cloth pads on tour ~ Newcastle vegan festival ~ eco-activism

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Vegan festival fun, top 5 scary facts about the disposable menstrual hygiene industry,  Ecofemme, and the top question I get asked in my eco-activism work… Oooh I am so excited to share all this with you!

Let’s start with the question… “What is the the biggest impact I can do at home to tread a little lighter on the Earth?

A lot of people would say switch to household chemicals, recycle more and use electricity responsibly. What if you already do all these? What about things that remain invisible with no giant advertising campaign or government initiative? I’m talking about making the switch to re-usables not disposables….cloth pads and menstrual cups in aid of our Earth. If you are not menstruating don’t let that stop you – tell all the other women you know and spread the word for our Earth. The Dalai Lama recently spoke about the feminine attributes of caring and compassion. I am passionate about extending that caring  out to the world, of which we are a part. We can do it, women.

Back at home, in the little Beach House, conversations often flip between menstruation matters (me) and vegan recipes (Lee)… Well we find it perfectly normal anyway, hahaha. So Lee and I were over the moon when we got lunch-time speaking slots ‘back to back’ at this year’s Vegan Festival UK held in the exquisitely decorated Assembly Rooms in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. It was a stunning venue for a wonderful happy festival on a boiling hot summery British day!

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Lee, who wrote Peace and Parsnips – a beautiful bright and happy vegan cookery book for everyone, chatted happily through many vibrant and colourful photos of food and travelling. He gave the odd cookery tip and nugget of vegan info and then signed some books – his presentation was fantastic. I was then to do a talk about Woman’s Wheel and my eco-activism work, on the theme of sustainability around menstrual products.

As this was my first big ‘speaking gig’ I was super-excited and fully prepared with a half-hour presentation about my own story and my transition from bridge examiner to menstrual activist, wa-hoo(!). I also spoke about Kathy’s story, and about how her ethical organisation called EcoFemme came to exist. The ‘Femmes’ are doing so much great work out there and I was over the moon to be accepted as a voluntary ‘ambassador’ for them, inspired by the good work I see them doing. They helped me so much with this and gave loads of facts and information about the environment and women’s health, and the financial implications of using plastic disposable pads and tampons too. Thank you! Xx

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I was very happy to see so many men in the audience too; around a third I reckon. Thank you once more men for being there, and for staying for the entire duration of the talk when you could have gone off and bought vegan ice cream from the lady outside the door! 🙂 Afterwards I received so many lovely positive comments from people, and made some lovely new friends – I was on a cloth pad high for hours and could not wipe the smile off my face!

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I just want to give you a quick top 5 scary facts about the disposable industry and it’s yucky plasticy products while it’s fresh in my mind. And just to let you know, there will be more info where this came from….I’m just getting started with this and am loving every second of it. We all need to hear this stuff because we are not told, then we can tell all the women we know. One day I hope the conversation about our choice of sanitary protection will be as normal as talking about what type of tea we drink!

Scary Fact Number 1: There are 5 carrier bags worth of crude-oil derived plastic in one disposable sanitary pad, and an average woman throws away 16,000 pads or tampons in her lifetime.

Scary Fact Number 2: Disposable pads take 500-800 years to break down in our Earth and never fully break down in our oceans (plastic eventually becomes microscopic particles of suspended matter).

Scary Fact Number 3: Disposables cost approximately 6 times that reusables cost and we are collectively spending 349 million pounds just in the UK per year on pads and tampons. The even more scary thing is that Tampax and Always are both owned by giants Proctor and Gamble, with other well known brands owned by Johnson and Johnson.

Scary Fact Number 4: The bleach used in pads to make them white doesn’t actually sterilise the pads – it just ensures they are white. This means that chemicals are left in the pad after the bleaching process is done and these chemicals are big nasties such as dioxin (linked to cancer).

Scary Fact Number 5: The big pad/tampon companies don’t have to disclose what is in their products, and 75% of UK gynaecologists believe that symptoms of intimate irritation increase around the time of menstruation – indicating that the chemicals in pads which are  close to the skin causes the irritation.

