Category Archives: Sample Chapters

The Bra and Health Risks

The Bra and Health RisksThese are times of change. You may feel shy, as if everyone were looking at you. And it may be true. Everyone may be looking at you. But if they are, it is only because you are beautiful and full of life at this time.

So feel good about your changing body.

Your growing breasts will someday, if you become a mom, be able to make milk for your baby.

These are also times when retailers will begin to advertise things to you—like bras. You don’t need to wear a bra unless you are more comfortable wearing one.

A camisole may be an alternative; some of them have shelf bras built in. Our society expects women to cover their breasts. So we might begin to feel uncomfortable if our breasts show through our clothing.

However, bras that alter our shape, push our breasts up, have underwires, or cut off our circulation are associated with health concerns for women. This is a good time to begin to learn what not to buy.

The problem with bras is that they can block the circulation of the lymph system. So if you wear a bra, it should be loose enough not to leave lines on your skin when you take it off.

And, according to research on women’s health, the more time spent without a bra, the better. You can take off your bra when lounging at home and, of course, while sleeping. Plenty of time spent bra-less is an important way to learn what is natural and comfortable for your breasts.

Tampon Health Risks

Tampon Health RisksThe natural secretions of the vagina are constantly cleaning the vagina and making the growth of bacteria unlikely. The tampon, however, is not a natural part of this cleaning process.

Soon after a tampon is inserted, bacteria will begin to grow on the tampon. Bacteria, like all living things, eat and digest something and then excrete waste products. The waste products excreted by the bacteria are absorbed by the vagina. There have been cases of women becoming seriously ill and even dying from absorption of the waste products on a tampon. This “disease” is called toxic shock syndrome. The symptoms of toxic shock syndrome are: fever, vomiting, sunburn-like rash, diarrhea, muscle aches, dizziness, and confusion.

If you begin to feel uncomfortable in any way while wearing a tampon, remove it immediately. Better yet, don’t use tampons at all. If you decide to use tampons and want to reduce the risk, you can buy the unbleached organic cotton variety. Bleached cotton or synthetic tampons have been shown to contain dioxins, contaminates associated with serious health problems.  Always remove a tampon in two hours or less, and NEVER sleep with them.

Another concern with tampons is their effect on the body’s natural flow of energy. According to many schools of natural healing, the body’s energy naturally flows down during menstruation. Many women experience that a tampon blocks the downward flow of energy and causes abdominal discomfort and cramping, which they do not experience when they use pads. Some women have even begun to call tampons “crampons!”

Sleep Needs of Teens

Sleep Needs Of TeensRest and activity form yet another of nature’s cycles. Sleep is nature’s way of renewing and maintaining balance—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Teenagers need about 9.5 hours of sleep each night. It is thought that sleep requirements increase for teens because the hormones that are essential for maturing bodies are released mainly during sleep. Yet studies show that most teenagers only get about 7.4 hours of sleep a night. This is not enough for a teen to be healthy.

Lack of sleep leaves us confused and undirected, open to the chaotic influences of others who are also sleep-deprived. Deep and regular sleep keeps us in close contact with our own inner knowing and moves us steadily toward the accomplishment of our goals.

Pregnancy without Intercourse

Pregnancy without IntercourseConception is the beginning of pregnancy. The couple has made love, and the sperm have travelled from the woman’s vagina, through her uterus, and into the fallopian tube to meet the ovum.

When a sperm penetrates the ovum, it is called fertilization. Even without ejaculation, sperm are present in the small amount of fluid produced by a tiny gland called the Cowper’s gland. Cowper’s fluid leaks out of the penis during sexual activity. Therefore pregnancy is possible even without ejaculation.

Even without penetration of the man’s penis inside the woman’s vagina, when there is fertile-type mucus in the woman’s body, the tiny, microscopic sperm can swim into the vaginal opening, up the vagina, into the uterus, and into the fallopian tubes. There the sperm may meet the ovum, and pregnancy may begin.

