Category Archives: Women’s Circle

An ongoing conversation for women living in modern society. We are all learning to be the best, most wonderful women we can so let’s get to it ladies!

Change Your Life – Sign Your Contract of Personal Responsibility Now

Personal responsibility – it sounds so grown up. So adult.  So dry, in a way.  But the thing is, without it life feels pretty crappy. You get into this slippery state where things just slide by you without really engaging.  The to-do list piles up, the difference between the way you actually are and the way you want to be grows increasingly wider.  Some part of you knows you aren’t living the right life and in the beginning that part is easy to ignore, but that little voice gets louder and louder and shows up in all kinds of mysterious ways.  Why?  Because while you’re letting things slide, you’re also giving away your power.

Your power is the most precious thing you have and you’re letting it slip through your fingers because personal responsibility is hard. It is so easy to give away your own power, and often it slips by you unnoticed.  It happens every time you allow something else to have power over you. What does that mean? Simple. If you aren’t acknowledging ownership, then you’re stating your powerlessness.




Here’s an example.  I had my daughter (lovely girl) 11 months ago today.  She is amazing and wonderful and brings me so much joy and happiness.  She also gives me a great excuse not to do some of the things that are actually necessary for me to live the life I want – like exercise (but I’m running around after a toddler – surely that’s exercise enough) and meditate (who has the time?!?)  That excuse is actually a reason for a while, because really when there’s no sleep and you’re desperately trying to keep your head above water something really does have to give.  But now?  When she has two good naps per day and doesn’t always sleep through the night, but does sometimes.  Now is it a reason? Nope. It’s just the story I’ve been telling myself as I let my personal responsibility, my power, drain away.  Now it’s easy to say that it’s a minor thing, but the person who pays for this is me.  I don’t feel strong in my body (my fault). I notice more of the scattered monkey-mind coming in.  I don’t have my normal energy level.  Why?  Because I’m just not stepping up to the plate.  It could be habit, it could just be that the little voice that recognizes I’m not being the me I want to be hasn’t been loud enough until today.

Red Flags that You Have Given Away Your Power

The red flags are flying out there for everyone to see, but when you’re on the inside they sound perfectly reasonable.  Let’s do the three biggest:

  1. You’re getting further from your goals or standing still. The difference between how you’re living and how you want to be living is getting bigger, not smaller.  You’re moving away from your goals.
  2. You start using powerless words. These could be the words you say out loud and also the words you use in your head. Here are some of the easiest to recognize (but there are plenty more)
    1. I really wanted to, but
    2. I just can’t because you know how bad [the economy, my joints, my marriage, the 2000s …] is…
    3. I’ll get started when [I have the money, I have extra time, aliens land…]
    4. I just have to [do this thing I’ve been saying I”d do for a year but haven’t done yet] first and then I’ll…
  3. Some part of your life feels out of control.  Like you aren’t driving the ship, you’re being driven (or swimming desperately behind). You can’t seem to get around the mess, the clutter, your weight, your health, all the things you haven’t said to your partner, your kids… whatever.

Okay – So That Might Be Me. Now What?

Step 1 is to take back your power. And here’s the quickest way.  This is a take back your power lifehack. I want you to sign a contract with yourself – a contract of personal responsibility. Here’s a .pdf copy to download ContractofResponsibility

Step 1 to taking back your power is to sign a contract of personal responsibility. Nobody can help you but you.

Step 1 to taking back your power is to sign a contract of personal responsibility. Nobody can help you but you.

Step 2 is up to you.  Here’s the thing – it’s easy to keep giving away your power.  To say I can’t because of this or that.  So here are some exercises to do around this:

  1. Try reading the contract out loud to yourself in the mirror.  You may notice that some parts are actually hard to say, or your brain comes up with an instant “but.” Pay attention to what is triggering you.  This may bring up all kinds of anger, indignation, and furious backlash about how someone really is stopping you from doing something. Are they? Are they really? To what degree are you willing to allow that person to continue to have power over you? These are questions only you can answer.
  2. Start to look at your sense of yourself in the world.  Are you adopting a victim place?  Where someone has done something to you and because of that things aren’t right? No doubt there are people who may have done you wrong, people who you have felt haven’t treated you well, or who have outright abused or violated you.  These events can be incredibly hard to get over, but until you do get over it, until you choose to take your power back and stop giving it to that person, you will continue to be powerless.
  3. Forgive, forgive, forgive.  Mostly forgive yourself and move on.

