To Bleed or not to Bleed? That is the question…
Documentation of many lineages of Tantra and Tao mention the deliberate cessation of the menstruation for women as a way to conserve energy. It is often compared to the loss of energy that a man experiences after ejaculation, and thus a woman is encouraged to strive to end her bleeding, just as a man learns to prevent ejaculation. In the Tao lineage this practice is referred to “slaying the red dragon”.
On the other hand, many goddess-based lineages focus deeply on the menstruation, referring to it as a woman’s moon time. Stories of women gathering together at this time in a “red tent” to enter the mysteries of the feminine invoke images of a time in which to bleed was to enter a time of wisdom and intuition.
Ekhart Tolle, modern day enlightened speaker and author, speaks of how women have an opportunity once a month to awaken, through entering the collective female pain body that is accessible to them prior to and during their bleeding days.
Some shamanic paths suggest that women have an opportunity men do not have, to enter the mysteries of the underworld each month as they bleed. Men, they suggests, can only access these realms by partaking of the poison path, herbs and plants that induce deep altered states. A woman does not require such substances if she knows how to use her moon time wisely.
So, with such contrasting points of view, how is a woman to view her moon time?
One aspect of the moon time that all of the above opinions appear to agree upon is that this time is a time in which increased pain may be experienced. It is well-known that many women experience physical pain, and there is also increasing evidence of emotional pain and increased psychotic episodes. Is pain, however, a valid reason to dismiss and attempt to overcome the period? Or is there perhaps another way to approach the pain itself?
Pain. Most of us try to avoid it, suppress it, or run from it. But once we enter the path of healing and awakening, we begin to see that to cast off pain and run to pleasure is to increase suffering. Pain is not the same as suffering. Suffering is a result of the reaction to pain, not a direct consequence of pain itself. By changing the way we react to pain we can actually end suffering. We cannot end pain, it is part of life. But we can end suffering.
Suffering is a quality of the mind…it is not a physical phenomenon. Think of a time you were ill and suffered. The suffering was in the mind…it may have been resistance “Oh no I can’t be ill…I have so much to do!” Or perhaps fear “Oh my god, what’s wrong with me? Perhaps I’m going to die!”…but look closely…it is a reaction to the illness, not a quality of the illness itself.
It is this kind of reaction and resistance that uses up a lot of energy. It is literally exhausting as the mind fights reality; fights what is.
So pain, any kind of pain, brings us a wonderful opportunity…the opportunity to surrender the mind to what is. So you have a little fever and a headache. Are you going to be angry that you are missing the party you wanted to go to, or fearful that you may have a life-threatening disease? Or can you simply observe what is, calmly do whatever you may need to support yourself (usually water and sleep are required for most situations) and stay present to your situation?
One could define healing as when pain is met with consciousness.
Think of a time when you poured out your troubles to someone who listened with pure consciousness…you feel better immediately. Or maybe a time when you took physical pain to a healer who stayed present with your pain, maybe guided you to breathe into it and to be present with it also. Something amazing happens in such simplicity…healing.
To put this in Ekhart Tolle’s language, pain bodies are just patterns of pain that are needing to be met by conscious awareness. So long as they are not, they will be passed on from generation to generation.
So, back to menstruation, rather than seeing this as a time of great pain and suffering to be overcome, we could consider it an opportunity for women to bring conscious awareness to pain they may be carrying. Tolle says that at this time of the month a woman access the collective female pain body…what does that mean? He is referring to the carrying of pain that is larger than one’s personal pain…the pain of all women, of all generations.
That sounds heavy…why would one want to meet that? Because if we do not meet it with consciousness then it is not healed, and we continue to carry it, often unconscously.
Many women are completely cut off from this pain…taking the contraceptive pill appears to cut women from this, as does taking pain killers over the menstrual time. By denying pain using chemicals, though a woman does not feel the pain, she cuts herself off from her depth and from connection to “the goddess”…earth as the root of all femininity. It creates the Barbie-doll effect: superficial women.
Other women feel pain, but wallow in the victim role. They get caught up in the stream of sensation, identifying completely with pain and with experience. This leads to a mantra of “poor me” and endless suffering and complaining. No wonder many men suggest women take pain killers or other invasive methods!
So denial is one approach, creating Barbie dolls; over-identification is another approach, creating victims. But to transcend these two approaches is to meet pain together with conscious awareness, or witness.
