Today is a new day.  Its rest day, winding down into the New Moon on the 19th (the end of an exhale).  I am feeling grounded, heavy, less energetic.  It wasn’t long ago that I thought all of this new-moon/full-moon jargon was a load of old tosh.  A bit of mystical fun…but tosh all the same.  If my body hadn’t gone through some sort of progressive and dramatic, she-wolf metamorphosis to align itself with spectacular accuracy to the cycle of the moon over the space of three months…then I’d probably still feel the same way.  Now I can use the moon as a guide to my own body.  In exactly three days, my period will start.  It’s a time to nurture myself, and take things slowly.

When I first joined the shala in Bali, I was a little bit surprised by how seriously the ashtangis took “lady’s holiday”.  3 days rest at the start of your period.  Ashtangis are generally A-type, massocists…just like marathon runners.  If you’re not convinced, go to a shala on a hot day and watch a group practicing mysore style.  The sweat dripping from bodies onto mats, strength and endurance, determination and focus, as each practitioner pushes through personal challenges.  It’s not dissimilar to the sensation of being packed into a high-profile race.  You feed off the energies of everyone around you, but each individual is locked into their own journey.

One of the most fundamental differences between these A-types, is the sensitivity to the moon.  I suppose it helps that there aren’t any race dates set for Ashtanga.  When I rocked up to the starting line of the marathon, in full, stomach-cramping, emotional-wrenching flow, I couldn’t very well whisper into the ear of one of the organisers and say, “not today.  Its my Lady’s holiday.”  No.  You stick a cork in it, knock back a couple of paracetamol and get on with it.  In fact, since the invention of tampons, a woman could quite easily go about her life without anyone ever being made aware of her particular cycle.  In the shala it’s an empty space on the floor, as glaringly obvious as if you walked in with a flashing “I’m bleeding” badge.  At first, I smirked over the fuss that was made.  The sympathetic pats on the shoulder; sensitive, supportive male practitioners asking if you need anything.  “Pull yourselves together and man up!” I initially thought….

But as time wore on, and my practice deepened, I started to realise that it wasn’t about self-indulgence.  It was about respecting the body, and being in tune with nature, with femininity.  Through my life I’d felt that tampons had liberated women somewhat, made us capable of doing what men can do, every day of the month!   That’s what the adverts on TV tell us.  To draw attention to it, or make a fuss, was exposing weakness.  It’s quite sad really –  feeling that for one week every month – you are a lesser being.  Less capable of physical activity, and rational mind.  I’m sure that’s a lot to do with my own Pitta- competitiveness and upbringing, but how liberating it was starting to feel, to acknowledge my own cycle, pay attention to it, and not feel the need to mask it, to just stick a cork in it and carry on.

Now,  I take my time off from practice, horde dark chocolate, and spend a couple of days allowing myself to be a woman.  I think of it now, as a place of strength.  Not weakness.

Tolle said, in The Power of Now.

The number of women who are now approaching the fully conscious state already exceeds that of men and will be growing even faster in the years to come…Women are regaining the function that is their birthright and, therefore, comes to them more naturally than it does to men: to be a bridge between the manifested world and the Unmanifested, between physicality and spirit.  Your main task as a woman now is to transmute the pain-body so that it no longer comes between you and your true self, the essence of who you are.”

(page 140)

So, what that’s basically saying is that if you can stay in  contact with your true self, when you come face-to-face with Psycho PMS bitch self then its a fast-track to a fully conscious state – or enlightenment.  With practice we can reverse this monthly sinking into unconsciousness/unhappiness, into a monthly portal/opportunity to reach a heightened consciousness.

How to do that?

I’m still new to all of this – but I thought this month would be a good opportunity to put what I read into practice…

When the first sign appears, you need to be alert enough to “catch” it before it takes you over.  For example, the first sign may be a sudden strong irritation or flash of anger…

My first sign is destructive clumsiness and loss of eye-hand coordination.  What is that all about???  Tables on their sides, glasses smashed on the counter, food bowled across the carpets, fingers trapped in doors.  I find it virtually impossible to keep it together, and the more frustrated I get, the more dangerous I become…  Yesterday, after causing a right old mess when I was trying to help my mum tidy up, I paused for a moment, “is it nearly the New Moon?”

If it is an emotion, feel the strong energy behind it.  Know that it is the pain-body… Any emotion that you take your presence into will quickly subside and become transmuted.

Example one:  Bloated and hungry, with cravings for chocolate

  • Old me = eternally FAT, no-one is ever going to love me…burst out crying in self-loathing as I remember that time in high-school, when some spotty chap called Ed (they were all called Ed) said I was a “munter” in the lunch queue.
  • New me…fuck off.  Ed was a dick, who cares what he said.  Now where’s that most amazing chocolate bar of ALL time…Lindt – dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt?

Example two: On the bus, and someone looked across at me

  • Old me = OMG!  Why did s/he look at me like that?  What have I done?  Does s/he hate me?  Everyone on the bus hates me, I want to get off.  Want to cry in self-loathing as I think ahead to the distinct possibility, nay, inevitability that everyone in the world hates me, and will lead a very lonely life, shopping at Asda every Friday night for the single-serving microwave meals on offer.
  • New me = OMG!  Why did s/he look at me like that?  What have I d…… STOP!  OK.  Feel the paranoia.  That’s all it is.  Paranoia.  Now, put my music on and listen to Nina Simone.
Example three: Lying in bed on a Saturday morning.  Tired and groggy, with a back ache, writing this blog….think I’ll roll my mat out.  Respect the rest day, but pretty sure that a spot of Vipassana will help me to keep my Psycho PMS  self in check, especially under the watchful gaze of my very own little monk I managed to bring home with me…