For this reason, during the woman’s fertile time, pregnancy is possible with only genital contact (touching of the penis to the vaginal area).

Dividing and maturing as it goes, the fertilized ovum is moved slowly along the fallopian tube toward the uterus by the cilia, tiny hairs inside the fallopian tubes. In six or seven days, the fertilized ovum implants in the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), the bed that has been created to receive it. Menstruation (bleeding) does not occur, because the fertilized ovum, growing and developing in the uterus, creates hormones that maintain the uterine lining. The woman realizes she has conceived.

Fertility and Artificial Light

Fertility and Artificial LightAccording to some traditions, women who live under Grandmother Moon’s light will tend to ovulate on the full moon and menstruate on the new moon. In our community of women, we have found that cycles are easier and more harmonious if they follow the cycles of Grandmother Moon in this way. When menstruation falls on the new moon, bleeding does not seem as heavy. Ovulation on the full moon seems most natural.

Because we are surrounded by so much artificial light, even while sleeping, it can be a challenge to get in tune with the moon’s cycles. Research shows that women’s cycles normalize when artificial light is eliminated while sleeping. Artificial light while sleeping appears to interfere with the production of melatonin, which is a hormone associated with ovarian activity. (14)

Women report being able to gradually harmonize their cycles with the cycles of Grandmother Moon by sleeping in total darkness, except for one or two nights at the time of the full moon. If you want to try sleeping in darkness, make some dark shades for your bedroom windows and make sure there is no light of any kind from your clock radio, from under your door, etc.

For one night during the full moon, open your shades and sleep in the moon’s light. If this is not possible, get a night light and use it only during the night of the full moon. You may have to continue this practice for some months, so be patient. You may enjoy seeing your cycles gradually respond to Grandmother Moon’s light.

First Menstruation Ritual

Creating the CelebrationThis is intended for moms as you prepare a ceremony to mark this special time in your daughters’ lives. It contains a variety of suggestions for creating rituals that are appropriate for you, your daughters, and your community.

A ritual is usually made up of the following components:

1) Creating and entering a holy space for the ritual. That is, leaving the mundane for the sacred.
2) Invoking the spiritual realm.
3) Building the energy of the ritual.
4) Heart, or high point, of the ritual.
5) Allowing the energy to subside.
6) Closing the ritual.
7) Sharing food and friendship.

The ritual that you create for your daughter should be fun for both of you and for your community of women. So approach this project with a light heart as you choose prayers, songs, and activities that are comfortable for everyone.

Creating a Sacred Space

Choose a comfortable location and create a sacred feeling in whatever way feels comfortable to you and your family. If your ritual is indoors, it is a good idea to turn off the phone ringer and put “Do Not Disturb” signs on the doors. Light candles or incense, play soft music or drum softly, read poetry or sit in silence.

Creating an altar is a common way to create a sacred space. Altars help us remember and focus on what is meaningful for us. The objects on the altar are symbolic of the theme of the ritual. On a first moon-time ritual altar we may have symbols of the Earth, pictures or statues of great or holy women or pictures of women family members. Flowers and other decorations are welcome. A flower crown or garland, which will be worn by the “New Woman,” can be on the altar. Another way to create a sacred space is to make a circle with a red rope. Our community of women has a nylon rope, dyed red, which is used at many community rituals.

Dropping the Mundane

This step involves purifying our minds and hearts of daily concerns. It is the intent that is important. You can burn incense, or sprinkle everyone with water, or throw flower petals all around the ritual place—whatever feels to you like purifying the environment.

Smudging is one way to leave behind the cares of daily life. It symbolizes cleaning off negative energy and preparing for the sacred ritual. You can buy smudge sticks at most food co-ops, natural food stores, or stores that sell herbs. Or pick some herbs from your garden, wind cotton string around them to form a “stick” a few inches long and one to three inches in diameter. Hang the herb stick in a warm place and allow it to dry for two to four weeks. At your moon-time ritual, light the stick and “smudge” each other or yourself by letting the smoke drift around the body.