I hope this is helpful, and I’ll have you know I have both exercised and meditated today because the truth is that I just wasn’t taking personal responsibility, and now I am.  I was giving my power away to my daughter, and while I would give her anything in the world if it would actually benefit her, it will benefit her more to see her mom being powerful. Use this lifehack today to take your power back and start taking personal responsibility and if you feel like sharing a story I’d love to hear it in the comments.



Seed Cycling and Pregnancy Before, During and After.

Seed cycling is a gentle way to re-establish normal hormonal rhythms for women, but many people have questions about what to do around seed cycling and pregnancy.  If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of seed cycling you can read about the basics here and I’ll add a visual how-to before we get started. Here are some thoughts.

Seed Cycling for hormone balance adds seeds into your diet following the rhythm of your body or the moon. Seed cycling and pregnancy are a natural fit.

Seed Cycling for hormone balance adds seeds into your diet following the rhythm of your body or the moon. Seed cycling and pregnancy are a natural fit.




Seed Cycling and Pre-Pregnancy Fertility Boost

Naturally anything that helps to normalize your cycle will ultimately boost fertility so seed cycling and pregnancy go hand-in-hand.  In preparing for pregnancy your body is trying to create a soft landing space for a fertilized egg, a cushy spot to settle down and take nourishment. That cushy spot is created via the hormones – estrogen to thicken the uterine lining (in the first half of the cycle) and progesterone to ripen that lining and make it ultimately inhabitable for a fertile egg.  Both halves of the woman’s cycle need to be strong for this to occur and seed cycling helps to encourage that balance.  Days 1 (the first day of your period) through day 14 (when you ovulate) are called the follicular phase. They are building uterine lining and also ripening a strong egg. The flax and pumpkin seeds that you take during those days help to bring healthy estrogen levels while blocking conversion to unhelpful androgenic hormones like DHT.

Day 14 and the window around that time (24-48 hours) is your fertile time – the time when you are most likely to conceive.  Strong ovulations need a healthy estrogen spike nurtured by the hormone balance achieved in Days 1-14.

After ovulation through the rest of your cycle is called the luteal phase and is dominated by the hormone progesterone, which is encouraged by the combination of sunflower and sesame seeds. Progesterone is released by the pocket on the ovary out of which that month’s fertile egg came, called the corpus luteum. If the egg is successfully fertilized (meaning you get pregnant) then progesterone levels must stay elevated to help the egg to implant into the uterus and to prevent your body from flushing out the uterine lining (to prevent your next period).

Encouraging good progesterone levels, is in fact one of the most important factors in keeping viable early pregnancies, especially in older women who are trying to get pregnant or women who have unbalanced hormone pictures that are shifted towards estrogen (like PCOS, endometriosis, and many cases of multiple pregnancy loss). Happily in the implanting days women who are seed cycling are already encouraging progesterone with the sunflower seed and sesame combination.  But what to do when you find out you are pregnant?  That depends very much on you.

Seed Cycling and Pregnancy

Once women become pregnant seeds in your diet can still be highly supportive, but it helps to have some idea of your hormone balance before hand, and the “cycle” of menstruating is no longer happening.  In fact, hormonally pregnancy becomes almost a hyper-extension of the luteal phase.

Progesterone in Luteal phase:  1 – 28 ng/ml. Average is 10-15
Progesterone in First Trimester: 9 – 47 ng/ml
Progesterone in Second Trimester: 17 – 146 ng/ml
Progesterone in Third Trimester: 49 – 300 ng.ml

As you can see, progesterone levels are on the rise through the entire pregnancy and logically to support that some women take the theory that they should continue the luteal phase seeds – sesame and sunflower.  Others feel that all the seeds provide support and so choose to do steady amounts of all seeds on a consistent basis.

*One good tip to remember* If you’re trying to get pregnancy it’s important to continue the luteal-phase seeds (sesame/sunflower) until you actually have a period, just in case you are pregnant that month. This gives the egg the best chance at implantation.

