Menstruation as Ceremony: The healing power of taking time out for yourself every month


The simple act of stopping and being with yourself, especially during your time of menstruation, is the single most powerful thing a woman can do to love herself.

At the end of two-day retreat I recently held in Sydney my menstruation began. There were a few heavy tables to be relocated and, out of respect to myself, I pulled away with the loving support of my partner who was there to step in and lift the load. Nothing unusual to report there, but later that week we received a complaint letter form one of the male attendees stating that he was horrified and offended that I had “copped out” of cleaning up with the “lame excuse that I have my period”.

When I was younger this letter would have been like a knife to my womb and I would have been enraged at the lack of care and understanding men have expressed toward my femininity. But now, with the deeper insight and appreciation I have for my body and my sacred femininity, I realise that it is a gift to be able to share the significance that the Bleeding Ceremony has for all women – and all humanity.

All humanity is born though the womb of woman. And so it is, that when woman comes home to herself and lives in integrity with her being, taking care of her spiritual work, she does the work of healing herself and others.

I believe that if we as a culture viewed and approached our time of menstruation as a sacred ceremony rather than a mere function of the body we would be living in a very different world today.

Menstruation as a sacred time

I have had a deep fascination with the process of restoring our menstrual cycle – and the associated pain and trauma that it is for so many of us – to it’s inherent potential of heightened bliss states and sacredness.

In a recent article for Earth Medicine, ‘The Bleeding Ceremony’, author Jessica Simmons, wrote about how in many traditional cultures, “the ‘ceremony of woman’ or ‘ceremony of bleeding’ is considered a sacred time. In order for women to channel the cosmic energies present during this time of ‘death and rebirth’, a woman needs her isolated space, to which she may conduct any rituals, prayers, or meditations, accordingly.”

Jessica went on to say:

Much misunderstanding is birthed from the view of Western mentality when peering into such customs. It seems, to a society attached to feminist ideas, that because a woman is removed and there are traditions that are exclusively for women, that it was somehow a forced concept by male power. Yet, this is farther from the truth than some would realise. In fact, in all that I have witnessed and experienced, such customs are in reverence to the power of the woman, not the inferiority. I believe we are the ones who invoke inferiority concepts to our women because we DON’T respect or recognize this power, and instead choose to replace ritual and ceremony with fast-paced lifestyles that do not allow us to remove ourselves and feel our own power. 

Her words perfectly articulate my views on how discovering the deeper significance of our menstruation and how to properly care for our feminine physical and spiritual needs during this time has been met with so much resistance by both men and women.

I believe that a great deal of the pain and suffering prior to and during menstruation is due to ignoring the spiritual aspects of the menstrual cycle and, in turn, denying the deeper spiritual nature of a woman. Even if the woman is engaged in a lot of spiritual activities, so much of the new age spirituality is offering ancient traditions that were designed by men for men. These traditions, including Yoga, were developed mainly in eastern cultures a long time ago in very different environments to those that women are encountering in our modern world today.

A modern context for the tradition of the “Red Tent’ and ‘Sacred Moon Lodge’

Many old world and modern cultures that live in close communion with the earth and are kindred with nature have rituals that honour and celebrate women in their menstrual cycles. These customs derive from those such as that of the Native American traditions where ‘The Red Tent’ or the ‘Sacred Moon lodge’ was provided for the women of the village so they could gather during their menstruation and ‘bleed’ together, intuiting valuable knowledge and insights that were pertinent to the whole community.

In cultures like these where woman’s isolation is stipulated during menstruation by the customs of the society, these regulations are placed out of a respect and honour of the profundity of this time and the necessity for her to do her inner work and CLEAN up what ever mess she is carrying on behalf of the tribe, so that she can return rejuvenated, replenished and cleansed, available to life in the way that SHE and the community needed her to be.

