personal essay: the menstrual body is a microcosm of the macrocosm.

By Jumana Khan

I’ve got the whole universe inside of me, collapsed into this 5’2 body of mine. I close my eyes and envision a seismic shift that folds the skies, the underground and the Earth neatly inside my pelvic bowl.

This cosmic origami unfolds, stretching until the stars fill my lungs and the underground nestles between my legs. As I explore this unfolding universe inside me, it organises itself into an axis for me to turn upon, waxing and waning like the moon.

Change is inherent to me; it’s an egg of possibility, fertile and ripe for germination. Without change, the regenerative laws cease to exist — there is no swelling of creativity or the void of death for new things to become alive. 

Humanity’s aversion to change is anti-intuitive. 

We don’t have an issue with change itself, rather we have an issue with our lost ability to be in flux with our varied environments. Our current dominator systems are regimented in place by stagnation. They’ve been stuck in their ways of dividing the oppressor from the oppressed since settler colonies. 

Despite the inertia to change, we intuitively know that it’s necessary. Change is a pregnant void to be filled with creative ideas, life and newness. We physically can’t go on without it, the Earth can’t stop spinning and the artist can’t paint without the blank canvas. 

The menstrual body is a microcosm of the macrocosm. It directly reflects nature’s laws — a perfectly organised system that embodies this cycle of change. I’ve been a student of the menstrual cycle’s teaching for the last four years, and its lesson in regenerative change is a healing antidote for our fear of change. 

The root meaning of regeneration is rebirth, and its branches grow into similar definitions of regrowth and spiritual renewal. The menstrual cycle is a midwife to death and death is an agent for regeneration. New life, ideas, projects and relationships can only be birthed when the death of old things makes space for them to thrive. 

I close my eyes and spin upon my axis into the flowering phases of creation in my cycle.

The follicular phase builds into a peak at ovulation as hormones soar to their highest point. It feels orgasmic here; an overwhelm of sensation, promising beauty and an alignment with the heat of the sun. My body is gestating. I mimic the seeds germinating and the fruiting pomegranate tree. Creation is abundant here. New stars form and constellations connect. In this phase of birth, I want to share my voice with the world. To open up the chambers in my lungs and let loose a wild, raucous laughter that shakes the ground beneath me into a frenzy of flowers.

The nature of the cosmos is that I don’t stay here for long and I continue to spin until I see leaves falling from trees. 

The luteal phase sees a rise in progesterone and a varied fluctuation of hormones, causing me to feel unsteady as the tectonic plates shift beneath my feet. This is the phase of destruction. Rose-coloured glasses are thrown in the bin. Feelings are deepened, systems crumble and hard truths make me sensitive to anger and grief. Unsurprisingly, this premenstrual phase has become uncomfortable and disconcerting for menstruators and non-menstruators, because it promises nature’s inevitable arrival of destruction. It feels good to be here when I’m allowed to feel the complex nuance of grief and anger. I can meet myself in the fullness of who I am. 

My menstrual axis tilts me into menstruation.

My bleed pulls me into a dreamlike respite as if I’m wading through water. It feels like the lingering space after an exhale; a void. The bleed time is the completion of nature’s cycle as I move into regeneration. Hormones stagnate into the lowest and most stable expression during bleeding, and this echoes my longing to stay within myself. The bleed-time enables for release; a letting go of the cycle prior. It’s a clean slate to cycle again, to seed a new intention or to birth new things, both tangible and immaterial. 

The cycle will continue as the axis spins and I meet these world-creating aspects within myself: creation, destruction and regeneration. I lay down as I bleed. I rest. I whisper to myself: "What worlds will I create now?"

hi, i'm jumana — offline's resident essayist & menstrual guide.

The way forward is downward. Earthward. Wombward. I'm reclaiming the forgotten tools of menstrual cycles and earth weaving so we can remember what was once intuitive to us. If you want to join me on this journey to discover wild wholeness, you can find me @bijaruh.