Samantha Neal is a holistic menstrual educator. She teaches the menstrual cycle as a rich inner resource that we can align ourselves with, to experience harmony and tap into our innate wisdom. A kind of map that we can move alongside to find our own natural rhythm.
Samanthas wisdom is profound and rooted in her own practice. This was an illuminating conversation showing how people who bleed can connect to their menstrual cycle in a way that brings them closer to not only their own personal healing, but supports planetary healing as well.
For those who are unfamiliar with the practice of living in accordance with our menstrual cycle, could you please share a bit about what it is and why it’s important?
Menstrual cycle awareness is a practice of being in an intentional relationship with our fertility and cycling bodies. I see its importance as being multifaceted, wildly rich and extending beyond the individual who practices it.
Our cyclical nature is an integral part of who we are and how we show up in the world. We are always in intimate relationship with our menstrual cycles, regardless of whether or not we are paying attention to them. Each day of our cycle, we experience hormonal shifts and changes that inform how we respond to and receive our lives. The practice of cycle awareness is about attuning ourselves to these changes and caring for ourselves with compassion as we move through them. It’s about embracing the truth of our female bodies and living in congruence with that. It’s about moving at the pace of our own being, rather than the culturally imposed and productivity-driven pace of the external world. Menstrual cycle awareness is our natural pathway into self-exploration and supports the whole health of our minds, bodies and spirits.
In our male-oriented and patriarchal society, this way of relating to our bodies is epically subversive. Rather than be ashamed, disconnected and repulsed by our own feminine nature, we begin to reclaim a relationship to the female body that is rooted in respect and in recognition of its power. We see for ourselves that the menstrual cycle is not a curse, but in truth one of our greatest blessings. This perspective is revolutionary and supports our personal and planetary healing at the grassroots level.
"The practice of cycle awareness is about attuning ourselves to these changes and caring for ourselves with compassion as we move through them."
Could you share a bit about how your path to teaching cyclical living has unfolded and how you initially came across it?
I was once a law student in downtown Los Angeles where I believed I was engaging in meaningful work, yet doing so in a way that didn’t feel authentic to me. During one of my school breaks, I went on a silent meditation retreat. In that week of silence and stillness, I found clarity. When I returned home, I quit law school and bought a one-way ticket to Australia – a country I had dreamt of exploring almost my entire life. I became drawn to and curious about more feminine ways of relating with the world and with myself. At that time, I was interested in female sexuality. What had been so layered with shame, distortion and mixed messaging, became a doorway into truth, power and connection for me. Very naturally, my exploration of female sexuality led me to the menstrual cycle. Our sexuality and fertility are intertwined, and the relationship we have to each is reflective of the other. I became fascinated by female physiology and the multidimensional significance of the menstrual cycle. From this place of passion, my path of sharing this work organically followed.
My way of facilitating and sharing has evolved and changed as I have. This is one of the beautiful pieces of this work – that it is never ending and continually unfolding. Truthfully, I’m very much a beginner on this path. I know I have so much more to learn. I am deeply grateful to my teachers and mentors for their continuing support and transmission, and for paving the way for myself and others to follow. The conversation around menstruation is what it is today, because of them.
Why do you believe we stopped viewing our cycles as something to honour and instead adopted the idea that it’s shameful and impure somehow?
Depending on where we look to in the world, we will find differing views and relationships to the menstrual cycle. And yet, it is interesting that cross-culturally, we find a very strong and ingrained menstrual taboo. In some parts of the world, there are customs that do not allow menstruating women to enter the kitchen, touch food, speak to men, pray or enter their temple. We see this taboo in Western culture, although not expressed so explicitly. Many of us reading this can remember the tampon ads that showed blue liquid instead of red, and pictured women dressed in all white playing sports. As a young person seeing this, the unconscious message I internalised was that the tangible truth—the red blood of our female bodies wasn’t acceptable and that to be a woman was inherently shameful.
Menstrual blood is perhaps the most feared and stigmatised substance in the world. This in and of itself should clue us into its power. When we begin to understand and experience the potency of the menstrual cycle, we see that this widespread taboo and silencing of our nature has been used as a tool to control and oppress the female form and feminine power. Menstrual blood is life. It is literally the reason why every human being on this planet is alive. And so, to a male-dominated and patriarchal system, it is threatening and must be diminished and shamed in order to maintain its control. In this way, reclaiming our relationship to our blood is some of the most important work of our time.
I’m curious to know how you live in relationship with your cycle. Do you know it by intuition and feeling, or do you track your cycle?