There are so many other big scary facts about what these products do to us and our planet (and our wallets), I am looking forward to more opportunities to spread the word about the alternatives 🙂 As I said at the talk I urge everyone to have a look and see what is available out there online – there are so many brands and makes for you to choose from!

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And if in doubt, then let me reassure you that alternatives are super-comfy and easy to care for. Cloth pads instead of disposable sanitary pads and menstrual cups instead of tampons!

Have a look at this video for care advice for cloth pads:

Try them, make the switch, be the change you want to see in the world! Xx

Thanks again to Louise at Vegan Festival UK for having us, EcoFemme, Women’s voices for the Earth, and Women’s network for the environment. For more on Eco-Activism over at Woman’s Wheel click here.

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Can’t wait to talk at a town near you ~ if you would like me to speak at your event and bring a little menstrual magic and love, please contact me on womanswheel@gmail.com or leave a comment below 🙂

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the welsh shangri-la with alexandra pope and the doulas

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How could I ever have said no to the chance of assisting Alexandra Pope of Red School (my dear teacher) at her latest menstrual cycle workshop? Not only was this a chance to hear Alexandra’s funny yet sensitive down-to-earth delivery style of her pioneering work, but the work-shop was for ‘Doula UK’ a group of women I was very much interested in meeting… To top it all off the workshop was to be set in the quirky yet peaceful Cae Mabon described as a ‘Welsh Shangri-La’ and ‘UK’s No.1 alternative building project’ with hobbit houses and everything! I could not possibly have been more excited.

The journey….
Yesterday was the big day, and so happened to be my menstrual cycle ‘Day 2’ as well.… therefore on this extra special ‘big day’ I was utterly and completely off on another plane of existence all together…! (I think the technical term for this state of menstrual-induced driftiness is ‘away with the faeries’)!

Flowing with and trying not to be frustrated with this vague tired and dreamy state, I set out for Cae Mabon nice and early so I could honour that menstrual energy and take it slow. The directions took me off the main road and down a series of twisty side roads and finally onto an off-road style gravelly track that seemed to get narrower and narrower and appeared to be leading me down a very very steep hill towards Lake Padarn. Wah! There was no-one to ask if I was rapidly on my way to no-where, so I carried on, hoping I wouldn’t get stuck and have to reverse back out…. Finally and thankfully I reached the rustic-looking carved wooden sign of Cae Mabon car park.

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It was lightly drizzling as I started the steep descent on foot, downwards through the trees and maze of paths and eco-buildings at Cae Mabon. I was being drawn down towards a little community of cob, bale, hobbit-houses, a fairy-tale river and deeply enchanting trees. From that point on, I knew my day was about to get a lot more peace-infused.

Actually, when I left later on that night I felt wildly ecstatic, like I was being ‘held’ by something; the land, the women, the ancient feminine…. I don’t know but it felt incredibly special and like being cherished on a deep deep level. I tell you, this menstrual cycle work is soul food and I LOVE IT.

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As soon as I arrived, I found everyone in the dining room, amongst a flurry of tea cups, toast, chatter and friendly smiling faces. Tea and breakfast was offered and I sat happily with the women, discovering a little about their group, while at the same time basking in their strong powerful (almost maternal-feeling) energies. Over steaming tea made from filtered stream-water I learned fascinating things, about homoeopathic remedies made from placenta and menstrual blood with powerful healing properties…. (As a serious dabbler in homeopathy, that’s my idea of a heaven conversation over breakfast!)

Alexandra and I then disappeared off to her wooden hut on the side of a hill. A short walk up a slate path, amongst little fairy tale squat-looking log cabins with bluebell-rooves surrounded by flower-studded long grass. Our energetic preparations for the day were set in this gorgeous location with morning sunlight and the soundtrack of birdsong and a gushing stream.

