In this month’s spotlight, I would like to share an interview with you with one of my favourite teachers: Sara Avant Stover. I took part in Sara’s women’s retreat in Thailand in 2009 and she continues to inspire me on a regular basis. This month, she is offering a free ‘I heart my moon cycle’ month and I am following along!
Working with the cycles of the moon is a key element of mermaid magic and I highly recommend that you start to explore your own moon cycle!
Sara is offering a free month-long online event from February 18-March 17 for EVERY woman called “I Heart My Moon Cycle.”
She took time out from that for this interview that I think you will all enjoy!
1. You wrote the best-selling book, The Way of the Happy Woman. Why did you write that book?
Although I grew up in a house with three sisters and went to an all-women’s college (Barnard), by the time I turned 21 I was terribly confused about what it meant to be a “woman.”
I was anorexic, bulemic, an academic perfectionist, and an exercise addict. You could say I was a bit uptight! I stopped having my period, and my hair started to fall out. In addition, I had ovarian cysts the size of golf balls and I was diagnosed with advanced cervical dysplasia. I took up yoga and meditation, but I was practicing like a man — trying to achieve perfection in my form no matter how I was feeling or what time of the month it was.
In short, I was a profoundly unhappy woman!
By a stroke of serendipitous grace, just after my diagnosis I was offered a job to teach in northern Thailand. For the first time in my life, I trusted my gut and I went. I ended up living there for the next 9 years. While there, I found the teachers I needed to heal and I discovered that the key to doing this was realigning with my feminine rhythms–inside and out.
Once I started to understand deep in every soul of my body what it meant to be a happy and healthy woman in today’s world, other women started coming to me seeking the very answers I had sought.
The Way of the Happy Woman grew out of this journey. It’s a modern-woman’s guide to happiness in today’s world, by living in harmony with the seasons through yoga, meditation, supplements and herbs, nutrition, and lifestyle practices.
2. You’re currently hosting the free “I Heart My Moon Cycle Month”, featuring 28 female leaders and teachers over 28 days. What’s the idea behind “I Heart My Moon Cycle”?
The key to my own healing and reclaiming of my womanhood was the return of my menstrual cycle. This is the seed, the source, the center of our femininity. I went from embracing my own menstrual cycles to embracing the larger cycles I experience as a woman. From there, I went deeper still, aligning my entire life — including my business — with my cycles to fully empower my feminine strength, insight, and grace.
As I went to share this with other women, I came face-to-face with taboos, secrecy, and shame. In other words, how our culture views feminine cycles, from menstruation through menopause.
I created this month-long celebration of our cycles to begin to change that. For women to hear other feminine leaders–of all ages–speaking up about their cycles is healing and helps to bring our darkest parts into the light.
It shows us that we can live as empowered women, embracing our femininity in all its forms. We don’t have to hide parts of ourselves, or pretend that we think and operate as our lovely and beautiful masculine counterparts do in the world.
“I Heart My Moon Cycle Month” culminates in a free online class I’m teaching on “International Women’s Day” called “What to do on the first day of your cycle.” Since I wrote my book, that is the biggest question I get from women, which actually initially surprised me.
They ask things like, “Sara, what do I do if I’m on my period and I’m a busy mom, or working a lot? What do I do if I’m not bleeding anymore, is there an alternative ritual for me?” So I’m going to answer these questions, in detail, on March 8th.
The first day of our cycle is the most important day of the month for us as women. If we can honor that day, our health and happiness (as well as those of our loved ones!) will be much improved every other day of the month.
3. So in your experience, a lot of women are really confused about how to relate with menstruation and menopause?
Most definitely. I’ve taught all over the world– Hong Kong, Beijing, Dubai, Europe, the U.S. Everywhere, across the board, the biggest point of confusion for women is their cycles.
Obviously this is a problem because our cycles are a central part of our womanhood. Yet this is something most of us don’t talk about–even with our mothers, daughters, and girlfriends. Information is power, sharing is healing, so both “I Heart My Moon Cycle Month” and especially my free class on International Women’s Day are setting out to empower and heal.
4. You’ve been an advocate for things like herbs and supplements, along with dietary changes. How do you see herbs and foods in regulating and easing women’s cycles, from menarche to menopause?
Herbs and whole foods have been a HUGE part of my own healing. Herbs are such a gentle but powerful way to help keep the body and its chemistry in-alignment. They’re a natural and, dare I say, feminine way to encourage the body to find its own strength, instead of pounding it in with harsh allopathic medicines.
Our cycles are deeply related to nature. Our bodies ebb and flow like the tides. Our energy wanes and waxes like the moon. Using medicine from the earth helps to reawaken and realign those deep instinctual rhythms that have been ignored or scrambled because of the pace of modern living.
5. What else are you hoping to share with women about their cycles?
Our cycles are not isolated events! They cannot be parenthetical, peripheral parts of our lives. They must be at the center. They must be the heart.
We must learn how to build business plans and models based on our cycles (that’s what I do here at The Way of the Happy Woman). We must adapt our social lives, our play, our parenting according to our cycles. We must seek our deepest healing, intuitions, and creativity within our cycles. We must align our WHOLE lives as women around our cycles. We must learn to love and befriend the darker parts of our nature that come alive during our cycles. We usually suppress and feel victim to these shadow parts of ourselves (feeling ashamed at ourselves, angry at the patriarchy or both). If we don’t own and integrate them, we’ll continually feel imprisoned by common forms of self-sabotage like emotional eating, angry outbursts, shame loops, and self-destructive thoughts and feelings.
I teach a longer online immersion about all of this called “Reversing Our ‘Curse,'” Over five months, I take women through the entire journey of healing our shame, owning our shadows, caring for PMS, menses, perimenopause, and menopause, and then integrating ALL of this into our daily work, play, love, and life.
I feel this is the women’s movement for the next generation, standing on the shoulders of the female giants who have paved such a strong and noble path for us to follow.
6. What is your larger goal concerning women?
I want women to know how powerful we really are. I want women to find their deep, indestructible happiness that lives in embracing and flowing with their cycles, in dancing in the light and the dark. I want women to relax into their vulnerable, soft, and seemingly unlovable parts. And within those to find the crown of sovereignty we’ve always sought outside of ourselves. I want women to feel relaxed, at home, and fully alive in their womanhood– the good parts, the bad parts, and most especially the ugly and messy parts.
I want you to love yourself as you are, and be fully empowered as you are!
Join Sara and 28 other feminine leaders speaking out about their cycles here.