Women who have a history of estrogen dominance,  repeated miscarriages, or are “advanced maternal age”:

For these women progesterone support can help to keep the pregnancy viable and often prescription progesterone is given.  Seeds can help as well. Women in this category can use all sunflower/sesame through the pregnancy or a 2:1 ratio of sunflower and sesame: flax and pumpkin.  These seeds are not a substitute for prescription progesterone, but they can be safely used in combination with prescription progesterone. I personally feel that all the seeds are supportive and so taking all of them each day during pregnancy gives the biggest nutritional boost. In this case a good mix would be:

2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Young women with typically balanced hormones and normal pregnancy history:

Although pregnancy is still a higher progesterone time, women who have healthy balanced hormones should have no problem maintaining the progesterone levels needed. In these cases equal amounts of all seeds can be used or the ratios can be weighted towards sunflower/sesame if that is your choice. So:

1 – 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 – 2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

This can be continued through the entire pregnancy as well as the early months of nursing (up to about 6 months post-partum). This seems to help many women soften the post-partum emotional changes that can occur because of the huge hormone nose-dive.

Seed Cycling for Post-Pregnancy Restoration of Cycle

After delivery some women have a hard time with the sharp drop of progesterone that happens along with the normalization of estrogen levels. Continuing the steady doses of seeds suggested in the pregnancy section can help to smooth out some of the rough edges, but there will come a time when your body moves more towards reestablishing it’s normal rhythm. Some women have a sense of this, whether it’s from changing nursing habits of their baby to hormonal symptoms like skin changes and some women really don’t feel it happening until they get their first cycle.  If you start to feel changes then I typically suggest re-starting seed cycling then according to the lunar phase. If you don’t particularly feel anything then around 6-9 months or when your baby really starts to be interested in solid foods you can restart (also according to lunar phase).  If your body surprises you with your first period out of the blue, then start seed cycling using day 1 of that cycle as your starting place.

In every phase of pre-, during and post- pregnancy make sure that your maternity care team and doctors are aware of your seed cycling routine and that they don’t have any concerns for your particular pregnancy. Seed cycling and pregnancy is generally lovely, but may not be right for you so do check with your doctor.

Also – here’s the moon phases, just in case you need those.

CURRENT MOON



Save Your Ta-Tas! Add melatonin to prevent tamoxifen resistance. Spread the word!

If you Take Tamoxifen You Need To Read This! Prevent Tamoxifen Resistance

Breast cancer is a big deal, and if you have it then you want to do everything to make sure the treatments you’re taking are actually working, so here is a simple, effective way to prevent tamoxifen resistance – please tell every woman you know! Nobody knows if this will prevent resistance 100%, but according to this study published in the journal Cancer Research, not adding this one simple step can make the drug ineffective, and it’s something that seems harmless. Nobody would ever think this would make such a big difference for breast cancer, but it does so spread the word to your girlfriends – because the killer might be sleeping with your lights on, even a small amount of light under a doorway might cause tamoxifen resistance.




If you know ANY woman with Breast cancer who is using Tamoxifen as a treatment make sure she knows this one simple step. You can help to save her from Tamoxifen resistance.  Tamoxifen resistance happens when melatonin levels are too low, and that can be triggered by tiny amounts of nighttime light.  Make sure women taking Tamoxifen are also taking melatonin at bedtime and sleeping in TOTAL dark.

It’s completely crazy that this might make such a huge difference, but the research is clear. Exposure to even small amounts of light at night can shut off melatonin production and if there isn’t enough melatonin then the breast cancer is rendered completely resistant to Tamoxifen. Researcher David Blask explains the mechanism this way:

“High melatonin levels at night put breast cancer cells to ‘sleep’ by turning off key growth mechanisms. These cells are vulnerable to tamoxifen. But when the lights are on and melatonin is suppressed, breast cancer cells ‘wake up’ and ignore tamoxifen,”

This has huge implications for women who work night shifts, women who sleep with a TV or computer on in their room or even women who have LED lights or even alarm clocks with lit faces. Also for women who have poorly regulated sleep to begin with or who may not produce adequate melatonin. To me, the simple solution is to include melatonin into the protocol for every woman undergoing breast cancer treatment.  Especially since melatonin has it’s own anti-cancer benefits. The standard starting dose for melatonin is 3 mg at bedtime, but in cancer research doses of 20 mg have been shown to have potent anti-cancer benefits, especially for solid tumors like those in breast cancer. If you currently have cancer please talk with your doctor about this and make sure your doctor is aware of the research because this is a new development. Make sure all your lady friends know too because we want to save the ta-tas.

Save Your Ta-Tas! Add melatonin to prevent tamoxifen resistance. Spread the word!

Save Your Ta-Tas! Add melatonin to prevent tamoxifen resistance. Spread the word!

This study was conducted at Tulane University School of Medicine.



Life is Short – Live NOW.