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The workshop…. I was happy to hear that the workshop was to take place back in the dining room, a bright light sun-lit renovated barn with a beautiful homely wooden floor; a place that was still infused with that timeless smell of toast, cosy from the heater. We entered the quiet empty space and started to create a circle with chairs. We lay out the ribbons and circle carefully and with mindfulness, honouring the powers of the menstrual cycle as we worked.

The women gathered, Alexandra started speaking and I sat back and listened with joy, occasionally wanting to pinch myself at my own good fortune(!) Woven beautifully into the day, Alexandra reinforced so many of the things that women know deep down, but are just not taught they’re okay or acceptable:

How many of us feel that we change every day? Probably all of us. Has anyone actually said to you it’s okay for you to change because “If you’re the same all the time, you can safely assume you’re dead!” (Thanks for great quote, Alexandra)!

And how about our so-called mood swings…? “Science has proved that men and women both have as many mood changes as each other, the only difference between the two is that women can predict their emotional patterns thanks to the cycle.”

So dear women, let’s celebrate! No longer should we be seen as unpredictable due to the cycle – we have the cycle to thank for our predictability. Now we know, we can organise our life around the cycle and achieve things because of the cycle (rather than trying to organise the cycle to fit in with our lives – hah, that would never work!).

We were further invited to blissfully imagine a society where we would gently say to each other “It’s nearly time for your menses. Let’s get things in place and arrange for you to have some time out. What can I do to help you prepare?’ Can you just imagine hearing those soothing words from your partner, family, or BOSS? To think that women and men NOW could help create that kind of change in society just by opening uo conversations about the cycle?! Ohhh it’s all music to my ears I tell you.

I also believe that this knowledge should be the birthright of every woman and girl. We should all have this explained to us so that we are aware of the forces driving us… at the very least we should be given some practical advice on how to live with the menstrual cycle, not against it to make early adult life a little easier?

Even if it’s just things like this:
1. Watch it! The pre-menstruum is not the best time to drink alcohol, because we are already experiencing an ‘altered state of being’ during the pre-menstruum anyway. The wild energy of that time + alcohol may cause us to say things or do things we didn’t mean to say or do…!
2. Careful, it’s a good idea to be aware of the sensual energy experienced during ovulation, especially if you are single and on a night out…
3. Slow down dear one, it’s best to get more rest and create some ‘me-time’ while you are bleeding.
4. Woah there, the time for social media is probably not when you are in a rage pre-mentrually!

What advice would you love to have heard? As usual, comments welcome below…

For more information and to sign up for Red School’s online courses, click here.

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After a full and fantastic workshop, many of the ladies disappeared off to the stream-fed fire-heated outdoor hot-tub(!) for a natter, and we had a lovely meal cooked for us by Alexandra (a different one!) I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw her in the kitchen… I actually knew her!! We met at my house last year at the very Red Tent I delivered my first ever ‘practice’ menstrual cycle workshop! There’s a bit of synchronicity.

Dinner time was my last chance to listen and absorb and be in the presence of Alexandra and the Doula wonder-women, and I was making the most of being amongst their fabulous energies absorbing information, listening to incredible life stories. I learned some new songs for women’s circles (thanks Sophie) and I heard for the very first time about ‘closing the bones ceremonies’ and placenta smoothies(!) There was so much more I would have loved to hear, and so many women I would love to have sat with, but it was time for Magical Storytelling in the round-house by the fire instead.

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When I snuck out from the fireside to start my journey home just before dark, I was sensing a feeling of collective contentment and lots and lots of love (whether this was ‘Day 2’ taking to me or was actually going on in the round-house, who knows! Hahaha!)

The Doula Summer retreat was coming to a close but everyone seemed incredibly nourished and peaceful. I hope everyone managed to get home still basking in the spirit of natural communal living and sharing and still feeling renewed.

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A big thank you Alexandra for inviting me, and dear women from Doula UK for welcoming me with such open arms into their group for such a beautiful day.

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happy menstrual hygiene day ~ I got all my sisters with me!

Hello Lovely People!

