Rest during menstruation you say? But isn’t “period positivity” and women’s empowerment about our periods and female physiology not holding us back? Like, we can still do ALL OF THE THINGS that a non-menstruating woman (or you know, a man) can do when we’re bleeding — right?
Why on earth would we want to encourage women to do LESS, when the fight for equality is just picking up speed?
I’d been leaning further and further into the idea of resting during menstruation for a few years; taking time off work and clients, skipping the gym, signing off social media, and being extra gentle with myself at this time. At first it felt a little strange to tell people that the reason I wasn’t going to be available for a client call, dinner or a workout, was because I’d be bleeding.
But you can’t un-know an embodied experience, and the truth was that the more I would rest during menstruation, the more consistent my energy was and the more connected I felt to myself and my intuition throughout the rest of my cycle.
Enter the ‘Big Bleed’:
Last year I had the honor of completing the Women’s Quest Apprenticeship with Red School founders, Alexandra Pope & Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer. It was the first time I’d come across the idea of a ‘Big Bleed’. This is when you plan ahead to curate a menstruating experience where you can really let go and surrender, in ways that mightn’t be possible every cycle... allowing yourself to rest during menstruation. The idea is to dream into what you’d LOVE menstruation to look and feel like, and then do your best, with the resources and support available to you, to give yourself a delicious and generous taste of that.
Planning out menstruation
So in the early summer of 2017 I started to plan: I blocked out an entire week of availability in my coaching calendar, scheduled a grocery delivery, pre-cooked soups, stews and raw chocolate, and ordered candles, incense, and herbal teas. As I hit my pre-menstruum, I slowed down more than I normally might, whilst simultaneously tidying up loose ends and letting friends and family know that at some point in the next week I’d be offline and unavailable.
Of course, when day one arrived, I naturally spent the morning on emails. Ha!
It was imperative that everyone needed to know what I was doing! I had to answer every request, comment, and complete unfinished tasks; my mind didn’t want to loosen its grip on everything that I felt I had to DO.
I’ll be able to fully stop once this is ticked off,
I heard my inner perfectionist natter away.
By midday I realized that rather than resting, I was resisting; and so I closed my laptop mid-sentence, switched off my phone, pulled the lounge room curtains closed, stretched out on my couch… and stopped.
Just stopped. Actually stopped. Nothing. Nada. Blank space.
The generous gift of menstruation
We are supported by the body to truly let go and go within at this time.
As I unravelled further and surrendered to my inner winter, I found myself in an altered reality, drifting in and out of sleep, feeling the bliss of oxytocin ripple across my heavy eyelids, down my arms, softening my shoulders and neck.
For hours I just lay there, simply delighting in the ecstatic rise and fall of my chest.
The pause between each breath held an entire lifetime. Blood pooling between my legs, my heart expanding further and further open in this liminal space.
Sometimes my mind would perk up with something to do, or someone to check in with, or a “helpful” reminder for things coming up in my schedule. I did my best to just breathe and stay in the present — granted, this is often easier said than done! Inhale, exhale.
This went on for two (almost three!) full days.
Occasionally I would pop on a yoga nidra meditation, or listen to the recording of a drumming circle, or wander to the kitchen to make more tea, heat food, or eat raw chocolate. Burn incense. Refill the water bottle. Return to the land of the horizontal.
Rest during menstruation
Surrender soon led way to the feeling of renewal and a rekindling of creativity!
I’d wake up with poems dancing on my tongue, words finding their way over the threshold via my hand and red pen, moving so fast, barely able to keep up with what wanted to come through! I had book titles land, retreat outlines planned, visions appear for projects I’d felt stumped on for months.
'Rest isn’t productive?' I’d smirk, 'pffffft!'
On the third day, as I opened my eyes after a nap, I felt the clearest guidance land yet:
'Apply for your visa to Ireland.'
Ireland? Really? I’d been asking for guidance on “where to next?” for months but everything had felt fuzzy. And now, here it was: Ireland. Within a few hours, I was on the Irish immigration website, downloading their visa application forms. The coolest part? It was just weeks away from my thirty-first birthday, which would mark the cutoff to apply. It had to be now.
So I applied, and so I am going. By the end of 2018 I’ll be living in a land my womb guided me to.
I trust my body, and I listen when she speaks up. She speaks up when I rest at menstruation. When I surrender.
We don’t question the integral nature of sleep, or the benefits it bestows upon our lives, and one day (hopefully soon) I believe that we’ll view menstruation in the same light. It’s the natural point in a women’s cycle for rest, and not only that, but it’s the place to reap the rewards that letting go, surrendering, and trusting ourselves brings. This is power. This is where we access the truth of ourselves and our self-authority.
This is where we learn that we are enough, as we are.
The gift of menstruation
My devotion to this depth of surrender has grown stronger each cycle. I’m currently in a chapter of life where, as a self-employed human, with no tiny humans depending on me, allowing more rest during menstruation menstruation is a gift I treasure. I realize it mightn’t always be like this! And while a ‘Big Bleed’ isn’t necessarily possible every time I menstruate, my boundaries around work and personal expectations have continued to cement; where I can, when I can, I say no to the world, pull those curtains closed, and enter the temple.
This post first appeared here on the Red School website.
Tell me in the comments: have you tried a Big Bleed before? If I was to write more about resting during menstruation, what would you like to know?
Claire Baker is an Australian women’s coach and menstrual educator based in London. She teaches the art of self-care, creative rekindling and how to live life by your menstrual cycle. She offers 1:1 coaching, eBooks, workshops and online courses.