Life is short, and sometimes you come to a crossroads where you have to choose what really matters moving forward and what really doesn’t. I am at just such a crossroads now in my life and when that happens I usually wander back through my journals, blogs, etc… to see if I can get any clarity about the arc of my life. In doing so, I found this post from my previous blog and it struck a cord in me about what actually matters in life, and when it comes to the most important questions, what I might truly value.  This post was written in 2011 and I’ve left it in it’s original form. I hope it inspires you to think, just a little, about what really matters to you today.

I wish I could say that the inspiration for this post is a happy one, but it’s anything but.  I found out today that three colleagues, two of whom were dear friends from graduate school, have passed away recently.  Eli was a completely hilarious, quick witted, sarcastic man who kept everyone around him laughing and would go out of his way to make people happy.  Susan was a beautiful, vibrant woman who was somewhat quiet and always smiley but when she did speak up it was always with something unexpectedly funny that would take everyone by surprise.  She was one of the kindest, warmest people I’ve met. Stacey was in school after I was, but we worked together and I was impressed by her positivity and drive.

These three were all young (30s and 40s), vibrant, and did everything for their health. They had great relationships, children, careers and busy lives. I don’t think any of them would have anticipated leaving the world so early. I can’t begin to fathom that they are gone.

Life is short - Live NOW. Photo by Ian Britton, www.freefoto.com

Life is short – Live NOW. Photo by Ian Britton, www.freefoto.com

As I sit in my house, surrounded by my stuff and reminders of the things that normally weigh heavily on my mind I am struck by the sheer madness of my entire existence.  That I am here and whole and healthy is such a miracle – such a gift.  I feel so ashamed at the amount of time I waste worrying about things that don’t matter. When I look around today, after learning of these three deaths, my worries are so trivial and tiny and neurotic.  I have everything I need, I have wonderful friends, amazing family, a house I love and good food on the table. What does the rest of it matter? Where is there any kind of problem?




I’m also ashamed of the time I waste doing things that don’t truly make a difference in the end.  Sure it’s a good idea to make sure my business keeps running and my house is in good repair. But what about the time I fritter away on the internet or with some kind of escapism like TV or movies or books?  Doesn’t that just amount to watching other people live instead of living myself? Am I willing to spend some of these precious moments that way when I know that life is short? There is nothing like the stark reality of death to make a whole bunch of silliness just fall away.

This also throws light on the social and emotional stuff that can become issues in my head but are utterly meaningless.  Remember, life is short. How many times have I not called a dear friend because I was too busy or had to get one more thing done at work? How many people have I failed to keep in touch with, or not shown my feelings for  – for some ridiculous reason like laziness or shyness or inconvenience.  How many activities and events have I missed because there was something that really needed doing, or work, or I was so tired from work that I couldn’t muster up the energy, or some other equally small excuse.

At moments like this it is so hard not to look at my life and feel like maybe I’ve missed something somewhere. If Susan or Eli or Stacey had just a few more days – would they spend them working? Taking care of responsibilities? Or would they smile with their loved ones, maybe go to a park, pick flowers for their bedside table, eat chocolate or watch the sunset. Or maybe something totally different and fun and wonderful – who knows? The point is – they’d probably make joy and love and laughter a pretty high priority. And shouldn’t we all? I’m not saying we should ignore real life and let everything go – but what if work and money and stuff mattered just a little less and life and people and friends and joy mattered just a little bit more? Your life is short too – what do you choose to do with it today?

life is shortlife is shortBoth of these gorgeous images are from http://www.symphonyoflove.net/ – Thanks!



Be an Urban Wildling: ReWilding YOUR Ecology!

So rarely do I find an idea that just zings with me like rewilding does, but ZING! Wow WOW am I ever excited about this. Let me back up and tell you what exactly I’m going on about before I go on any further…

I’ve been talking with the Urban Moonshine people, mostly because I love their bitters but partly because I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to be upset that I’m talking about them.  In any event, they were kind enough to send me this article, by their Chief Herbalist Guido Mase RH introducing the concept of rewilding our Urban spaces.  Not with big sweeping gestures, like knocking down buildings and tearing up pavement; but with the small gestures that gently nudge environments and ourselves back to health and balance.  The tiny things that will help our pollinators, help our soil health, help our internal health and maybe bring us all a little closer to wonderful.

A wild garden from ourhappyacres.com - rewilding at work.

A wild garden from ourhappyacres.com – rewilding at work.

