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All information contained within this publication is intended for educational purposes only. This book is not intended to be used, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical condition. In the spirit of sisterhood, please refer, use and promote this information at your own discretion and assume full risk and responsibility as you choose to do so.

>>> Radical Fertility: An Alternative Guide to Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Empowerment Copyright © 2014 by Audrey Post SPECIAL THANKS to the creators of the various works of art collected for this publication through the collective commons of the world-wide-web. PLEASE reproduce, share and distribute this information freely. Share with your sisters, brothers, lovers and friends, mother and father, daughters and sons… Knowledge is power. For more information or radicalfertility@gmail.com

to

continue

this

conversation

please

write:


T A B L E of C O N T E N T S /// >>> <> <<< /// About the Author Yonis Unite! Getting Radical About Our Bodies & Our Power

06

The Wise Woman Within You Coming Home to the Body: Inner Guidance & Intuition The Wisdom of Our Emotions The Embodiment of Our Thoughts & Beliefs The Power of Our Desires The Anatomy of Women’s Wisdom

10 12 15 17 20

Radical Fertility Recent History of Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control Conscious Contraception The Fertility Cycle Herbs for Women’s Reproductive Health List of Herbs for Women Regulating the Fertility Cycle Feminini-Teas Contraceptive Herbs Author’s Note Emmenogouges & Abortifacients

26 26 29 32 35 36 38 38 41 41

Women’s Sexual Anatomy A Brief History of Sexual Suppression: A Feminist’s Perspective Women’s Anatomy of Arousal

44 50

Reclaiming the Erotic Erotic Spirituality and the Creative Life Force

60

List of Resources

66 /// >>> <> <<< ///


☥ The mystery is calling…

May this sharing shed a sliver of light on the profound gifts of womanhood for humanity and all of life on Earth at this critical time of cultural transformation. May it help us to remember the ways of the intuitive, embodied wisdom of the Divine Feminine. May it inspire the emergence of the Goddess within…


A B O U T the

A U T H O R >>> Radical Fertility unfolded as my undergraduate senior project and has since expanded into my life’s work. I was inspired to create a synthesis of myriad topics regarding women’s health of which I have explored throughout my academic studies and personal life’s journey. Truly, this work is not mine; it is the weaving together of the many voices of women throughout the last decades who have been pioneers of this work. Yet, I wanted the project to draw together the

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾ Audrey Post is passionate about helping women re-memeber their body wisdom through a deeper understanding of their female anatomy and physiology and how the two relate to our fertility, sexuality, creativity, spirituality and personal power. She currently teaches women-specific yoga classes and is a student of Thai Medicine

threads; to make this women’s wisdomsong resonate in a new way for women today who are looking to claim a different relationship with their bodies and, in turn, their lives. I wrote this for me because I am this woman and my hope is that you, too, are this woman -- ready to claim her intuitive, creative, erotic nature through deeper body awareness. My hope is that this work will inspire you, provoke you, intrigue you, surprise you, and motivate you to reimagine the provocative power of your

in Prescott, AZ. She is tenderly

female anatomy and sexuality. Take what

developing herself as a writer and

serves you and leave the rest… Then

artist.

share with a sister. ❀


YONIS UNITE! >>> Getting Radical About Our Bodies & Our Power

“No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother” •

When

Margret

Sanger

speaks

Margret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood

of

“freedom,” we must consider, not just the freedom of our physical bodies, but that of our spiritual lives and wellbeing as well. A woman who is free from the worry of an unintended pregnancy is also free to more fully embrace the spiritual elements of the sexual experience -- to sink into the healing potential of the erotic, and to connect

with

higher

states

of

consciousness (rather than remaining trapped, in part, by a primal fear of unintended pregnancy). If the idea that sex can be an opportunity to connect with the Divine seems unconventional or shocking to you, then it’s time to get radical about your fertility! It’s time to get radical about what your fertility really means for you on a

holistic

level:

both

physically

and

spiritually. How do you relate to your cycle and to your female anatomy? As woman, there is an awesome power in an awareness of our spiritual fertility, which is housed within our reproductive organs, centered in the womb-space and representative of our creative life power. This power can lead us into a deeper sense of body awareness and in so doing, empower our sexuality on a whole other level when we know we can consciously, naturally and safely choose whether or not to create a human life. Yet

the

freedom

of

our

contraceptive choices is being threatened. While the 2012 presidential election brought women’s reproductive rights and questions of gender equality to the forefront of American politics, the truth is

7


that these are long standing issues with

It has been argued that the

deep roots in our inherited cultural

Republican Party’s 2012 political agenda

history. For centuries, sexuality has been

and initiatives reflected a “war on

discouraged,

times,

women.” The political climate of the 2012

actively banned -- not just for women, but

presidential election threatened to turn

for all marginalized groups: gays, lesbians,

this elusive “war on women” into a very

transsexuals, immigrants, and people of

real and binding legal war over women’s

color.

access to reproductive health care. We

shamed,

and

at

Conservative social and political

should not dismiss this direct attack on

groups continue to restrict women’s

women’s sexual freedom simply because

reproductive rights. In 2011, the House

the Presidential election ended with the

voted to eliminate Title X funding for the

more

first time ever since its initiation in 1970.

President Obama, elected to office.

This bipartisan initiation was enacted

liberal, What

democratic the

2012

candidate, presidential

under President Nixon and offers federal

election reflected is only representative of

grants to provide comprehensive health

a centuries-long effort to subjugate and

care for women under the belief that no

suppress women’s power and equality. But

woman should be denied access to family

thanks to the 2012 political debates, the

planning.

veil concealing the true nature of this

While this recent measure itself

effort has finally been lifted. We can see

has not passed into law, during the same

this war for what it really is: a war to

201l year, 92 laws were passed in 24

suppress and control women’s sexuality,

states restricting women’s access to

which is ultimately the deep seat of our

family planning. In 2012, in all 50 states,

power.

430 bills in total have been proposed that limit

women’s

access

to

This connection between our

abortion

sexuality as women and our personal

methods, to contraceptives, and also to

empowerment is really at the heart of this

the general preventative health care

work… It is my hope that the information

services provided by Planned Parenthood.

contained within will reveal how our

In some states the goal remains to shut

sexual empowerment in particular is so

the non-profit organization down entirely.

essential to the Women’s Empowerment

8


movement that is taking root and rising up. Audre Lorde first drew this connection in 1978 in her influential speech, “Uses of the Erotic: Erotic as Power,” “The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or

Radical Fertility is, therefore,

unrecognized feeling.”

equally about reclaiming access to the wellspring of power that is seated in our

The

patriarchal

structures

of

sexual-erotic knowing as woman as it is

oppression and their enactors (which are

about remembering the Wise Woman

each and every one of us, by the way) fear

within -- the grandmother-healer inside

this erotic, Divine Feminine energy more

each of us who knows, through a felt

than anything. And as well we should…

body awareness, inner guidance and

because that which is repressed grows

intuition, how to live within the healthy

stronger and more awesome by nature of

abundance of her truest desires. This is

its repression.

what it means to embody the feminine in

Lorde goes on to say:

the deepest, most sacred sense. It’s time to journey into conscious

“As women, we have come to distrust

femininity -- to stop the misguided

that power which rises from our deepest

mimicking of the wounded masculine’s

and nonrational knowledge…But the

expression of power through possession

erotic offers a well of replenishing and

and authority and to remember and reflect

provocative forces to the woman who

the collaborative, intuitive leadership of

does not fear its revelation.”

the Divine Feminine. It’s time to get radical about our bodies, about our power,

and

about

our

fertility!

9


THE WISE WOMAN WITHIN YOU >>> Coming Home to the Body: Inner Guidance and Intuition

For

too long we have delegated the

power we have as women to know and understand our reproductive anatomy and physiology to the professionals and the pills that they wield. While it is ultimately up

to

us

to

claim

this

powerful

knowledge, we can’t deny the role society has played in normalizing a lack of awareness around our bodies. This is in part because the pharmaceutical companies would have us believe that our body is foreign territory that needs to be controlled, realigned, doctored, and fixed by modern medical science.

Additionally,

the

systemic

oppression of women’s healthy sexuality is obvious in this country (let alone the world). But we can’t entirely blame the Republican

Party,

pharmaceutical

companies, or public schools and their shoddy

sex

disempowerment.

education

for

our

We have to take responsibility for the fact that we have also participated in allowing our bodies to become foreign and unfamiliar. Nonetheless, as a result of this disempowerment, we are no longer aware of the unique needs of our bodies and struggle to understand the various signs of health or dis-ease that our bodies reveal to us every day. We are mistrustful of the herbs and plant medicines that human civilizations have used for thousands of years and from which many of our modern

pharmaceuticals

have

been

chemically derived. Not only do we mistrust the effectiveness of these ancient remedies, which were held sacred and powerful at one time in our ancestry, but we have also come to distrust and disregard the power of our intuition and its ability to lead us in, not just our health, but our lives. We yield

11


instead to the logical, rational intellect (to

imperfect and shameful), can we realize

the scientific studies and to the Doctor’s

this to be true. Only when we stop

prescriptions), which is just one mode of

looking outside of ourselves for authority

understanding that we possess.

and for approval will we come to

As a result, with respect to our

experience our body as home and with

personal health, our hands have been tied

this, a sense of comfort, trust, acceptance

behind our own backs and we’ve been led

and familiarity for our Selves and for our

to believe it is for our own good -- that

embodied experience.

the functioning and treatment of our body

Only when we truly inhabit our

requires a doctoral degree to even begin to

bodies -- only when we understand the

comprehend. Not only that, thanks to this

nature of each thought, emotion,

disempowering perspective of personal

sensation arising… only when we give

health care, many women feel that our

weight to our gut reactions, our

bodies and our sexual and reproductive

nonverbal expressions, our dreams and

health and freedoms hinge on the political

visions, and our chronic aliments as

climate.

reflections of wisdom, only then can we begin the healing journey that leads us to a radical sense of our femininity

and

our

physical

and

spiritual fertility. While the 2012 political climate so deeply

threatened

our

sexual

and

reproductive rights and freedoms, it only reflects the fact that we need to get radical about our fertility. It reveals how we have become far too complacent about our Ladies, this cultural brainwash is

bodies and, in the process, we have taken

bullshit! Your body is the site of your life’s

for granted the benefits, services, and

expression. No one knows yourself better

resources available to us to control our

than you do. But only when we learn to

contraception without having to be aware

trust our body, rather than to see our

of what our fertility actually means -- about

Selves as foreign and unfamiliar (or

12


what is actually happening within our bodies and about the power represented there. Without

Fertility

is

about

radicalizing

our

we have

understanding of fertility (duh!) that is

traded up a very deep part of our

honestly an understatement. While you

power

will find contained within these pages

for

realizing,

So, while on the surface Radical

the

“convenience”

of

modern contraceptive methods.

useful and concise information about

But these modern contraceptive

anatomy, fertility awareness method of

methods (the Pill, the Patch, IUDs, etc.)

birth

are anything but convenient. They divorce

support for healthy, regular cycles, as well

us from our bodies by overriding our

as valuable additional resources, Radical

hormones with synthetic stand-ins -- in

Fertility is really about going to the

effect, shutting down our ovaries and with

root of our relationship to our bodies,

them, the creative energy these life-

our sexuality and our power, and what

producing organs house inside of us.

that means for our passions, our

This, in turn, mitigates the unique signs and signals of each fertility cycle,

control,

and

herbal

hormonal

relationships and for personal and planetary healing.

which reflect deep wisdom about our

I stand with a growing group of

whole-body health -- particularly when

woman who believe that the feminine way

our menstruation it is chronically painful

of knowing, the way of the Goddess, the

and

ways of herstory, is essential to healing the

overwhelming

or

irregular

and

unpredictable. Modern contraceptive methods

world -- but this way of knowing has been diminished,

distorted,

and

under-

make our fertility reliant on external

represented. So, slowly, gently, we must

sources rather than on our innate ability to

bring the feminine voice back to the many

be consciously aware of our fertility cycle

discussions that have been dominated by

and the creative potential it represents. I,

male-thinking and history. The first and

personally, don’t believe this is truly in

most essential place I can think to start is

service of our wellbeing as women, even if

with the female body.

it may grant us a sense of safety from our fear of untended pregnancy, alleviate our PMS or appear to be convenient and

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

simple.