I first heard about this group of incredible women from Jessamijn over at Eco Femme a few weeks ago; she loves ‘Sustainable Cycles’ and what they stand for. I do too!! I want to be out there on the road with these women RIGHT NOW it looks like so much fun (except the only drawback for me is I don’t have a bike….!)

For anyone who doesn’t know, these women cycle round the states with a stash of menstrual cups, speaking to everyone they meet about eco-friendly ways for menstrual hygiene, and they have amazing adventures along the way! This is Eco-Activism on the road and I LOVE IT! It reminded Jessamijn of my own plans to take my menstrual cycle workshops and trusty set of cloth pads on the road…..Yes, the ‘Magical Menstrual Tour’ is all set, States bound, in early 2016!

All I can say to you women at Sustainable Cycles (Inspired choice of name by the way!) is it was a joy finding out about you, and it is utterly amazing that I will be following in your footsteps soon (only without a bike!). Have great times, and it was wonderful to hear that you were celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day too 🙂 Thanks for what you do.

To everyone who follows WWW and who is reading this, I hope you find these women as inspiring as I do, and that you follow their blog too 🙂 and that you have a wonder-day!

Sustainable Cycles

111 miles in one day. Thanks to our sag wagon support and the expertise of WEBikeNYC navigators! 111 miles in one day. Thanks to our sag wagon support and the expertise of WEBikeNYC navigators! The cross-country riders have united at last. We are together, and the period party is just beginning. Rosie, Ruby, Sarah W, Rachels H & S, and Olive are together in New York City in the last throngs of their bicycle journey. Boston is under 300 miles away, and it is hard tobelieve the proximity. 300 miles. A distancethat, not so very long ago seemed dauntingto cycle across now seems like a hop scotch away. It is amazing what a long-distance journey will do to a small group of women.

Richmond, VA workshop. Richmond, VA workshop. We wish you a Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day! We will celebrate this young holiday tonight in NYC at the Delancey Loungeon the lower east side. MHD was created to “raise awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management for…

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a tribute to some of the shiniest people you could ever meet…!

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Earlier on this year while Lee and his dad embarked on their Indian adventure I was lucky enough to be staying with Fey and her Spanish sailor-man Gregorio ‘Gori’ in their beautiful rural home, a writer’s paradise in the aptly titled ‘El Paradis’ in the Costa Calida. The sun streamed in through my bedroom window every morning, and at night I could see the moon and stars from my pillow.

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This part of the world is very close to my heart. It is where woman’s wheel was written, photographed and videoed, and where all the inspiration came flooding out in a beautiful flow of sunny vibes and happy smiles.

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I couldn’t have got this project off the ground if it weren’t for the love and help of my wonderful friends in Spain who all fully understood the need for menstrual cycle awareness work in this world and supported me all the way. As the launch of woman’s wheel on 7th May comes ever closer I would like to thank these shiny people for everything that they did and do.

Fey, you were above and beyond anything I could possibly imagine in a housemate! You never failed to make me laugh, you inspired me so much, and made the most amazing breakfasts with spiced coffee in the time it took me to squeeze a lemon juice! You also found me the most unusual but perfect mascot for this work (photo below), which I will take with me wherever I go! Love you!

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Gori, thanks for your patience and kindness while Fey and I talked ‘cosas mujeres’ (womany things) and chatted excitedly in English night after night…Also for becoming pretty much vegan while I was there which I know was hard but you did it! You are a star and I loved getting to know you.

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Rachael, gorgeous lady of gorgeousness, you and your trusty apple were there for me when I needed you the most. Thank you for deciphering my scribbles and making them into the glorious woman’s wheel logo, despite being the busiest person I know juggling millions of things in the air at one (I still don’t know how you do it). One day soon you must come and stay ‘retreat style’ in our Beach House and we will treat you to lots of hot baths, relaxing music and freshly squeezed juices.

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Linda, you gave me the gift of amazing stomach muscles from all the laughter, dancing, fun, numerology and many wonderful beautiful affirming chats and angelic singing while soaking away in natural hot water banos! I loved living in your place in paradise with all the happy times we had and I love you sister… C’est BON!

