I remember the first time I heard someone say menstruation was sacred. I was living in Los Angeles and was at a wellness retreat, listening to its keynote speaker. She talked about ancient and tribal menstrual traditions, and made references to women being at the height of their spiritual power while menstruating.
I laughed. We’re clearly experiencing different kinds of periods.
I didn’t know a woman in my life who embraced her period, let alone celebrated it or considered it something sacred. The notion that menstruation was something of value and worth acknowledging was so far from my beliefs. I didn’t even know I had beliefs about my period until that day! Once a month I would bleed, I would be in pain, I would complain, and I would do my best to push through it. My period was just something that happened to me. Definitely not something I felt connected to or empowered by.
It was not the type of spiritual experience she was talking about.
I’m not sure if it was because I was in a room with 300 women, or because she made us move our hips in deep circular motions for over 5 minutes, but something about the way she spoke about menstruation resonated with me. It made the hairs on my neck stand up.
She compared the phases of our cycle to the seasons. Ovulation being summer, when you are most energetic and confident. Menstruation being winter, a great time for solitude, rest, and hibernation.
“Women’s relationship to money, power, and sex lies within their womb. Heal your womb, heal your life.”
Everything that she said was new to me, and yet it felt like I had heard it before. A remembering of some kind; a deep knowing that what she said could be true. I left that day feeling inspired to research anything and everything related to menstruation.
I had my doubts about menstrual superpowers, but my vigorous research inspired me to change my diet and slow down around my period. Apparently, you weren’t supposed to force yourself through it like I had been doing for the last 17 years ‒ like every tampon ad I’d ever seen promoting avoidance (what woman plays tennis in a white skirt day one of their period?!).
I became obsessed with everything period related. I read every book on the topic, I switched out tampons for a menstrual cup, and my change in diet drastically minimized my menstrual pain levels. My lower back pain was gone. Tender breasts gone. Hormonal acne gone. All physical side effects I’d been told were a part of being a woman. Gone. I never once thought that my diet or mindfulness could help ease the “disadvantages” of being a woman.
After my initial focus of healing the physical ailments of my menstruation, I sought out how to heal the emotional ones.
I stumbled upon Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr. Christiane Northrup, a book from the 90s that reinforced mind & body connection with a focus on women’s health. The chapter on menstruation forced me to answer some tough questions. It was hard, and finding the answers meant confronting myself, my beliefs, and my past.
What do you tell yourself about your period? (1st question the book asked)
I answered this by journaling about it often.
I wrote about the first day I got my period. My mom took me for ice cream to celebrate my newly found womanhood. I remember being confused by her excitement for me — her own period didn’t seem like anything worth celebrating (a heating pad, lots of Advil, and usually a day or two in bed debilitated). Besides my mother, none of my peers or older friends, ever seemed to acknowledge, let alone appreciate, their periods either.
I wrote about a vivid memory of a boy making fun of a classmate as she discreetly tried to hand her friend a tampon. He came to school with tampons up his nose. Witnessing this, and how people spoke and made fun of bleeding, triggered mental anguish and worry about bleeding through my gym shorts or jeans.
None of this seemed worth celebrating. Eventually, I mirrored the beliefs of every woman around me: blood is shameful and is best kept hidden.
What is your body trying to tell you? (2nd question the book asked)
It was hard for me to view my body as a tool that was communicating with me. Answering this question felt challenging, so I started thinking about my physical history. I thought of all the times I took the pill to avoid even getting a period. I thought of all the many times I had taken antibiotics for bladder and kidney infections. The amount of times I had been in the hospital for ruptured cysts in my right ovary. The amount of times I bragged about how many Advils I took, as though a badge of honor.
What was my body trying to tell me?! What was I telling my body?!
The answers to these questions didn’t come to me all at once. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t really answer them, like I’d failed a part of the book somehow. But over time, by recounting my previous periods and behaviors, I started to feel empowered. I felt present in my body. I started noticing changes in my confidence levels. I started using my voice more, and feeling more comfortable in my skin. I started saying no when I wanted to say no, and yes only when I really meant it.
And eventually, slowly, I started talking about things that I had never shared before.
Like that night.
The night I was raped.
And the other nights.
The nights I didn’t feel right in my body, the nights I didn’t feel safe in the world, and the nights I told myself I wasn’t worth anything.
By sharing these pains, I started to heal. It allowed me to reconcile with the hidden and deeply shameful parts of myself, my body, and my story. I was finally able to answer how to heal the emotional symptoms of my menstrual cycle. My body had been screaming for me to address these for years (through UTI’s, ovarian cysts, and excruciating menstrual cramps). But it wasn’t until I reconnected to my body, my story, that I was able to do that.
For me, being mindful around my period was a door. A door to open a deep connection with my body and my intuition. A door to listen to the stories I kept hidden about my worth and value in the world. A door to address the shame I let fester in my body. A door to heal sexual trauma. A door to forgiveness, and a door to remembering. A door to empowerment and a deep knowing that all the tools I need to survive this world are within me.
So now, I don’t do laundry or cook for others on bleeding days. Specifically on my period, I don’t adhere to the I’m-so-busy type of lifestyle. If I’m bleeding, I fully embody the meaning of slowing the fuck down.
Healing my menstrual cycle has allowed me to heal all other parts of me, and I wanted to create something, a reminder of sorts, that helped encourage the internal conversations and cultural beliefs we have about our cycles.
Enter the Period Candle.
A product that helps promote the slowdown. Something that helps us move us away from the instilled patriarchal norms and beliefs that we have about our cycles. Something that creates the space that is required to address our emotional blocks, the ones that make answering those questions feel hard sometimes.
The candle poses a question, not a solution. It won’t cure your menstrual cramps or provide you with magical answers. The candle doesn’t have the answers, I don’t have the answers. But I know you do. Your body is a sacred home that carries your secrets, and my hope is that whether you use a period candle or not, that you feel empowered to openly discuss and explore those secrets. Our bodies are our soul’s messengers, constantly asking for our attention so we can heal our deepest depths. And addressing the menstrual cycle, the womb, is as deep as it goes.
What do you tell yourself about your period?
What is your body trying to tell you?
Join the conversation #onourmoon
photography by Britney Gill