13


>>> The Wisdom of

But our emotions do not need to be an overwhelming force that destroys

Our Emotions

our lives. They don’t make us “crazy” or

Our emotions contain important information about how we are directing our life energy. We can burn up a lot of our creative energy with anger or drown our motivation in sorrow. Yet we live in a culture that downplays and disregards the

“irrational”… they offer us profound wisdom if we can give them healthy expression, such as through dance, writing and poetry, music, or other artistic expressions, as well as with conscious communication styles such as Nonviolent Communication.

emotional wisdom contained within anger and sadness, for example, as being irrational, messy, and even shameful. As women, these are powerful emotions for us. Yet, how many times have we heard or even ourselves made some

derogatory

comment

about

“PMSing”?

done

in

a

healthy,

conscious way, emotional processing is a way of giving birth to ourselves anew through

emotional

catharsis.

Our

emotions only become destructive when we stuff them away, deny their existence, or let them slip out unconsciously. When we can claim our emotions

As a result of demonizing our vast and deep emotional spectrum, we are conditioned, out of fear of judgment, to hold in and clamp down on our honest emotional

When

expressions

rather

than

releasing them and sincerely owning our emotional reactions. It takes a lot of energy to hold in our natural emotional processing and this exhausts us, depleting our body’s vitality and resiliency due to chronic levels of stress and anxiety. And when we do release, we often release is explosive, unhealthy or inappropriate ways.

as our own reactions and see the wisdom they reflect for us personally, we reclaim access to a tremendous source of personal power in that we reclaim ownership over how our life is unfolding and our participation in it. In Eastern medicine, emotions are viewed simply as energy. Therefore, whatever emotions we feel reflect the expression of our life in an energetic sense

and,

consequently,

contain

powerful messages about where and how we are directing our energy within our daily lives.

14


When we feel angry or sad or

and express it honestly, my relationships

desirous, these emotions are related to

improve and I feel better about myself,

something that we need to acknowledge

having expressed that emotional energy

for or about ourselves and to take

rather than trying to contain it or make it

conscious

into something it is not. It moves me

ownership

over

their

expression.

deeper into self-awareness and authentic

Eleanor Roosevelt once said,

connection with others and myself. OSHO

“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

(one

of

the

most

provocative mystics of our time) writes about the power of a truly authentic being -- one who lives according to the uniqueness of the present situation rather than

by

way

of

habit

or

social

conditioning; one who acknowledges and accepts the situation and experience for

This is true for all our emotions --

what it is rather than for what one might

we are responsible for our feelings and we

wish it to be or think that it “should” be.

must learn that owning our emotions are a

He says,

direct link to our inner guidance, as they reveal to us what it is we really want for

“This is my observation: true

ourselves.

anger is beautiful and a false

To acknowledge and accept our emotions is to put us back in the body -to put trust in our body, our senses, our

smile is ugly … Truth is beautiful in whatsoever form.”

energy, our felt experience. When we do not deny or project onto others our

No

doubt this

is

a

radical

experience, we have the power to

perspective for many, especially for

transform it.

women, for we have been acculturated to

This is an important part in

distance and deny the body and to believe

reclaiming our feminine power and living

that the mind and its morality reins

authentically. It is my experience that

supreme. Women have been taught to

when I take responsibility for what I feel

concede, to yield, to self-sacrifice, and to

15


acquiesce our needs for those around us.

Reclaiming the experience of our

We are taught to believe that this is what

emotions as our own (as simply as saying,

is means to be a “good woman” and we

“I feel angry” when we feel angry) proves

behave in accordance in ways we often

a vital step in reconnecting with the Wise

don’t realize.

Woman within and to the inner guidance

In the process of giving up our

of our body experience. When we except

emotional authenticity, we have been

the emotion and follow it through to its

turned into hypocrites -- speaking about

expression,

our anger while we smile, poetizing about

transforms rather quickly, opening space

love while we hate, and pretending

for creative action.

we

will

often

find

it

compassion while we growl murder deep in

our

bellies.

Meanwhile,

the

unprocessed emotions within deplete our body-health and psyche. Sooner or later we find ourselves with breast cancer, overwhelming symptoms of PMS, ovarian cysts,

depression

or

broken

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾ >>>The Embodiment of Our Thoughts & Beliefs

relationships… The power of the feminine, which comes from our authentic expression of the body experience, has been diminished and, as a result, the archetypal roles of Sister, Daughter, Mother, and Lover have been degraded. We are failing in these roles as a culture because we have not

“Though each of us is bombarded by

valued the true feminine qualities of love,

millions of stimuli daily, our central

acceptance,

compassion,

collaborative

action and grace. Yet, we can only access

nervous system and sense organs function

these traits when we are able to honor the

in such a way as to choose and process only

entire spectrum of our emotions and

those stimuli that reinforce what we

consciously take responsibility for their

already believe about ourselves.”

expression.

o Christiane Northrop, M.D. 16


Our

thoughts, along with our

emotions, carry energetic charges that influence biochemical reactions in our body. These reactions consist of chemical messengers, called nueropeptides, passing between nerve cells to receptor molecules, which are found, not only in the brain and nerve

tissues

(as

science

originally

contended), but throughout the body systems and major organs. The presence of these receptor sites throughout the body reveals that our entire body can “think” and “feel” and, therefore, our thoughts directly affect our physical bodies. In this sense, “mind” and “body” cannot be separated, as it is that every thought we think has a biochemical equivalent that is quite literally embodied. Our thoughts inform our beliefs and so we can see how belief becomes biology when we give a thought enough

Indeed, of all that we experience on a daily bases, “our sense organs function in such a way as to choose and process only those stimuli that reinforce what we already believe about ourselves.” As a result, our personal beliefs create “bio-mechanical holding patterns” within the body. These holding patterns become our lived experience within the body -- a hurt knee or ankle, a tilted pelvis, a chronic cough, endometriosis... These holding patterns are often seen as disease, but they are in fact the body’s incredibly genius way of utilizing and preserving our life-force energy based upon how our consciousness dictates. What this means for us is that we are literally creating every part of our reality, from the cellular level of our biology to the intrapersonal relationship we maintain, and we do so based on the thoughts we think and the beliefs we maintain to be true.

energy. If we are unhappy with how we inhabit our bodies -- that is, with the various levels of dis-ease we may be experiencing -- then it follows that we must address the underlying thoughts and beliefs that we have habitual chosen to reinforce upon our biology.

“I’m ugly.” “I’ll never have a job I love.” “I’m clumsy and I screw up everything.” How often do you have these kinds of thoughts each day as oppose to: “I am beautiful.” “I am successful doing what I love.” “I move through life with grace and ease.” For most of us, our every day experience is a struggle with self-limiting

17


thoughts and beliefs about ourselves

see their manifestation in our lives. In

coupled with chronic aliments within the

turn, this awareness grants us the

body that only seem to reinforce the

opportunity

difficulty of life.

accepting of that which we truly desire for

to

become

aware

and

Yet, if we recognize the power of

our lives… and it forces us to see all the

our thoughts -- the power of our directed

ways we tell ourselves we are not worthy

consciousness -- then we can choose not

of that bliss. Hence, it gives us the power,

to carry out or give energy to self-limiting

and with that the sense of self-worth, to

mindsets.

put our energy toward creating health and

In this sense, it is not that the

wellbeing in all areas of our life.

negative thought itself creates our reality, it is, rather, our perception of the thought being undeniably true that re-enforces a

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

personal pattern in how we live our lives. Turning

our

attention

to

empowering thoughts in order that we manifest a different reality becomes a life-long, spiritual practice to reach our fullest potential. Lousie Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, is an expert on the power

of

affirmative

thinking

and

manifestation. Her book will guide you step-by-step back to self-love. I highly recommend it, as it has been a major part of my personal healing…

>>>The

Power

of

Our Desires

Louise shows how the use of

Desire is the deepest, most primal

affirmations can help us to consciously

part of our nature. It is the upwelling of

direct the power of our thought energy

eros; the out-pouring of the live-force that

and, in so doing, we suddenly recognize all

compels and inspires us to enact our

the ways that we limit our Selves with our

creativity in the world. But to consider the

negative beliefs. Suddenly, we can clearly

erotic nature of our desires only in a

18


sexual sense would be a disservice to that

the energy of our desires for the highest

incredible imaginative and creative power

good, for the greatest benefit to all, with

that our desires inspire within us.

harm to none. This requires that we learn

Feminist poet Audre Lodre says,

to recognize and understand our true desires. Part of this process lies in claiming

â&#x20AC;&#x153;When I speak of the erotic, I

our emotional reactions and responses

speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge

and, also, in recognizing the power of our thought energy and how it shapes our beliefs. Remember that our beliefs shape

and use of which we are now

our perception of reality in such a way

reclaiming in our language, our

that we literally create what it is we believe

history, our dancing, our loving,

to be true for ourselves. In

our work, our lives.â&#x20AC;?

order

that

we

come

to

understand our true desires, we need to In others words, desire is our will to live enacted in the world. Questions of morality concerning our understanding of desire easily arise given that desire is such an amazingly powerful energetic force. It can, when used unconsciously or inappropriately (as a force for greed, hatred, violence, etc.) cause harm to others and our Selves. History revels how our desires have been contorted and exploited and we can see the destruction that results, in both our personal lives and in the world. But desire can also be used equally as

powerfully

when

directed

in

a

conscious, loving way -- when we harness

first become conscious of what it is that we believe about ourselves and how we are embodying these beliefs. Personally, I choose to believe that we ultimately desire connection with ourselves and with others and that we are, by nature of this desire, compelled toward empathy rather than hatred -- for empathy connects and unites us while hatred divides and separates us. In this sense, my truest desire is to love and accept others and myself unconditionally. Of course, then, the struggle becomes how? How do we know that we are living from a place of true desire? What does that look like?

19


First let me say that my experience

the freedom of personal truth seeking. To

is that this knowledge is not rational.

know our Self, we must make the

Desire is a deep body experience that exists

heroine’s journey away from the comfort

on a primal, non-rational level.

of the social tribe and venture alone into

The mind attempts to make sense

the vast wilderness of the soul.

of this deep, erotic feeling -- this strong

This is a brave and daring task.

impulse to live, to create, to celebrate -- in

Society’s role is to viciously challenge our

order to consciously enact the will of our

self-exploration, for in this way it tests the

creative life force. This is how life evolves

strength of our soul and our chosen

--

identity. Yet, as you discover the hidden

through

its

insatiable

need

to

proliferate.

chains that bind you and passionately

But our tendency is to distrust

shake free in a dance that will deviate you

the body experience and to contort our

from the norm, those around you will

desires to conform to the prevailing

likely misjudge your intentions. So be it.

social

Maintain faith in your goodness.

morality

or

social

norms

appropriated by the mind rather than follow the creative impulse to its mysterious manifestation. If we want to live empowered, out of a place of true desire and as our most authentic Self, unencumbered by the oppressive will of others, we need to remember what it is to trust the knowing body and what it feels like to let this wisdom inform our engagement with the world. In this sense, in order to know that we are acting from our true desires, we need to reconcile this notion that there are “good” and “bad” desires. We must set aside well intentioned but restrictive

Regardless of other’s judgments,

moral codes of conduct if we wish to

my truth-o-meter is simple: Am I acting

know our true Self, which is found only in

out of love or un-love? This takes me

20


straight to the spiritual core of my desire,

loom of our greatest grandmothers and

every time.

catch at the frayed threads of feminine

While our desires will always arise

wisdom of which we have inherited and to

unbidden, we do have control and power

weave them together again in a colorful

over what we choose to do with these

clothe.

desires. Coming to sense how to act on the “highest truth” of our desire requires a certain level personal authenticity and spiritual responsibility. This arises when we can continuously commit our actions to “harm to none” (ourselves included!). We can then allow ourselves a certain spontaneity in the dance of life rather than acting out of habit or social conditioning. To

do

so,

however,

fundamentally

requires that we allow ourselves to trust our own goodness and the goodness in

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

others. When

it

comes

to

our

empowerment (sexual or otherwise) as women, we need to remember how to

>>> Anatomy of Women’s Wisdom

recognize the authenticity in the erotic nature of our feminine body and its free expression. It is time that we each unearth this authenticity even though it is a great challenge as women in today’s society to embrace our inner guidance and our fully erotic nature as being a source of wisdom rather than shame or guilt. Nonetheless, this is a necessary part of our cultural healing. For this is the

While it may not be universally accepted in this culture, modern science proves that our physical bodies and the biochemical reactions that take place within them are primarily influenced by the energy of our thoughts and emotions. Therefore, the health of our physical bodies, including our female reproductive

task set before women today: to sit at the

21


organs, reflects metaphysical implications

substances, etc.) -- in other words, if we

about our overall wellbeing.