Ritual seating is another way to separate ourselves from our mundane concerns. In our community of women, we sit in a circle. Young unmarried women sit to the East. Women who have children or are over 25 years of age sit to the South. Women who have passed through menopause sit to the West. And Wise Women sit to the North. Whatever seating you arrange, be sure to reserve a place of honor for the New Woman’s grandmother and for grandmother figures.

In most traditions, only women are present at moon-time rituals. The young woman’s father, uncles, or brothers, however, are invited to present congratulations and a gift (such as red roses) after the ritual is over. In our community, we do not invite girls who have not yet begun their menstruation to attend a moon-time ritual. This assures that the ritual will be special for them when their time comes. They may join the group when the circle is open for sharing food and friendship.

Invoking the Spiritual Realm

Choosing the prayers for a ritual has to be done carefully. All generations and their beliefs must somehow be honored. This is not always an easy matter. If your tradition contains a concept of the Divine Feminine, now is the time to invoke Her. In our community, we sometimes honor the four directions, which serves as a way to honor nature. In many traditions, nature is considered to be the body of the Divine Feminine.

To honor the directions, you can say something like the following: The East: The East corresponds to the element air, the mind, dawn, spring, pale, airy colors, the eagle and high-flying birds, and the power to know. Young women are keepers of the energy of the East. Their role is to develop their own inner strengths and talents. Welcome to the keepers of the energy of the East. The South: The South corresponds to the element fire, energy or spirit, noon, summer, fiery reds and oranges, and the quality of will. Artists, musicians, singers, writers, poets, gardeners, cooks, athletes, and especially mothers, are the keepers of the energy of the South. Their role is to create and nurture their families and their own personal creative projects. Welcome to the keepers of the energy of the South.

The West: The West corresponds to the element water, emotions, twilight, autumn, deep purples, sea serpents, dolphins, and the power to dare. From the West comes the courage to face our deepest feelings. Women who have passed through menopause are the keepers of the energy of the West. Their role is to extend their nurturing to the entire planet, and to speak the truth, however hard to face. Welcome to the keepers of the energy of the West.

The North: Because the North Star is the center around which the skies revolve, North is considered the most powerful direction. North corresponds to Planet Earth, the body, midnight, winter, black, and the green of vegetation. From the North comes the power to keep silent, to listen as well as speak, to keep secrets, to know what not to say. Wise Women and Medicine Women are the keepers of the energy of the North. Their role is to instruct and inspire the entire circle of women. Welcome to the keepers of the energy of the North.

Prayer to all directions: The leader may say while smudging or sprinkling water: “Great Spirit, Earth Mother, Guardian Energies of the East, South, West, and North, we ask your blessings on our circle.”

Raising the Energy

Raising the energy of the ritual can be done in a variety of ways: women can share their thoughts on womanhood, give blessings to the New Woman, sing, or do anything that appeals to the group. It is good to ask the ritual guests to prepare these things ahead of time. Following are some practices which are often a part of the women’s rituals in our community.

New Woman’s Footprints

Have ready a dish of clean sand or corn meal. (I use a large clay flower pot base and fill it with sand.) Ask the New Woman to step into the dish of sand or corn meal, leaving her footprints. (Have a towel for the New Woman to wipe her feet afterwards.)

Woman’s Blessing

Each woman comes forward, lights a candle, and puts it into the foot prints in the sand or corn meal, which represents the New Woman’s journey on Mother Earth. She then gives her woman’s blessing, such as: “I am Marie, sister of Georgie Ann, daughter of Selia, granddaughter of Mary Ann and Christina, mother of Christina and Elizabeth, grandmother of Erika, Clara, and Savannah Rose. I ask all the women of my line to bless, teach, and protect (New Woman’s name) on her journey through all the cycles of Grandmother Moon.”

After each woman has made her blessings, The New Woman lights a candle and puts it into the same dish of sand. She gives her woman’s introduction, and accepts the blessings of all the women. “I am………., daughter of………., granddaughter of………., and………….. I accept your blessings, and thank you all.”

