Sometimes we get so attached to feelings or emotions, without realising that by concentrating on them so much we give them weight and meaning and increase our suffering. Today, I invite you to let go of one thing that no longer serves you. One thing that doesn’t bring you joy. Let it go.
I can be incredibly impatient, especially when it comes to mundane tasks. Brushing my teeth, for example, is something I have always thought of as being one of the most boring and tedious necessities of life.
That is, until I discovered brushing my teeth as an act of self care. So often, we tell ourselves that showing love and being kind to ourselves sounds great, but when are we supposed to find the time or money to go to the spa or a retreat or book a massage as acts of self love?
Well, I’ve got great news for you: you already are engaged in tiny, daily moments that can be celebrated as acts of love towards yourself. You are brushing your teeth because you care about the health of your teeth.
You might put lotion on your face and/or body, engaging in gentle self touch. This simple touch has been shown to have a calming, soothing effect on us. That is, if we are touching our face or body with love and kindness, not while trying to find all of the things that we judge as bad or ugly or not worthy to see the sunlight.
Some people like to leave little notes with positive messages or intentions on their mirrors or other visible and highly frequented areas of the house, such as:
- You are beautiful
- I accept myself for who I am
Whether it’s reading these messages, or applying hand lotion with loving care or drinking a cold glas of water because your body is longing for it…
These tiny moments are moments for self compassion. Moments, that no busy work day or demanding child or what have you can take away from you. They are yours already, just as the act of breathing is yours.
So I invite you, next time you brush your teeth, to smile at yourself inwardly and celebrate, that you are doing something kind for yourself.
“Allow that personal time to connect with yourself, to give some love to yourself, to apprectiate yourself, to give some space, time and energy to yourself. So that once you’ve given to yourself and you know what gentle loving care feels like, then you can share it with the others.” – Simon Borg-Oliver
Yoga and meditation are practices which have been interwoven with the threads of my life since I was a teenager. I would in no way describe myself as an advanced practicioner of either of the two, despite the many years they have been with me. For most of my adult life, I considered myself too busy to truly pay attention to a regular yoga & meditation practice. Despite this, the (yoga) mat and (mediation) cushion have been my reminders to come back to myself and take care of my mind and body in those moments, when I was ready to listen.
Twice in my life thus far I have come very close to what is these days known as a “burn-out”. Both times, it was through my old friends of yoga and meditation that I slowly began to heal the wounds that stress and anxiety had left in my body and mind. To this day, I still struggle with establishing a regular practice, often opting to skip my date with the mat in favor of staying an hour longer at work or lounging on the couch at home.
Especially since yoga has become this global trend which is increasingly shaped by notions of competitiveness (The world record for holding a plank pose was just set! Can you believe it?) and normative beauty standards (having the newest, “sexy” yoga bra… and goodness forbid you show up at a class with unshaven legs!), I’m struggling to stay on this path of mindful movement.
In those moments, however, when I am sitting on my mat, concentrated on nothing but my breath and the sensation of my breath in my body, I am happy to know such a tool for mindful body work. When my uterus is cramping the days before I bleed, I am grateful for the muscle memory in the interstitial muscles of my ribcage and lower abdomen, expanding as I inhale and taking some of the pain away as I exhale.
Yes, there are those who are choosing yoga as a tool for self-optimization and competition and even body shaming. But ultimately, that remains a choice. You can also choose, to look more deeply at all of the eight limbs of yoga – only one of which is asana (postures), and perhaps through this perspective find a connection to yourself. In this regard, I am thankful to the amazing Simon Borg Oliver, for his beautiful words on the yamas and niyamas.
If you’d like more information on yoga for self-empowerment, I recommend this article.
You may imagine that I am constantly on the look-out for books portraying menstruation. Especially because it is a topic that receives much too little attention, I am always excited when new literature reaches my hands. Recently, I have been fascinated by the history of menstruation, or more accurately, how people have dealt with the topic throughout the ages. This fascination started with the book “Menstruation in Twentieth-Century America” by Lara Freidenfelds, which I found quite enlightening, especially with respect to the ideals of the ‘progressive’ woman always available for (re)productive functions.