“sell” ourselves for false securities -- then

Caroline Anatomy

of

Myss,

in

her

book

Spirit, offers valuable

insights into the energy of the 2nd Chakra, which houses the reproductive organs:

we risk undermining the potential use of this creative 2nd chakra energy. In order to harness the gifts of this energy center we must claim our power of choice. This means honoring our

“This chakra resonates to our need for

personal preferences, our desires. This

relationships with other people and our

requires that we believe ourselves to be

need to control to some extent the

worthy of our desires. We have to believe

dynamics of our physical environment…

we are worthy of putting our energy

The illnesses that originate in this

toward creating what we most want for

energy center are activated by the fear of

ourselves for it is only this sense of self-

losing control.”

worthiness that will permit us to invest our energy in relationships and endeavors that support rather than hinder the development of our desires. If we do not overcome our selflimiting fears in order to manifest our truest desires and bliss then we block our own creative power, making ourselves spiritually weak and entrenching us in life endeavors that do not necessarily serve our highest good, let alone that of the world. While we may receive some sense of security form doing this, we ultimately risk ending up as pawns under the powerful influence of the will of others

Myss goes on to say that if we continuously negotiate our sense of

rather than becoming the creatrix of our own passionate lives.

identity for the seductive forces of the external world (i.e. sex, money, addictive

22


Perhaps so many of us as women are afraid to take this risk because, as Nelson Mandela has stated:

within our reproductive organs, pelvis, hip area, bladder and lower back. With this understanding of how the anatomy of our energy works within

“Our deepest fear is not that we are

our physical bodies and manifests in our

inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we

lives, we can bring new and deeper

are powerful beyond measure. It is our

meaning, understanding and awareness to

light, not our darkness, that frightens

the aliments of our reproductive organs.

us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be

Below is a chart adapted from

brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and

Christiane Northrup’s book Women’s

fabulous? Actually who are you not to

Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, which I find

be? You are a child of God. Your

particularly potent in this respect. It

playing small doesn’t serve the world.

illuminates the potential energetic root

There’s nothing enlightening about

cause for a variety of physical illnesses

shrinking so other people won’t feel

related to women’s reproductive health.

insecure around you. We were born to

If we follow the understanding of

manifest the Glory of God that is

the energy of the 2nd Chakra that Caroline

within us. It’s not just in some; it’s in

Myss has lain out for us in her book,

all, everyone. And as we let our own

Anatomy of Spirit, we can see the value

light shine we unconsciously give other

in the “encoded wisdom” that Christiane

people permission to do the same. As we

Northrup offers us below.

are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Use the chart below as a reference for deeper understanding as you

If we have not overturned the belief that “playing small” keeps us “safe,”

revolutionize your relationship with your holistic body:

then the potential creative energy that has not been “birthed” or that is directed into dead end jobs or relationships can eventually culminate in the physical

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

manifestations of illness and dis-ease. This weakness manifests as physical illnesses

23


Menstrual Cycle Encoded Wisdom: cyclic intuitive wisdom and emotional recycling and possessing Energy Dysfunction: refusal to embrace both difficult and pleasant emotions; the dark and the light; not allowing shadow side to be seen and worked through; belief that menstrual cycle is bad or shameful. Physical Manifestation: lack of periods, heavy periods, irregular periods, painfully periods, PMS

Uterus Encoded Wisdom: creative center in relationship to self Energy Dysfunction: bondage of the emotions of others; unable to birth most creative self Physical Manifestation: fibroids

Ovaries Encoded Wisdom: creative drive; assertiveness; drive toward fruitfulness in relationship, financial, or creative goals Energy Dysfunction: addiction to external authority or approval; disbelief in creative potential and power Physical Manifestation: ovulation abnormalities, ovarian cysts, ovarian cancer, endometriosis

Breasts Encoded Wisdom: emotional expression and partnership Energy Dysfunction: struggle to name, feel, express and resolve emotions; struggle to participate in balanced partnerships; imbalance with intimacy with self and others Physical Manifestations: breast cysts or pain, breast cancer, lung problems, shoulder problems

Cervix/Vagina/Vulva Encoded Wisdom: discretion about intimacy boundaries; ability to create healthy boundaries Energy Dysfunction: poorly defined boundaries in relationships; guilt or shame about sexual pleasure or sexuality Physical Manifestations: herpes, warts, chronic vulvar pain, infections, abnormal pap smears

Urinary Tract/Bladder Encoded Wisdom: capacity to feel emotions fully and discharge completely Energy Dysfunction: being chronically “pissed-off” at life in general; stagnant flow of emotions, dependency, struggle to release “outmoded” thoughts; struggle to “go with the flow” Physical Manifestation: chronic urinary tract infection; interstitial cystitis

24


>>> R A D I C A L F E R T I L I T Y

A

woman’s fertility cycle can

range anywhere from 23-40 or more days in length -- the average being 28 days. During this cycle, several changes occur primarily due to hormonal shifts in estrogen and progesterone. The three major fertility signals that occur due to these hormonal shifts are: changes in cervical mucus, a rise in basal body temperature, and the position and shape of the cervix. This fertile phase is

Awareness Method (FAM) or Natural Family Planning (NFP). NFP is generally learned within the context of religious beliefs about birth control and so couples using this term rely on abstinence to avoid pregnancy. For this reason only, I use the term FAM because couples using this method generally use a barrier method of birth control if they wish to have sex during fertile days. It is important to note that FAM is not a method that protects against STDs .

only a few days long during each cycle, which means that it is only during these fertile days of ovulation that a woman can become pregnant each month.

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

The method known for tracking these signs throughout the fertility cycle is commonly

referred

to

as

Fertility

26


>>>Recent of

Fertility

History

Awareness

Method of Birth Control Tracking

and taking note of any

rather than just a generic, and often arbitrary, calendar day. This further research is often referred to as the Ovulation Method, or the Billings Method (named after the team of Australian physicians, Drs. John and

or all of the fertility signals is generally

Evelyn Billings, who, during the 1960s,

referred to as fertility awareness, but this

conducted extensive research on cervical

is not to be confused with the “Calendar

mucus in order to determine fertile and

Rhythm Method” that became especially

infertile days of a woman’s cycle). Hence,

popular in the 1960s and 1970s. The

this approach is far more useful and

Calendar Rhythm Method was developed

accurate an approach than the Calendar

in 1929 when two men (Dr. Kyusaku

Rhythm Method.

Ogina and Dr. Hermann Knaus) working independently of each other discovered

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

that ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before menstruation. It was believed

>>>Conscious

that a woman could prevent pregnancy simply by tracking the days of her cycle.

Contraception

This method does not take into account that a woman’s fertile days can vary depending on many factors such as stress, diet, exercise, and illness (as all these life factors affect hormone levels). Due to the fact that many unintended pregnancies occurred, this method of natural birth control has shrouded fertility awareness in skepticism. However,

thanks

to

further

research, FAM is now associated with the specific sympto-thermal changes that occur during a woman’s fertility cycle

Fertility

awareness method of

birth control gives us the power and knowledge to become aware of and track these sympto-thermal signs, which show the very clear and distinct changes that naturally occur for women during our fertility cycle. It is important to note that women who are using synthetic hormone contraceptives will not have these signs and so cannot practice FAM

because

synthetic

hormones

override our natural hormonal process by

27


preventing

ovulation

and

therefore,

recognize and appreciate the fertility signs

mitigate the signs that signal when we are

that our bodies reveal through our

fertile.

monthly cycles -- and also to recognize However, if we learn to recognize

the inevitable changes that occur in our

and track these signs of ovulation, FAM

cycle due to stress, sickness, and countless

is considered 98.5% effective when the

other factors.

method is used perfectly.

For example, I have struggled with

At the risk of confusing

irregular cycles my entire life.

the reader with more terms,

Regardless

I like to refer to FAM here

on

out

irregularity,

as

of

this

I

have

developed the intuitive

conscious

body awareness to know

contraception. This is

where I am in my cycle.

because, in order to use

I know when my womb is

this method properly (and,

full and ready to bleed, but

therefore, 98.5% effectively) we

if my period doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t come, I

need to make a continual, conscious

know there is work that must be done!

commitment to understanding our fertility

Emotions to be expressed and released,

cycle

relationships to be attended to, self-care

and

communicating

this

understanding to our sexual partner.

practices to be called uponâ&#x20AC;Ś If my blood

This body consciousness is so

time has not commenced, I know that

important because it is here that our

I am not ready to start a creative cycle

power

and

anew. Something needs to shed or some

understand our bodies, we can claim all of

shadow needs to be seen in order that I

the personal empowerment that this body

can be reborn with my new cycle.

lies.

When

we

know

awareness brings to our sexuality.

As a young and active adolescent,

Hence, by using natural birth

I had not been taught to appreciate my

control methods such as conscious

womb wisdom. At 16-years-old I began

contraception, as well as through the

using birth control as a way of skipping of

supplementary use of herbs that have

my periods altogether. After two years of

been historically proven to help regulate

manipulating my body in this way, it

the menstrual cycle, we can learn to

finally hit me that there was something

28


not quite right about this way of relating

sexually abstain can open doors to other

to my fertility cycle. I stopped taking

forms of intimacy that only serve to

hormonal birth control and began the

deepen the sexual experience.

recovery of my body awareness and

In

this

sense,

rather

than

wisdom as my reproductive system re-

delegating the question of fertility to an

regulated.

external source (such as the Pill or even

It is so essential that we educate

condoms)

both

partners

become

young girls about their personal power to

consciously responsible for the potential

know, understand and trust their bodies in

of pregnancy and learn to appreciate

this way. I can hear the rising fear of

intercourse as a sacred act that holds the

unprotected

and

unintended

power for creating life. Suddenly we

teaching

conscious

realize what it is to use that power

contraception as a form of birth control,

consciously in order to avoid an unintended

but it is my deepest belief that if as young

pregnancy or, if desired, to conceive.

pregnancies

sex by

girls we are taught to honor and respect

In this sense, when a couple is

and know our cycles in this way, then we

fully conscious of their fertility, the

will be far more responsible and conscious

decision to conceive human life can

about our sexual encounters -- already

become

having developed this body awareness

opportunity that it has the potential to be.

that is so personally empowering by truly

Wow. That’s pretty radical! Do we

understanding what is happening within

really trust ourselves to be so conscious

our bodies.

with that awesome power? The truth is

Additionally,

the

fully

sacred,

sexual

conscious

that it is far time that we do if we want to

contraception necessitates a different

evolve into a sex-positive society where

relationship with our sexual partner

our sexual encounters (whether the intent

because both individuals recognize and

is to conceive life or not) are seen as

share the responsibility for their individual

sacred opportunities to connect to and

fertility and, therefore, for the potential of

replenish our life force energy in shared

pregnancy. Abstinence during a woman’s

intimacy.

fertile period can be an integral part of conscious contraception if a couple so chooses and this conscious choice to

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾ 29


>>>The Fertility Cycle

In

is not in the ovulation stage of her fertility cycle, this type of mucus is absent and so

order to use and appreciate

the naturally acidic environment of the

conscious contraception most effectively,

vagina will kill sperm within a matter of

it is vital that a woman understands what

hours. This means that without the

is happening in her body during the

proper chemistry of fertile mucus, the

course

My

cervix is blocked and conception

description here is by no means complete,

cannot occur. However, when this

however, there are countless resources

mucus is present, sperm can be kept alive

that provide the exhaustive details about

within the cervical crypts for up to five

women’s fertility cycles. I recommend:

days, during which time a woman may

of

her

fertility

cycle.

ovulate and, in turn, conceive. •

Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston

Therefore, regardless of the length or

Women's Health Book Collective

regularity of your cycle, any sign of

and Judy Norsigian 


mucus

signals

that

eggs

are

Your

developing and, therefore, you are in

Fertility: The Definitive Guide to

the fertile phase of your cycle -- as this

Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy

mucus signals that you are about to

Achievement and Reproductive Health

ovulate.