Selected Rewilding Excerpts from Guido Mase, RH “Re-Wild Our Ecology This Spring”:

It’s always puzzled me that life and vitality even exist. After all, there is a vast amount of decay and destruction all around us. Many speculate that the universe will eventually end up a homogenous, barely warm field of force[i]. Yet somehow there is also this tendency everywhere for more and more complex beings to spring up, interact, and reproduce. These two trends seem to stand in opposition, two basic drives, somewhat of a paradox.




For us humans there is no escape from this basic fact. Some say we are becoming more and more separate from nature[iv], which of course is impossible (we are nature)

If you fail to recognize how important it is to fully interact and engage with the diversity of life, consequences inevitably follow. Less bees[vii], fewer flavonoids, more heart disease. Fewer monarch butterflies[viii], absent bitter compounds, more diabetes. That’s the thing: complexity works at all levels of the ecology, and our current culture has places where things aren’t as connected, aren’t as linked up. We may be fully jacked into the information stream, but our phytochemical stream has very low bandwidth. Maybe the best way to link up is simply to do as life does: increase the chaos, increase the diversity, open up access, re-wild within and without. It seems to me that the spring season is a good time for this. It’s when the ice cracks, and the seed breaks through the soil.

One strategy is to change the ecology, little by little. We can look to the parking lot, the lawn, the edge of the cornfield. Scatter seeds of resilient native plants – wild bee balm, dandelion, red clover. Leave some grass uncut – watch the trefoil, wild carrot, and asters grow. Leave thick buffer zones between your gardens, rich in weeds like St. John’s wort, mugwort, and chicory. These plants will attract pollinators, giving them a much needed source of safe food. They will change the chemical interactions of microbes in the soil[ix], affect patterns of bird nesting and reproduction[x], and speed the dissipation of contaminants[xi]. This will help our cities, gardens and fields link up.

In our bodies, herbal medicine is the best way to achieve similar diversity, and it may be the easiest as well (life, after all, appears to be the path of least resistance). While much of herbalism is devoted to specific constitutions, or well-defined patterns of imbalance, it also has a rich tradition of plants applied tonically, ritually, daily: planting a wild garden inside. The life-enhancing power of tonic herbalism is the exposure to an ever-changing cocktail of phytochemistry, enriching the internal ecology and helping us connect to seasons as they change.

This spring, try a simple version of the classic bitter tonic: gather dandelion leaves and roots and mix them with an aromatic plant like motherwort, mugwort, or mustard, the young leaves still fresh and vital. To these add something with a little hint of salt, like parsley or chickweed. Get your plants locally and, if you can’t find them, plant them. Chop the herbs up well and cover the mix with vodka, or even apple cider vinegar. After a few weeks, strain this mixture and take a little bit every day. Great on the tongue, this tonic wakes up and supports all the internal organs. It encourages vitality because it is vitality: life, diversity, complexity, efficiency. This will help our bodies link up.

Rewilding - The wild garden in the former churchyard of Saint Mary-at-Lambeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Rewilding – The wild garden in the former churchyard of Saint Mary-at-Lambeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

What Does It Mean – To Plant A Wild Garden Inside?

I *love* this imagery. I want to roll around in it and fill myself up with having a wild garden inside. Not a cultivated garden in neat little rows, but a wild, crazy, sprawling garden booming with life. My own internal rewilding. I imaging the idea of having a wild garden inside might be a little bit different for every person, but to me that feels free and alive and rich – like I would be filled to bursting with life and vitality and color. I agree we need a little more chaos and a little less cultivation – not only that we need to embrace the chaos more and to live into the changes rather than trying to avoid or control them.  There needs to be more native seed scattering and less lawn-mowing. I’m not just talking about the health of the earth here, I’m talking about for our own health, our own sanity.  I don’t think it’s normal to cultivate and tend and regiment everything down to well-oiled-machine status.  I think life is supposed to be a whole lot more than that.  It’s time to get out of those boxes and shake things up a bit. The wonderful thing is that rewilding can mean whatever you want it to mean – this can be your codeword for anything you want to make richer and more adventurous in your life. Any way you can nudge your own self back to balance.

