to belonging* is our next step to rethink and act on the topic of anti-discrimination. Moving away from the discourse of visibility of diversity and inclusion to authentic and lived belonging of all marginalized groups. This should lead to radical systemic change in the impact sector, from "power over" and "power for" to "power with."  This series is made possible by the Open Society Foundations.

We are nature. We are cyclical. Our bodies follow a rhythm of their own. This rhythm holds a particular hormonal cocktail for people with uteri that makes us feel differently and also endows us with different abilities, aka “cycle superpowers”. Unfortunately, this fact hardly finds room in the hyped-up everyday life of our patriarchal "Forever-Young" meritocracy.

In my work, I passionately advocate for the dissemination of valuable cycle knowledge and the de-tabooing of menstruation. I firmly believe that a cycle-oriented life is an effective, loving and harmonizing way to live modern feminism. By peacefully and confidently living out all of our cyclical facets, we are creating a centuries overdue balance in the distribution of power between men and women in our society.

 

Miriam Stark

Portrait of Dr. Miriam Stark © Mona Dadari

Because we (all) are required to consistently deliver the same performance 5 days a week in a completely linear fashion, we are trampling over our own natural rhythm. And in doing so, we miss the great opportunity to know and utilize our cyclical needs and most importantly, our cyclical special abilities, or so-called ”cycle superpowers". In addition, we let countless learning and AHA moments, as well as healing opportunities pass us by as a result. However, because our body is very smart, it doesn't just let us get away with steamrolling over our natural rhythm and more or less gently points it out to us:. In purely physical terms, this often makes itself felt through a wide variety of PMS symptoms, migraines, chronic fatigue, middle pain, emotional roller coaster, menstrual cramps, painfully tense breasts, various autoimmune reactions, and much more.

And none of it has to be! Because just knowing and being aware of when we are in which cycle phase automatically leads us to get more in touch with our cyclical needs, gradually making room for them and thus accessing our superpowers that each cycle phase holds for us. What's really good then is that we can use our particular cyclical abilities specifically for our life and work. I call this cycle-oriented life and work - in which "flow" is not a snapshot but a permanent state.

But as a business psychologist with a PhD in entrepreneurship, how do I come up with "cycle-oriented life and work"?

Like probably most parents with a migration history, my Persian mother and Czech-Slovak-Hungarian father's greatest concern for their children was to be "well integrated socially." Whatever that may mean. This ideal was lived out in my family through extremely high standards of achievement, which gave me and my sister the feeling that we had to fight hard for the recognition and affection of our parents and society.

At 29, this struggle had reached its peak: during my PhD, I led an unhealthily fast and performance-oriented life. Airports felt like bus stops and when I wasn't sitting at the computer working, I was desperately trying to dance my wild, non-conformist side back for a little moment in some club. After 5 years of fast life, my heart pulled me back home - the cozy Cologne, probably because a small desire for nest-building germinated in me. But once you're in the fast lane, it's hard to get off it. Even the fact that I was pregnant didn't change my driven and fast-paced daily life. When I experienced my first miscarriage, I fell into a deep low. A year later, the second miscarriage followed. This triggered a cascade of negative beliefs about myself and my femininity within me that I had been trying to compensate for many years with the help of fierce work rage. The feeling of being "a broken woman" overwhelmed me and my entire body. So it reacted very wisely and gave me an autoimmune disease: Alopecia Areata. Circular hair loss. At first only circular and then complete - after 6 months I didn't have a single hair left on my entire body. Because of my Persian-Hungarian-Czech curly mane I had always been "the Miri with the hair". But who was I now?

In search of answers to this question, I dove deep into the issues that had brought me to this point in my life. Especially the hurts I had experienced in relation to my femininity throughout my life, I looked at in detail, lovingly, patiently and deeply. I used different methods: TCM, Ayurveda, Reiki, Yoga, Meditation, Kinesiology, Somatic Experiencing, Shamanism, Energy Work, Tamalpa, Dance-, Art- and Psychotherapy and many more. All the pieces of the puzzle that I was allowed to collect in the treatments and conversations with many wise people brought me closer to myself. So I was able - probably for the first time in my life - to consciously listen to my intuition and follow it when the book “The Red Moon" by Miranda Gray fell into my hands. I was immediately completely fascinated by the fact that people with uteri are cyclical and flow through four phases every month. How could it be that no one knew this? How could it be that this wasn't taught in school? How could it be that I didn't know my own cycle? I wanted to change all that. But first I wanted to feel for myself what it means to live my femininity fully and consciously in every phase of my cycle.

Already in the 2nd cycle I was like permanently high and at the same time completely clear: never before had I felt so connected to myself, never before had I felt such a strong and secure feeling of being alive. Never before had it been so clear to me that I am the creator of my life and alone decide how I want to live. At this point, my hair began to grow back and just one cycle later, there was no blood but instead two streaks on a pregnancy test that announced my daughter, whom I gave birth to at our home in March 2019.