Both. My relationship with my cycle is integrated into my life. While there are still times when I lose track of what day I’m on (day 1 being the first day of bleeding, and then counting up from there), I always have a general sense of where I’m at. My life moves in a momentum that I am familiar with. I trust my changing capacities throughout my cycle and I lean into them. I do my best to respect my ebbs and flows and embrace them as strengths, rather than as burdens to bear. I prioritise space for quiet and solitude when it’s needed. I push myself when I know I can handle it. I rest when my blood arrives. This connection to my internal rhythm feels metabolised and rooted. It is my most used map for how I traverse my world.
I love this quote from your recent blog post, “doing less is challenging. Our need for rest while bleeding disrupts the capitalist mindset.” Yet ironically, I have a couple of friends who’ve tried living in tandem with their cycle who shared how productive it made them feel. Beyond productivity, what are some other benefits you’ve discovered from living in accordance with your cycle and guiding other women to do the same?
Living in connection with our menstrual cycle is a spiritual practice that elevates our lives and deepens our capacity to be present to our experience. It is a tool for self-compassion and self-understanding, and the awareness it fosters ripples out into all areas of our lives. The benefit of this work lies in the strengthening of our capacity to be with, accept and love ourselves wholly.
Working with the natural rhythms of our bodies can lead to greater productivity. But if this is what we are focusing on, we’re missing the point. Beyond achieving and doing more, being in relationship with our cycle is about living in alignment with the pace of nature, and remembering that we are part of it too.
Our climate crisis is no doubt the most pressing issue of our times. We (in Western culture) have forgotten our innate connection to the natural world, which makes our exploitation of it possible. And like the macrocosm to the microcosm, the way we treat the Earth is reflective of the way we treat ourselves. Cultural conditioning to take from our bodies without allowing for periods to rest and recharge is the same logic that underpins the relentless degradation of our Earth’s resources. Space is not being given for pause, integration and reciprocity. This way runs counter to natural law, and has indisputably proven itself to be unsustainable.
The wisdom embedded within the menstrual cycle has great potential to support humanity in waking up from its collective insanity. The practice of cycle awareness humbly resists the very mentality that has resulted in this widespread dysregulation and ecological harm. This is because it teaches us the natural flow of creation: that there are supported times for dynamic energy and “doing”, as well as necessary moments for rest, stillness and retreat. Both are needed for creation, productivity and forward momentum to occur sustainably. We need only look to the Earth and her seasons to understand this intelligence. By practicing presence with our menstrual cycle, we anchor this truth into our beings and learn to live in harmony with our inner and outer nature.
"There are supported times for dynamic energy and “doing”, as well as necessary moments for rest, stillness and retreat. Both are needed for creation, productivity and forward momentum to occur sustainably."
In the article, you also say that “menstruation offers a window of time where we’re supported to be deeply present with the wisdom of our bodies.” Could you please share an example of the insight that comes up when we slow down?
The beautiful thing about slowing down is that in this space we become receptive. When we are receptive, we are open to guidance, solutions and perspectives that are often unavailable to us when our minds are full. When we slow down, we free up space to listen.
Often, the quieter voice of our intuition gets muffled by our daily to-do lists and mundane-realm duties. When we are bleeding, we have the opportunity to experience our reality beyond this. At this time in our cycle, our hormones, physiology and brain chemistry are literally supporting us to be more reflective, self-aware, intuitive and psychic. This is precious space. Revel in it when you can.
When I’m bleeding, I pay close attention to my dreams and feelings. They are louder here and I am softer. I write down channeled visions and creative ideas. I trust my instincts. I cry. I let go. I enjoy. I rest, reset and recharge. I plant seeds and I get clarity.
Although this isn’t my experience every cycle. This practice is not about perfection but about connection. Sometimes, when bleeding, I don’t have the space for what I need. I’m okay with this. These are the moments that become opportunities to show myself kindness and forgiveness when I need it most.
You've mentioned that you find yourself in a place of transition. Do you have any inklings about what you might like to dive into deeper next?
This place of transition is not for the faint hearted. It’s been uncomfortable, disorienting and expansive. It’s taken me some time to let go of my attachment to previous roles and identities. But when I did (and continue to), I feel open to hearing what is calling me forward next. I’m currently immersed in studying and have loved this shift in focus. I look forward to sharing more, in the right time :)
Where is the best place for people to learn more about your work?
You can learn more about my offerings at samantha-neal.com. I offer online sessions and periodically offer both in-person and online workshops. I’ve also created an online and self-paced course called the Cyclical Living Immersion, which is an extensive and comprehensive guide on holistic menstrual cycle education. Complete with a 70-page ebook, in-depth audio lessons, recorded interviews and practices, there was so much love, time and respect poured into this project.
Samantha wears the Jardin Bandeau Top in earth and Sol Short in stone. Images via Polly Grace @punch.tounge