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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.