What stuck with me - despite being a newly happy mother - was the thought "The world has to know!". It can't be that PMS is treated like a widespread disease when it's actually just a cycle phase that's allowed to be lived more!"

Why we are not taught this crucial knowledge in school becomes clear when we realize what powerful special abilities we have in each phase. Unfortunately, this uncontrollable female power seems to be undesirable in a patriarchal achievement society and therefore it has been structurally suppressed for centuries.

When talking about "cycle" most people think of the two "opposite poles" ovulation and menstruation. In reality, however, the cycle consists of 4 phases that merge into one another. 

Vulvani

(Photo by Vulvani via www.vulvani.com)

So let's do something against this patriarchal structurally consciously created knowledge gap.

Cycle Knowledge in a Nutshell

All people with a uterus, usually experience a menstrual cycle from a certain point in your youth. This can be divided into 4 phases:

  1. The phase after our menstruation (preovulatory phase).
  2. The phase of ovulation (ovulatory phase)
  3. The phase before menstruation (premenstrual phase)
  4. The phase of bleeding (menstrual phase).

The hormonal interplay of the cycle ensures that we have certain abilities, I call them "cycle superpowers", in each phase. At the same time, the hormonal state and the associated special abilities in a cycle phase activate a certain archetypal quality in us. So lowest common denominators of psychological parts in us, which we all share:

  • Phase 1: Young - cycle superpowers "learning & playing".
  • Phase 2: Maternal - cycle superpowers "Loving & Enjoying".
  • Phase 3: Magical - cycle superpowers "Creativity & Intuition
  • Phase 4: Old - cycle superpowers "Wisdom & Letting Go".

The needs of each archetypal part are as different as each person herself and may be perceived alertly and lovingly. One way to become familiar with one's cyclic needs is cycle tracking (you can find a template for this in my booklet: http://tacheles-beratung.de/product/tacheles-zykluswissen-booklet/).

Sometimes we may not be able to access our cycle superpowers during a cycle phase, but may regularly feel physical (ex: Lower abdominal tightening or cramps, middle pain, breast tenderness, migraines, etc.) or psychological level (e.g.: depressive or aggressive moods, feeling beside ourselves, etc.) various symptoms may show up.

We may understand these symptoms as clue stimuli of our body, which wants to direct our attention to certain issues, which are related to the respective archetypal quality. Thus, traumatic memories or experiences, unconscious or conscious, overt or covert conflicts, and conditioned aversions related to a particular archetypal quality can block access to our cycle superpowers.

At the same moment, however, our cycle then offers us the opportunity to address these issues and find healing. So, as if on a spiritual silver platter, each month our cycle serves us the issues that we may lovingly attend to. Isn't that great?

It is important for me to point out that these clues do not always have to result in an immediate deep analysis. Every topic may be looked at more deeply and lovingly when the right moment has come. When this is, each person feels best himself. Often it is enough to simply be aware of the fact that in a certain cycle phase a topic is "knocking" and to give it space. For example, to limit external appointments and build in a self-care program in order to convey to your system, "I know, there is something here and therefore I am especially loving to myself!”.

So living cycle-oriented means first of all nothing else than being aware of your cycle phases and the relationships to the different activated archetypal parts, giving them the space they need and thus having the chance to use the cycle superpowers.

You may have stumbled over the earlier words "Magical" in Phase 3 and "Old" in Phase. These parts in us are the ones that are consciously suppressed by patriarchal society and are therefore not represented or negatively stigmatized in our society. Let me explain why.

In the cycle Phases 1 & 2 our hormonal constitution corresponds exactly to what is expected of us by society - we are capable of learning and performing, can deliver and are calculable and controllable, externally oriented and (especially in Phase 2) like to take care of others, so everyone is happy and satisfied. Phase 1 is extremely well suited in cycle-oriented work for learning new contents, playfully exploring new subject areas or dedicating oneself to cognitively challenging activities. In phase 2, the estradiol high gives us diplomatic skills and a good dose of charm, which we can use to good effect in difficult discussions with customers, employees or colleagues.

In cycle Phase 3, however, our rhythm and our body want something that is not socially provided for. It wants that we take care of ourselves. In the 3rd phase of our cycle, our body initially assumes each month that we are pregnant, that is, creating a whole human being, which therefore initially leads to a strong need to withdraw and build a nest. We are super at creating new systems and structures - or cleaning out closets - during this time. Ten days after ovulation, the body now knows whether the egg has been fertilized or not; if it hasn't, there's a whole lot of creative power wafting around inside us now - namely, exactly the kind that was prepared to create a whole human being. If we don't do anything with this unique, magical energy - e.g. paint a picture, play with clay, dance, cook or bake crazy things or whatever else we feel like doing - then what happens? We go crazy. The excess energy goes to our head and we start telling the wildest conspiracy theories about our partners, colleagues, bosses or the mailman. Some of us also become a kind of emotional steam boiler, which at the slightest wrong touch flies up with all the excess energy and pours out in anger or tears. Often, in retrospect, we find this unpleasant ourselves, especially because it confirms a stigma that patriarchal society likes to impose on us: "Boa, she's exhausting, she's getting her period!”.