Nowadays women are functioning in a compromised condition. Excuses such as, “Oh she has PMS,” or “Watch out for the dragon” are both demoralising and unnecessary if we are to support women in refraining from operating in this compromised mode. There are no excuses for a woman to lash out due to the burden she carries. This kind of behaviour is simply a symptom of a woman neglecting her spiritual work.

The Bleeding Ceremony I prescribe requires nothing but you. It is not based on any particular linage or custom, but there are many parallels with ancient customs and traditions. The most important aspect of the Bleeding Ceremony is that it is more an attitude than a ritual that must be adopted, learned and practised. When we as women recognise that our bleeding time IS the ceremony, divined by nature, then our only job is to be in alignment with that.

Even just the simplicity of approaching our bleeding time as a ceremony starts to shed a new light on things. By empowering ourselves through self-love and self-care we are alleviating the onus on anyone else to honour our relationship to our feminine bodies. That, in itself is sacred.

The bleeding ceremony is THE most powerful spiritual practice that any woman can embrace. The simple act of giving full attention to our needs without the allure of distraction brings us closer to who we really are and what we need at the level of body, mind and spirit.

How we act during our menstruation is also a direct reflection of our relationship to our femininity and our true essence as women. The bleeding process is an integral function of maintaining healthy hygiene and integrity on all levels of a woman’s being – from the physical maintenance of the womb, the fresh blood required to conceive and nurture life, to balancing the endocrine system, maintaining hormonal balance, and ensuring the mental sanity of the woman by keeping her psyche unburdened and cleansed.

How to do a Bleeding Ceremony

The following are the key guidelines I offer to women in assisting them to create their own Bleeding Ceremony, but be as creative as you like in developing your own ceremony.

  1. Take at least 24 hours out for yourself

The Bleeding ceremony is very simple and the only real requirement to be with yourself without any interference for a minimum of 24 hours. The full Ceremony of Bleeding lasts seven days from the first day of your period. But if its impractical to take that length of time out, the first 24 to 72 hours MUST be honoured by ourselves and that requirement goes beyond all logical practical considerations.

In one sense you could say it is a non-negotiable priority. One of the biggest mistakes I see women make in our modern world is forgetting to value themselves. How can we expect anyone to love us if we are unwilling to love ourselves? How can YOU be anything other than the first priority in YOUR life?

At some point we have to prioritise the importance of things in our life. I believe that neglecting this causes many of the ailments that women suffer from. And in the woman suffering, so too do the people she is in relationship with because when a woman neglects herself her work, her projects and all that she loves suffers with her.

The requirement for a woman to withdraw from society and her life as it is, (including all the duties that she is obligated or otherwise committed to), is vital to her devoting her attention to being present with the ‘ceremony’ that is naturally taking place. When we stop fighting and resisting nature and instead ‘go with the flow’, so many wonderful and seemingly miraculous things happen. We heal, we manifest and abundance naturally comes about in our life.

SO much is happening during the bleeding phase of a woman cycle that it requires her undivided attention so that she can be with all the intricacies that are taking place. Most importantly, she must be present to the natural process of ‘letting go’ so that she can be completely open to receive ‘the new’ and all the freshness and optimism that come with it. Without this, women can plummet into depression and suicidal tendencies, as just one of the many side effects of neglecting her spiritual work.

  1. Rest, stay calm and be present to yourself

As best you can just rest up, stay calm, and enjoy the miracle of life weaving it’s magic through you. Listen to your body and get to know yourself. It’s also a good idea to avoid media and any other kinds of stimulation and influence. When we remain completely present the intelligence of our menstrual flow will guide us. What this looks like will be unique to every woman, which is why you need the privacy and the permission to explore your inner realms in whatever way you are guided to. This may be to sing dance, laugh cry, meditate, journal, crochet, knit, garden – whatever it is (along as it is not strenuous).

  1. Refrain from physical exercise and lifting heavy objects

During menstruation a woman’s energy spirals downward toward the earth. The ceremonial work requires a level of strength and stamina; and during bleeding there is a certain type of exhaustion that comes with it. Over doing it can cause sever fatigue later in the month or later in life.

