Deep Surrender: The Art of Inner Winter

Deep Surrender: The Art of Inner Winter

I’ve been following the red thread of embracing menstruation as a sacred time since my early twenties.  Going straight into the world of naturopathy at 18 meant that my impressionable young self was exposed to some fairly unconventional ways of understanding menstruation.   I never went on the pill, I made my own cloth pads, I understood that PMS was often a signpost that something in my life was stuck or needed attention, and I would make certain foods and herbal teas (recipes kindly gifted from me from some older, wiser ladies) as my beginning entry into period self-care.

However, it wasn’t until almost 10 years later that I fully stepped into the spiritual practice of menstruation.  The deeper current available to us has impacted my life remarkably in both dramatic and subtle ways.  The beautiful thing is, all it requires is thinking about it differently and understanding what is available to us if we can slow down enough and listen.

What menstruation has to offer us…

Hormonally, it’s the phase of the menstrual cycle that all the hormones that have been ebbing and flowing, peaks and troughs, ease down and smoothly careen.  You know that glassy look of the ocean when the wave has crashed on the shore, and the tide begins to retreat to the horizon?  That’s menstruation.  Often, the premenstrual phase can be the rockiest, and by contrast, menstruation is the calm—the release and relief.  If we can hold ourselves in that stillness, reach within and practice period self-care, we can be far more available for the rest of our cycle.

Lara Owen, the author of “Her Blood Is Gold”, puts it beautifully:

“The whole menstrual cycle is an alchemical process in itself, during which every woman who bleeds goes through a transformation inside herself. To menstruate means to live through a cyclical transmutation in which the past is shed, and the new is embraced. Experiencing this transformation through conscious ritual awakens us to our connection with the cycles taking place all around us and to our relationship with all life.”

So what is menstruation all about then?  It’s about:

  • Creating space for self and protecting it
  • Disengagement with the outer world.
  • Letting go
  • Surrendering
  • Forgiveness
  • Inner connection and tuning into inner guidance
  • Visioning and planning
  • Distillation
  • Clarity
  • Bliss and euphoria
  • Wisdom

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?


Resting in stillness & period self-care as a gateway to power

“Menstruation is the engine room of your power – the ultimate antidote to procrastination.  It’s the prime time to plant the seeds of your intentions for the coming cycle and beyond” – Wild Power, by Alexandra Pope & Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer.

There are many ways to approach period self-care intentionally.  Ranging from a subtle change in mindset in permitting yourself to go that bit slower, or you can go all out and arrange a proper getaway retreat.  If taking an annual retreat is something that you practice anyway, I invite you to time it with your menstrual cycle and witness yourself dropping into a deeper state of relaxation than you would be able to do at any other point in your menstrual cycle.

My personal period self-care practice ever-evolving.  I am lucky that I run my own business and that I can call the shots as to when I schedule in a rest day for my day 1 (if I’ve got a busy schedule, I’ll use my ovulation phase to pull off some late nights to store some time away for menstruation) and then for the rest of the time I give myself lots of leeway.  I only book in meetings that are not overly demanding.  I don’t schedule big social events. I allow myself to go to bed earlier and push my alarm forward to give me those precious extra hours of sleep.

Printable moon map and fertility chart by Clara Bitcon Bailey Naturopath

Entering the Temple – 12 Ingredients for a Rejuvenating Period

1. Protect – Mark menstruation in your diary and calendar and keep it as free as possible.  If you have flex days available with your work – align them to menstruation.  Go to bed just that bit earlier and if you can, set your alarm just a bit later.

2. Go slow – If you can’t take the day off.  Go as slow and as gently as possible.

3. Stock up – Just before your period is due, cook up some nourishing soups or stews.  If you are vegan or vegetarian, Kitchari is an Ayurvedic one-pot dish that cooks soaked moong dal, rice, vegetables and warming spices that brings warmth to your digestion and womb into a delicious soulful bowl.  If you’re an omnivore, a classic beef stew or borscht made with bone broth is restorative and nurturing.