Then I came across the review of these new books on menstrual his(her?)story on the blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research the other day. More material to add to my ‘To-Read List’ — yay!!
[…] probably due to skewed gender perspectives, taboos, and prejudices, the meanings of menses, what I think of as “the menstrual ecology,” has received relatively scant attention by historians of cultural practice. Recent efforts to redress that absence are found in two fascinating studies: Cathy McClive’s Menstruation and Procreation in Early Modern France (2015, Ashgate) and Sara Read’s Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England (2013, Palgrave).
[…] Among the many enlightening insights the authors offer is McClive’s challenge to what she calls “the myth of menstrual misogyny,” the idea that menstruation has always been viewed negatively, a notion she convincingly refutes
Do you have a favorite book on menstruation? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations! Share in the comments below.
I could burst with pride and excitement these days! The last two months saw a year’s worth of research, self-awareness work, planning and organizing come to fruition with *two* beautiful workshops around the menstrual cycle.
I am humbled and so, so happy, to have received beautiful feedback from the wonderful women who participated, as well as a host of people who couldn’t make it but are thrilled to see this topic come to light.
Absoultely stunning was the support I got from Petra Sood, the woman behind the amazing Kulmine! My workshops are donation-based, to allow any person access regardless of their economic status, so you can imagine my joy when a giant package of beautifully crafted cloth pads from Kulmine fluttered into my mail box. Along with the eco pad sewing kit from Eco Femme, a sea sponge and – of course – a menstrual cup, we had a beautiful set of healthy, deliciously eco- and skin friendly products to explore as alternatives to tampons and pads (see image above). Some participants even brought their own pads and cups to show and share their experiences with the others!! This makes me especially happy, since my main goal is to provide a safe and comfortable space to share experiences and speak about the “unspeakable”. Since Menstrual Hygiene Day is in a couple of days, my cooperation partner, BAF e.V., and I wrote a press release (german) for the workshops.
Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedbacks and requests, I am busy planning more workshops like these and expanding my collaborations in all sorts of directions. I will keep you updated, as things become more concrete 🙂
Until then — much, much love and gratitude!
Can you see the box,
The box you use to box yourself in,
At the edge of your awareness?
Can you sense the edges,
The edges of your self-built confinement,
At times barely perceptible,
other times smotheringly tight?
Can you hear the calling of your soul,
Your thousand unlived lives,
Beckoning for you to set yourself free?
Free from the boundaries of
Your limiting beliefs.
From your self-judgments of
Adequacy and deservedness.
Can you see the box
You have built around yourself,
And decide today
In the blink of an eye,
In one precious moment,
It occured to me, that with all of the nutrition + self-care + cycle awareness information I offer, one might get the idea that I effortlessly follow every one of these suggestions and live a life free of period pain. A life, that instead is filled with the bliss of always putting my needs and my health first.
Well, let me tell you, my friends: that is *so* far from the truth.
I still very much struggle with making time for myself. With establishing, but mostly with staying with self-care rituals and routines. And with hormonal imbalances.
I am not writing this out of self-pitty or to gain your sympathy.
I have simply noticed recently, how much I (still) fall into the trap of thinking I need to change EVERYTHING. And PRONTO! I deeply wish for you to read these pages and not feel pulled into this vortex. That is why I’m sharing my struggles with you.
I have been dealing with hormonal imbalances for close to a decade and as my cycle awareness grows, my symptoms have lessened or become more managable (as tends to be the case for people who start charting their cycles). I know, however, that giving up or cutting waaaaay back on sugar and coffee could/would do wonders for my hormonal health. As would cutting back on my intake of soy products [note: I’m vegan].