Taking

Charge

of

by Toni Wheschler

This image depicts the quality and consistency of cervical mucus throughout

During each cycle, the ovaries begin

the fertile stage of our cycle:

to develop mature eggs. As they develop, they secrete the hormone estrogen. Estrogen signals the cervical crypts (mucus producing pouches which line the cervix, or the “gateway” between the uterus and the vagina) to secrete mucus,

After each monthly ovulation, the

which prepares an environment for

hormone progesterone is produced and

sperm.

causes the production of infertile cervical

This mucus is designed to nourish

mucus. The cervix produces this type of

sperm until ovulation, but when a woman 30


infertile mucus for the sole purpose of

In order to rely on this method of

protecting a pregnancy, regardless if

contraception, we must check and chart

conception has occurred. This protective

changes in our cervical mucus every day. By

mucus is not secreted from the vagina.

tracking changes in our cervical mucus, we

Instead, it blocks the opening of the

can know when we are fertile and, because

cervix against bacteria, viruses, and sperm.

men are fertile all of the time, this is an

However,

a

woman

is

only

empowering method of shared fertility --

considered infertile four dry days after

both partners take full responsibility for

the presence of fertile mucus and should

their fertility.

therefore have sex accordingly. This is an

Aside from cervical mucus, there

especially important note for women who

are secondary fertility signs, which can

have irregular cycles, short cycles, or

provide

occasional anovulatory cycles (a cycle

reassurance

where no egg is released from the ovary)

contraception. These include changes in

as the only sure sign of infertility is the

basal body temperature (BBT) and the

absence of cervical mucus.

position and shape of the cervix.

couples when

with

additional

using

conscious

According to The Billings Method

BBT can be charted along with

(1980) ovulation (that is, when a mature

changes in cervical mucus. Just before

egg bursts out of the ovary and is ready to

ovulation, our BBT drops a few fractions

be fertilized by sperm) takes place 85% of

of a degree. After ovulation occurs, our

the time on the last mucus day or the day

BBT will rise between 0.4 and 0.8 degrees

after. However, about 10-15% of the time,

and remain at that higher level every day

ovulation can occur two or three days

until menstruation.

before or after the last mucus day.

We can also check the position and

Even though an egg is only viable

shape of the cervix each day in order to

for 12-24 hours after it is released from

determine if the cervical os (the opening

the ovary, a woman is considered fertile

of the cervix) is open or closed. If it is

on any day there is mucus, plus the

open, this is an indication that estrogen

first four dry days in a row after the

levels are peaking and ovulation is about

mucus ends in order to ensure that

to occur. The cervix is broader and softer

conception does not occur within this 24-

during this fertile time. If you are infertile,

hour period.

the cervix is lower in the vagina and easier

31


to reach, firm to touch, and the os is closed. In addition to tracking these signs, take note of: •

Pain on either side of the abdomen

Breast tenderness

Abdominal swelling

These signs, when taken note of in conjunction with cervical mucus, BBT, and cervix shape and position, also indicate that ovulation is about to occur. For more information about checking and tracking your fertile cervical mucus and the secondary signals of fertility, you can find many scientific studies as well as a plethora of more accessible resources. Some of my favorite books are: 

Your Fertility Signs and Signals by Merryl Winstein

Natural Birth Control Made Simple by Barbara Kass-Annese, R.N., C.N.P & Hal Danzer, M.D.

The Garden of Fertility by Katie Singer

32


>>>Herbs for Women’s Reproductive Health

“I hardly think that the problems concerning menstruation, fertility, birthing, and menopause are due to

Acclaimed herbalist Rosemary perhaps

Gladstar the

faulty evolution. Instead, I question the

is

environment we live in

best-known

and our current

author when it comes to

cultural attitudes and

herbs for women’s health.

beliefs… It may be

She has an excellent book,

that the vast array of

Herbal Healing for Women

chemicals introduced

(1993), from which I am sourcing

much

of

daily into our

my

environment are

information regarding the

contributing to the rise

use of herbs to help regulate fertility cycles. Gladstar admits her perplexity at the number of women who have come to her with problems with their reproductive organs and the long held belief that the female body (with its menstruations, births, mothering, and menopause) is a more complex organism than the male body. She states that it’s a disservice to the forces of evolution to blame the problems women are experiencing with their reproductive health on anatomy alone:

in women’s health problems. But the roots of this plague go even deeper, embedded in the very core of our beings. We have lost touch with our feminine source of power, that place that nourishes and sustains us.” Here, Gladstar acknowledges that while the human body is now forced to rapidly assimilate an onslaught of new chemicals than it may be evolutionarily prepared to, we as a culture are ultimately responsible for having let the important plant medicines that can nourish and support our health and the knowledge of their uses slip to the wayside, into obscurity.


Luckily,

other

If you choose to harvest your

are

own herbs, I encourage you to explore

resurging in their popularity and use and,

the ethics of wild crafting. This is an

with this resurgence, their philosophies

important step when using plants and we

and formulas for health are receiving

can

attention and support from the scientific

throughout the world whose healing

community, however marginal.

methods come from what’s been termed

forms

of

herbalism

alternative

and

healthcare

For Gladstar, that place of power and nourishment to which she refers in

learn

from

the

many

peoples

“plant spirit medicine.” You

can

also

research

the

the above quote stems from the very

historical uses of these plants and draw on

organs of our female anatomy. Hence, we

this ancient ancestral wisdom to inform

must learn to know and to nurture these

your own use of whichever herbs resonate

organs and their energetic wisdom. For

with you, personally.

this

reason,

I

recommend

Many herbs can be used to treat a

Gladstar’s book, Herbal Healing for Women,

variety of disorders, so there is much

which comes out of 20+ years of

overlap and, therefore, you can likely find

experience in using herbal teas, tinctures,

plants that grow locally to you. As you

salves and ointments to help treat

first begin to familiarize yourself with

common disorders that arise in the

medicinal plants and herbal remedies, try

different

to resist the urge to appeal to an

phases

highly

(from

puberty

to

menopause) in a woman’s life. In the following section, you

“authoritative resource” rather than to your own intuition and inner guidance.

will find a list of common herbs used

You know more than you think!

specifically for the female system. They

Allow your curiosity and experience of

have healing and tonifying properties and

entering into relationship with the plant

many can be incorporated into daily use.

world around you to guide your research,

In the spirit of the Wise Woman

rather than the other way around.

healing tradition, I encourage you to use

One way to cultivate your own

this list as a springboard for self-learning.

intuitive knowledge about which herbs are

You might find whichever plants grow

best for you is to take time to let the plant

wild and local to you and harvest and dry

world itself speak to you. Take a nature

them for personal use.

walk and get to know the physical and

34


spiritual nature of different plants: explore colors,

energetic

behavior,

growing

Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar

environment… so many elements reveal the medicinal nature of a plant and the

Wise Woman Herbal for the

time we spend in communion will only

Childbearing Years and Healing

strengthen the power of its healing

Wise by Susan Weed

properties when we go to use it. From the plant spirit medicine

tradition we learn that when we use herbs

Women’s Herbs: Remembering Our Roots by Deb Soule

to treat and heal our bodies, we are entering into a healing relationship with

the medicinal elements of the life-force of this

plant.

Practicing

respect

Hygieia: A Woman’s Herbal by Jeannine Parvati

and

appreciation of the subtle but powerful

Plant

Spirit

Medicine:

The

medicine that each of these plants offers

Healing Power of Plants by Eliot

us as a gift is an important part of the

Cowan

healing communion taking place. Unlike

the

compellation

of

synthetic chemicals found in pills, herbs contain live, active properties in their volatile oils, which exist synergistically with one another. Our intentionality

Sacred

Plant

Medicine:

The

Wisdom in Native American Herbalism by Stephen Harrod Buhner

around using plant life is part of the healing process and it deepens our connection to the Earth Mother that supports our healthy existence. For more information about herbs for women’s reproductive health, the Wise Woman healing tradition, and plant spirit medicine, I recommend the following

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

resources:

35


>>>List of Herbs

journey to re-claiming your health.

for Women

It

Herbalist

is important to have a basic

understanding of the primary properties and physiological actions of these herbs on the reproductive system so that you can use them appropriately. That said, however, in the Wise Woman tradition, we must also learn to resist the urge to appeal to an “authoritative resource” rather than to our own intuition and inner guidance when it comes to incorporating these

herbs

into

just one more empowering step in the

our

daily

health

maintenance. Countless times I have sensed a plant’s appropriateness for my health only to have it confirmed by a trusted herbalist! When we take the time to develop a relationship with the plant itself, rather than to see it simply as an alternative resource to drugs or pharmaceuticals, we come to realize that while the plants do contain active chemical constituents that have a biochemical affect on the body, the true medicine is found in the relationship

Rosemary

Gladstar

frequently uses these herbs for the female system: Angelica (Angelica archangelica) Black Cohash (Cimicifuga racemosa) Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) Blue Cohash (Caulophyllum thalictroides) Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus) Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza globra) Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) Nettle (Urtica dioica) Pennyroyal leaf (Hedeoma pulegioides and related species) Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus, R. strigosus) Squaw vine (Mitchella repens) Vitex (vitex agnus casus) Wild yam root (Dioscorea villosa) Yarrow (Achillea millefoloum)

Which ones grow near you?

and intention we cultivate with the plant. With this in mind, if you are inspired by plant medicine, find a trusted herbalist who honors this tradition and with whom you can learn from. This is

36


>>>Regulating the

Our fertility cycles are as varied as we are. However, for the sake of awareness

method

of

birth

control, it is incredibly helpful to have a regular and predictable cycle, not only to prevent or achieve pregnancy, but because regular cycles reflect internal health as well. Below you will find a list of symptoms, which might accompany an “unhealthy”

menstruation.

heavy

bleeding

(menorrhagia)

Fertility Cycle

fertility

Excessive

If

you

chronically experience these signs or symptoms it will be more challenging for you to use FAM effectively. If these signs show up for you occasionally, I would encourage you to look at what is happening for you in your life (stress, diet,

No menstrual cycle (amenorrhea)

Serious acne/skin problems

Feeling of exhaustion following menstrual cycle

In the previous section, there is a list of herbs for women’s reproductive health and in the following section, a few herbal tea recipes. Herbal teas offer the simplest, but by no means the only way to begin to introduce the use of herbs into your daily life. Drinking herbal teas is a wonderful way to gently help regulate fertility cycles. Many of these herbal tea recipes can be turned into tinctures as well, which offers a more potent form of the benefits of the plant’s medicine.

exercise, work, relationships, etc.), as these symptoms are the body’s way of letting us know that something is not quite right.

