Adapted from an article originally written for KINDREDSPIRIT | ACTIVISM | Planetary Healing
Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and Cecilia Allon explain the innate connection between sacred activism and women’s health
What has activism got to do with our health? Why is a well-rested woman a force for change? And what does your choice of tampons or sanitary towels have to do with activism? The answers to the questions depend upon what you think ‘activism’ is.
If your image of an activist is a young woman superglued to railings, being dragged off to prison by the police, waving banners on a protest, signing petitions, or making speeches, then think again.
Sacred activism can be a very private business. It can be about how often you choose to rest or, yes, which tampons you buy. Sacred activism is rooted in a clear, practical sense of our physical connection to the earth and the responsibilities that bring.
A Sacred Connection
You may have heard the words ‘Earth, my body; water, my blood; air, my breath and fire, my spirit…’This is not a metaphor. It’s the reality: the Earth is a living planet, and to live as a sacred activist means to acknowledge this reality every day.
The elements of which the Earth is made are the same constituent elements of all life on Earth. We are no different from anything else that lives and breathes on the planet. We are made from the Earth, live upon her, and return to her, just like everything else around us. At a cellular level, every life form on the planet is made from the same ingredients as the planet herself. Traditional medicine systems such as Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and, Indigenous healing methods are all grounded in a recognition of this elemental connection: humans are part of the web of life on earth. Sacred activists make choices that honor this truth.
There is no separation between the earth and us. We are part of the matrix of all life: a living web of interconnection and interrelation. The oceans and trees, mountains and rivers, sky and rain… these
too are our bodies, as are our toxic seas, plastic-strewn beaches, poisoned lakes, melting ice caps and scorched forests, unbreathable air, and acid rain. All of this is in us too, just as much as it is in Her. Because just in case you hadn’t noticed yet, there is no Planet B. This is our home and we have nowhere else to live.
Whatever we do to our environments, we do to our bodies. However, we treat the Earth as also how we treat ourselves because she is part of us and vice versa. However, we nourish and care for our physical bodies, our emotional states, our thoughts and intuitive wisdom, our sleep, our digestion, and our menstruation: all of this is a reflection of how we
treat the earth. Our bodies are living, breathing environments.
Womanhood is an ecosystem, and female bodies are all a part of it. Every woman on the planet is part of the ecosystem of womanhood. To practice sacred activism is to change our behavior to reflect this connection. But how do we do this7
The Cyclical Relationship of Woman and Earth
The physiology of female bodies, in particular the female reproductive system, has a certain relationship with the Earth. How we choose to care for ourselves and how we care for our cycles of menstruation and our experiences of cyclical health – including our expression of our sexuality and our creativity, our pregnancies, our lactation, and our menopausal experience – all of these have a very particular impact upon the Earth. Because menstrual cycles not only move in rhythm with lunar and seasonal
cycles, they also produce blood that goes back to the Earth – to enrich her or to pollute her, depending upon how we choose to dispose of our blood. Choices we make about how we handle our energies, how we handle our blood, how we handle our bodily Auids (and those of our babies, if we have them) – these functions can all cause pollution, damaging our planet.
This is the direct and simple connection between self-care choices for women’s health and planetary health. This is the link between women’s well-being and environmental activism.
It’s so simple. How you choose to handle the physiology of your little piece of the vast ecosystem of womanhood makes a massive difference to global environmental health.
First up, let’s talk about environ menstruality… This is a big word that helpfully brings together two big ideas. It is a combination of the words environment and menstruality. Menstruality means the rhythmic cycles of women’s lives – not just menstruation but also our menarche (our first period), our menopause (the cessation of our periods), and our mature years.
Every month those of us with periods expose our bodies to toxic chemicals and have to bin or Aush plastic due to the unhealthy disposable menstrual products we are sold. This is not helped by a lack of impartial education and the taboos that exist around periods. Sadly, 58% of women say they have felt embarrassed simply because they are on their period.
The Facts and Figures
The average menstruator uses 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime, and their disposal generates 200,000 tonnes of waste per year in Britain alone. A stunning 2 billion menstrual products are flushed down Britain’s toilets each year. 41% of women admit to Rushing these products down the loo, contributing to the sewer blockages which cause pollution on our beaches and in our oceans, and problems on their journey to our beaches as well. There are approximately 370,000 sewer blockages throughout the UK every year, of which up to 80% are caused by the combination of fats, oils, and grease with wet wipes, sanitary waste, and other unwashable items.
Disposal menstrual pads contain up to 90% plastic – an average pack contains the same amount of plastic as five plastic bags. This plastic takes 500-800 years to degrade, but the thing about plastic is that it never goes away, instead breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. The microplastics that we now find on our beaches and in the ocean remain in our ecosystem, harming thousands of sea creatures every day.
