Goddessing Self Care

Moon-time Howling

For today’s #GoddessingSelfCare Sunday, I will be examining focusing on how women can engage in healthy and healing behaviors during our moon-time and throughout our cycle. This time is especially fraught for me as I suffer from PMDD, which stands for premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I describe my experience to others as having full-blown depressive episodes around the time of my cycle, which dissipate rapidly once bleeding commences. This experience can feel animalistic to me in its rawness and rage, even as I seek to reclaim it as part of my femininity. My writing here regarding moon-time is primarily aimed at those who identify as women, although I think it could also be useful if you have women in your life for whom you would like to serve as a support person.

The physical aspects of being a woman of child-bearing age have never been easy for me. I went through puberty earlier than most of my peers and did everything possible to hide the fact that I was getting my period. I would get severe stomach problems every month, to the point I’d need to leave school. I now experience migraines that correspond to my cycle. My mood swings during the premenstrual time are extreme and leave me feeling disillusioned with life and detached from those around me. I am prone to rage. My PTSD symptoms also increase significantly.

Given the distress I experience with my cycle, Goddess Spirituality has opened a new world to me in terms of the ideas of “red tents” and “moon-time.” There are dueling theories regarding whether menstrual huts served places to separate women who are viewed as spiritually unclean, or as places for women to gather during their cycle because of its sacred power. I think the former is much more likely than the latter in many societies, but I hope women gathering together in this way can become something we claim as sacred ground for us to celebrate our feminine experience. I think there is a good deal of cultural appropriation as well in what we make of these rituals, so I hope that we can develop new practices that are not overly reliant on customs and practices that may be sacred to a culture different from our own with which we are unfamiliar.

After coming to an understanding of how menstruation can be celebrated instead of shamed, I feel more able to view my experience as part of the general ebb and flow of life. In gathering in community with other women, I’ve seen how common some of my experiences are. I feel encouraged to take the time where things get especially rough for me as an opportunity to turn inward, and to release those things in my life that are no longer suiting me. I have high points as well throughout the month and I put more effort than I used to into harnessing the energy and strength I have at these times towards accomplishing tasks, so that there is less to do at low points.

I’ll be describing the self-care that I’ve personally found useful throughout my cycle, but I do want to note that you may not find yourself following the same pattern. Some women are energized during their time of bleeding, and drained around the time of ovulation. Others may not notice these changes. Trans-women as well as women with certain physical conditions may not have a traditional menstrual cycle, but may still identify with the ebb and flow of energy throughout the month.

Self-Care During the Waning and New Moon Phase

The time of the month leading up to and when we are bleeding correspond to the waning and new moon phases. Your energy may begin to decrease, and you may feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities you have in your life. You may find yourself withdrawing from others. Your emotions may be heightened. This time of the month and moon cycle offers an opportunity to:

  • Deepen your inner work. Your intuition is ripened and ready to release new knowledge. Use this time to learn more about yourself and your unconscious needs and desires.
  • Connect to your support system. Even though the impulse is to pull away from others, staying in touch with them and opening up the vulnerabilities you may be experiencing can enhance your relationships. I often find myself having more meaningful and longer conversations with a select person or people during this time.
  • Attune to your body’s needs. My body proclaims its needs loudly during this time. I ignore it to my peril. I tend to be more likely to schedule doctor’s appointments and adjust my habits to ensure healthy nutrition and sleep during this time.
  • Refresh your environment. I tend to redecorate, organize, clean and update my physical surroundings during this time, releasing any physical materials that are no longer needed. Surrounding myself with fresh flowers, scented candles, incense or other fragrant materials keeps me in touch with beauty even if I feel “gross” physically.