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Rob, you gave me the gift of endless patience in responding to my many cries of ‘Rob….Could you just come and have a look at this a min…?’ from my temporary ‘office’ in your kitchen. You opened my eyes to social media in a gentle and kind way, despite my confused and blank looks. Huge hugs to you!

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Lee, my amazing wonder-man, culinary genius, inspirational muse and best friend… I cant say enough good about you, words just don’t cut it. Your constant love and support for me (and the womany stuff I do) especially the ‘Magical Menstrual Tour’ has been incredible. Thanks for all the happy times, travels, laughs, and for keeping me and the red tent ladies fed with the most amazing vegan food I/we have ever tasted Xxx

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Amy, Robbie and Junco, you are the best dogs in the world. Buster (wherever you are) we love you.

And finally, here is the woman’s wheel mascot in all her glory! Fey found her on the beach while we were photographing things of beauty and we laughed and said it was a sign…! There is no such thing as a coincidence!

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taking the menstrual movement on the road ~ my vision

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About jane‘ speaks of my personal story, but let me introduce you to my vision of the first ever Magical Menstrual Tour!

The Plan in a tiny nutshell….
I’ve got the basics down; I’m going to travel to America in April 2016, and the first leg of the tour sees me travelling from N.Y going East to Chicago! The second leg of the tour in June 2016 takes me from L.A to Seattle (and maybe flying out to Hawaii for a while!) I will be visiting menstrual activists, red tents or woman’s circles along the way, giving my menstrual cycle awareness workshop/eco-activism presentation in exchange for donations which will help me continue my journey. The rest depends on you, dear ones; and whereabouts you are based! I love travelling and am an experienced backpacker, so I don’t mind not having all the answers at this stage. One thing I do have is enormous faith that it will work out for the best; that I will meet incredible people, and that my travel route will spread and grow organically as soon as I get on the road, and word of mouth spreads the message…!

My Story
Why go on a menstrual tour?! Well I believe we are not taught how our cycle works, I mean really works. Yes the biology bit is taught to us at school, or maybe by our parents, but as for the emotional side of the cycle? Menstrual Cycle Awareness? Embracing the whole of the self no matter whether we are on a ‘so-called high point’ or a ‘so-called low point’?!! It’s NOT! And how about the other people in our lives? What messages are they taught about the menstrual cycle? What about the message that normal natural menstruation is somehow negative?

A while back, I participated in ‘The Way of the Menstrual Cycle’ – an epic apprenticeship training course by Alexandra Pope, teacher of 30 years experience who has, in her own words “pioneered a ground–breaking approach to women’s physical, psychological and spiritual well-being based on the cycle and the journey from menarche to menopause.”

I believe this ‘new’ approach to viewing and talking about the cycle should be common knowledge to all people!

Being the founder and a facilitator of Red Tent Gwynedd, Wales, UK, I truly understand the power and potential of these kinds of circles to help transform both the person and their relationship with the world around them.

I see these kinds of groups as being the perfect environment for the Menstrual Cycle Awareness workshop I would like to share. Knowing how incredible the women are back in Wales, I just can’t wait to meet new people on the ‘other side of the pond’ who are all into eco-activism menstrual empowerment and community – the same thing as I’m into!

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My Quest
I decided to start my own personal journey into delivering menstrual cycle workshops and have loved the experience running them in my home towns – the wise women of the valleys; one with Alexandra Pope and the Doulas!

Menstrual cycle awareness workshops start with a demonstration of the energy dynamics of the cycle, then a question and answer session, a guided meditation, a discussion, and an exercise for people to pin-point their next steps to live in more harmony with their menstrual cycle…. who knows, maybe even identify life/lifestyle changes!

The menstrual cycle awareness workshops for men are about explaining how the cycle works conceptually, giving men a deeper understanding of the cyclic process. There will be a question and answer session/discussion, the ultimate aim of which will be to strengthen the relationship men have with the women in their lives.

