I don’t always love my period. But I am always grateful for it, even through the cramps, the bloating, the super sensitive stomach. This is not just because my future self needs a functioning menstrual cycle to get pregnant and have the children I will someday want. My gratitude stems from the regular gifts that my period gives me, gifts that I have only learned to accept in the past two years, gifts that I want more women to know exist and experience.
Yesterday, I told a friend of mine about the mindfulness I’ve developed around my cycle. I told him that now, on the first day of my period, I enter into an altered state, an easy meditation, daydreaming and swimming through thoughts that I normally suppress. At the end of my description, he told me he was jealous that I could have that. How many men have ever said that to you, how many of you have ever said that to a woman? Despite the mind-blowing power of menstruation and its mystical connection with our earth and moon, few men think it is something worth experiencing.
This is because our culture does not honor our periods nor make having them easy. Period products are promoted as helping you hide that you are having a period, control your period, so you can function "normally". Have you ever tried getting drunk or smoking pot (with a legal prescription, of course) and then go to work or school for a normal day? I sure hope not! But that is what women have learned to do their entire lives, when their bodies are flushed with hormones, their entire cycle in an altered chemical make-up. Just like there is an appropriate place for altering your state of mind, there is an appropriate place for being on your period. It is certainly not going about your day per usual. And when we force this regularity on a moon-day, it often results in frustration, anxiety, irritability, and worst of all, a lost opportunity.
I can’t exactly tell you what this opportunity is for you, because I only truly know what it feels like for me. But I do know that there are women all over the world reclaiming this time as their own, and continuing to claim it as a piece of their culture. Many ancient societies used to distinguish this time from the rest of the month. Whether this separation was empowering or repressive to women speaks to the patriarchal system of that culture or religion, not the need for distinction. When done in a way that honors women, this time apart results in rest, women’s community, connection with the divine, and a welcome return for each woman and the wisdom she gained during her time of communion. (If you want to learn more read Lara Owen’s “her blood is gold.”)
For women today, the most important thing we must learn around our periods is permission. Permission to disconnect, permission to miss that meeting, that class, permission to take a bath, permission to sleep an extra hour, permission to lie on the couch and cry softly. These are the things that my period asks for—and when I give a little and let myself take a few of these, the results are amazing. The world around me goes on without me. I become tranquil. I feel high on this amazing natural drug that makes the winds softer and the trees more beautiful. I encounter aches and cramps in my body less as a nuisance, and more of an invitation to slow down, to lovingly soothe myself, to humble myself before powers greater than I. I feel connected to women all over, to the power of women’s bodies and of the long journey that created us in our astounding complexity.
I sometimes ask myself, what would it look like for me to create a life for myself where I could take this time to center and connect? What would I have to sacrifice to take the space I need to honor my body? I wonder what Jewish community might say when I tell them "I can’t schedule that day, I am having my moon time." What powerful modeling that could be for women in that community! But would it be accepted as valid, as real, as truth?
As a rabbinical student, I wish I could include a nice quote from the Jewish tradition that supports moon-time. After all, we have a deep connection with the cycle of the moon in Judaism, shouldn’t that be reflected in honoring the human biological cycle that matches the moon? While Judaism has a concept of separation (nidah) there are not guidelines for how women should practice spiritual connection to their bodies in our ancient texts. Modern Jewish women are revolutionizing rituals around the period (for example celebrating a first period, Rosh Hodesh/New Moon groups) and creating spaces for women to be present with their cycle (like the Red Tent at Wilderness Torah). But if I want to know how to turn my period into Jewish prayer, I have to look inwards and create it. The blank slate is liberating but also restrictive, because I know there is more, there is so much more to know, but I don’t have the accumulated wisdom of Jewish women throughout the ages to guide me.
I want to start this accumulation of wisdom now. I am becoming a rabbi—my focus is on serving the Jewish community, men and women and everything in between included. But women from all backgrounds are calling out for a radical re-understanding of our bodies, and our periods are an integral part of that reframe. Right now, we are throwing a gift away. We are ignoring an integral part of our lived experience. We are forcing a cyclical body to fit into a linear world. It is time to reclaim our time. It is time to reclaim ourselves.
Let the moon-time revolution begin.