So, avoid physical exercise (including Yoga) and especially avoid going to the gym! Lifting heavy objects and turning yourself inside out and upside down interrupts the natural flow of menstrual blood. Even lifting the shopping, getting out of a chair and wearing heavy boots can cause cramping. So try to move gracefully when you walk, move gently and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Cramps are your body’s way of communicating with you. Sit still, go within and listen to the pearls of your body is giving about how to live in harmony with your being.

  1. Refrain from other ceremonial activities

Generally, the function of ceremonies – be it a sweat lodge, the use of plant medicines or any other kind – is to raise our energy, enhance our awareness and reach heighten spiritual states. With the greatest respect, I caution women to refrain from beautiful and powerful activities during your bleeding ceremony. That’s because the Bleeding Ceremony requires ALL of you and although your mind may think you can handle multiple ceremonies all at once, the reality is that this kind of ‘multi-tasking’ may be very damaging to you. The Ceremony of Bleeding will illuminate various aspects of the woman in relation to her process, but participating in other ceremonial work at the same time can exacerbate an already highly sensitive condition and cause a lot of distress to a woman’s internal state.

  1. Abstain from sex

The same is also true for sex. A man’s energy raises the Kundalini energy when he interacts with a woman. When a woman becomes very alert and present to her internal self, she may become sensitive enough to notice that even a conversation with a man can have an impact on her. During the seven days of the full Ceremony of Bleeding, our vagina and cervix open like an open wound. At the same time our psyche opens wide – without any veils or filters – making us more vulnerable than we normally are to external energies and other people. Pressing an open wound can cause damage, which is essentially what happens when the penis makes contact with the cervix during menstruation. Many women proclaim that it eases their cramps and this may be because endorphins kick in momentarily. However, the pain and tension is just being pushed deeper in and the cramps will come back – with a vengeance.

  1. Be grateful 

The mind and the womb are intimately connected and most of the issues that women suffer with in their reproductive region relates to how we THINK. So your bleeding ceremony is a good time to assess and, if required, adjust your attitude. If you’ve found yourself sliding into a negative attitude or victim state, judging or comparing yourself to others, then this is a good time to correct all of that.

You may have had conflicts or challenges during the month that you have struggled with. The bleeding ceremony helps us to get to the root of the issues and find resolution. In this way, it is a good time to come back to the simple things in life and be grateful for everything including:

  • The lessons you’ve learnt over the past month;
  • The opportunities you’ve had to grow and become wiser;
  • The challenges that have provided the doorways for life gifts and talents to emerge; and
  • The choice to forgive yourself and others. When we truly surrender and find our forgiveness, this attitude is a remedy that heals all.
  1. Listen to your body – and avoid pharmaceuticals if possible

If you are in extreme pain AVOID PAINKILLERS! Taking pharmaceutical drugs will in no way remedy your situation. Your body is crying out loudly for you to pay attention and this is a wonderful opportunity for healing and breakthroughs – but it requires your patient attention because this pain is usually related to how you have been the whole month, not just in the moment.

Magnesium (found in chocolate and capsules) is a natural remedy to menstrual pain. However, the most powerful pain relief method is to find a calm place (maybe your bed), get very comfortable (e.g. with a bolster under your knees), and just listen to your body. Place your hands where there is tension and feel what is happening. Listen with all your heart. Ask your body: “What are you trying to tell me? How have I been living ‘out of tune’ or ‘against myself’? What do I need to correct, let go of or alter in the way I function?

For all the reasons stated above, this is a time that your subconscious is WIDE open. Be careful of what you expose yourself to and in some way treat yourself as a newborn baby.   

  1. Ask for the support of those around you

As a woman, it is important to claim back your life and live it in tune with your natural life force. It is equally important for the men in your life to be aware of your process in order to support you in the choices you need to make for the benefit of everyone in your family and your world.

© Roxanna Minnona,
A Tantric Life 2015. All rights reserved.

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