This piece is republished with express permission of the author. It originally appeared on mayatiwari.com. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the Hindu American Foundation.
In order to reclaim the feminine power of ahimsa — that ability which nourishes, nurtures and heals — we must learn the primordial nature of a woman, which is centered on the power of shakti. Long before modern science learned how to control a woman's sacred reproductive function and manipulate her intrinsic rhythms, the Vedic seers recognized that a woman's fertility, abundance and splendor are tied to the movement of shakti-prana. This is the primordial breath of creation that moves within the body and psyche of every female through a specific prana that circulates within the two lower chakras, located around the perineum and sacrum. Manifested as the pro-creative energy, shakti-prana flows within the genitals, womb and belly of a woman.
Ancient Vaidyas (Ayurveda physicians) noted that women naturally possess a delicate and fragile balance within the body due to their shakti-prana and its creative powers. When this equanimity is disturbed, they recognized that it would have long-term effects on the maternal strength and prowess of the woman, negatively influencing the maternal bedrock of all aspects of life. The ancients protected what we have neglected to preserve — a woman's creative primordial energy. Indeed, the health of the entire Earth lies in honoring the female energy and its interconnection to nature's rhythms.
According to Ayurveda, a woman's natural rhythms are kept and preserved by her monthly menstrual cycle that occurs with the new moon. At this time, menstruation is set in motion by the sun absorbing energies from the earth, which in turn draws the menstrual waste from the body. When the use of contraceptive pills and other birth control devices do not tamper with a woman's monthly cycle, harmful foods and activities, and disruptive sexual activities, her cycle remains in harmony with the new moon.
Linda, a Wise Earth practitioner, tells the story of Martha, a 55-year-old woman whose breast cancer disappeared after six months of treating her with Uttara Vasti, a classical Ayurveda therapy which cleanses the womb and nurtures shakti-prana. Martha did not want to take the conventional therapy recommended by her physician. So Linda guided her into the Uttara Vasti therapy every month on the new moon. She cooked Wise Earth's healthful food for her during the six months of her therapy and played my Vedic chanting CD for her. And now her cancer is completely gone. She has now continued the practice on her own. The last time they spoke, Martha said that she can now feel the shakti in her belly like a soft glow getting brighter with every practice. She told her she feels like she is walking on air, and that she was stunned by how quickly her cancer disappeared after taking the Uttara Vasti treatment. She called Uttara Vasti a loving therapy that is more than nourishing, it's nurturing.
"I have since helped numerous women whose cycles were impaired and I am continually amazed at how quickly their cycles revert back to the new moon," says Linda. "In most cases, it took only after one application of Uttara Vasti. Many of these women have told me the same thing that Martha said. They felt like they had a glow in their belly."
When we lose our relationship with the lunar wheel we just go around and around "spinning our wheels" in a way that is undirected, unfocused. We start to lose touch with the essential spirit of ahimsa and experience hurt, angst, despair or inexplicable pain. To reclaim our living ahimsa, we must re-establish our connection to the elements, moon, sun and the stars.
Ahimsa Practice: A Woman's Moon
To understand Martha's remarkable recovery, we can examine the wisdom of the ancients. According to Ayurveda, a woman's magic is irretrievably linked to the moon. The ancients called the dark days of the moon "woman's moon," "resting moon," linking a woman's physical, emotional and spiritual state to the lunar wheel. The dark moon provides a cozy climate for a woman's sadhana of rest, reprieve and replenishment. Mother Moon takes to recharging her Shakti during this time. A woman is advised to create a gentle space to conserve her feminine powers and inculcate her creative potential during this time. At its first sighting from below the depths of the horizon, the rising moon was once hailed with joy and celebration. It stood for the Divine Mother's act of resurrection a metaphor for the woman's menstrual cycle. A woman's menses greatly affects her shakti-prana; her monthly cycle is the primary means through which this life force is revitalized, cleansed and restored. In restoring your menstrual cycle with the natural movement of the waxing moon, you will maintain healthy hormonal levels, recall the natural rhythms of your shakti-prana, and revitalize your spirit.
My culture recognizes that a woman's blood preserves her shakti and that this blood carries the Divine Mother's potential for bringing new life and rebirth. This phenomenon may be attributed to the workings of the red bindu, located within the root chakra, as noted earlier. When shakti-prana is strong, the bindu acts as magnetic lodestone, drawing the energy of the moon to revitalize the womb. For this reason, the blood vessels within a woman's vulva carry the magnetic energies of the moon. The woman's womb is moon-shaped; her vagina, moon-crested; her menses, moon-blood; her juices, moon-nectar; her tears, pearl drops of moonlight; her hair is moon-mane; her eyes are the light and dark moons. How strongly is a woman affected by the constantly changing rhythm of the moon? Lady Ise, a tenth-century Japanese poetess, said it best: "When I have sad thoughts, even the moon's face embroidered on my sleeve is wet with tears."
The rhythm of the red bindu also causes a woman to discharge her uterine lining at the appropriate cyclical time during the new moon phase. As a result, her hormone levels are naturally reset. The process we call menses does not consider the far-reaching magic and miracle of a woman's blood. Native cultures of various faith traditions revered a woman's sacred connection to the lunar wheel. German peasants called the menstrual blood, die Mond, the moon. The French called the monthly blood, le moment de la lune the movement of the moon. In China, the menstrual blood is said to be the yin principle, the primordial essence of Mother Earth that gives life to all things. The cycle of the moon is suggested in the commonplace metaphor, "a woman's period." "Period" comes from the Greek term for "going round," the cycle of life.
In the past, a woman marked the passing of the months by her monthly cycle, and the number of children to whom she gave birth roughly marked the annual cycles. Native cultures guided their daily affairs by the appearance of the moon. Individual, family and community marked their calendar by the crescent moon and then, again, by the full moon. The visibly changing shape of the luminary in the night sky may count every moment of life. The moon itself was their sole calendar, and each culture named its nocturnal turn with names that sustained memory of their sacred relation to Mother Earth.
The time of the menstrual cycle is a very sacred and yet vulnerable period for a woman. Women who are menstruating are required to go at a slower pace and to allow the body to cleanse itself; you are also advised to pare down your activities to the bare essentials so that body, mind and spirit may experience the least degree of intrusion.
Ayurveda recommends a minimum of bodily cleansing at this time. Quick, cool showers or wiping down of the body will do. Refrain from sexual activities, as well as from all cooking activities. The latter measure is to prevent the energies from the powerful menstrual blood to pervade the foods. Maintain a light wholesome diet of salads, fresh juices, light grains (basmati rice, millet, couscous, amaranth, pasta, tofu, leafy greens, and fresh fruits. Herbal teas such as raspberry, organic rose flower peppermint, ginger, lemon balm, hops, and chamomile are also revitalizing during this time.
For more on Uttara Vasti and the alignment of a woman's primordial energies with lunar rhythms, refer to Maya Tiwari's book, Women's Power to Heal through Inner Medicine, published 2006 by Mother OM Media, Inc, USA.