In a cycle-oriented life, we know when we arrive at Phase 3 and can schedule appointments and dates according to our needs. You realize that you always feel like going dancing during this time? Great, book the babysitter already. You know you want to be left alone during this time and draw away with the Spotify best of divas playlist? Wonderful, communicate that to your family and schedule your time slot for just that. This strong creative magical power that we have at our free disposal during this time is, by the way, extremely well suited for free, intuitive and creative realization of one's own entrepreneurial dreams or creative free association (i.e. brainstorming but without using the brain). 

Please note: The archetypal qualities described here are to be understood as the lowest common denominator of the cyclic experience of all people with a uterus who do not use hormonal contraception. The individual expression and experience of the phases is as differently individual and unique as we are. A super simple and efficient way to alertly and lovingly notice and get to know our cyclical peculiarities is cycle tracking with the One-word-method.

In my work I love to support people with uterus to use exactly this creative power and connect it with their entrepreneurial spirit.

Finally, let's get to the all-important mistake that people with uteruses regularly make when we don't pay attention to our own rhythms: skipping Phase 4.

Women's menstruation has been taboo and negatively stigmatized for centuries. The hygiene products industry advertises that with menstrual products you can achieve a "clean" and "protected" feeling and be safe from "dangerous leakage." But why on earth is blood from the most sacred and comforting of places, the womb, from which - by the way - we all originate, dirty or even dangerous? Why do I even need a HYGIENE article? And what the hell am I supposed to protect myself from?

The superpowers inherent in our menstrual time are gigantic - provided we allow ourselves to live this time to the fullest. Then we don't need to do much and find ourselves in a natural meditative state. We can easily connect with our own inner wisdom and intuition and thus build a secure base within us that will carry us fluffily, as if on a cloud, for the rest of the month. Along the way, we have the brilliant chance to say goodbye to everything we didn't like about the past month and let go of anything negative. Sounds too esoteric? Think of it like this, our body, through the detachment of the endometrium, is able to get rid of toxins and other useless things monthly, thus cleansing itself. We can do the same emotionally!

But unfortunately, few of us celebrate our menstruation. Few of us are proud and happy owners of freebleeding underwear (like Koramikino), stocking up on chocolate and women's tea, and feeling our uterus working away with pleasure. Instead, we cork ourselves up with OBs or menstrual cups, make sure we're leak-proof and functional, swallow Dolormin so we don't feel our body alerting us to what it actually needs: namely, REST! But when we take the time to take a day or two to be quiet with ourselves, something magical happens. Our kids know that mommy just wants to play quietly with them today, our partners do the lion's share of the housework, a friend takes the kids for a walk - in short, when we take a day or two out of the month to completely clear our minds of all to-dos and obligations and allow ourselves to just be, then, yes, then our bodies thank us with a fat load of energy that carries us fluffily through the next cycle.

And for all of you who are wondering "How can you possibly use this phase professionally?". Here's the answer: our natural menstrual meditative state allows us to take a kind of meta-perspective in relation to the day-to-day happenings in our lives. Thus, one should never burden a menstruating person with the trivialities of everyday life, but consult her/him - similar to a magical oracle - on higher-level and existential questions, e.g. business development topics.

And at the latest now it should be clear to every uninterested reader why especially in monotheistic patriarchal cultures the different cycle phases and menstruation were tabooed. If the magic of woman* and her wisdom were given a social place, this would make the narrative of a magical and creative God obsolete. It was therefore necessary to attribute dangerous witchcraft or hysteria to woman*, to burn or torture her for it, and to negatively stigmatize or completely negate her elusive, poorly controllable, and always envied creative magical power. And absurdly, at the same time, every single human being walking on this planet is living proof of the creative magical power that lies dormant in every human being with a womb.

In my coaching sessions, I support people with uteruses (i.e. women, trans men, non-binary, queer and intersex people) in learning about their own personal needs. Together, we create the space in their lives that it takes to be able to live out those individual needs and thus come into the fluffy life experience that we all deserve. 

Often my clients suffer from the feeling of living a life that is determined by their children, their partners, daycare or school schedules and their jobs, but not by themselves. In our work together, I support them in changing exactly that, in honestly answering the question "How do I actually want to live?" and in shaping the framework conditions in such a way that exactly this wish becomes reality. 

You want that too? If you want to learn more about my work and the cycle-oriented life, please contact me at stark@tacheles-beratung.de.

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