The ultimate goal in all this is to empower everyone in their understanding of this monthly process, for couples to have happier times together, for there to be happier families and positive social change.

I will soon be contacting co-ordinators of Red Tent groups and women’s circles in USA and Canada. So if you are reading because you have received an email from me, then a huge and happy WELCOME to WWW and thanks so much for checking this out.

If you would like me to add your town to my travel itinerary, please email me details of roughly where you are! If you would like some more information about this project to distribute round your woman’s group please send them the link to woman’s wheel and also click here for my bio and flyers.

To leave a comment about this vision, the plan, or anything in this article, please do so beneath this post, email me on womanswheel@gmail.com or contact me!

I so look forward to hearing from you.

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I hope to meet you soon! Xx

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birth of the magical menstrual tour and the power of menstruation

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Hello lovely people!

A warm welcome to Woman’s Wheel Worldwide! Here I’m going to explain what I am hoping to do with the work I am passionate about, and how the dream of the Magical Menstrual Tour became reality…

The story…It was a particularly warm autumnal day, and I was lying in the field outside our little cottage in Wales, listening to the grass-hoppers and watching the skylarks, pondering and dreaming to myself about how I was going to spread my ‘menstrual message’ to women beyond my local red tent. As my thoughts drifted contentedly away like the little clouds above me, I started imagining (as I often do) unexplored lands far and near. Then I suddenly came up with an idea that is now completely changing the course of my life!

Here’s how it went, roughly in this order, in my head: “Ahhhhh, I loved giving that menstrual cycle workshop to the women of Red Tent Gwynedd the other day… I so love red tents and the sacred spaces that are created by women just gathering…. travelling to new places is amazing, I would really love to travel next year. What if I could deliver my workshop to more Red Tent groups? What if these groups were overseas? Oh Wow!!

Then this idea hit me and I knew in a single heart-beat that it was the right thing to do and that I was going to make it happen! This chance for me to give, to connect to expand and grow, to learn, to listen…

I sat bolt upright and grabbed my notebook, and my plan very quickly became this:

“To throw on my backpack… be like a menstrual pilgrim on the road!
Hang out with menstrual activists, wise women, ‘red tent’ groups, ‘moon mothers’, and visit their Red Tents/Groups.
Deliver my menstrual cycle awareness workshop, give my eco-activism presentation in exchange for voluntary donations (a roof over my head, a bite to eat, travel money to get me from one place to the next) so that everyone can come and listen without financial pressure.
Trust that it can work, meet happy sunny open welcoming women all over the world…. and make it a pilgrimage of sharing and giving!”

It felt GOOD.

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Since the original idea that day in September 2014 I have felt a calling to travel to the USA; the Red Tent movement is huge, and there is a community of incredible women already working to spread the positivity. I am hoping to leave the UK in April 2016 starting in America!

I also decided to do these things too: Speak about menstruation to the men in a separate workshop (partners or friends of the women’s circle), experience some of USA’s big red tent or women’s events, continue with the eco-activism work I do (raising awareness of alternatives to disposable menstrual products)…. oh and to learn how to play my little ukulele in Hawaii….!

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I’m sure it comes as no surprise to hear that I was menstruating at the time of all this joyous inspiration! It just came flooding out of me, like I had tapped into a deep well of creativity. The way I typically experience menstruation is that the beginning part is dreamy and drifty with no ability to concentrate whatsoever and very few thoughts – here it is easy to spiral into a menstrual low of dwindling energy and crabbiness. But if I rest well and I am fortunate, this thing happens (especially towards the end of my period) and it becomes a hot time for inspiration, writing, thinking and certain forms of communication. My thoughts become focused and clear, and I have new ideas, exciting day and night dreams.

Every woman is different in what she experiences during her menstrual cycle, but currently (and in indigenous past) menstruation is being seen once more as a rich and deep time for the woman to listen out for something. As babies come from the fertilization of the egg during ovulation, so can come ‘idea children’ during menstruation. Both can be life changing….!

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