Growing up as a pre-teen/teenager in the 90's, my attitudes and ideas surrounding menstruation were by and large formed by various media outlets, health class at school, and by fellow peers who were only slightly more knowledgeable than I was about the function of the female reproductive system (which isn't saying much). My mom and I didn't really talk about menstruation much. She may have mentioned that at a certain point in every young girl's life, she will begin bleeding from her vagina. It's called a period, and it's normal. Health class went over the clinical aspects of how it happened. Stephen King's movie "Carrie" gave me a pretty horrid vision of what to expect if I was an outcast (which I sort of was) and happened to get my period during gym class. And of course, you had the tampon and maxi pad ads that seemed to indicate that by wearing one of these popular company's products (especially if they're scented!) during your period, you will be happier, more popular, and ultimately be able to kick ass playing soccer in your white shorts without embarassment. In fact, it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I was actually introduced to a new way of seeing our menstrual cycles as something to be celebrated, and even honored. It wasn't until my lifestyle shifted and I started meeting like-minded women who felt empowered by their monthly moontime... who felt that their cycles were sacred... that I started to also shift my ideas and feelings surrounding my own Moontime. Our ancestors knew that our blood held power, insights, and gifts which were ours and ours alone. Native Americans created Moon Lodges for females who were bleeding so that they could rest and focus on their dreams, ideas, and messages from Spirit. For an average of four days these women (who usually bled at the same time with the New Moon) did not have to worry about cooking or caring for their children, as the older women who no longer bled would bring them nourishment, and relatives within their tribes would care for their children. The only thing that women in their Moontime needed to concern themselves with is going inward and allowing deeper wisdom and intuition to come. Nowadays, we are made to feel like our periods are something to be laughed about; something disgusting; something that should be hidden. The fact that we should stop the flow of our blood by "plugging it up" with tampons, or collecting our blood in a chemical-filled pad only to be thrown away in the trash, is proof of how far removed many of us have become from Nature and from our own power. Jokes and comments around PMS abound. Most men in our modern day cultures fear our blood, and even we as women have been "trained" to detest our Moontime... to deem it an irritation or a nuisance... Instead of focusing on our pains and allowing ourselves the space to listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us, we suppress them with Midol or Pamprin or whichever other drug that will simply make it "go away." We ignore the messages from our bodies urging us to nurture ourselves and honor this sacred time, and so our pains become worse. There are many cultures in which women in their Moontime bleed freely, offering their sacred blood to the Earth. "The plants that are watered with it seem to grow much faster and are much healthier. It is a natural fertilizer. Blood also carries all information about humans and when it is given to Mother Earth she recognizes it and feels nurtured. Just like plants grow better when they are talked to, Mother Earth is happy when women share their fluids with Her." (Kasia Emilia Bogdan - http://www.taraka.pl/moon_time_is_blessing) Understandably, many women who read this are not necessarily going to want to begin free-bleeding, or water their plants with their blood, or feel like they can rest for four days while someone else takes care of their children and the cooking and cleaning. I wish it were so, but I realize that these ideas are so foreign to so many women that our generation may never make the collective choice to put these things into practice. Even so, I feel like we can at least begin to honor ourselves by being okay with our Moontime. Allow yourself to feel empowered by your blood; to understand that we are the only species who regularly bleeds in order to cleanse, prepare for new life, and move deeper into our primal rhythms which bring us incredible gifts. Just as it is important that we honor ourselves when our Moontime comes, we should also pave a new path for our daughters, and our granddaughters, and for every girl for generations to come. We should try and be brave, and revere this rite of passage from Maiden to Mother, by celebrating their first Moontime in a way that lets them know that they are experiencing something truly beautiful, powerful, natural, and important. Shame, embarassment, and disregard should never be a part of a young girl's first experience with menstruation, as "(t)he reaction of the parents and people around towards the first menstruation usually shapes the attitude for the rest of the woman's life. If the reaction is one of shame and guilt, which is usually the case in a dominant society, it is probable that a woman will not be happy with her body. It is extremely difficult to erase and transform it into something positive." (Kasia Emilia Bogdan) If you are looking for ways to honor your menses in a more natural way, I highly recommend reading about the Red Tent Temple Movement (http://redtenttemplemovement.com/). This is a quickly-spreading phenomena where women are supported and accepted by one another, and encouraged to become their best self by recognizing their beauty and power through vulnerability and connection with other women. It may help you to find the inspiration you need to begin your own journey towards honoring your feminine Self. Regarding tools for collecting your monthly blood, if you wish to stop using commercial pads and tampons which contain toxic ingredients, there are more natural options such as the Lunette Menstrual Cup (http://www.lunette.com/), and cloth menstrual pads. Not only are these safer and healthier for your body - especially when you are using them in such a sensitive area - but they are much more cost-effective and Earth-friendly because you reuse them! To honor yourself during your Moontime, create a sacred space that is only for you. Light candles, play your favorite music, cook (or have someone cook for you) your favorite meal, have a glass of wine, eat some dark chocolate, read, and just relax. Allow yourself to turn inward; keep a journal nearby to record new ideas, thoughts, fears, or images that come to you. Breathe deeply and relish this time. You are a powerful, emotional, beautiful woman, and you ARE sacred!