One of the many things I miss about life on our sailboat (BOREAS) is being constantly aware of the rhythmic changes of the tide. Twice a day the tide would go out/come in. It was slow and gradual but noticeable and it felt like it was the earth breathing.
Recently I've become reacquainted with other life rhythms that exist no matter where you live–by the sea or surrounded by mountains.
Circadian Rhythm–(Latin:"circa", meaning "around", and "dies", meaning "day") This is a natural oscillation that repeats roughly every 24 hours and refers to any process that originates within an organism and responds to the environment (for example light and temperature). It effects sleep patterns as well as other ways your body works like your hormones, body temperature, and eating habits.
Personally I've often struggled with sleeping soundly through the night. Last night is the first night in a long time where I slept all night without waking at all and what a difference it made in both my mental and emotional states!
Seasonal Rythms–Or how living organisms adapt to seasonal variations in the environment. For example hibernation, migration, and fixed breeding seasons. While some people think humans aren't very affected by changes in the season I would disagree. True many of us live in climate controlled environments with artificial light that trick the senses into thinking it is summer year round we cannot avoid noticing shorter days and colder temperatures in the winter.
Many of us are sensitive to these changes and experience internal changes. This condition has been named Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). My father was sensitive to seasonal changes and I am too. This winter it's been more of an issue as I've been sort of "checked out" for most of December. It felt like I've sleep walking through my days, only able to focus with concentrated effort. (See my last blog post for an example.) Thankfully my mental fog seems to be slowly lifting.
Infradian Rhythm–This is a biological cycle that occurs for longer than a 24-hour period and in humans a prime example is the menstrual cycle for women between teenage years and menopause. Typically it lasts 28-32 days and is governed by estrogen and progesterone among other hormones.
In all honestly I have never been that interested in the menstrual cycle despited experiencing it for most of my adult life. Instead I tried my best to ignore it, resist its demands, and generally thought of it as a complete nuisance. My education around it, how to track it, and how to use it to live in harmony with its needs was basic at best but really was for all intents and purposes nonexistent.
It hasn't been until menopause that I've faced my menstrual cycle then and only because I had to. My menopausal life has been rough. Each woman has slightly different experiences but mine has all the symptoms including:
Reduced sex drive
"Mood changes" which barely scrapes the surface of extreme emotions ranging from anger to disgust to rage
A rather uncomfortable feeling of becoming someone new and different in a way that is completely out of my control
In my search for answers I've found the book "Sex, Lies, and Menopause" by T.S. Wiley which makes a very strong argument for bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. So convincing is her case that I am taking bHRT which has been a roller coaster to say the least. I'm learning my body is not like the majority of other women so it's taking a lot or trial and error to figure out what my specific needs are.
In her book T.S. Wiley points out that biology always wins and wow I did NOT like that! I wanted to believe that I could THINK my way into a life without the trappings of living in a woman's body. But her evidence is substantial, logical, and well documented. Eventually I made peace with the fact that estrogen and progesterone are a big part of who and what I am.
Overall thought the biggest draw back in my opinion to T.S. Wiley's bHRT protocol is that I'm now back to having monthly periods.
Or so I thought.
The struggle to find peace with my period led me to the Red School. Founded by Alexandra and Sjanie who spent over 10,000 hours developing a "radical new approach to health, creativity, leadership and spiritual life rooted in the bloody, wild, radical power of the menstrual cycle."
At first I thought it sounded crazy and ridiculous. I mean, embrace the menstrual cycle and work with it to live a more balanced life?
But the more I learn from them the more it makes sense. Not only that but it feels much more respectful and kind.
This part in particular hit home:
For centuries within our culture the menstrual cycle has been denied, demonised and rejected. We’ve been led to believe it’s a limitation or a weakness we must overcome in order to succeed. We challenge all that, and unveil the extraordinary truth that your menstrual cycle is in fact a highly potent, potentially liberating process. It’s your custom-made initiatory path to awakening and to power.
So I'm doing something radical, I'm loving my menstrual cycle and learning to live in harmony with it. I track what day of my cycle I'm at, I know my levels of estrogen and progesterone on each day, and I monitor my mental, emotional, and physical states each day. All of that information helps me know when I'm at my peak of creativity and when I need to rest.
The big challenge, of course, is overlaying my specific monthly rhythm to the demands of the modern world which operates in overdrive with crazy expectations 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
So WHY am I telling you all of this dear reader?
Well it's all part of what is brewing deep inside as I contemplate a new painting. My creation/visualization process is normally slow but it is especially slow now during winter when my brain and body wants to slow down and be restful.
So, instead of fighting against that I'm leaning into it and being patient. Eventually all of these thoughts, feelings, and experiences will coalesce into a vision for a painting.
Until then dear reader, my hope is that you too will find a way to live in harmony with your own personal rhythm.