Here’s a little list of ways I’m going to ReWild, and ways I’m going to nurture my wild garden:

  • Schedule fewer things so there’s time in the day to stop and smell the roses (or dandelions)
  • Appreciate more the richness and diversity of the “weeds” in my garden and worry less about keeping them out. I’m not just talking about the literal weeds – I’m also talking about the nuisances and hassles and personalities and minor chaos in life.  Sure – it’s there. it’s going to keep being there. That just adds depth and texture.
  • Make wishes and blow the dandelion tops when I see that they’re ready to re-seed, because bees and other pollinators need more dandelions, and I could use a little more child-like joy. I’m considering getting some kids bubble wands for the same reason.
  • Invest in some great native seeds from Native Seed Search and Native American Seed and scatter those in places that need to be made a little more beautiful. I’m also going to start to look at my home and see what there needs some metaphorical wild seed? Are there clothes I got because someone else thought they might look good (but don’t feel like me?) what about things in my home? Does my environment make me feel alive and wonderful or boxed-in and dreary? What about my living space can I rewild?
  • What about my routine is just routine? Where have I become stagnant and started doing the same things, not because they’re vibrant and wonderful but just because.  Am I in a rut with the foods I eat? With books I’m reading? Clothes I’m wearing?
  • Spontaneous road trips! Let’s have more of those. Just jump in the car and pick a direction. Why not?

I feel like rewilding is an idea that needs to pervade everyone’s life – we have become too domesticated and lost our fires and our sparks and our instincts.  Let’s work to rewild – to loosen and let go and shake things up. Life doesn’t need to feel like a cubicle job – it needs to feel alive and like a grand adventure that you look forward to every day.



Natural Fertility: Honoring Your Cycle

Natural fertility is a growing concern – although rates of infertility fell in the last few years from 8.5% of couples in the U.S. to 6%, there are still staggering numbers of people who are struggling to get pregnant and especially to have natural fertility.  Many couples are experiencing “sub-fertility” which means that they can technically become pregnant, but are having a hard time doing so. Also many women experience irregular cycles, skipped ovulation and general hormone wackiness that makes planning for fertility more of a challenge. I genuinely feel that part of the issue with fertility is that women have come to see the rhythms of their bodies as inconvenient, painful, embarrassing or a nuisance. There is a huge disconnect between the powerful things that happen in our bodies and our perception of and regard for them.

In light of all of the emotional, lifestyle and financial burden of infertility there is a movement towards improving fertility naturally, which sounds great, but this whole issue can seem daunting and overly complicated.  Don’t worry – we’re going to make it as easy as possible. There will be many posts on the subject, but we’re going to start with the basics. The first step is to actually begin to understand what is happening in your body during the different phases of your menstrual cycle and why those things are so important. In this post we’ll talk about the whole reason for your cycle, more the spirit behind the thing.  In subsequent posts we’ll talk about the hormone changes in more detail, fertility tracking and general steps towards boosting your fertility naturally.




Step One to Natural Fertility: Honoring Your Menstrual Cycle

Anyone who has ever known a woman can tell you that a woman’s cycle is a powerful driving force in their lives. This is a huge part of what makes the experience of being a woman entirely different from the experience of being a man. We have a rhythm and that rhythm dictates when we are the most sexual, the most vulnerable and for some women the most emotionally labile. To begin with, let’s take a look at a picture of all the things that are happening in your cycle. Remember “day 1” is counted from the first day you bleed each month:

Natural fertility and your monthly cycle - Look how much your body does every month!

Natural fertility and your monthly cycle – Look how much your body does every month!

First off – I just want to stop for a moment and appreciate just how much is happening here. Your body is doing all of this without any particular input from you – it is following it’s own rhythm. To me, that seems like an awesome kind of miracle and a tremendously beautiful part of being human. Strong natural fertility is in our blood, or psyche and our DNA. Your body does this – on it’s own – with no conscious direction.  That is completely mind blowing. To me, this is a natural cycle that must be honored in our daily lives. Your natural fertility and the tides of your body can be made into an almost spiritual awareness of the way life itself moves within you.

Understanding the Phases of Your Menstrual Cycle

Natural Fertility Week 1: Eliminating the not-needed and selecting the best hopes for the future. (Follicular phase)

This first week of your cycle is the section that most women stay connected to, simply because it’s the most obvious. This is the week you bleed, the week you shed the uterine lining that you built up last month because there was no fertilized egg to nourish with those tissues.  In this season, the spring of your four-phase cycle, you are doing two things. One is the literal spring cleaning that you might think of – the sloughing off of the cushy landing spot that your body made for last month’s egg.  Clearly the egg didn’t need it so you are free to release that tissue so that you can start the process over again and build a fresh place for the next egg to land.  Simultaneously you are selecting the healthiest follicle from those which are starting to mature this month – you’re selecting your best egg, so to speak.  This is a literal process of letting go of what is no longer needed and selecting the best starting place for your path forward – this is the death and rebirth phase of your rhythm.  Emotionally too this is a wonderful time for self-reflection.  Using the week of your menses to actually look at your last month, to see what has been serving you in your life and what might be eliminated. Typically this is a more inward time for women with less desire to be out in the world and more time for quiet and inner peace.

