We are all born of love.
In celebration of powerful mothers & future mum’s to be
we talk to one of our favourite unique, strong women Samantha Neal
about holistic menstrual cycle education, learning from our elders & teaching the young.
YOU’VE SPOKEN ABOUT HOW THIS CYCLE AWARENESS JOURNEY STARTED WITH A DESIRE TO UTILISE YOUR CYCLES FOR GREATER EFFICIENCY,
PRODUCTIVENESS AND CREATIVITY, AND HOW THE REASON HAS DEEPENED OVER TIME.
COULD YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT HOW YOUR REASONS FOR PURSUING THIS PATH HAVE EVOLVED?
When I first started this work, I was approaching it from the perspective of how I could use my cycle to my advantage.
Learning there were phases where we are hormonally supported to be more productive and creative was a revelation.
I thought the work of cycle awareness was about harnessing these abilities. I used words like ‘optimise’ and would say my cycle was my greatest asset.
I still believe these things. They are important pieces that I teach, although I do so from a very different perspective.
My original approach to this awareness came from the same patriarchal mindset that kept me disconnected from it. It was about what my cycle could give me, rather than what I could learn from it.
My cycle is so much more than an asset. It’s my orientation point for experiencing the world. I see this work as a healing modality, as a way of rebuilding a relationship of trust with our bodies and as radical self love.
I see it as rewriting the story we were told of our blood being dirty and something to be ashamed of. Understanding our cycle is understanding the way our body works and knowing our cycle is knowing ourselves.
My path has evolved into one of supporting others in reclaiming this.
YOU ENCOURAGE WOMEN TO SEEK OUT THE WISDOM OF OLDER WOMEN. WHY DO YOU FEEL THIS IS SO IMPORTANT?
Because elder wisdom is real! Our society feels immature. We’re obsessed with youth and preventing any signs of aging and so too, signs of maturing.
To grow older in Western culture is to become less visible, relevant and desirable. This is especially true of the experience for women. I like being around strong older women because it reminds me of how twisted society’s portrayal of aging is.
I love the freedom and embodied wisdom that is present in women of cronehood. I don’t fear getting older if that’s what I get to become. It’s humbling too, in that I realise I still have so much to learn.
YOU’VE MENTIONED THAT CYCLE AWARENESS IS ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM. CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE TWO ARE LINKED?
When we respect our own cyclical nature, we respect the cyclical nature of life.
When I teach the phases of the menstrual cycle, I use the seasons and phases of the moon to represent energetically what is happening within each phase.
I find one of the most beautiful pieces of this work to be the way the menstrual cycle reflects the cycles of the earth and moon.
Similar to the energy of summer and at the full moon, our ovulatory phase is one where we are hormonally supported to be more social, outward and expressive.
Likewise, comparable to winter and the dark moon, our menstrual phase is one where our bodies need more rest and stillness and where our hormones and neurochemistry are supporting us to be reflective and meditative.
When we practice menstrual cycle awareness, we learn that periods of rest and doing less are needed for productivity and creation to occur sustainably.
There is a beautiful intelligence to the rhythm of life.
Our menstrual cycles are one way of experiencing this. In our current world, we are extremely disconnected from this rhythm.
Slowing down, honouring our needs and listening to the body are forms of activism in a world that bows down to the ‘busy god’.
They are ways of rebelling against the fast-paced, productivity-driven world that is only made possible by the extreme mistreatment of the earth’s resources.
The way we treat our bodies reflects the way we treat the earth. It’s all connected and can’t be separated.
When we honour the life-giving power of the menstrual cycle, we honour what sustains us and makes life possible - the Earth.
Cycle awareness is environmental activism that begins with the roots because when we respect the land of our own bodies, we respect the land that surrounds us.
HOW WOULD YOU SUGGEST MOTHERS TEACH THEIR DAUGHTERS CYCLE AWARENESS?
Mothers can best teach daughters cycle awareness by practicing it themselves.
It’s the transmission that is most influential. When we respect our cycles, we are communicating to those around us (especially young ones) what it means to care for ourselves in this form.
If we’re bleeding and exhausted, we can take time out to rest and explain to our daughters and sons why.
We then become the living example of a respectful way of relating to our body and its needs, passing down this tradition to the next generation.
DO YOU FEEL THAT MORE PEOPLE WHO MENSTRUATE EMBRACING AND LEARNING ABOUT THEIR CYCLE WILL HAVE SIGNIFICANT EFFECTS ON OUR CULTURE AT LARGE?
Yes! I believe wholeheartedly that if women and menstruating people embraced their cycles, the world would be a very different place.
Doing this work is acknowledging and respecting how the female body operates. The male form functions on a 24-hour cycle, where hormones peak in the morning and then diminish throughout the day.
In contrast, women and menstruators experience peaks and falls in hormones and energy levels over a (roughly) 28-day cycle.
Depending on the day of the cycle, we have access to various skills and capabilities and will respond to and receive life in different ways.
Work and school environments, relationships and the world are very supportive of the way the male body functions and not so supportive of the feminine way of flowing.
In order to succeed in a male-oriented world, women and cyclical beings must take on a masculine way of operating.
This asks us to show up as if we were the same everyday, which is impossible for menstruating people and forces us to disassociate from our cyclical nature.
It’s not sustainable and we suffer because of it. One way we see this is in how our culture has normalised period pain.
Pain is a call for attention, and menstrual pain is no different. In many cases, it’s our body’s way of communicating our need to slow down when bleeding.
Rather than ignoring our body’s messages, cycle awareness teaches us how to honour them.
This practice ripples out into all areas of our life and into our communities. It connects us to our intuition and can help fuel our purpose, creative projects and healing journeys.
I see cycle awareness as quiet acts of rebellion against a patriarchal mentality that disrespects the female form, encourages competition and comparison, and has led to our current climate crisis.
Embracing our cycles is embracing a different way of relating to our bodies, the Earth and to each other.
When we do this work, we become agents of social change.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS AND PRACTICES?
There are great sustainable options like the menstrual cup, reusable pads and my personal favourite, period underwear.
Our menstrual blood is very nutrient dense and it nourishes the walls of the vagina as it flows down and out.
For this reason, and to support the downward movement of matter and energy occurring at this phase, I recommend incorporating products that don’t rest inside of you (even if it’s just while sleeping).
If you are using disposable pads and tampons, it’s so important to choose organic cotton.
The vagina is the most absorbent portion of the body and conventional products contain chlorine bleach, dioxin, rayon, dyes and synthetics, all of which are toxic chemicals.
Going a step further, if you’re using tampons with applicators, I’d encourage you to buy ones without. Applicators act as a barrier and suggest we are uncomfortable touching ourselves or that we should be.
I also recently read that in the U.S. alone, 7 billion plastic applicators are used each year, which is scary.
HOW CAN PEOPLE WORK WITH YOU?
I regularly hold workshops in Australia and the U.S. on menstrual cycle awareness and practical ways of integrating this work.
I also offer 1:1 cycle sessions via Skype or in person in Byron Bay to explore this information more intimately and in greater depth.
I’m currently working on an online format of the workshop, which may be a more accessible choice for some.
Want to find out more? Follow Sam on Instagram @wisdomwithin_
Beautiful imagery captured by the talented @joshhedge