Sign of an Unhealthy Menstruation •

Pain and cramps (dysmenorrheal)

Dark brown blood

Clotting

Lingering

cycles

(spotting

before/after)

37


☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾ >>>Feminini-Teas

When it comes to making medicinal herbal teas, there are two methods of preparation: infusions and decoctions. Infusions extract the easily rendered vitamins, mucilage, and volatile oils of the leaves, fruits, seeds, and flowers of the plants. In order to most effectively infuse these delicate medicinal properties, you will want to pour boiling water over the herbs and quickly cover the container so that the volatile medicinal properties do not evaporate and escape.

The following tea recipes are from herbalist Rosemary Gladstar:

How long the herbs steep depends on the

strength

of

the

active

plant

constituents you wish to extract and, therefore, will vary. Decoctions are generally used to extract the more tenacious plant material from roots, barks, nuts, and some seeds. In order to make a decoction, bring water to a boil and add the herb(s) you wish to decoct, cover with a tight fitting lid, and then simmer on low heat for fifteen to twenty minutes. Strain, appreciate, drink

F E M A L E

T O N I C

This vitamin and mineral rich tea is a great tonic for the whole female reproductive system. 2 parts raspberry leaf 1 part strawberry leaf 2 parts nettle 2 parts peppermint and/or spearmint 2 parts lemon grass 1 part squaw vine

and enjoy!

38


CRAMP-T This tea blend can also be made into a tincture and either the tincture or the tea can be taken to treat acute cramping during menstruation. Use along with rest and a warm compress or heating pad over the pelvic area. 1 part cramp bark (or black haw) 1 part pennyroyal leaf 1 part valerian root ½ part ginger

Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus)

HORMONAL REGULATOR

This combination of herbs helps to balance and regulate hormone production so that fertility cycles become more regular and predictable. *Drink three to four cups a day for three weeks each month * 1 part wild yam 1 part ginger 2 parts dandelion root (raw) 2 parts burdock root (raw) 2 parts licorice root 2 parts sassafras 1 part yellow dock ¼ part vitex

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾ >>>Contraceptive Herbs While we can find across cultures and across the ages countless historical references to the use of herbs for contraceptive purposes, very few modern scientific studies have been conducted to prove the effectiveness of these plants (probably because there has been little interest and these studies are so expensive to conduct). For now (but hopefully not for long!), we can only make general claims about how different plants affect fertility.

39


Based on her research, R.R.

research project with the intent to explore

McGregor, author of Herbal Birth Control:

the reliability of Wild Carrot seed (Daucus

A Brief History with Ancient and Modern

carota) when used as a woman’s sole

Herbal Recipes (1993), suggests that fertility-

method of contraception. Historically,

affecting plants may act in the following

Wild Carrot was originally used in seed

ways:

form in China and India over 2000 years ago.

“[Contraceptive herbs] may affect

Bennett and Schuler’s study is very

ovulation or conception through

insightful, informational and empowering.

hormonal activity, they may affect the

The entire study can be found at:

chemistry of the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation, they may cause

www.RobinRoseBennett.com

contractions of the uterus to expel an embryo, or they may have a toxic effect on the embryo, causing it to perish and be flushed away with the menstrual cycle.” Through my personal research, I have come across only one recent scientifically

structured

study

that

maintained the intent to study the effectiveness of the whole plant (not just its

chemical

constituents)

for

contraceptive purposes. This study was conducted by Robin Rose Bennett and Mischa Schuler (herbalists of the Wise Woman tradition) for the duration of one year -- between 2009-2010. Thirty women, from the ages of 18-50,

participated

in

this

Wild Carrot seed (Daucus carota)

When Wild Carrot seed is used properly, the study concluded that:

yearlong

40


Wild Carrot seed has a 94.375% contraceptive success rate.

is what she tells us: “I can help you

Women must use Wild Carrot

hold a pregnancy. I can help you release

seed in a timely way (approx 8

a potential pregnancy. The choice is

hours after intercourse)

yours.” … Fertility [creative energy] is

Wild Carrot is not to be solely

generated during lovemaking and we can

relied on after coming off of

choose how to direct it, what we want it

hormonal medications until cycles

to feed and generate. When one is a

are re-regulated for at least three

fertile (young) woman, the natural

months. Highly fertile women may

tendency is to create a new human

need to use a combination of

being. If that is not what you want, it

methods. •

the wild carrot plant for guidance this

is vital to choose what you do want.

Women who become physically

This is true co-creative empowerment. It

uncomfortable while using Wild

is important to include your partner in

Carrot

or

who

experience

this discussion, too.”

menstrual cycle changes should not rely on this as a contraceptive. Bennett and Schuler also made a point of noting that intention matters as much as physical fertility when it comes to contraception/conception. This speaks not only to the Wise Woman and plant spirit medicine traditions, but also to the overall message behind Radical Fertility. Bennett and Schuler speak from this perspective in the study’s conclusion: “We believe that wild carrot works well with clear intentionality around what we are doing with our fertility. Every time we [Bennett and Schuler] turn to

Using herbs such as Wild Carrot seed

as

contraceptives

can

be

an

additional way to ensure conscious control over our fertility when using symptothermal fertility awareness methods as a primary form of birth control. By

using

the

conscious

contraceptive method of FAM and, when fertile, using natural methods such as herbs

to

prevent

an

unintended

pregnancy, we can begin to get radical about our fertility by going to the fundamental root of our inherent ability to control our fertility based on clear intentionality and conscious use of natural birth control methods.

41


While it may at first seem like a lot

or for overall reproductive health, is

of work on top of so many other things

supporting a growing revolution in a shift

we attempt to “control” and “regulate” in

of consciousness away from allopathic

our lives, I have found that in the process

medicine and crisis-care ideologies to a

of fully claiming my power and my

perspective of natural, preventative health

freedom to choose whether I will or will

care that nourishes and supports the

not be a mother, I have claimed a greater

systems of the whole human. But the old

spiritual freedom in my overall life that

wisdom

deeply connects me to the power inherent

perspective is not always immediately

in a deep sense of body awareness -- and

accessible. For this reason we must learn

this translates across all areas of my life

to trust each other in the sharing of this

and relationships.

knowledge, but more importantly, to trust

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

that

supports

this

new

ourselves and our own experience and our own process of remembering this way of being in relation to our bodies and the

>>>Author’s Note

Wild Carrot seed is just one of

natural world. Using herbs is very different from “popping pills.” Herbalism offers no

many plants historically used to safely

quick-fix

prevent pregnancy and while you can

unconsciously affect upon our bodies,

readily find Wild Carrot seed or tincture

especially

and many of the other herbs I include

contraception.

remedies

that

with respect

we to

can

herbal

below growing wild, at health food stores,

We have to bring a new paradigm

or online, we must remember that these

of health and healing -- a new element of

plants are powerful and just because

intentionality -- when using herbs, for any

they do not come with a warning label

reason. As herbalists Bennett and Schuler

does not mean that we can use them

contend in the former section, it is

without understanding and respecting

perhaps equally our intention around what

their properties. Women who have

we aim to do with our inherent fertility as

done so have died.

much as it is about the contraceptive

Your interest and participation in

chemical constituents of the herb that

the use of herbs, either for contraception

42


either prevent or allow for conception to occur or a miscarriage to be induced.

A Short List of Historically Common Herbs Used for Contraception:

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

(Caulophyllum thalictroides L.)

>>>Emmenogogues & Abortifacients

Emmenogogues describe

substances

are that

Blue Cohosh

used

to

Pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegoides L.)

Rue (Ruta graveolens L.)

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare L.)

Wild Carrot Seed (Queen Anne’s Lace) (Daucus carota L.)

promote

menstruation, regardless of if a fertilized

For more information about safely

embryo is present. Abortifacients act to

using these herbs for contraceptive

expel an implanted embryo from the

purposes, I recommend the following

uterus. There is really no difference

resource:

between the two, other than terminology.

Please don’t be misguided by

Living with Our Fertility: A Women's Guide to Synergistic

the use of herbs to abort. While the

Fertility Management >>>

procedures are fundamentally different, at

http://www.sisterzeus.com /

the end of the day there is nothing any more comforting about inducing an abortion using herbs than there is using modern medical methods -- a life is still being released and that fact needs the loving

attention

of

our

conscious

awareness. If you decide to use herbs to terminate a pregnancy, I urge you to bring

full

consciousness

and

intentionality around the process, to educate yourself and to seek trusted guidance in times of uncertainty.

43


A B R I E F H I S T O R Y of S E X U A L S U P P R E S S I O N >>>A Feminist’s Perspective What results from this cultural ignorance is a kind of socially conditioned shaming around our female anatomy and sexuality. We don’t know how to look, touch, or talk honorably and honestly about our bodies because we have never been taught how to relate to our sexual anatomy in any way other than in the context of the male gaze, menstruation, pregnancy, or illness and disease. By and large, we never encounter the “OK” to be sexually explorative -instead, we are led to believe, as impressionable,

sexually

maturing

adolescent girls, that our sexuality spells teenage pregnancy, which spells shame. Plagued by this most fundamental fear of disconnection and chastisement,

Of all aspects of women’s health, our sexuality has been the most neglected -- to such an extent, in fact, that despite this age of information and education, we exist in an era where the majority of women are largely unaware of the physiological

functioning

of

our

sexual/reproductive anatomy or even the particular uniqueness of our own yoni. (Two words ladies: Hand. Mirror.)

our sexuality has become precisely that which it should never to be: a source of confusion and shame rather than an inherent and respected part of who we are as human. Our sexuality presents us with an

opportunity

to

experience

deep

connection and love -- for ourselves and for others -- and our female anatomy is a physical gateway to our spiritual nature. Yet, the confusion and shame that surrounds our natural sexuality makes it

45


difficult to speak openly about it and, in

turn, perpetuates our sexual shame and

turn,

silencing -- allowing our sexual power to

it

becomes

something

easily

manipulated. Indeed, that which we do

be manipulated and used against us.

not understand becomes an easy target for

As a feminist, I have my opinion

abuse, whether conscious or unconscious.

about why this might be: no doubt, an

It certainly doesn’t take much to

empowered woman (that is, a woman who

see how we, as a society, have come to

is comfortable and confident in her own

manipulate and abuse the female body.

body) is an awesome force. Such a woman

We are bombarded with explicitly sexual

is so influential because her power comes

images of women and yet the social

from the deep and undeniable reservoir of

message of these images is mixed. We are

the erotic (for more on what I mean by

told to be sexy, but not too sexy --

this see, “Reclaiming the Erotic”). Hence,

otherwise we are sluty and that’s not

she knows the extent to which her erotic

attractive; but to be prudish doesn’t

nature empowers her and so she does not

comply with the image of woman as sex

settle for mediocrity but endeavors, in all

object, either.

aspects of her life, to live in the sense of

So, what? We should be explicitly

fullness and satisfaction of which she is

sexually available so as not be to a prude

capable and of which she knows she

and yet prudishly ignorant of our own

deserves.

sexuality so as not be a slut?