Natural Fertility Week 2: The ripening (Follicular phase)

This week of the cycle is the one I hear most women report as their most peaceful, when energy is building and it is easiest to turn out towards the world – culminating with our social peak at ovulation.  Your body is ripening the chosen follicle to become a healthy viable egg.  You can see on the menstrual graph that all of our hormones take a sharp rise right before ovulation, when you are at your peak of fertility as well as your peak sexuality. This is the ripening phase of your cycle when your body is literally preparing to bear fruit – this is your summer. Your physical, sexual and creative energies are all increasing and most women are more likely to focus more on their outward appearance during this time because our hormone drives are pushing us to be more desirable to a mate.

Culmination: Ovulation

Right around Day 14 of your cycle (which often corresponds with the full moon – we’ll get to that in another post) your body’s energy builds, your hormones peak, your sexual drive reaches it’s highest point – according to market research this is the time when women are most likely to dress provocatively, to be more socially active and to buy sexy lingerie. The end result is that your body releases a fertile egg, and gives you the drives to do something about it.  Some women feel the ovulatory release with a sharp pinching or stabbing pain on the ovary that is releasing an egg (called middleschmertz – great word!!), some women have a dull ache over that ovary and some women don’t feel ovulation at all.




Week 3: Letting Down (Luteal Phase)

During this week the frantic energy that happens around ovulation begins to dissipate, and the ruptured follicle where your egg was released turns into the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone. If fertilization occurs, then in this week the fertile egg journeys through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus around day 21. In this week the uterine lining fully matures so that it is at it’s peak for implantation. This is the fall of the cycle, the journey to find a place to settle down. This is a more calm time in your cycle and many women feel a continuing stability from week 2 (with that brief, frantic ovulation instability in the middle).

Natural fertility implantation diagram. Week 3 of the cycle

Natural fertility implantation diagram. Week 3 of the cycle. Thanks to wikimedia commons for the great pictures!

Natural Fertility Week 4: A Look at What Needs to be Let Go (Luteal Phase and Possibly PMS)

This final phase of your cycle is when your body either transitions into viable pregnancy, or switches gears accepting that a pregnancy hasn’t happened and so prepares to shed the uterine lining for another cycle.  The Uterine lining is now fully mature, and if implantation doesn’t occur then we see an over-ripening in preparation for break down. Clearly the winter of your own personal cycle, this is when a lot of women begin to look back at what might not have worked this past month or dealing with any sadness, losses and irritations. It is the time when emotions can run closest to the surface and the premenstrual hormone shifts only amplify what is already there. Just like actual winter, this is a great time to notice the issues that are coming to the surface – contemplate and reexamine in preparation for the next cycle (or the next spring fresh start).

This is perhaps a little bit different way of looking at your menstrual cycle, which we often dismiss as annoying or irritating or inconvenient.  If you are working to normalize your hormone balance or to boost your fertility naturally then it’s time to start maintaining a daily awareness of the vast changes that are going on in your body every day and the staggering number of things your body is doing to help you prepare for the possibility of a baby. By bringing some awareness to this process every day you are making a conscious shift towards valuing this part of you as a woman, to actually honoring your menstrual cycle for the miracle of natural fertility that it is. Today, say thanks for your natural fertility. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman of reproductive years, if you’ve already had your babies, or even if you’re a man and this is the first thought you’ve given to a women’s menstrual cycle – you are still connected intimately to this cycle that occurs in the human world.  Today is the day to give it some thought, to pay a little bit of attention to a truly awe-inspiring human phenomenon.



It is your job to remember the divine mystery! This image from NASA's WISE telescope

Love, From the Divine Mystery

It can be so easy to lose sight of the wonder that we are surrounded by each day, the divine mystery as I call it, when we are also surrounded by piles of paper, bills, to-do lists and frustrating situations. I find myself sometimes overlooking the incredible gifts that have been given to me, and I so often see my clients doing the same thing. In fact, many will give me variations of this sentence: I have a great partner, relatively speaking we’re comfortable and our lives our easy. I don’t know why I feel so sad/lonely/anxious/frightened.

