What if your belly — the most maligned feature of women's bodies — were not shameful but sacred? What if your belly were home to the profound wisdom, power, and guidance ready to reveal itself to you through image, breath, story, and ritual? What if your body's center were in fact sacred space, temple of the Sacred Feminine as She lives within you?
If you want to make peace with your body and your belly — if you want to claim the treasure waiting for you within your body's core — join me on this journey of discovery. We'll invoke story, image, breath, ritual, and more as we go.
You, Luna, Universe
I learned about The Moon and You: A Woman's Guide to an Easier Monthly Cycle when the author, Barbara Hanneloré, told me she'd selected words from The Woman's Belly Book for her book's page one. I'm honored Barbara chose my invitation — that we women consider our bellies as sheltering "the creative energy kin to the majestic Power of Being informing the universe" — to set the direction for her book.
In a warm and personal voice, Barbara offers practical ways to address, reduce, and perhaps eliminate pre-menstrual and menstrual distress, both emotional and physical. She does so by reframing the monthly cycle as an ally, not an enemy, provoking us to balance our lives in every dimension. She offers us the possibility of understanding and experiencing the menstrual cycle that we embody as kin to the cycle of moon phases and the circling of seasons in nature at large.
Organized in five sections, illustrated with delightful line drawings, the book guides us to:
- explore our connection with these cycles of nature;
- validate and nurture our inner lives with self-awareness and self-care in a variety of expressions;
- nourish our bodies with balancing foods, herbs, and physical practices of many kinds;
- understand the impact of cultural beliefs and values regarding menstruation on our personal experience;
- remember and then re-imagine our first menstruation — menarche — as welcoming us into womanhood in the way we've always wanted.
Each section provides references enabling the reader to investigate topics in greater depth. And each section concludes with an activity that helps the reader to integrate ideas and practices into the details of daily life.
[click on "Continue reading" below for more]
One: For decades, my passion has been to inspire and guide women to honor and energize our bellies as sacred, not shameful. Releasing our shame, we can deepen our awareness into our bellies and tap into the Source Energy concentrated within our body's center. We can then direct the Source Energy we embody according to our intention, generating healing within any dimension we choose.
As I've focused on women's common experience of shame with respect to our bellies, I've neglected our common experience of pre-menstrual distress and painful periods. Who wants to deepen their awareness into their bellies when their primary experience of their body's center is menstrual pain? The path Barbara is offering, relieving pre-menstrual and menstrual pain in the context of cultural awareness, may be the most accessible and direct route for women coming to honor the pro-creative power our bellies shelter.
Barbara relays Sobonfu Somé's revelation when she understood the healing energies that women carry within our body's center, this respect for women evident in the West African village of the Dagara tribe in which she grew up. "Something infinite" opened up in her, says Sobonfu. May that "something infinite" open up in each of us as well.
Two: In the section titled "Caring for Your Inner Life," Barbara suggests observing the moon's phases as a way to immerse yourself in the relationship between your menstrual cycle and the moon's cycle. She continues: "The moon's cycle is a natural calendar. It was the first calendar...."
The notion that the moon's cycle was the first calendar has rich implications. As I wrote a few years ago in A New Cosmology: Women’s Bodies Encode What Humankind Needs To Know,
Astronomical evidence indicates that women’s bodies code the way the world works. Our volumes and curves, our rhythms and cycles, replicate the structure and function of the universe. Beginning with the correspondence between menstrual and lunar cycles, continuing to planetary orbits and beyond, we embody the mathematical relationships implicit in universal principles of time and space.
How's that for an idea that might change the basis for women's body image — or, better said, our body confidence?
Those words encapsulate what I'd learned from reading articles written by and interviewing meterologist Bart Jordan. (A "meterologist" is one who studies measure.)
Bart's research informs much of The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation, written by Janice Delaney, Mary Jane Lupton, and Emily Toth University of Illinois Press; revised edition, 1988). In particular, they reference "Early Calendrical Art Recreated: A Partial Catalogue,” New England Antiquities Research Association Journal (NEARA) 19, nos. 1, 2 (Summer/Fall 1984): 1-13 and "Deciphering the Distant Past,” Publick Occurrences, May 17, 1974, pp. 12-13.
In the conclusion to The Curse, the authors write that Bart's work demonstrates:
At least thirty thousand years ago, and perhaps 300 thousand years ago, human beings on this planet were measuring the movement of the stars and planets with a sophisticated system that emanated from, and mathematically depended upon, the human menstrual cycle.
[Bart Jordan has arrived] at diagrams and symbols based on the 364-day year of 13 moon cycles, the 280-day human gestation period, and the 584-day transit of the planet Venus around the sun...to find, time and again, that the diagrams already existed on the carved tusks, stone earth goddesses (such as the Venus of Lespuges), and other manifestations of what had been believed to be the artistic expressions of a primitive and preliterate people.
We have seen his drawings and examined the evidence of the archeological finds, only to agree with the staggering fact he is trying to introduce into current scientific thinking.
What is this staggering fact?
The Ice Age "art" that is commonly displayed, and the even earlier "art" known to paleontologists and other specialists, is really Ice Age "science." The ancients, the Cro-Magnon ancestors of our human race, were not scratching pretty designs onto their reindeer tusks or fashioning grotesque models of the female form to give vent to their need to make art. They were, in fact, recording their scientific observations on the way the moon and planets and their own earth went through the phases of the year and using the menstrual clock of the women of the society as the observable data from which to draw.
Crucial to Jordan's calculations is the difference between the lunar and menstrual calendars. The real lunar calendar, he says, counting the nights when the moon is "dark," is 29.5 days. But the calculations evident in the carved tusks and obese goddesses reflect a calendrical notation of 28 days, and its multiple, 280, the human gestation period. Menstrual averaging was not unknown to our Cro-Magnon ancestors, Jordan believes, and it was this sophistication that enabled them to create symbols in their art (such as the early Greek meander) that were actually representations of the movement of time as measured by the female body clock and its numerical connection to the travels of Venus around the sun.
The writers also remark:
While Bart Jordan's work is entirely original, additional evidence that menstrual calendars were the basis of time measurement in the early Chinese, Mayan, Gaelic, Roman, Aryan, Babylonian, Chaldean, Greek, Egyptian, and pre-Christian European societies is presented in Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Spirits (New York, Harper & Row, 1983), pp. 645-49. Walker even notes that the Romans' word for calculation of time is mensuration, or knowledge of the menses, and that the Gaelic words for menstruation and calendar are the same.
Barbara Hanneloré has given The Moon and You a tag line, indicating the benefit that she and her book are promising: Discover your own Inner Rhythms and Take Loving Care of Yourself.
The book delivers on its promise. What's more, it just might lead us to knowing, in our bones and in our blood, that our woman-body and our woman-being are as sacred as the universe is infinite.
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