chapter 10 – ‘holy hormones honey’ it’s leslie botha!

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I could type all day about the work that incredible Leslie Botha does and STILL not manage to tell you everything! How I came about being connected with her? Neither of us know(!) but someone recommended I contact her, and I thank you whoever you are, because it was a WONDERFUL time and one that will remain long in my memory!

Oooh where do I begin?

Leslie is a sweet kind and wonderful powerful knowledgeable open minded open hearted interesting woman with a fiercely big heart. She’s worked for a solid 30 years around hormone health (physical and emotional cyclic changes) and has an INCREDIBLE website; a go-to resource. She has written books, has a radio show, is a journalist and a publisher, speaks at numerous huge conferences, writes hundreds of helpful and informative articles, is a member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research and is internationally recognised at the work she does. She is an expert in the cognitive factual world of research and also a wise woman of the blood mysteries too!

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From the moment she drove out to pick me up from a random bus station in the middle of nowhere wearing her red flowing dress, she gave me so much information I could not possibly absorb it all, but loved listening so much. Hanging out with Leslie for a few days would be an exponential growth curve in knowledge and I only had a night with her to make the most of… and it was to be the night of Fort Collins Red Tent where I was to share my work! I couldn’t wait to attend my first official Red Tent meeting in the USA.

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Leslie’s place in Fort Collins is absolutely gorgeous, as are the dear people who live with her and around her. When I think of Leslie working in that quiet upstairs office with the view of trees leaves and flowers, and Margaret (her wonderful and sweet room-mate with the most amazing energy) and beautiful Kiri and Mark next door, I just smile. I love meeting people, seeing where they spend their time, and if it is extra special like Leslie’s place I feel so so happy for them that they have found their own slice of paradise!

After a wonderfully full and deep discussion just the two of us during which time FLEW it was suddenly time to get the red tent set up! I was pretty exhausted to be perfectly honest; this was to be the last workshop of the triple in three days but I was definitely on a high and the excitement (and a nap) carried me through and the evening went wonderfully.

I liked the relaxed arrival of the women, the ‘pot-luck’ meal like the one at dear Red Tent Gwynedd, the eating chatting and sharing. Instead of things being too formalised the women at this tent share how they are/how their month has been over food at the very start, with the other women listening to them.

We were 13 strong; a number recognised by indigenous cultures as being the number of the sacred feminine, there are 13 moons in a year. After 13 cycles of no bleeding, women are said to have reached their menopause. A wonderful number for this workshop!

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In the group there were several people who had reached menopause, and a few who had hysterectomies or were on birth control. Some (but just a few) were cycling naturally. I felt this was the perfect group to speak about the art and practice of charting one’s personal cycle, no matter what hormone cycle (if any) they were experiencing. This reasonated with the women no longer cycling within their bodies, and who were curious to see if a pattern existed. We discussed the possibility of using the lunar cycle as a ‘Day 1’ to see if there was any correlation with it, wondering whether this could assist people keen to build in a phase of resting back into their lives.

Two of the women were living in motor-homes all year round and had taken to a life on the road. I loved hearing their stories at the beginning; about the twists and turns and synchronicities that had taken them on the road in the first place, the people they had met, their perspective on life, and the many stories they brought to the group. “To me, I’m not brave” replied one of the women who fixes her own van, lives in the wilds, and has done so for 12 years… love it.

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Collectively there was a great deal of wisdom in this group with some really strong knowledgeable women dispersed throughout the circle. The discussions that unfolded over the evening were some of the deepest most engaged and revelatory experiences of this tour; they gave me so much richness and a chance to sit back and get in the mix in the spirit of discovering new things for myself which I loved. We spoke of pre-menstruum is holding the tension, listening to the VOICE, honouring the VOICE…The voice is truth… but it’s hard to put it into words because we were all so ‘in the moment’. Next time I would love to record such meetings and write the dialogue down. Several of the women asked if I had or was planning to write a book – this could have been in a book!

“Hysteria is the word used to make women feel insane for knowing what they know” Eve Ensler (spoken by Leslie Botha in our circle)

Leslie also shared something I did not know; and that was the ‘Prison Period’ phenomenon experienced by young women offenders. Usually, because of difficult life circumstances and/or a history of abuse these teenagers go wild pre-menstrually and commit crimes which land them in prison, where soon afterwards (if not the first day in prison) they menstruate. It’s that tipping point, the last day of the cycle, that can be such a volatile time for people to navigate their way through. It was interesting to hear that this trend supports exactly what I was taught about the phase of intensity (or conversely extreme fogginess) just before bleeding. These vulnerable women need to know about this cycle work and I thank people like Leslie who have actually been there and encouraged these young women to look at their cycles and patterns of behaviour! It goes back to the reason I am out here doing this – this knowledge is our birthright. We should learn this stuff from our ancestors who are living their lives aligned with their natural cycles…!

There was a really poignant moment during the workshop. One of the women, now post-menopausal and originally joking that she had come to the wrong workshop(!) remembers rejecting and hating her menstruation and loving her ovulatory energy. At the end of the workshop she said quietly “I feel like I’ve really missed out on something.” She was so happy about the idea of charting with the moon, and towards the end became one of the stronger voices urging me to take this work further, into schools, onto paper, out there in any way I could, which was wonderful.

One of the most fabulous things I took away from this meeting were stories around menopause; seeing it as a new phase, a new territory. The women shared such positive stories about this process. One woman who pretty much lost everything around the time of her transition was forced to start afresh which gave her the opportunity to experience her menopausal self completely and presently, and so she had a very positive experience of it. Another feeling shared by the group was the idea of release from a bodily cycle which felt freeing and new. I love these stories; they rise up like a breath of fresh air blowing the stagnancy of our societal attitudes of negativity about going through these informational life changes.

Leslie and I celebrated that evening with wine and more great conversation, and I fell straight asleep in Kiri’s place in her homely comfortable guest room surrounded by Sufi sayings, and evidence of a full and much loved life with love and travels. I then awoke for a morning stroll round the flower and vegetable gardens; a fragrant dawn of the most perfect day. Blooms and twitters, breeze and sun. Poppies. Heaven Xx

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Thank you women of Fort Collins for this discussion and wisdom. It felt really really special and I wished I had more time to hang out with you….

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And before I go I must tell the story of meeting Margaret, Leslie’s room mate and author of HEAVENLY blog Pachamama’s beautiful food. Margaret and Lee and I (Beach House Kitchen) are blog buddies from way back, commenting on each others posts, and generally appreciating each other as good cooks… Well it was only after I left that Margaret put two and two together and made the connection! Amazing! I was blown away – what are the chances of meeting a blog buddy like that?!

P1010697Lovely Margaret, floating on air!

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