The Divine Mystery. A 300-year-old supernova remnant created by the explosion of a massive star. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/SAO

The Divine Mystery. A 300-year-old supernova remnant created by the explosion of a massive star. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/SAO

Somewhere in our human brains it seems we are hardwired to love misery, or at least to be so habituated to it that we seek it out as a familiar place.  There are so many ways to counteract that tendency, but it requires active participation on your part. You have to notice when you don’t feel good and actually find the things that bring you joy, solace, peace, wonder and gratitude.  One of those things, for me, is the reminder about just how amazing and awe-inspiring the gifts we have been given truly are – how generous the divine mystery really is.  I stumbled across this quote from Rob Brezsny’s book Pronoia: the Antidote for Paranoia. Something about it genuinely resonates with me – helps me to see how much I have truly received in my life – I hope it does the same for you.




Love, from the Divine Mystery (via Rob Breszny)

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN LOVED?

Have you ever been loved? I bet you have been loved so much and so
deeply that you have become nonchalant about the enormity of the grace
it confers.

So let me remind you: To be loved is a privilege and prize equivalent to
being born. If you’re smart, you pause regularly to bask in the astonishing
knowledge that there are many people out there who care for you and
want you to thrive and hold you in their thoughts with fondness.

Animals, too: You have been the recipient of their boundless affection.
The spirits of allies who’ve left this world continue to send their tender
regards, as well.

Do you “believe” in angels and other divine beings? Whether or not you
do, I can assure you that there are hordes of them beaming their uncanny
consecrations your way. You are awash in torrents of love.

As tremendous a gift it is to get love, giving love is an equal boon. Many
scientific studies demonstrate that whenever you bestow blessings on
other people, you bless yourself. Expressing practical compassion not only
strengthens your immune system and bolsters your health, but also
promotes self-esteem, enhances longevity, and stimulates tranquility and
even euphoria.

As the scientists say, we humans are hardwired to benefit from altruism.

What’s your position on making love? Do you regard it as one of the nicer
fringe benefits of being alive? Or are you more inclined to see it as a
central proof of the primal magnanimity of the universe? I’m more aligned
with the latter view.

Imagine yourself in the fluidic blaze of that intimate spectacle right now.
Savor the fantasy of entwining bodies and hearts and minds with an
appealing partner who has the power to enchant you. What better way do
you know of to dwell in sacred space while immersed in your body’s
delight? To commune with the Divine Wow while having fun? To tap into
your own deeper knowing while at the same time gazing into the
mysterious light of a fellow creature?

Are you astounded yet? All of this beauty, from the divine mystery. Served up just for you to enjoy. The Cat's Eye Nebula Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI Are you astounded yet? All of this beauty, from the divine mystery. Served up just for you to enjoy. The Cat’s Eye Nebula Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI

Happiness  (and gratitude – remember how linked those two things are?) is an active process – you can tap back into those feelings on purpose. You have the power, at any moment to choose to dive into the divine mystery; into wonder and out of boredom, fear, anxiety or sadness. The hardest part is remembering that you have a choice. That can be one of the hardest things in the world when you feel like you’re at the bottom of a well, trapped in the darkness all alone.  This is where your own toolbox of helpful things comes in – your joy list, and your techniques that help you to get outside of your head for a little bit. So let’s add a new technique to that list:

ThIngs I Received Without Having to Be Worth It:

I know that sounds a little odd, but stop to think about it for a second. I feel like when we’re overlooking the wonder in our lives we forget how much the universe actually doles out to us without any effort on our part. We feel like nobody cares or it’s all so hard or that we don’t have enough.  It’s time to change that.  Every night before bed, or every time you feel your mood starting to nose-dive, write down at least three things that you have received from the universe today that were truly precious that have nothing to do with you earning them. Three random gifts from the divine mystery.

Can’t think of any? Try these examples: Sunshine on your face – the sun shines on you whether you’ve done anything to earn it or not. It’s like a gift. Smiles from strangers, boundless love from your animals, dogs you meet on the street, birds singing in the trees. Moon light, the yellow happiness of dandelions, edible weeds growing on your lawn, the smell of coffee, the sound of rain, air in your lungs. You have a heart that beats without you having to think about it. Your body goes through the mysterious process of sleep. You can dream and imagine and create. Your brain can perceive or create colors. Your body grew, on it’s own without any direction from you, out of a sperm and egg. If that isn’t evidence of the miraculous I don’t know what is. The divine mystery is generous with you constantly. It’s your job to remember.

It is your job to remember the divine mystery! This image from NASA's WISE telescope

It is your job to remember the divine mystery! This image from NASA’s WISE telescope