Such a woman is a dangerous

What results from this cultural

threat to the patriarchal social structures

paradox of the “prudish slut” is the

that exist and to the social construct of

understanding that a woman’s sexuality is

the “prudish slut,” for she is not plagued

only for the sake of men’s enjoyment. As

by confusion or shame about her body

a result of this heteronormative social

and so does not conform to the image of

conditioning,

sexually

a woman who presents herself as

empowering young women, our society

incessantly sexually available and yet who

preys on the insecurities women have as a

does not truly and deeply understand her

result of this confusing paradox and, in

own body, sexuality, or personal desires.

rather

than

46


Rather, this woman is not fooled by the social expectation that a woman’s

media are incomplete, and, in some cases, even incorrect.

body be a mere sex object and therefore,

This is a result of the fact that,

her sexuality is not manipulated or

historically, men have been in a position

suppressed by this external expectation --

of power when it came to conducting the

nor is any aspect of her feminine power,

scientific studies that have mapped the

which rises up and overflows like magma

human body now reflected in modern

from the volcano of her

textbooks.

sexual-erotic

Women’s

knowing to inform all

sexual

aspects of her life.

anatomy, and

But such a

in

woman cannot exist unless

she

turn

our

sexuality, was

first

therefore

the

explored only

inherited shame and

to the extent

confusion around her

to

body and her sexual

justified

expression -- and this

informed the

confrontation comes,

male

in

experience.

confronts

part,

from

a

which

it and

sexual

willingness to explore the forbidden

For centuries, women’s sexuality

territory of her sexual anatomy with honor

and reproductive anatomy was shrouded

rather than shame.

in confusion and mystery. Before the Age

Yet information

even to

while be

there

found

is

of

Enlightenment,

the

vagina

was

about

mistakenly understood to be the simple

women’s sexual anatomy and pleasure,

(yet lesser) inversion of the male penis.

the truth is that the information,

While this gave no credit to the unique

diagrams, and details that have been

biology of the female body and instead

available for decades and that inform

pitted the female genitalia as imperfect

our medical professionals and mass

compared to the outward and erect expression of the male phallus, this

47


perspective nonetheless made the female

supplied with blood vessels and nerve

orgasm essential for conception -- as it

endings surpassing that of the penis) has,

was believed that the same biological

until recently, hardly been given the

processes that occurred in men during

attention it deserves.

sexual intercourse had to be taking place inside a woman as well. However,

with

Indeed,

the

Federation

of

Feminist Women’s Health Centers writes the

Scientific

Revolution, studies in anatomy and

in their fully illustrated publication A New View of a Woman’s Body,

physiology revealed that the female reproductive organs were unique unto

“Most medical illustrators are men --

themselves. This revolutionary reading of

which perhaps explains why there have

female anatomy created the cultural

been intricate cross-sections of the penis

woman anew in that she became a totally

since Leonardo da Vinci’s time, while

separate biological person from the male.

comparable drawings of the female

So

with

the

fertility

cycle

organs often have areas of empty space!”

representing the woman’s unique and separate

biological

identity

and

While this intricate knowledge of

menstruation the outward sign of its

the

awesome power, this new understanding

understanding of how a man’s sexuality

of

relates to his reproductive anatomy,

the

woman

debunked

the

old

penis

has

bodes

left

well

a

for

our

physiology of sexual pleasure and the old

history

comparable

anatomy of homology between the sexes.

understanding of women’s sexual anatomy

As a result, women’s roles and cultural

and arousal severely lacking.

expectations began to shift… and with

In truth, our sexual anatomy is

this shift, women’s sexuality and its

made up of bodies of erectile tissue,

relationship to her unique reproductive

muscle, nerves and blood vessels which

organs was suppressed.

swell when sexually stimulated -- in effect,

Women’s sexual anatomy has

restructuring

the

entire

henceforth been reduced to the life-

reproductive

organs

bearing function of the womb, ovaries

causing the layers of pelvic floor muscles

and vagina, while the clitoris and the

to contract in unison during orgasm.

and

female eventually

incredible network of erectile tissue (richly

48


The organ that is the primary

Hence, we find ourselves without

catalyst for this physiological arousal

accessible information or adequate social

response is none other than the clitoris --

education about the functioning of our

which is in fact comprised of three parts:

sexual/reproductive anatomy, and what

the head, the shaft, and the legs.

results is a population of women ignorant

The evolutionary significance of the clitoris is not just for the sake of

of our female bodies (and, in turn, our sexuality) in more respects than one:

restricted pleasurable sensation and is not

As a culture, we women are not

just anatomically confined to the textbook

taught to know our fertility cycles and so

description of “the tiny, ball-like bump,

we cannot control our fertility without the

shaft and hood just above the vaginal

use of external sources, nor do we know

opening.” Rather, the clitoris is far more

the anatomy and physiology of our sexual

extensive than the visible glans and shaft

arousal and so we often cannot effectively

might suggest.

articulate our desires -- leaving many

In truth, its role is fundamental in

women

with

a

sense

of

sexual

heightening the arousal response of the

dissatisfaction. Unable to naturally control

network of erectile tissues that surround

our fertility or to access our sexual-erotic

the female organs and of which allow a

wisdom, we are left in a place of

woman the experience of profound

confusion and shame when we relate to

pleasure

our female anatomy, which is our center

during

intercourse.

(See,

“Women’s Anatomy of Arousal”.)

of personal power. Clearly, we can begin

Yet this information regarding

to see how and why women’s sexuality has

women’s anatomy of arousal is hardly

become so easily manipulated and abused

readily

and, as a result, women so easily

available

to

us.

Instead,

comprehensive sex education is severely

oppressed.

lacking in this department -- most of what

Feeling such confusion, we seek

exists takes for granted the procreative

answers and acceptance from outside our

function of sex and so does not address or

Selves -- be it from our sexual partners

educate about the physiological effects of

and what it is that they may desire from us

the arousal process that make procreation

or from our gynecologists and what it is

pleasurable, even profoundly spiritual, for

that they are willing to prescribe to us.

women.

49


Is it any wonder, then, that up to 40% of women supposedly suffer from a

have to manipulate our desires in order to do so.

condition known as “Female Sexual

Yet where and when there is

Dysfunction”? And is it any wonder that

information readily available, women can

women, conditioned as we are to expect

become empowered to make informed

the answers to our sexual confusion to

choices about our health and our bodies.

come from outside of our personal

Indeed, the health of our bodies and how

knowing, are more than willing to blame

we should relate to them are questions far

ourselves for our sexual dissatisfaction and

too important to be left to the medical

so take a pill or allow for risky surgery to

establishments, the drug companies, or

“fix” us? And is it any wonder that we are

the propaganda of the mass media.

not “fixed” but are, in fact, increasingly

In an effort to inform and educate

unhappy and depressed? Indeed, is it any

women, The Federation of Feminist

wonder that, according to a recent

Women’s Health Centers (FWHC) created

National

Nutrition

A New View of a Woman’s Body,

Examination Survey, women are two and

which is a fully illustrated guide designed

a

to provide vital information about self-

half

Health times

and

more

likely

to

take

antidepressant medication as men? (Hey

examination,

dudes, if you weren’t orgasming, you’d

common

probably be depressed, too!)

menopause and other topics related to

The

cultural

ignorance

that

reproductive

infections,

birth

anatomy, control,

women’s bodies.

surrounds women’s sexuality and anatomy

Drawing on the diagrams and

of arousal leads to a deep sense of shame

information provided within this resource

about how to relate to this most innate

and others, it is my goal here to offer

and natural part of our existence. This

information

shame, perpetuated by the confusing

anatomy in the context of the arousal

cultural paradox of the “prudish slut,”

process

permits us to be so manipulated that we

“Women’s Anatomy of Arousal.”

honestly

believe

following

sexual section,

While it is so important that we

sexual

educate ourselves about our own bodies

experience doesn’t fit the constructed

and our sexual desires, we also have to be

norm of our society. Instead, we feel we

willing to share this exploration with our

when

our

to

the

women’s

be

“dysfunctional”

ourselves

in

about

50


sexual partners in an effort to end the

While I believe that this is,

epidemic of women silenced by sexual

ultimately, a spiritual pursuit, my personal

ignorance. If we do not find our courage

spirituality is not divorced from the

to explore and with it our voices to share

human-animal biology of my body.

our desires, we remain equal participants

Hence, in today’s age we have the records

in the long suppression of women’s

of ancient spiritual traditions that have

sexuality.

honored as sacred our sexual energy as

While

this

is

a

profoundly

well as the incredible insight of science

important pursuit, the journey into sexual

that can help us understand the intricate

knowing is not always blissful. We will

details of our anatomy and physiology.

inevitably encounter memories and beliefs

This information is, in its own right,

about ourselves as sexual beings that are

sacred in that it provides a map that we, as

traumatic and of which menace us to

21st century women, can read, understand,

further repress this wounded part of

and let guide us to deeper sexual knowing.

ourselves. If we can keep exploring and stay curious and gentle, the healing of these wounds will blossom into sexual healing and empowerment. And even for those women whom have only experienced supportive, sexually

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾ >>>Women’s Anatomy of Arousal

empowering relationships, I believe that

“Learning depends on accurate models.

there is the collective wounding of women

To fulfill our erotic potential, we need

around the world -- women who are and

useful maps of genital anatomy, the

have been raped, abused, chastised, and

process of arousal and orgasm, and

punished, who believe that they are not

more… [But] to be credible and useful,

worthy of love or pleasure as a result -- I

these models need to prove out in the

believe their pain must be experienced

real-world laboratory of women’s

and healed in each of us, on some level, in

bodies… When the map matches the

order that the sacred-sexual feminine

terrain, it confirms your experience and

energy be fully embraced and expressed in

empowers you to explore and expand.”

this world.

o Sheri Winston

51


on the importance of the arousal process and a woman’s ability to experience orgasmic pleasure during sex. That said, sex therapist Sheri Winston (author of Women’s Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure) contends that there are a variety of orgasmic experiences that are not

While this section will in no way be a fully comprehensive exploration of women’s anatomy of arousal, I hope for it to offer an alluring introduction -- just enough so that after reading this section, in the spirit of the empowerment that comes with self-knowing, you will explore the process of arousal for yourself, in the real-world laboratory of your own body. In turn, I hope to inspire and encourage further personal research. Additionally, it is important to note that while the language of this section will read in such a way as to suggest that orgasm is the pinnacle and sole purpose of the sexual experience, I personally, do not hold this to be true and it is not my intention here to perpetuate this cultural myth. Rather, I find that the following information is important to share because it demystifies the pleasure associated with orgasm as “unattainable” and sheds light

necessarily consistent with the formal definition of orgasm as a “short-lived genital experience consisting of successive waves of pleasurable spasms.” She holds that orgasm can occur in any of the body’s seven energy centers (or chakras) and that each chakra carries its unique orgasmic experience. Furthermore, when sexuality and spirituality are not considered mutually exclusive, the energy associated with orgasm can transport you to an experience in which pleasure restricted to the physical anatomy of the body is transcended and what is experienced might be related to what the Buddhist lineage of Tantra refers to

as

mahamudra,

or

the

supreme

experience of oneness/unity with the universe. While, like myself, some of you may be interested in the intersection of sexuality and spirituality and the practice of sacred sex, my intention here, first and foremost, is simply to provide accurate


information

about

the

physiological

process of arousal that occurs in the

that

results

from

the

historical

suppression of women’s sexuality.

female genitalia.

SO… let’s begin:

Women’s sexual empowerment is

When we encounter images of

predicated on our understanding of this

female reproductive anatomy, we generally

information.

expect to see something like this:

The

inconsistencies

between women’s sexual experiences (i.e. painful and/or traumatic sex vs. ecstatic, blissful sex) are directly linked, I believe, to a lack of education about the process of arousal in women. Indeed, how can we know what we desire sexually, how can we ask for and educate our sexual partners about these desires if we do not understand the anatomical details of our lady parts or the process of arousal taking place within our own bodies? Notably, while this physiological arousal process is qualitatively similar in and amongst women, there is still so much variability of experience. Indeed, the

If we have explicitly sought out information about women’s “sexual” anatomy, we may find a diagram where the external anatomy is mapped and labeled:

experience of our sexuality and of pleasure is unique unto us each and should be explored and embraced as such. It is my hope that this information will prove insightful and inspiring, that it will change the way you relate to your body, to your sexuality, and to your sexual partners and that, in this way, we can heal some of the shame, trauma and confusion

53


However, while most of us are

humble head that is visible and the extent

familiar with the anatomical structure of

to

which

the

majority

of

modern

the female reproductive organs, missing

anatomical textbooks will diagram.

from our understanding is the relationship

The clitoris is truly a complex

between the parts. When it comes to female

organ. It consists of the head, shaft, hood,

sexual anatomy, while parts have been

and clitoral legs, which are connected to

named,

the inner lips, to bodies of erectile tissue

their

functionality

is

rarely

discussed.