The sensations are moon time can be overwhelming for some women. Therefore it begins to make sense to take oneself away from the world, certainly away from men, and to retreat to one’s red tent. Here one can stay present to witness what arises during this time. To completely retreat at moon time means no interactions, no computer or phone, no TV or movies…just being present to the arising sensations.
Certainly such an approach is a whole different ball game to the other two options. Once one has surrendered to the experience, many different things can happen. Some women experience a sense of suction into the black hole of the universe, the source of all creation seems to be folding everything back inside itself. It can feel like a total self-annihilation…one’s entire sense of self being deconstructed. There can be an edge of chaos, and to surrender feels to be falling down an endless hole, like Alice in Wonderland.
And perhaps this is why Tolle says there is an opportunity every month for a woman’s enlightenment. For to experience one’s own death in this way, to feel one’s self falling apart completely, is to find out who one really is…what is one’s true nature.
It can be like returning to the source. In Tao terminology this would be to fall into the Yin. Sometimes a woman’s body at her moon time feels as if it is pulling her down to the earth…she feels heavy, and the best posture is to squat with the yoni close to the earth. She wants to lie down in darkness and stillness…all qualities of the Yin.
Is this gravitational pull losing energy? It may look like it from a first glance…she is lying down, she looks tired. But actually could it be just the body’s wise way to recharge her from the source of all lifeforce energy? If a woman surrenders to this gravitational pull then she will emerge post-moon time completely refreshed. We could see this sinking to the earth similar to a coil that is being squeezed…it fills with potential energy ready to spring back. Likewise if a woman takes at least one day of her moon time to rest in this way, she can recharge herself for the rest of the month.
Something similar happens before childbirth…in shiatsu it is known as the water phase (the most yin element). The woman’s legs may become heavy and her lower back aches as it is pulled down towards earth. She can only relieve it by squatting…which is an energetically ideal position at this time. The earth chi fills her body and when there is sufficient chi inside her she moves into the wood phase and begins the contractions.
So next time you feel an achy lower back before your moon time, instead of reaching for a pain killer, go out into nature and squat down. Spiral your tailbone over the earth; anti-clockwise to draw earth chi up and clockwise to empty out. Let your sacrum breathe the earth chi up into it. Notice what feels good…find out for yourself.
Some Tantric anti-menstrual arguments would say that the moon blood contains many vital nutrients. The questions is, to we need to cling to our nutrients? Mother earth gives us freely of her vegetables, grains and fruits. She does not hold them fast to her trees and refuse to let them go, even though they contain vital nutrients.
By using a moon-cup to catch your blood, you can pour it back into the earth, giving thanks to Nature who has fed you, and giving some of your body back to her in exchange. You can even pour the blood under a fruit tree or other source of nourishment and contemplate how your vital nutrients return to the cycle of life and nature. Just as when we die if we were buried in the earth, we would decay and become nourishment for the soil, so too with our blood. Consciously taking part in this recycling helps to remind us that we are part of a bigger system, more than just the individual. So do not be mean with your energy, clinging to it as if you are fighting to survive.
Giving back to the earth once a month is a beautiful offering to make.
A more radical option is to drink one’s own moon blood to recycle the nutritients and ojas/jing (vitality energy) into the body.
Ultimately Tantra and Tao ancient texts talk about the complete cessation of the moon blood as the ultimate attainment for a woman. This attainment is very mysterious and cannot necessary be understood by the new comer to these arts. There are women who have experienced extreme orgasmic states when “pulling up” their moon blood using special tantric sublimation techniques.
Other report that the blood naturally ceases during periods of retreat, silence or meditation. Of course the ultimate aim may have been utilized by Taoist nuns and Tantric priestesses, who could live under very special conditions.
Thus it could be wise to consider the ultimate destination, and yet also stay present to the journey itself. Before slaying the red dragon, the first step may be to reclaim the red dragon. First bring healing and consciousness to this time of the month, let it lead you into a deeper awareness of your own sexuality and femininity. Then you will find that when the time is right you will begin to feel more inclined to sublimate the blood. Many women experience that on the journey of healing, their blood becomes lighter and the bleeding times shorter anyway, so sublimation can start happening as a natural result of purification. Keep in balance the journey and the destination, so that you do not start fighting against your moon-time or subconsciously making it wrong. Accept it, know it, purify it, and if and when the time is right you can sublimate it. Ride the red dragon all the way up into the Heavens!
/ Written by Shashi Solluna
Read more on her website: www.shashisolluna.com