Death is inevitable. It comes to us all sooner or later, whether or not we die suddenly with no preparation or after a long illness with plenty of time to tie up loose ends. We have no way of knowing which hand we will be dealt. When our time does come though, we may wish we had prepared a little better. Most of us avoid thinking about death and dying as much as possible. Death is sanitised and shrouded from us in Western society – most people die in hospital, away from close family and friends. Their bodies are then whisked away and we have little chance to say goodbye privately at our own pace. Gone are the days of our beloved dead lying in the parlour for three days and three nights, surrounded by mourners keeping vigil.
Our menstrual bleeding-time is closely connected with the life stage of death on a number of different levels – the physical, emotional and spiritual. At its simplest, the appearance of our blood tells us that our egg is dead and that we are not pregnant. If we had wanted to conceive then this is a time of grief and mourning of the baby that will not get to be this month. It is essential we acknowledge this, feeling either relief or sadness as we greet our blood. Women still experience this, albeit fleetingly even if using contraception.
On an emotional and spiritual level menstrual bleeding gives women to chance to ‘practice’ for their actual death every month. If we choose to consciously engage with this, then death eventually loses the power to frighten us. We can greet it as a welcome friend, rather than as an enemy to be fought at all cost. Our inner wisdom knows this, embodied by our dead ovum which flows away willingly with a wise gush of uterine blood-flow. So what do we need to rehearse so that we are more ready when our time comes to shrug off this mortal coil?
Attachment to the outer world, to being active and busy, to our body, to our relationships and ultimately our self can impede us and block us as we die. When we die, we need to feel free to leave our body and life behind. Even if we have few spiritual beliefs, most of us would agree that no good can possibly come of fighting death when it comes to the very end. Better to leave gracefully, lightly and fearlessly. Next time you bleed, why not meditate on death? Lie still and imagine you are leaving your body. Go with this and see where it takes you. How does it feel?
If this sounds too intense then you could start gently by focussing on what from the previous month needs to die within you. Which challenging occurrences, uncomfortable feelings or conflict would you like to let go of? Feel them slide away with your blood-flow. Compost them all. There is no need to carry them with you.
If you are benefitting from this approach then you could take it a step further by releasing attachment to looking beautiful all the time. Many women feel immense societal pressure to always be looking their best, presenting an impassive and attractive exterior face to the world, despite sometimes feeling very different inwardly.
When I bleed I take a break from wearing make-up or clothes which draw attention to myself. I swap my outer face for an inner one and switch off as to how I appear to others. Soft, loose, comfortable clothes, in dark colours blacks, greys and browns camouflage me and make me invisible as I flow and follow my inner spiral. To keep this inward focus, I cover up the mirrors in my house with scarves. This reduces the urge to worry about how I look or appear to others which in turn, helps me to plummet the spiritual depths of my blood cave. I often take this further by not wearing a bra at home, enjoying the comfort of not being constricted and feeling my breasts move unimpeded. I relish in their sagging. I so love feeling honest and vulnerable in my skin, with the knowledge of certain ageing and the freedom this gives me to truly be myself in that moment. Getting to know my crone, my inner hag and giving her the freedom to emerge is turning out to be rich and fruitful relationship. As for my relationship with death – well I’m working on that.