Self-Care During Waxing and Full Moon Phases

When the bleeding time ends, we enter a stage of energy and excitement as our bodies build towards the full moon of ovulation. You may experience a feeling of needing more in your life. Sexual desire could increase. Creativity blossoms. This time of month and moon cycle provides a chance to:

  • Set goals. The beginning and middle of my cycle can be a place where I take the reflection I did during my moon-time, and decide upon the specific goals that will get me closer to what I am seeking in life.
  • Direct your energy flow. There are times during this part of my cycle in which my energy can feel abundant. If I’m not careful, it gets spent on activities like making expensive purchases or starting a project for which I don’t truly have the necessary time or resources. It takes sustained effort for me to ensure I am channeling the energy I feel into productive and healthy endeavors.
  • Participate in community action. I am more interested in spending time with others at the start of my cycle. I find it useful to balance my engagement so that I don’t over-commit for the rest of the month, and so that I take advantage of this time to dig into relationships and activities.
  • Rejuvenate self-care behaviors. I find it easier to make positive changes in my eating, sleeping and exercise behaviors as I approach ovulation. My body has fewer cravings and I have the energy needed for vigorous exercise.

Your experience throughout your monthly cycle may mirror mine or may unfurl differently. What changes, if any, do you experience throughout the month? How does your energy peak and descend? How are your emotions and relationships affected by these changes? Women’s cycles have been stigmatized and ridiculed throughout human history; it is vital for us to stake our claim to our experience as our own unique way of being a woman in the world, and to find the common ground we all share.

Sacred Spiritual Growth

Resourcing Our Spiritual Needs: Interconnectedness

For today’s #SacredSpiritualGrowth Saturday, we’ll be exploring ways we can meet our spiritual need for interconnectedness. As I reviewed my thoughts, I was struck by the concrete nature of most of my proposals. I believe this is only one layer out of many through which we can tap in to the heartbeat of the Universe. I welcome learning from your experiences and ideas on this topic!

1. Observe the Threads

Many phenomena in our environment include intricate links. As I spent a recent frigid morning raking leaves, I was reminded of the relationship between trees of the same species. Consider making it a priority to witness natural points of connection like spider webs and waterways. The narrow culvert or stream near your home likely feeds into a larger body of water. As you run your hand through the water, allow yourself to sense the pulsation of the whole in the single artery you are touching.

You may also want to trace your family, cultural or spiritual roots. Placing ourselves within an historical context mitigates our sense of specialness and aloneness. Who each of us is and the rituals we treasure are intricately linked into a chain of human history, some of it beautiful and some of it grim. We tug on the ribbon, making a small movement forward, when we both honor and critically evaluate the origins of our beliefs and practices.

2. Volunteer

By participating in a cause that reaches beyond yourself, you create space for connection and the flourishing of our best achievements as humans—empathy and compassion. Nearly every time I volunteer for an event or organization, I am surprised by how quickly the experience enables me to move beyond my own concerns. The opportunity empowers each of us, through collective human action, to achieve something more significant than any of us could do on our own.

It is of course best if our motivation for volunteering comes from our wise inner self. However, even an act of kindness done for show can at times portend an internal reckoning where upon we come to see that the cause for which we are giving of our time and energy is worthy of more than mere pity. Especially with tasks that require physical labor, taxing our bodies and our spirits, there may be splinters of insight that prod us into understanding that sheer fate is all that stands between us and the individual whom we see as needing “charity.”

3. Travel

When traveling, observe human-made webs such as airline connections and interstate highways. Most places on Earth are only a few plane rides away, something that would have baffled our ancestors. As you explore a new place, it is easy to find the differences from your native land. Take time also to see the similarities and strands of influence from one culture to another.

I’ve always marveled at the mingling of cultures. For instance, although not without critics, some experts have recently claimed that a Viking burial cloth contained Islamic writing. Bearing in mind the fact that cultural appropriation is a genuine issue that is often overlooked within religious contexts, I do think there are valid ways in which multiculturalism can lend itself to progress in our practices. As we travel, either literally or through learning about other cultures, we deepen our appreciation for the tangle of peoples and customs from which each of us makes our way in the world.

4. Weave Together Stories

Attend to similarities as you write and vocalize your life experiences with others. Knowing that someone else has been through a situation like ours places our experience within a systemic context, instead of leaving it alienated as an isolated experience. There can sometimes be a slight sense of the rough edges of our jagged existence being rounded off as we bump into each other’s liminal spaces. Although I can experience this as a limitation, I then often go on to see the benefits of the reciprocation of my experience as it comes back to me through the eyes and voice of another person’s anecdote.

