An excerpt from the book, Sacred Retreat
Each of us has our own beliefs about receiving spiritual help. Some believe in guardian angels or spirit teachers; some believe help comes from Christ or the divine feminine; some believe guidance is simply the wisdom of our own intuition. I interchange the terms guides and intuition, for they are intimately connected. But whether we attribute the guidance we receive to angels or our own intuitive powers, we cannot hear it if we do not slow down and listen. Listening, really listening, is a holy experience.
Deeper awareness of our cyclical nature gives us better access to connection with our intuition. Understanding timing helps us to know when to listen and when to speak. It is obvious how out of balance our daily conversations are, as we frequently interrupt one another to express our own thoughts. Often we do not allow room for a pause to consider what has been said before we hasten to express our own ideas. We have lost the natural rhythm of communication, reflecting as increased misunderstandings, even in our most cherished and important communications.
Even when we understand that we need to slow down, demands of living often scream much louder than the soft voice of inner wisdom. Nature gives women a biological opportunity to slow down each month and listen to their inner guidance. However, this biological urge has been culturally dismissed, while women have been programmed to put their own needs last in order to care for others.
Feminism arose as an effort to reestablish balance between women and men. Yet the feminist movement has actually played a part in the suppression of women’s inner guidance as women strive to be more like men in order to be considered equal. We have forgotten that equal does not mean the same. Radical feminists, seeking to compete with men, have insisted that women can do everything that men can do at any time of the month. That may or may not be true, but that isn’t the point. The point is, should we?
If we insist on moving through our days as if they are all the same, continually doing, we forfeit the gifts of simply being. This is a lesson women once shared with men, but now almost all of us have lost this wisdom. We cannot dwell in the space of sacred listening when we live like this. If we do not slow down to listen during the biological time we have been given for rebalancing, we imbalance ourselves by being too active, too full, too outspoken, without the benefit of listening to inner guidance. Deep listening during bleeding allows our intuition to guide us in creating greater harmony, new ideas, solutions to problems, and inspirations through dreams. Men, too, need to create regular times for deep listening.
The importance of cycles can be extended to our understanding of the breath. We cannot live without breathing. We breathe in air for life, change it through chemical interactions, and breathe it out again along with our energy. The breaths we release become the air of others, so we need to be very, very careful of the energy we expel. Is it full of love and acceptance, or is it full of sighs and judgment? Each of us has the same opportunity to be careful of what we release through our breathing. Positive treatment of women’s cycles can model the care that is necessary when we release something no longer needed. We are all part of the cycle of life, and we need to be conscious of what we release, doing it responsibly, whether we are discharging menstrual blood, breath, words, thoughts, or everyday litter.
With the introduction of electric lights, calendar-based schedules, and more choices about whether or not to have children, women’s bodies have sped up to keep pace with the complexities of modern life. Men suffer from the same fast pace of living. In many ways, our species has become more fragile; we are often more easily upset because we are so affected by the imbalances we face every day. Toxins in our air and water, hormones in our food, overuse of pharmaceuticals, and the pressure to live our lives at too fast a pace take a toll on all of us. We honor cultural demands of our external environment at the expense of our inner environmental needs. Yet, as imbalanced as modern life has become, there are avenues open for change, if we only slow down and listen.
I am not suggesting that extreme seclusion is appropriate today, yet designated retreat time, whether sleeping alone or simply slowing one’s daily pace during a bleeding cycle, has proven beneficial to women and their families worldwide. Ritual seclusion practiced by women in indigenous cultures was something chosen by women for women. It was not a cruel discipline forced on women by men but rather an opportunity women chose to deepen their understanding of the mysteries of life. The wisdom of biology supports ritual separation for women during the time of flow. It is well recognized that women’s hormones (FSH, LH, estrogen, and progesterone) fluctuate monthly and are low during menses. The relationship between biochemical lows and the need to be alone may affect spiritual experiences. The psychological break of time apart during menses offers opportunities to see things with a fresh perspective.
The connection between spirituality and the body is missing in modern culture. In fact, the spiritual component has gone missing from most of our interactions, leaving a secular and insipid shell of what once were deeply meaningful connections or rituals. We have retained graduation ceremonies and church weddings, but even these are sometimes more a matter of form, lasting a very short time, rather than being lengthy experiences designated for real inward change. Slowing down to receive guidance is important for all of us. Our intuition can arise from our body awareness, from patterns that our brains recognize, or from whispers and nudges from our guides or guardian angels.