4. Candlelit bathing – Take a bath with 2-3 cups of Epsom salts and a few drops of a favourite essential oil – clary sage rose, lavender or geranium are all particularly lovely during menstruation.  The magnesium in the Epsom salts is very relaxing to the muscles, and if you experience period pain, it is a very effective remedy.  Make sure you include candles, tea, and music!

5. Herbal allies – If you suffer from period pain, the herbal world has a lot of support (herbs, in general, are wonderful guardians of women’s health).  Depending on where you are, you may need to find a naturopath or herbalist to dispense these herbs.  Mediatrix Wellness also creates some very potent remedies to ease menstrual cycle discomfort:

6. Drop in – I also find that 10 drops of Californian Poppy are wonderful for women who may be finding it hard to settle into the stillness (a.k.a, still have their head in the outside world).  It helps you to surrender and ease into a softer, dreamier space.  Higher doses (20-60 drops) work for pain, but it will make you feel groggy if you go too high.  There is a sweet spot of feeling relieved but clear enough to read or write.  So start small, and keep having additional 10 drops every 15 minutes until you hit that lovely place of being pain-free and relaxed.

7. Massage – Give yourself a womb massage.  This is a particularly lovely practice to do before a bath.  Make sure the room is warm, take some almond oil (or other massage oil you have) and slowly, in a clockwise motion, massage your lower abdomen.  Then after 2 minutes, switch and go anti-clockwise.  If you’re lucky enough to have access to some mugwort or motherwort infused oil, this adds another releasing layer of medicine.

8. Practice Yoga Nidra – Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation meditation technique that goes through a sequence of processes that gently encourages you to surrender and drop in.

9. Do Some Restorative Yoga –  Menstruation is not the time to be doing your HIIT workout or highly active yoga class.  It is the time for walks in nature, gentle swimming or restorative yoga.  Anita Goa’s yoga YouTube channel is a particular favourite, and she has lots of restorative classes.

10. Lounge – Lie in bed with a heat pack, an eye mask not far away, a stack of books and a big pot of tea (or any such variation!)

11. Journal – Because menstruation lends itself to clear thinking and ease of connecting with self, it is the best time in the entire cycle to journal your truths and gains a deeper insight into what didn’t work for you this cycle or what tripped you up.  It’s also a time to celebrate what worked, reflect on where you’ve come and vision up and plan.  I’ve learned from Lisa Lister to journal in a red pen when you’re bleeding. When you’re flicking through back on a journal, you know that the red pages are likely to be filled with vision and insight.

12. Create a Bleeding Box – I LOVE this one!  And it comes from Claire Baker, coach and author of ‘Adore your Cycle’ – “fill a box with period self-care bits and bobs that you open on day 1 of your cycle. Essential oils, chocolate, crystals, a heat pack, herbal tea, oracle cards, soaps, books, a journal… things that are going to make you feel nurtured, held and loved”.

Have I convinced you yet?

So I invite you to mark out your next period in your diary and pick 1-3 of the above suggestions (or make up your own).  It may be as small a step as going to bed half an hour earlier.  Or making a double batch of dinners, so you don’t have to cook.  The beautiful part of this practice is that you can go as deep as you like.  But I’ve noticed in myself, and those who also practice menstrual cycle awareness, that once you start, you begin dreaming about how you’re going to spend your next period.

As a final note, here’s a thought that expands beyond just us from the powerhouse Jane Hardwick Collins:

“Through honouring your menstrual cycle, you help heal the “wounded feminine”, the symptoms of which ravage the Earth and most of her people. By honouring her cycle, a woman honours the feminine, the dark, the juicy, the mysterious, the feminine power of creativity, sexuality and our Mother Earth.”

It’s big stuff.

It’s old, and it’s revolutionary at the same.

Please, share this with any women in your life who you know are already following the red thread.

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Deep Surrender: The Art of Inner Winter by Clara Bailey, Naturopath and Herbalist

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