy and birth, equally it prepares you for the final initiation of menopause. And this is where we go through a real final huge death which is the end of this journey, the end of our fertile years. And it is in a sense the end of your own kind of personal journey, I’m just finding the words fresh here, it’s like the death of me. The Me consciousness and then post menopause you’re really stepping into perhaps a kind of transpersonal self, a really truly expanded self that is utterly in service to this larger consciousness. I do feel that is at the heart of it. Not all women necessarily want to sign up for that, nor should they, but that actually is the essence of what’s trying to happen. Now post menopause my little old me self is of course around and speaking, but it’s held actually very clearly within something much larger, I know it’s not about me any more even though I have my moments of angst and so on. And I actually really can feel that I’ve stepped into an even greater womb so I’ve left the womb of my menstruating years and we often talk about the menstruating years as like the training wheels, you’ve got the training wheels on learning how to cycle you know, and at menopause you kick the training wheels off and you’re free now, you know who you are, you know your business and you know what you’ve come to serve and if you’ve done your inner work over those menstruating years (and that’s what the cycle offers you, it offers this marvellous inner work process), if you’ve done that work you should be arriving at menopause with a really good sense of who you are and what your business with a capital B is, you know what your calling is. And it’s really about finally stepping into that fully and wholeheartedly. And I always say to women this is the moment when you finally accept yourself for who you are warts and all. Because we are of course vastly imperfect too. I am a very complicated messy human being even as I have utter clarity about who I am and what my business is. It is so magnificent this massive discernment that emerges through menopause. So, it’s really the ending of your inner work journey in some ways and the beginning of just stepping up wholeheartedly to really doing your world work, really serving your calling. And that’s a huge thing to do and of course that transition can take I think about 2 years or more. It’s a bit like how long is a piece of string really, it’s as long as its long really for you. And it’s nothing to do with your hormones, I mean its connected to your hormones but only you, no doctor can tell you when you’re out the other side of menopause, only you know when you are really through that great initiatory workout of dying to things, and you really do die, it’s extraordinary. Its extraordinary how you die to yourself and there’s a period of real emptiness. This is the challenge we speak of in initiation Sjanie, and then gradually the lights come up and you go wow! It’s okay! I know who I am! It’s like what happens at menstruation but it happens over 2 years, and of course the other side is not another cycle but your stepping into being organised by the great cycles of life itself, by world timing, it’s not your timing anymore its world timing. And you’re really stepping up to serve that.
Sjanie: so that is the female initiatory path and it’s good to be able to sort of step back and as a woman get an overview of your life process, and really look at it from menarche through your menstruating years to menopause and see it and understand it in terms of this initiatory process that is working you. There is a unique intelligence that is at work for each one of us that is very connected to who we are. This is what is being grown in you through this whole process from menarche to menopause. This is your calling, you’ve heard us mention it, it’s ignited at menarche and reignited through menstruation and getting the final hit at menopause. This is your calling, that which is seeking you and unfolding through you, through your life, and through your living and being. And this is what we call your Wild Power. This is what we have titled our book because our book is essentially about this female initiatory process and how to really come into relationship with your Wild Power, how to meet it, how to engage with it, how to follow it, trust it, and how to allow it to deliver you to your fullest potential to your own fulfilment. We want to give you something practical to do having heard all of this which may be completely new to some of you. We want to give you a kind of practical way in to begin to work with your initiatory process.
Alexandra: Well, everything begins with that very first bleed doesn’t it Sjanie, and how we cross that line at menarche is everything. It orientates us for this whole initiatory journey which is why it’s really important for menarche to be met and honoured in some way, for women to have really positive and wholesome experiences around menarche and often women don’t. So we thought that it would be really lovely for each of you to think about your own menarchial experience. How did you begin your menstruating years, was it troubled and difficult, and even if your parents were there for you and good, there may have been stress around it too because what’s happening in the field around you, the atmosphere around you, can affect the experience because menarche is such a huge psychic opening and you are easily imprinted by everything, everything just gets imprinted very easily. So, we’ve got a little thing for you to do. We want you to go back and first of all just reflect on your menarchial experience. And if it wasn’t great…if it was great then fabulous you’re home and dry, but you still might want to do this anyway.
Sjanie: I recommend doing this regardless because what you think of now as great, with adult eyes you might reflect on and recognise that you weren’t met in the way that your deep self really needed. So, I would do this regardless actually.
Alexandra: Yeah, I would too! So, give yourself a menarchial ritual and in that ritual, and we have instructions which we can share with you, re-anoint yourself, to anoint the young self in you as this beautiful, intelligent, sacred, wonderful, being. And it really is extraordinary the impact this menarchial ritual can have, it’s like sending out a lovely ripple of energy down through your menstruating years, just subtly realigning everything and blessing you with this lovely wash of affirmation. So, really the essence of the menarchial ritual is giving yourself this wonderful affirming ‘Yes! You’re Great! You’re whole! You’re great just as you are’ whatever, it’s a Yes to your being. And we give instructions, if you know we have a workbook called The Women’s Quest workbook, and in the back of that we have a lovely set of instructions to guide you through a menarchial ritual. You can do that on your own but we’d really encourage you to get one or two friends together to do it together because that just gives it added something, oomph, specialness, gorgeousness. But also we actually have an online course called Menarche in which you can go through a whole process of examining menarche and then beginning to reframe it and we have a lovely visualisation exercise that we include in there and then of course very clear instructions on how to do the ritual itself. Sjanie, would you like to add anything to that?
Sjanie: Yes, very simply if it’s something you want to do on your own you need to create a ritual space for yourself and really take time to, as Alexandra said, really affirm that young you. Maybe you want to find some particular words to affirm yourself with, qualities in yourself that you recognise, things in your own being that you can really see and celebrate. Something as simple as that could really help to reset your compass and recalibrate you so that you can go on through your ongoing menstruating years, your upcoming cycles, and really feel the support of that in the background. If you’ve done this before we recommend doing this again, you can do this many many times it sort of peels away the layers of the onion. It’s a really beautiful thing to do so you might want to do it once on your own, once with some friends, you might want to do the online course, you might want to just repeat this process for yourself, it will really support your initiatory process from the ground up. It will give you the kind of backbone that you need to help you deepen into your cycle experience.
We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about your female initiatory path and we look forward to sharing more with you in the next episode.