Gifts

If there are gifts for the New Woman, they may be presented now. These gifts may have to do with the New Woman’s body and her cycle. If a book is given, it could be about a great woman or somehow have to do with women and women’s power or creativity. Jewelry is also traditional. Each gift may be personalized with some words from the person giving the gift. An example is the following: “I am giving you this book because I have always found the life of this great woman to be an inspiration. I know you will find your own creative path and be an equal inspiration to all of us.”

Adorning the New Woman

In our community of women, we feel it is important to adorn the New Woman in some way in order to call attention to and honor the changes happening in her body. A flower crown or garland is often used. A crescent moon can be painted in red make-up on the New Woman’s forehead. Young girls especially enjoy henna temporary paint on their hands and feet.

Henna is an herb that, when painted on the body, leaves a red/ orange stain that turns to brown in 24 hours, and lasts for about two weeks. Henna kits are available with instructions in gift shops, food co-ops, and herb suppliers. Make sure to prepare the henna at least three hours before the start of the ritual. And make sure the ritual guests include someone who is artistic or at least courageous enough to do the henna painting.

Some groups of women paint henna lines down the inside of the New Woman’s leg. This practice is taken from the Hopi Dance of the Maidens and calls direct attention to the young woman’s menstrual flow. If henna is not compatible with your life-style, honor the New Woman with flowers, new clothing, or whatever feels right to your community.

In some cultural groups, the New Woman’s hair is put into a bun for the first time in her life and covered by a small white cap. The bun distinguishes the women from the girls, who are still wearing their hair in braids. Gifts in these communities are often associated with the traditional women’s work of the community, or may be homemaking items that can be saved by the New Woman for her own home. Create your own way to honor your daughter as she enters womanhood.

Poems and Stories

It’s inspiring at a woman’s ritual to hear poems or stories about women from your own community. Ask your friends and family members. You may find some unexpected poets or storytellers.

Mythology

Myths teach eternal truths through imaginary stories. They are time-honored teaching tools that you may enjoy incorporating into your ritual. Throughout this book I have included myths from around the world that teach important truths for young women. See the book list at the back of this book for more sources for mythology.

Teen Skin Care

Teen Skin CareBeauty is a multi-billion dollar industry, which means makeup and skin care companies will be looking for your attention. Some of these “beauty” products contain substances that may actually cause skin problems over time. Reading labels on whatever we buy is an important skill. Simple and natural is safest and best.

Cleanliness is the simple basis of all beauty. Now that you are growing up, society expects you to know how to care for your body. Shampooing and bathing, washing feet and underarms, and changing clothes, especially blouses and socks, keep us feeling and smelling fresh.

Whatever we use to wash our bodies should have a pH of 5.5, which is close to the pH of our skin. Alkaline products (above pH 5.5) strip the protective coating from the skin. This invisible coating is made of oil and sweat. The loss of its protective coating can cause the skin to go wild in the production of oil, furiously trying to replace the protective layer that was lost. This excess oil can clog the pores and actually cause skin blemishes. Alkaline bubble bath products can irritate the tender skin of the urethra and cause pain during urination.

You can check the pH of products if you are interested in doing so. Inexpensive pH testing kits are available at drug stores and pet stores. Soap, whether in liquid form or a bar, is always too alkaline. The liquid washes or gels are usually the correct pH to protect the skin.

If you want to use a deodorant, please read the label carefully. It is important that it not contain aluminum, which is associated with many health concerns. Potassium alum, on the other hand, is considered safe.

Blemished skin can be treated with raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, which has many healing properties and is pH 5.5. Splash or dab it on blemished skin after bathing. If you continue to be troubled with skin blemishes, consider strengthening your liver, which is your body’s cleansing organ. Milk thistle is an herb widely known for supporting liver function. The extract of milk thistle is stronger and more effective than the ground herb powder and is available in any health food store or food co-op.