Dictionary definitions of ecstasy depict it with broad, loose brush-strokes. Ecstasy is described as a feeling of great happiness, accessed through being in a trance or as a result of heightened emotional or spiritual experience. Ecstasy may last seconds, minutes or occasionally hours, but anecdotally never any longer. It is a seemingly elusive phenomenon.
We are groomed by society to see ecstasy as mainly achievable through sex or drugs, which narrows our understanding and expectation of it down to these two arenas. It is more difficult to find tales of ecstasy reached through different paths.
I believe ecstasy is an attunement between our physical, emotional and spiritual state, leading to feelings of bliss sometimes coupled with marvel at the interconnectedness of life. It seems that repeated physical motion can propel us towards ecstasy when we are emotionally and spiritually ripe for it. There are many reports of ecstasy reached through drumming, dancing and chanting.
I think that we also have the potential to experience feelings of ecstasy during both menstruation and birth, but that our conditioning primes us for the complete opposite – fear, distaste and shame. Before our menarche, we are often sub-consciously led to expect womb-bleeding to be embarrassing and painful. Experiencing many cycles of this over time, feeds into our expectations of birth and early mothering. Many dread the birth, worrying about pain, loss of control and dignity.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! We can actually slip into a trance-like state during our bleeding times, particularly just before and at the beginning of our blood-flow. We naturally disconnect from the external world and are able to go deep within ourselves, emotionally and physically, if we have enough time and space to do this. The problem is that the world around us is not geared up to facilitate this type of ecstatic menstrual experience.
Some walk between the worlds during their womb-blood flow, in a shadowy psychic realm, able to access the collective unconscious and beyond. The gushing and oozing of our womb-blood, in time with the pulsing of the womb, provides an erratic rhythm as a backing track for our pyscho-spiritual selves to emerge and be ecstatic. We can see visions and experience feelings of great joy. We can touch base with ourselves on a deeply spiritual level. We can recognise ourselves as beings who hold the conundrum of life within our bodies; simultaneously releasing old blood and an unfertilised egg, whilst re-setting the clock with its potential for new life.
If we are used to experiencing ecstasy whilst we bleed, then it follows that will expect similar feelings of bliss and spiritual elation whilst giving birth. Once again, we must have sufficient privacy, time and space to allow this to manifest.
When we are in natural labour, feeling safe and uninterrupted, oxytocin builds up and up, alongside endorphins, until we reach an ultimate ecstatic peak as we push our babies out into the world. It is a well-known fact that many women go into a trance-like state during surges, which serve to open up our cervixes. Labour echoes the repetitive action of beating a drum, chanting the same tune or dancing, creating pauses interspersed with action. Our womb pulsates, keeping time with our dilating cervix, intermittently at first, becoming more rhythmic and intense as we enter active labour.
Then at last, the crowning and birthing of our baby, whom we have carried within our womb for nine months or so. What a moment, finally laying our eyes upon a precious little face and form we have barely been able to imagine before now. Many, many mothers describe meeting their baby for the first time as the most memorable moment of their entire lives.
How utterly surprising then, that there is so little written or expressed about the ecstasy of giving birth, as it offers many of us the perfect conditions for utter bliss. I urge you dear reader, to challenge this misrepresentation! Encourage, enable and cajole your partners, daughters, mothers, sisters and friends to share their yarns of ecstatic menstruation and birth. If this is your experience then let others know it is possible.
Then let us thread these together like celebratory bunting; each piece a work of art on its own and a definite triumph as a tapestry of experiences. May each flag sing in beautiful harmony with its neighbour and the ensuing symphony be carried on the wind to the four corners of the earth.
Painting by Alex Grey