From the pieces of our own accounts, we are able to co-create shared narratives. For instance, we can have the story of women or the story of our culture or the story of people with a particular disease or mental health condition. Again, the rich personalization of listening to each individual person is lost in this type of sharing, but, when used judiciously, it enables us to expand our narrow viewpoint into a panoramic visage of faces all shining in a chorus of communal chronicle.

5. Accept Internal Cycles and Patterns

As soon as we observe ourselves repeating a cycle or behavior pattern, our first impulse is often that we need alter what we are doing if the behavior in questions is “unhealthy.” Although this can definitely have its merits, I find myself wondering at the transformational power we may encounter if we instead give ourselves time and space to fully appreciate the internal bouncing from one behavior to the next that we may be doing. Our inner world is just as replete with connection as our outer world.

Where do you experience a sense of interconnectedness most fully? The examples I’ve included are mostly tangible and literal. How you elevate the experience to a psychic dimension? What insights about the human condition have you derived from witnessing the fact that each of us is innately part of the whole?

Inspiration Fanatic

Macrame Crystal Baskets

For today’s #InspirationFanatic Friday, I want to share ideas for ways to create and use macrame baskets, woven with string, to hold crystals, stones or other precious objects. I learned how to create the baskets using this Youtube tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXlU1xvRkmw I found it easy to follow so I thought I’d share directly.

Tips For Use with Crystals

  • As you create the basket, place the crystal in it several times in order to get the spacing of the knots to be correct.
  • Use thicker string to start with as it is easier to see what you are doing and to redo if needed.
  • Remember you are working in 3-D, so pull the basket into an upside-down cone shape as you work. I had very uneven knots the first time because I was laying it flat.

Creative Uses of Macrame Crystal Baskets

I really enjoyed this project, in part because it was very easy to master. I love the temporary nature of it as well. The basket can be taken apart without damage and reused for another crystal or stone. You can use your favorite crystal from your altar for a season and then return it to its original purpose.

A few specific ideas:

  • Jewelry such as necklaces and bracelets
  • Ornaments for your Yule tree or doorway
  • A way to carry a special rune with you
  • If you go small, a keychain or purse decoration

I am planning to add sophistication to my baskets with additional smaller stones and embellishments. How have you or could you see putting these fun creations in to use?

Inner Work, Pagan Practice

Yule: A Time of Dormancy

I’ve struggled to pull together a theme for Yule this year for my #PaganPractice post. It occurred to me that Yule is a time where there is an inner tension within some aspects of Paganism as well as within the time of year as a whole. Paganism which focuses on the Sun God/dess sees Yule as a time of light, heralding in rebirth. Goddess Spirituality during this time of year may include a focus on the myth of Persephone and Demeter, namely, winter being a time of mourning as Demeter brings death to the earth while mourning her daughter’s exile in the Underworld. Death and new life, utter contrasts on their face, are woven together.

As I sat with this divergence in meaning, I was drawn to remember the Earth-based aspect of my spirituality. At least in my location, this is a time of year for things to go dormant. Both plants and animals draw in their resources, having hopefully stored what they needed during the harvest time. There is little activity and indeed little indication of life, unless one is a careful observer.

Things appear to be resting and sleeping away the long nights. I do believe that this time of year beckons us inward, to shut out excessive distraction and activity, and to open the cupboards of our inner world and see what supplies remain. We may feel drawn thin in terms of spiritual provisions, needing to conserve our energy and our effort. It is not only acceptable, it is actually necessary to take some time to take stock of who and what we are in order to equip ourselves for times of plenty and activity.

I sense a pregnant pause during this time; we can not only count our inner inventory, we can also begin to shape our intentions for busier times. One symbol of Yule that I’ve found particularly meaningful this year is that of a candle being lit. As a representation of light and rebirth, it shares with us hope during the cold and the dark. It reminds us that this withdraw inward is only temporary and that something is coming. From a Goddess Spirituality perspective, I see the something as a someone, Goddess reborn in all her splendor as time renews. But for now, the long shadows of early nightfall make it hard to see beyond our feet, and, while we pause to rest, we’ve much to sit with and divide and cast off and hold onto and make new. Her light attends our latency.

Goddess Thealogy

What Place of Joy: Spiritual Regeneration

Cross-posted at my SageWoman blog.