(including the perineal sponge, the clitoral

So how do these structures relate

or vestibular bulbs and the urethral

to and interrelate during the arousal

sponge -- a.k.a the “G” spot), to muscles,

process and how and why is the arousal

to nerve endings, and to networks of

process so necessary for intercourse to be

blood tissue.

pleasurable for women’s bodies?

Indeed,

the

complex

The clitoris is perhaps the most

transformation of the clitoris affects the

important organ related to women’s

entire female genitalia during the arousal

physiological arousal response. But the

process, as diagramed below:

clitoris is not so simply limited to that Non-Aroused Female Genitalia Figure 1. A cross section of the nonerect clitoris.

Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers. "A New View of a Woman's Body." Illustrator: Suzanne Gage. Publisher: Feminist Health Press, Los Angeles, CA.

54


Fully Aroused Female Genitalia Figure 2. A cross section of the clitoris during sexual arousal

Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers. "A New View of a Woman's Body." Illustrator: Suzanne Gage. Publisher: Feminist Health Press, Los Angeles, CA.

Female genitalia contain just as

so the erectile tissue in female genitalia

much erectile tissue as male genitalia but

functions differently. Unlike the penis, the

while this is true, the erectile tissue

arousal network in female genitalia does

present in female genitalia function

not function as one unit; rather, the

differently.

various elements of the clitoris (listed

The purpose of erectile tissue in

above)

can

work

together

or

the penis is designed to function in order

independently -- hence, there is no

to provide the force to propel ejaculate.

refractory period of arousal and hence,

The tissue, when engorged with blood,

the foremost purpose of erectile tissue

swells, creating an erection. At the time of

in women is designed to ensure that

ejaculation, the blood is released from the

sex is a pleasurable activityâ&#x20AC;Ś for

tissue, providing the force for ejaculation.

potentially a very long time!

What results, however, is an anatomical

This pleasure is made possible

refractory period before the tissues can

thanks to the swelling of the erectile

become

blood.

tissue, which surrounds, protects and,

Female reproductive anatomy is

when engorged with blood, re-arranges a

not designed to ejaculate in this way and

womanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reproductive organs to allow for

erect

again

with

55


pleasurable penetration (see Figure 2,

sponge is unique in that it doesn’t fill with

above).

blood, like the other bodies of erectile While penetration itself can be

tissue, but with a type of prostatic fluid,

highly pleasurable when a woman’s

which can be released as an ejaculate

anatomy is fully aroused and, hence, some

during orgasm.

women may reach orgasm through penile-

In the ancient sacred sexuality

vaginal penetration alone, in truth, the

traditions, this female ejaculate was

notion of a “vaginal” orgasm is not

considered to be a sacred medicine (it is

entirely accurate.

referred to in India, for example, as amrita,

This is because, when a woman is

meaning “the nectar of life”). Yet, while

fully aroused, penetration makes contact

we are all anatomically capable, few

with, and can therefore stimulate, the

women have experienced sex in such as

clitoral network of erectile tissue. Hence,

way that allows their bodies to release this

it is stimulation to this clitoral network of

ejaculate.

fully aroused tissue that is the responsible catalyst for orgasm.

Although our anatomy makes us all capable of female ejaculation, its release

By nature of the erectile tissue

often requires stimulation of the “G

present in female genitalia, the majority of

spot,” which is more easily located (and

women need different amounts (hard,

stimulation is more pleasurable) due to its

soft, steady, intermittent) and different

engorgement when a woman is fully

types (flicking, rubbing, stroking) of

aroused. Yet, the release requires a

stimulation to the different parts of the

softening of the pelvic floor muscles,

clitoris (usually the clitoral head or the “G

which are habitually tightened and held up

spot”) at different times during the arousal

and in (as when doing Kegels or holding

process in order to reach orgasm.

back your urine) during heightened sexual

The notorious “G spot” (named

arousal. In recent years, female ejaculation

after *sigh* a man: Ernst Gräfenberg) is

has become a bit of a trend in sexology so

anatomically known as the urethral sponge --

you can find quite a bit of information

a spongy body of erectile tissue that

online as well as books written specifically

surrounds and protects the urethral tract

about how experience it if your curiosity

and becomes sensitively engorged when a

has been sparked.

woman becomes aroused. Yet the urethral

56


Clearly, the anatomical nature

of sexual pleasure and satisfaction from

of women’s sexual anatomy reflects

that strict experience of genital orgasm.

that there is really no “correct,” one-

This means expanding our concept of sex

way to experience orgasm -- which

to extend beyond the physical anatomy of

makes knowing what works for you a

the body. When it comes to orgasm and

profoundly personal journey of self-

sexual intimacy, we must attend to every

exploration.

aspect of our being.

And

because

women’s

erectile tissue functions differently from

For the sacred sexual traditions,

men, there is not necessarily a pinnacle

where orgasmic energy has been explored

physiological event that marks “the end”

and “mastered” through practices of

of a sexual encounter.

energetic cycling, orgasm is not exclusive

Rather, the network of erectile

to genital stimulation nor is it necessarily a

tissue in women is designed such that

genitally exclusive experience. In fact, the

pleasure can be experienced in varying

focus of this type of lovemaking becomes

amounts, in varying stages, in varying

less about the physical matter of the body

ways, and for varying amounts of time.

and more about an exploration of the use

Hence, because of the variable nature of

and experience of energy cycling within

women’s anatomy of arousal, this makes

and between bodies.

our personal arousal incredibly delicate to

In this sense, an orgasm can be

master and yet a potential wellspring of

understood as an energetic wave, which

infinite bliss.

could occur anywhere in the body and for

For this reason, in order to

any length of time, depending on our

master the delicacies of the arousal

conscious ability to control the energy of

process and of sexual bliss, we cannot

the orgasm. Indeed, the body is the

relate strictly to the anatomy of the

beautiful site of this energetic expression

body. While our personal anatomy

and so understanding the anatomical

deserves our attention and exploration, we

temple we inhabit is a truly empowering

cannot forget to involve our emotional

(and necessary) first step to these deeper

and spiritual nature in the mix of orgasmic

levels of the sexual experience.

lovemaking. The sacred sexuality traditions teach us that we must expand our concept

Additionally, psychological power is

largely

unacknowledged

in

our

understanding of orgasm. Recent studies

57


have shown that when a woman orgasms,

Hence, our sexual anatomy cannot

the amygdala is deactivated. (The amygdala

respond to the fullest extent of arousal for

is the part of the reptilian brain that

which it is designed, nor can we tune into

governs our flight or fight response and,

the subtler energetic awareness and

therefore, is connected to feelings of fear

experience of our sexual energy in order

and anxiety).

to explore sacred sex practices.

This, to me, suggests that in order

While our fears not only affect the

for women to reach orgasm (and with it,

physiological process of our arousal (and,

that experience of erotic abandon to

hence, our ability to fully experience our

impulse that is the bliss of surrendering to

sexual pleasure) it is my belief that it also

the orgasmic experience) we cannot be

affects our ability to transform our basic

preoccupied with feelings of fear or

and primal sexual impulses into the

anxiety. These feelings are often related to

spiritual love and connection that is

anxious concerns about how we might

possible between two people by way of

look or sound, a fear of pregnancy,

that energy.

whether or not we are satisfying our partner, a fear of judgment for engaging in sexual â&#x20AC;&#x153;taboosâ&#x20AC;? -- the list goes on, we all know. The nature of these thoughts preoccupies our consciousness from fully inhabiting our body, where we would otherwise

surrender

to

the

sexual

experience without concern. Instead, our anxious thinking takes us out of the sensuous body experience and into the mind -- thereby impeding our biology from fully engaging in the arousal process, as it is that we are continually triggering activation of this fear-based part of the brain.

Sexual-spiritual love is the shared experience of true union between Self and other that cannot be embraced without the full self-acceptance that comes from releasing our fears, for our fears feed a sense of disconnection from our partner.

58


When we accept ourselves exactly as we

Herein lies my essential truth: the

are, we transcend the sense of egoic

deep experience of sexual bliss we are

separation and open space for true

seeking and of which our human anatomy

spiritual union and love.

makes us capable is only made possible by

Our ability as women to claim our

way of the safe container created through

own self-acceptance in a sexual experience

a truly loving relationship -- one in which

can only be helped along by way of a

we have developed a deep and trusting

trusting and loving sexual partnership.

connection with our sexual partner and,

This is in part because if we want access

with that, a willingness to see and be seen

to the potential love and pleasure beyond

in the highs and lows of erotic abandon.

these fears, we absolutely have to

This â&#x20AC;&#x153;art of conscious lovingâ&#x20AC;? is

acknowledge them and allow them to

beyond the scope of this particular work,

have expression. To deny or reject their

but it is, in my opinion, an art that is

existence and suppress their honest

unfortunately unlearned in our modern

expression will only lead to numbness:

day society, where sexual encounters are

both physical and emotional. Hence, our

more often than not one-night-stands or

emotional sense of safety with our sexual

passionate but superficial flings. Yet, by

partner is paramount to our ability to

way

experience the fullest extent our sexual

traditions, history has left us reminders of

pleasure as women and for us to truly

this way of relating deeply and spiritually

unite in sexual intimacy.

with our sexual partner through the art of

of

the

sacred-sexual

spiritual

This has been an essential piece of

sexual alchemy -- where, when the passion

my personal journey to sexual wholeness:

cools, we learn how to discover deeper

we must allow ourselves to vulnerably

intimacy through conscious, committed

express these fears and concerns to our

loving.

partner and if our partner is truly worthy

It is time for us as women to claim

of our intimacy, they will offer us the

our personal erotic power, which is the

safety of a loving witness, of which we, as

force that will empower us to embrace our

women, deeply need to surrender --

emotional spectrum and guide first,

sometimes

anger,

ourselves and, in turn, our partners to this

sometimes to bliss and joy and certainly to

shared bliss in sexual partnership. Yet, we

everything in between.

must first know deeply and intimately our

to

sorrow

and

59


inherent sexual nature and the wild,

authentic expression of our sexuality can

unique expression of our own sexuality,

we open to true sacred sexual union with

for the sake of our own enjoyment and

another.

pleasure. Only when we can come to fearlessly know ourselves as fully sexual beings, to revel in and to embrace the

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

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R E C L A I M I N G the E R O T I C >>>Erotic Spirituality and the Creative Life Force

“Sexuality is the way we are intimate with our own feeling states; the way we are moved by the diamonds of rain on spider webs; our paintings and letters; our laughter and stews; our persuasions and politics. Sexuality is our momentby-moment, changing relish for who we are. Sexuality is our willingness to let ourselves really show in the world.” •

Carolyne Edwards

This revolutionary concept is, essentially, a spiritual one: one where we

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

In order that we can reclaim our erotic

are willing to be present in and as our body, without judgment; one where the

our

body becomes the temple in which the

understanding of ourselves as erotic

spirit is re-membered through its incarnation

beings. In truth, eros is most simply (and

and, therefore, treated with utmost respect

most profoundly) the creative life force:

and gratitude; one is which our erotic

the desire, the impulse of life to procreate.

passion for life and to love through

Yet, we have mistaken eroticism as a

connection and communion is allowed to

sexual phenomenon solely related to the

be fully and consciously expressed in our

genitalia, when in fact our sexuality is that

daily life experiences and relationships.

nature,

we

must

revolutionize

experience

In this sense, reclaiming the

(involving the whole body) that makes us

erotic is to reclaim the experience of

sentient beings.

the

total

sensory/sensuous

sacred

in

the

ordinary,

62


everydayness of life such that the joy

union and connection gifted to us by our

of communion becomes an experience

erotic

embodied through our senses, in every

unworthiness.

moment, with everything.

nature

from

Sacredness

the

has

shame

thus

of

become

something heavenly to attain rather than an ever present and pervasive, embodied reality -- indeed an integral part of our very nature. But when sacredness is seen as a separate experience, the corporeal world in which we live our day-to-day lives is seen at best as mundane to the “D.H. Lawrence writes: “There exist

atheist and at worst, profane to the

two great modes of life -- the religious

religious fundamentalist.

and the sexual.” Eroticism is the

Yet, our suppression of this desire

bridge… To be in relation to everything

for communion between Self and other

around us, above us, below us, earth,

occurs not just between humans, but also

sky, bones, blood, flesh, is to see the

with the whole of the natural world. Our

world as whole, even holy.”

mechanistic view of the universe has

Terry Tempest Williams

taught us to relate to Earth and other sentient

beings

as

“commodity”

--

This body-positive spirituality and

something only valuable in as much as it is

erotic sensuality is far from the prevailing

for human use or service. Hence, we have

norm. Rather, in order to experience what

been conditioned to relate to the natural

has been considered Divine, we have been

world as inanimate and unfeeling -- dead,

taught that transcendence of the body is

inert matter, simply resource to be

necessary and that this is done through

optimized.

subjugation and denial of the sensual body experience.

