One of the many things I love about this work is the opportunity to get to work with women and their anger. Anger is, for people raised female in our culture, the number one emotion that gets shut down. It gets shut down early and hard, and most of us as adults have some interesting ways we've locked up our anger, and by our thirties or forties, many find that anger is demanding outlets, whether we "like" it or not.
There is so much to say about working with anger, and so many perspectives and tools I use with clients (and in my own life) Today I wanted to speak about the wisdom in anger. Anger usually brings up our desire to avoid it or make it stop. We, rightly, don't want to hurt those around us. We are so busy running from our anger, afraid of what we might do or say, that we don't get a chance to listen to its wisdom. We don't even pause to be curious if it has wisdom.
Anger experienced skillfully can be felt as a sense of heightened clarity. What I don’t want to do and what I do want to do, can be more clear when I am angry. What I want to say, and what I refuse to have others say to me is clear. Anger is often the alarm bell telling us what is just and equitable in the world, and what is unfair and harmful in the world. The next few steps on the path illuminated. My refusal to do what isn’t on my path strengthened. The strength of the willpower, the energy given by anger, burns within me. Not as not as a fire that burns those around me, but as a light.
Allowing ourselves to truly feel how angry we are is scary, and vulnerable, and also offers us a tremendous potential source of energy and power. We would do well to consider allowing ourselves to feel it without constraint, and being skillful in how we act after we've had some space and time with the feeling. More time spent dancing, yelling in the woods, pounding on the earth, throwing the heaviest stones you can find, writing scathing letters to the ones who hurt you and then burning the letters . . . none of this hurts the people you love. It does release some of the pressure that is building up, and allows you to begin to discern when your anger is telling you something important about what is happening right now, and when it is telling you something important about what happened in the past but still feels present for you. Sometimes, it will be both.
Do you have favorite rituals for releasing anger? I'd love to hear about them.
Now we enter the water-time, dream-time, the world of the Queen of Cups. She rules the watery realm of the emotions and dreams. We are entering the heavy, slow days, moving towards the Moon of Long Nights. The sun rises late and sets early. We eat moist, dense, heavy foods — slow-cooked stews and roots. We are tired.
In this moment of late fall turning to winter, we are just past Samhain, the time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest, and moving into the underworld and dreaming time. Let us turn towards the wisdom our dreams have to offer. Our dreams can show us what we hide from ourselves — the feelings we keep underneath, concealed even from ourselves.
There are dreams, and there are Dreams. Dreams where we wake up and they vanish, or ones we remember but see clearly that our minds were just sifting the jumble of the past days.
Then there are the Dreams we wake from, confused — what is the dreaming world and what is the waking world? Which is true? Which really happened? There are Dreams that haunt us through our day, that linger like the smell of our lover on our pillow.
There are Dreams that we do not understand, but that nudge us until we write them down, and later, when we read back through them, we see what they were trying to tell us. These Dreams, which I think of as vision Dreams, are the ones, as a poet, that I turn into poems.
Many of them are Dreams that return again and again — while sleeping, I recognize them, part of the dreaming is remembering that I have been there before, here we are again. Dreaming is also an invitation to non-linear knowing, to wisdom that seeps, permeates, unfolds. Dreams do not usually fully reveal themselves to us right away. They open slowly within us, they fill us like a slow stream.
As we enter the dreaming time, keep a journal by your bedside. Give yourself space and permission to enter this time. Your body wants to sleep more — allow it as much as you can. Hibernation is not for bears alone. Give yourself early nights, naps, quiet days off. The Queen is trying to find you — lie down and open the door for her.
This dream over and over:
Doors appearing in walls, opening
to rooms full of bread dough, ovens
you were supposed to light,
but neglected. Ruin pressing
close. You wake shouting.
You have squandered all
you have been given.
I dream that I am a cabbage.
I find an unloved piece of land
and I begin to plant:
two rows of cabbages, and then
I fill the woolen earth with more
seeds. Carrots, potatoes, squash, wheat.
They grow taller, I tend them gently, at night
I sleep in a bed of soft leaves.
When they are ready, my little cabbages gather their silk dresses
and begin to walk. They each find another
piece of earth, hidden in cities or empty fields,
they begin to plant.
This dream again:
Half-lit rooms appear — I know
them, they are unknowable --
machines or children that should have been tended
but have been abandoned
to rust, to sob, to erode.
I wake half out
of the dusky bed
already, sweat tattooed along my neck --
I should have known, I should
have known, and now
I am going to pay.
Dream in the month of long nights
I was shot
in the back of the head.
partly covered by my hair,
and when they found me
and raised me to my feet,
I was astonished --
I could still walk,
still talk, and no
no one seemed to mind
that I was mostly dead.
I dream that it is New Year’s Eve
in a strange city. My child
turns into a loaf of bread — I panic,
Are they alive? Are they breathing? How
would I even know?
I put the loaf under my shirt
and we begin walking. A woman
says she can’t help us, her mother
is dying. A man in the street
tells us the hospital is in the 11th arrondissement,
keep walking. I am trying
and trying to dial 911
but the numbers keep moving and changing,
I cannot dial the last 1. We walk
on and on,
are open to us.
We were looking for our plane,
but instead of a terminal
we stepped into a large
green field. A helicopter
came down to us
and your dead father stepped out.
No one on the helicopter would survive,
he said, and one of us
had to join him.
You wanted to go
because you said I
loved this painful life more.
You walked towards your father
and I did what you asked:
I stayed on in the field,
in the terrible green.
(This work was first published online at Rebelle Society in 2017:
One of my favorite restorative rituals during mxnstruation is herbal baths.
Herbal baths are simple, easy to do as long as you have access to a bathtub, and can be a beautiful ritual. Hot baths promote sweating (which helps the body release anything unwanted), and warming the abdomen helps relax the muscles and promote circulation, which can be especially helpful just before and during bleeding.
Hot baths also connect us with the water aspect - the emotional, yin, feminine side.
Basic technique: Bring a pot of water up to a boil (4 cups is a great amount). Add into the pot 1-2 handfuls of herbs (see ideas below). Put a lid on the pot, and run your bath. When the tub is mostly full, bring the pot into the bathroom with a kitchen strainer. Strain the herb-infused water into the tub, and climb in (all while being careful not to burn yourself!).
Light a candle, listen to beautiful music, add a few drops of essential oil if you desire. Release. Don’t look at your phone, watch/read the news, think about your to-do list, or even call a friend. This is time alone.
roses, calendula, chamomile, sage, rosemary, comfrey
For menstruation support:
red raspberry leaf, yarrow, mugwort, nettle, skullcap, lemon balm
lavender, linden, hops, passionflower
Do you have favorite plants you love to add to herbal baths?