Since I am in the ‘summer’ stage of my cycle (that is, the second week, or follicular phase approaching ovulation for those more inclined towards health care terms than symbolisms), I have tons of energy and resolve to turn a new leaf and finally tackle these two hormonal health issues [why are they issues, you ask? check out these pages to find out!]. Well…
Does that sound like a loving way to look at myself and my body to you? In the quiet moments, when the energy frenzy inside my mind has died down and I allow myself the time to reflect, it sounds like my inner super-woman is trying to run the show again! The truth is, it is simply not healthy to radically change one’s diet by eliminating three (sugar, coffee and soy, in my case) major components of daily intake immediately and in one go. Plus, this kind of “self optimization” causes various stress responses in the body, going from eliminating the #2 cause of hormonal imbalances (high blood sugar) to the #1 cause (stress!). Yay…
I have said this out loud and written it down and read it written by people whose knowledge and advice I respect very much many a time, but I guess I just need to “hear” it again:
Slow. It. Down
You (I) want to change to a more hormone balancing diet [substitute: way of managing your schedulle / treating yourself / etc.] ? Beautiful! Let’s pick one specific thing we want to change/incorporate and live with that for a while. Sense, how your body feels, with this change. Observe your mind. Feel the shifts in your energy. After at least two weeks and purely based on your experience, decide if the change has served you well.
It has? Perfect! I congratulate you on finding your way towards hormonal health.
It has not? No worries! There are many things left for you to try and, I promise, you are not alone.
My choice for this May: cutting back on sugar. What’s yours?
“In everything you eat – honour yourself. […]
In nourishing your body and soul with love and mindful awareness, you learn to truly honour everyone and everything that your life touches.”
(From ‘Moon Time’ by Lucy Pierce)
Though it may often not feel like it at all, our body can be our biggest ally. It is the number one feedback system we have for what is going on inside of us (let’s call that our “internal life”, which includes physiology as well as emotions and mental states) as well as our interactions with the outside world and the people around us (our “external life).
That being said, how we treat our bodies and what we put onto and into them naturally has a huge impact on how well this feedback system can function; not even taking into account the challenge of listening for the feedback, when it is functionioning well! Hormonal imbalances — the greatest underlying cause of menstrual discomfort including PMS, PMDD and even some forms of PCOS and endometriosis — are directly related to the way we treat our bodies. [Sidenote: the #1 cause of hormonal imbalance in women is stress! What’s #2 you ask? Believe it or not: high blood sugar! #3: accumulation of toxicity in the body].
Since our bodies are complex systems, we need to understand that what works for one person is not necessarily going to help the next. Think about the trend in health care towards personalized medicine… Wouldn’t make much sense if all of humanity could be treated with one template, right? Therefore, the more knowledge you gain about HOW the things you put into your body (food, drinks, supplements) and the things you expose your body to (hygiene products, beauty care, living quarters, work place, etc.) can affect your own personal individual body, the easier it will be for you to figure out what works best to alleviate the symptoms or conditions you are working with.
There is a lot of information out there on the impact of nutrition on health and I encourage you to seek out the relevant information for you. For my part, I have put together two lists to help you specifically when dealing with hormonal imbalances.
- What to watch out for and possibly avoid
- Recommendations of foods & herbs when dealing with PMS and similar symptoms
For any of this information, remember: try it out for some time if it resonates with you (give yourself at least 2 weeks to adjust to your new diet), and listen to your beautiful feedback system. If you find that cutting out caffeine, for example, does not help relieve your cramps but just makes you miserable because your cup of coffee by the window in the morning was the highlight of your day.. by all means, stick with it! Only YOU will know what’s right for you.
I have been struggling recently with … well, seemlingly with everything.
But mostly, I have been struggling with and against myself.
So today, in lieu of writing the article on self-care I feel compelled to right but don’t have the energy for, I want to share with you a gift I received:
The student asks the teacher: “Why am I so rarely the person I long to be?”. The teacher responds: “Why do you so rarely want to be the person you are?”
~ Buddhist Teaching
In the spirit of this teaching, I invite you to join me on a journey of acceptance.
Because ultimately, self-love is the highest form of love we can experience.
(Even on Valentines Day!)