When Earth is seen this way, our actions are unavoidably exploitative, for

This has led us to consider the

our worldview does not permit us to

sacred as something apart or wholly other

acknowledge the intense livingness of the

from whom and what we are as human-

planet we inhabit and to offer respect and

animal and to suppress the deep desire for

63


gratitude

for

Earth’s

incredible

abundance, upon which we are sustained. Eco-feminism,

a

scholarly

movement that links the values and ideals of feminism with ecology, has drawn a strong parallel between the ways our patriarchal society objectives women and the natural world. Eco-feminists argue that where and when the environment has been exploited and dominated through war, resource extraction, or for human use and development, women have also been exploited and dominated through social inequality, rape and domestic violence, and oppression of feminine power and influence.

alone in a spiritual context. However, this challenge is no reason to avoid such a discourse. In my attempt to understand the erotic in this new light, I have found feminist poet Audre Lorde’s exploration of it to be a most compelling. She states,

Just as the significance of the feminine and nature have been diminished so too has the erotic been misnamed and misunderstood. The erotic has been used against us -- twisted and manipulated by centuries of misguided religious power and, today, regarded as a pornographic taboo where no divinity remains, only hedonism. Additionally, the expression of the

erotic

in

women

has

been

inappropriately demonized as “whorish” while in men it has been glorified as a show of supremacy. For this reason, the erotic is not

“[W]e have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with it’s opposite, the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.” In this sense, when we think of the erotic, we succumb to the belief that mere sensation is what we are after rather

an easy thing to speak about in general, let

64


than

permitting

ourselves

a

true

Our erotic experience is not

experiencing of the erotic -- which is both

something

to

demonize

the source and ultimate expression of

superficialize. Rather, it is a source of

deep communion with Self and other.

spiritual

knowledge

that

or will,

to when

The erotic is that connection, that

consciously embraced, empower us by

sharing, as Lorde contends, between “those

guiding us toward our fullest expression

physical,

psychic

of ourselves and into deep connection

expressions of what is deepest and

with life -- after all, the erotic is directly

strongest and richest within each of us.”

linked to our deepest, wildest, most

emotional,

and

Hence, the joy of the erotic is a

intuitive places.

reminder of the depth that we are capable

But in order that we are capable

of feeling and a reminder of that which

of exploring that which is most erotic,

fundamentally connects us as sentient

most primal within us, we must be

beings.

courageous enough to grow beyond the social conditioning that keeps us

“Eroticism, being in relation, calls the

docile, obedient and oppressed.

inner life into play. No longer numb,

This is social conditioning of

we feel the magnetic pull in our bodies

which I speak takes two forms: one is to

toward something stronger, more vital

demonize and, in turn, repress the erotic

than simply ourselves. Arousal becomes

within women; the other is to pervert and

a dance with longing. We form a secret

to turn superficial the sensuality that our

partnership with possibility.”

erotic nature invites so that it is only in

Terry Tempest Williams

service of our personal pleasure rather than experienced as the source of shared connection. While this communion is possible throughout all aspects of our living, surely one experience of shared connection is sex and so, to see the profoundly erotic act of sex as a sacred act rather than pornographic or rote would be the

65


ultimate reclaiming of the erotic in today’s

unrecognized feelings) in order that we

society.

actualize our fullest potential. Operating under the belief that

And

so,

without

this

“we cannot live fully as sexual-erotic

reconciliation, it is hard for us to imagine

beings

our

what it would be to live in this deep

spiritual depth,” Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D

connection because of the vulnerability we

has put forth a spiritual understanding of

fear experiencing when we allow ourselves

sexuality in his book Sacred Sexuality:

to be fully expressed, to be fully seen.

without

first

recovering

The Erotic Spirit in the World’s Great Religions. Through

his

exploration

and

understanding of the sexual perspectives and traditions of the world’s great religions,

Feuerstein

shows

how

historically, spirituality and sexuality were completely compatible and, in this sense, he challenges us to free ourselves from the sex-negativity that has characterized our culture and time by presenting an “erotic spirituality” for today. This challenge to embrace the

But as a result of this fear, we risk

sexual act as a spiritual act, however, is

living in the seasonless world where we

predicated on our ability to see the

numb the sensuality of our experiences

expression of the erotic, in all areas of our

out of fear and shame that our erotic

life, as sacred rather than shameful.

nature makes us unworthy of love and

In

this

sense,

without

first

belonging when in truth, it is only by way of

reconciling our erotic nature, we cannot

our erotic nature that allows for our fullest

accept ourselves fully in order that we can

love and deepest connection to be

live in our truest expression, nor can we

experienced.

access our deepest power (which lies locked

in

our

unexpressed

and

Hence,

reclaiming

the

erotic

experience of the body is a gentle process of self-discovery, a re-wilding if you will, 66


in which we allow ourselves exploration

of deep connection by way of our desire

and expression of that which we have

to love and to be loved. While this

suppressed within us -- in part through

expression need not be sexual, it is by

our sexuality and sexual experiences, but

nature erotic in that we reach beyond the

equally so through our everyday life

individual ego experience to unite (to join

encounters.

in the shared, sensual experience of life).

This is done through a conscious

This union/communion is that which

consideration of our desires as a source of

connects us as sentient beings to the

empowerment -- as a spiritual source

larger matrix of life; hence, the erotic is

within us. This desire is found, explored,

our most sacred resource, our bridge back

and expressed within and through the

to Oneness.

body experience. For, it is the passionate nature of eros that allows us the experience

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

My Mother’s Body by Audrey Post

I have to say, of all my lovers the best has been wilderness. Why? Because she has mirrored my darkest depths and never turned away, always carried the flame. She has sent her best hedonists to teach me of my piousness. Rocks and rivers have never shunned in disgrace when I spread my legs,

67


and wash myself clean with ecstasy… Mountains and valleys have ridden me dry and then kissed my thighs wet again with rain. In earthen arms I have turned and clawed and crawled like the animal in heat but I am not afraid. Because I know god is at the intersection of love and lust, of divinity and primalness, at the conclusion of earth and stars… I dare you to show me where the barriers are between your heart and mine, for we are magnetized -together we are one, separateness is the greatest illusion. I can feel myself tessellating now, dissolving like a bread crumb. I am nothing; I am no one. But I speak, and you hear me. But I smile, and you see me smile. So I sense that our sentience is powerful. I sense that our connection to this world is an electric circuit plug, sparking through our veins like some precious drug -and now I’m slipping down my heart onto my sleeves just to reach out to you across the void of my individuality feels like a water drop coalescing with the sea, like a surge of dimetholtryptomine, like a re-membering of my body

“When I speak of the erotic,” my sister said “I speak of the assertion of the lifeforce of women” Ladies, they may be afraid of your eroticism, of your provocative wisdom, of your authenticity, which burns brighter than their morality, but this is the day that we become free. This is the moment in HERstory when the women no longer fear our femininity, when we release victim-mentality, when the men learn to respect the yoni, when god becomes the body… So sisters, lick your sicknesses from your brows -Spit out the spoon, spread your legs and let your power spill out! Shakti is shaking in the shiver of her rebirth. Our mother is none other than this Mother Earth, and she will forever bear our sorrows in her dirt, she will forever hold our lovers in her rivers, birth our children in her fruits… She will forever be the ground on which we quiver to life. But we have made her mute. This is a metaphor but the message still stands: Daughters, we cannot be free until our Mother is unbound. In solidarity let us stand, with our blood dripping from our wombs to water the gardens of the future, to free ourselves from the torture 68


of bleeding without a purpose. Take your goddamn tampons out! We have damned the rivers that connect us! We have ebbed the sweet rank of our sisterhood that cycles through from within, from without. This is the moon blood that we cannot dismiss like a plague of locus whose sacredness has gone amiss. So let us gather together in the moon lodges of our ancestors, in the Red Tent temples of our grandmothers. Let us share of the womb wisdom within the maiden, the mother, the crone -Let the voice of the Divine Feminine resonate in the wind, for we are not alone. Together let us stand amongst the forest trees, the waterways, the canyon walls, the mountains and the valleys, the salty seas… Let us mourn for their destruction and sign praise for life’s eternal resiliency. For women and nature have been turned into commodity -exploited for the reign of patriarchy and while I know that courage is often mistaken for insanity, I refuse to be witness to this inhumanity anymore.

My Mother’s body is not grounds for some war of imperialism or terror or misogyny, I would’ve pissed on my privilege if it meant all creatures could be free. But I’ve learned to use it now like a fishing lore. Flashing my whiteness around like a magnificent street whore, knowing my social mobility allows me to say and do what I please and this is a social justice strategy. But hey! Here’s something to say: Stop talking! Stop building theories between bodies defined by skin color, gender or economic stature I love you Brother! I love you Sister! So listen -Go find the smooth skin of a rock body, of dirty earth, rank with fecundity. Rediscover you sensuality in communion in coessentiality. Breathe in a Ponderosa like a lover’s skin. Hot butterscotch. Dissolving your boundaries between Self and other, between what is and what is not Are your breathing or being breathed? Are your breathing or being breathed? Are your breathing or being breathed?

☽ ☾☽ ☾ ◯ ☽ ☾☽ ☾

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>>> L I S T O F R E F E R E N C E S A New View of a Woman’s Body, Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers, 1991 Bennett, Robin Rose & Mischa Schuler, “Wild Carrot Study - Final Summary,” 2011, http://robinrosebennett.com/index.php? option=com_k2&view=item&id=44 Gladstar, Rosemary, Herbal Healing for Women, 1993

Canner, Liz, Orgasm, Inc., First Run Features, 2009 Feuerstien, Georg, Sacred Sexuality: The Erotic Spirit in the World's Great Religions, 1992 Winston, Sheri, Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, Mango Garden Press, 2012

Living with Our Fertility: A Women's Guide to Synergistic Fertility Management, Sister Zeus, 1998-2011 http://www.sisterzeus.com/ Lorde, Audre, “Use of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1984. 53-59 McGregor, R.R., Herbal Birth Control: A brief history with ancient and modern herbal recipes, 1993 Northrup, Christiane, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Random House, Inc., 2010 OSHO, Tantra: Supreme Understanding, 2009. Parvati, Jeannie, Hygieia: A Woman’s Herbal, 1978 Wilson, Mercedes, The Ovulation Method of Birth Regulation, 1981 Winstien, Merryl, Your Fertility Signals, 1999

Radical Fertility  

An Alternative Guide to Women's Sexual and Reproductive Empowerment

Radical Fertility  

An Alternative Guide to Women's Sexual and Reproductive Empowerment

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