For today’s #Thealogy Thursday, I wanted to consider the lighthearted aspects of our journey in Goddess Spirituality. I use Womenrunes on a daily basis, and today I pulled the Sun card, which represents healing and play. We’ve entered the cold and dark season in the Northern Hemisphere, where little sunlight filters through to grace each day. How, then, during the gloomy winter months, do we find our moments of rainbow reflection? What in our busy and over-scheduled lives can provide opportunities to laugh, dance and act silly? And what do we do when it seems no comfort will arrive?

1. Enhance Your Living Space

When the weather forces us inside, it provides an opportunity to refresh and reinvigorate our dwelling space. This can include cleaning out clutter, reorganizing our belongings, and finding new ways to decorate our home.

Stockpiling materials we no longer need can weigh us down. Every year or so, I go through the boxes I have in my storage area and donate any materials that I realize I am not using. I do the same with my clothes.

Sometimes a room can feel completely revitalized simply by rearranging its layout. Perhaps there is something you can transfer to a new location to allow in more light or to enhance your freedom of movement. There may be an area for which you can find a special purpose such as an altar or sacred space.

My house has some “interesting” home decorations, including two entire walls I lined with artwork from thrift stores. Images such as a husky that is hand-painted in a portrait style and a photograph of a smiling camel make me grin regularly when I glance at them. To the extent that you are able to do so, allow your quirkiness and eccentricity to shine through, bringing your external surroundings into alignment with your inner being.

2. Gather Anew

A temptation I’ve experienced when I get together with friends is to focus on the good ole’ days of past adventures. On one hand, this can create belly-laugh moments of reminiscence. However, it can also leave one feeling that, now that we are grown-ups, there is no time for such silliness. Instead of holding on to the bygone era of younger foolishness, allow yourself to create new memories of joy. Seek out experiences that both challenge and excite.

Group ritual provides an opportunity to enact elated and enthusiastic expressions of inner light. The Pagan celebration of Yule can be one such event. In addition, perhaps you can create a costume party to free your inner child. Or, consider incorporating fun and interactive activities into a traditional holiday gathering. In this era especially, any group event with adults is likely to be filled with tension at the utterly despicable state of affairs in the world; dilute the potency of the bitter herbs we’ve been made to drink with joviality and celebration.

3. Experience the Antics of All of Gaia’s Creatures

There is a reason cat videos are their own entity online. Nothing makes me laugh harder than seeing animals acting ridiculously. Depending on your living situation and proximity to nature, you may have to make due with online versions of humor. If you are lucky enough to have animals nearby, spend time observing their behaviors.

Pets are an endless source of entertainment. Not only has my dog helped to heal my heart, he’s made me laugh harder than just about anything I’ve experienced in the last decade. Treasure each outburst they induce!

In addition to spontaneous antics, I’ve also borrowed a training technique I learned at dog obedience school to make a game for my dog when we are unable to walk outside due to rainy or frigid weather. We run around the house and I hide. He is so very bad at finding me, and seeing him prance to and fro attempting to locate me is hysterical.

4. Embrace the Chill

There are moments where the clouds are so thick and seemingly endless that reminding ourselves of warmth and sunshine may seem irrelevant. I value so deeply the aspects of Goddess thealogy that accept the fact that loss, sorrow, suffering and death, symbolized as spectral and dimly lit times with an air of chill, are intimately connected with the bright and beautiful dance of summer and sunlight. The closer the snow creeps around us in winter, the more expansive and hopeful the green of the grass later in the year. Artificial cheer often fades as soon as we leave the holiday party or turn out the twinkling lights.

We can instead allow ourselves to dwell in ponds of murky, ice-coated water of our suffering. In doing so, we thrill our marrow with the sharpness of the hurt that’s cast itself in our lives. Then, in time, we arise refashioned and remade with the pain in our hearts diffused and interwoven into the fabric of our being, threaded again and again into the hope, love and trust that we find meets us even in the shadows.

What helps you keep your spirits lifted? What are your favorite ways, no matter the situation, to find humor? How do you respond when the cold and black night crushes all glimmers of light? I hope to gather inspiration from your experiences so that we can collectively respond with appreciation and fortitude to the deep time of the year.