In 2018, during my first round of Wild Power, I was deeply impacted by the teachings. The material felt both new and ancient as it landed and settled into my body. I felt immense relief with the permission to rest, however it took quite a bit of time to embody this concept. While listening to Alexandra and Sjanie on the inner winter call I was filled with a deep desire to experience the archetypal experiences that can occur during your bleed. I wrote a post to the other participants in Wild Power and said: “In meditation instruction it is often advised to avoid striving for what you desire and to rather be accepting of where you are in the moment. I am not succeeding with that in my inner winter. I am really striving for “the liquid balm” “oxytocin wash” the “opening of the secret trap door” and having “magical resources flow through” in the way Sjanie and Alexandra describe their experiences".
Over time, and with guidance and support from Red School, I learned I had to set this expectation down and slowly work on my own version of rest and surrender. The winter of 2018 marked my first attempts to surrender into inner winter. It was also earth season winter and too cold to be outside so I first tried resting in the spare room upstairs. I forced myself to lay down on the bed and "do nothing". However, although my body was doing nothing, my mind was racing. I felt deeply uncomfortable and unsettled with a strong urge to reach for my phone, watch TV, anything to distract and disengage from my body. After a couple hours I felt only tension and frustration and said out loud "This is BULLSHIT!" Our via-positiva loving society is so go, go, go and recognizes and celebrates achievement and doing. It can be difficult to sluff this conditioning and can feel foreign and disorientating to slow and stop. It is also easy to get caught up in feeling the societal shame of not being productive or feeling selfish for prioritizing yourself (this is the critic and needs to be told where to go!).
Despite this rocky start I persisted and focused on inner winter for two years. I was coming from a place of burnout and illness and recognized this was what my body needed, it just didn't know how to do it. I needed that engine room tank fill up of energy/chi first, and then the love could follow after that.
Once it became earth spring outside, I found it much easier to surrender if I pitched a tent and just lay outside watching the tree leaves sway, listening to the wind in the leaves and the birds singing around me. My healing balm is mother earth so this made a lot of sense. If you wanted to understand your own personal recipe for rest and surrender, I would suggest thinking about where you feel most at home and safe. I would start there. Safety in location and safety in the body was such an important component for me personally. Saying out loud “I am safe right now” with your hand on your chest (or womb) can create a relaxation response in itself. When I was inside my house, I cocooned myself and made the space feel cozy and more womb-like with soft blankets, soft lighting (salt lamps are amazing), candles, soft music, pillows, tea, warm, nourishing foods and snacks, and eventually, a red tent of my own that my husband sewed for me. I love my red tent as it takes away the visual of my room, and I am in my own little cocoon and really able to focus on being present and resting. It also is a ritual to put it up and take it down and marks this time with a physical action/gesture that is observable throughout my inner winter.
At this point in my life, I had the luxury of long stretches of uninterrupted time that I could use during my bleed. This is no longer the case as a new mom but my husband and I do give each other one day off from parenting each month and I use this on d2 of my cycle. When I had more uninterrupted time, I came to realize is that long stretches can sometimes be a trap and there is something to be said for quality vs quantity. Especially in the beginning a short, deep rest can be the most nourishing than resting all day in anxiety or tension. I personally needed to build up the muscle before I could do a long stretch of rest. If you are easing into surrender, a nice first day might be to potter around for some time, go for a gentle nature walk, sit by a stream or a tree, and then set an intention to rest for a specified block of time (an hour or 2-3 hours...whatever feels "right") and see how you feel after that. After that time is up, ask your inner knowing if you need more nourishment or was that the right amount in the moment? What else is your body telling you it wants? Inner winter is about trusting what you need in the moment and meeting yourself right there.
It can also potentially be more restful for the brain to do one thing intentionally than do nothing at all with a busy mind. Gardening, cooking slowly with love, walking slowly, sitting outside and watching the leaves sway, knitting, painting, or a puzzle etc. Even just holding a cup of warm tea and watching the steam spiral up from it.
There might be discomfort in "doing nothing" and one saying that Red School mentor Penny Fuller taught me is, "the only way out is through". Sitting in discomfort with compassion can often allow it to slowly yield. I found as I began resting more and more during my inner winters, I started to feel small shifts towards surrender and release. And the next bleed I had the muscle memory to get to that spot more quickly and then was able to go a bit deeper. You may be able to do this much faster than I, but if in the chance it takes some time like it did for myself- if you feel a small sink into surrender, celebrate that!! It is a huge win and such a gift to yourself. It is a positive feedback loop and will lead to more. I had suppressed my feminine side out of self protection, and it took time to trust that it was safe to let go and open up. I also have been told throughout my life (like many I suspect) that I was "too sensitive". This can lead to shame and suppression of deep feelings that tend to bubble up in inner winter, especially when we are still and receptive. This is such a powerful experience but when new it can feel overwhelming at first and bring up some discomfort and resistance.
I did not feel that oxytocin rush or bliss until this year. And it hit me by complete surprise! I let go of all expectations of what my bleed should be and comparisons to what was in Wild Power or others experiences. The striving kept me in my head, and to surrender I need to be in my body. And while I am in my body, I feel deep insights, absolute connection to myself and also to a vast universe of holding and knowing, I get visions and insights and self love, and rest and fill up that tank. But it was a slow, steady build up to get here and I don't feel everything each month and that is okay. I still experience pain and pressure during my bleed but find it is reduced if I allow myself to stop, surrender and be still.
Once surrendering feels a bit more natural, I would highly recommend going on a big bleed. A big bleed can really amplify an inner winter experience and allow you to sink even deeper into yourself. I would recommend two nights if you have the time and can organize, but any amount of time is a true gift to yourself.
If winter is your shadow season and you are struggling to see the gifts of this time, I understand. Personally, I have found that the ability to meet yourself with no masks and be able to truly surrender into yourself is an immense gift. To surrender into your inner knowing, into trust, into love, into that wise wisdom deep inside. This carries you through the cycle, it grounds and anchors you and provides support to stand tall in your inner summers.
For further insights, booking a Menstrual Medicine Circle (MMC) might also be helpful. I have experienced a few and have found them to be insightful and empowering. They provide a window into your deep wisdom and help unlock or shine a light on a part of yourself that was always there and allow you bring it back into your day-to-day life.
Day 1 and Day 2 of my cycle are now my favourite place in the cycle and time I look forward to and cherish them each month. I have become skilled at the art of doing nothing, resting in stillness, listening deep within, and enjoying my own company. Even if this is not your favourite time, I do wish that it brings a gentle settling into yourself with compassion and a cavernous well of self love, if not now, in time.
Megan is a graduate of the Menstruality Leadership Program. Feel free to email her any stories, questions or celebrations at firstname.lastname@example.org.