For every 100 meters of beach that are cleaned in Britain, 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste are found. In the United Kingdom, the removal of single-use menstrual products, wet wipes, and other related debris from beaches is estimated to cost about t1 million annually.
Some menstrual products also include fragrances that can interfere with the balance of bacteria inside your body. Synthetic fragrances can be made from a cocktail of up to 3,900 chemicals (styrene, chloromethane, chloroethane, chloroform, and acetone are just some of the chemicals used). Some of these chemicals are identified as carcinogens, neurotoxins, irritants, hormone disruptors, and reproductive toxicants. However, most of the time, these chemicals are not disclosed on the product by the manufacturer.
Many of the conventional single-use menstrual products (i.e. sanitary pads and tampons) and their packaging contain plastic and other synthetic materials like rayon, adhesives, artificial fragrances, and toxic chemicals such as phthalates, bisphenol-A, and petrochemical additives, which are recognized environmental pollutants and are also known to be endocrine-disrupting substances linked to some diseases, such as heart diseases, infertility, and cancer. Even traces of dioxin, which is created when these products are bleached white for visual appeal, and pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate, can be found in menstrual products.
What Can We Do About It?
- Be sure to only flush your waste and toilet paper
- Switch to plastic-free and organic cotton disposable options
- Switch to a reusable menstrual product like a menstrual cup, period pants, or, washable pads
Taking these simple, practical steps is the best way to make sacred activism part of your intimate self-care. But it’s not just about blood. It’s also about energy and respecting our rhythmic cycles of recovery and recuperation. Like an overfished sea, the ecosystem of womanhood has been depleted. Women simply don’t have any more to give.
This is energetic ecocide. Just as homicide is the murder of a human, ecocide is the murder of the planet: an action that causes the death of an environment or the extinction of a species. In the same way that pollution, deforestation, and overhunting destroy the earth’s environment, so too do the punishing work schedules and sleep deprivation that is part and parcel of many women’s lives, eroding our vitality and well-being.
Our energy is not a limitless resource to be exploited. Our ability to create is cyclical, not perpetual. When we exploit our vital energies and capacities to give and to do, we push ourselves beyond the limit of what is natural or sustainable. This too is a kind of ecocide. In the same way that open-cast mines, fracking companies, and the corporations that lay oil pipelines through sacred territories or extract uranium from holy ancestral sanctuaries destroy external environments, so too can we sabotage the delicate ecosystems of our own physical and internal energetic environments.
If you have ever pushed through exhaustion with another coffee or refused to listen to the signs that your body gave you when you were getting sick or depleted, know that this too damages the ecosystem of womanhood.
A powerful act of sacred activism is to take a rest. To push back against the culture of non-stop work that has all our noses to the grindstone: is also sacred activism. To refuse to be part of this culture is revolutionary, and the first step in the revolution is to get horizontal. Next time
you are tired, see how it feels to respond with kindness – to stop and rest or to listen to a yoga nidraNidra practice. Yoga Nidra, literally meaning ‘yoga sleep’ is a perfect antidote to exhaustion. It restores and nourishes the capacity of your body to listen to its rhythmic cycles, and offers a reset rooted in an understanding of the connection between the body and the earth – both move in cycles to be respected. As a daily practice, this can be key to sustainable energy management.
Many traditional activists burn out, but a sacred activist puts self-care as a top priority. In caring for ourselves, we can be better campaigners and activists. Yoga Nidra is a key tool in the campaign ‘Yoni Shakti the Movement’ to eradicate the abuse of women in yoga and to reclaim it as a tool for healing and justice. Campaign supporters are gifted specially-created yoga Nidra tools to nourish, connect to Source, and build a sense of connection amongst the community of activists. This is a new kind of activism – one powered by well-rested women.
We cannot do this alone, sisters. When we work together, rest together, and choose to educate and inform others about the choices we make, this is sacred activism – every bit as much of a protest as gluing yourself to the Houses of Parliament, marching, or signing a petition. A well-rested woman is a revolutionary force.
Environmenstrually-conscious choices can save the planet, and taking a nap is a radical act of resistance. All these self-care tools are part of the Sacred Activists’ toolkit for self-nurture and planetary healing. How we care for ourselves and how we care for our planet are the same. Holistic women’s health is planetary healing and environmental recovery. •
Cecilia Allon is Environmental Ambassador for the Women’s Environmental Network.
Environmental Ambassadors work nationwide to bring period education to schools, universities, community groups, and workplaces. Find out more at wen.org.uk/our-work/environmenstrual
Uma Dinsmore-Tuli is the author of Yoni Shakti: A Woman’s Guide to Power and Freedom through Yoga and Tantra (£25, available from yoganidranetwork.org/shop)