Explore how to heal a relationship with your sacred womb—a place of death, life, and possibilities.
The womb is a sacred and powerful place in a female body. It’s the source of potential life and also a place that, for many women, monthly sheds its lining, creating anything from mild discomfort to excruciating pain. It’s a place where conditions like endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome can wreak havoc on our body systems. It can grow from the size of a pear to a watermelon in pregnancy, and then it can return right back to its original size. It can be a place of miscarriage, abortion, child loss, or child birth. It is the location of the second chakra, an energy center related to pleasure, creativity, joy, and passion. It can also be a place where we store our trauma. The womb is the center of both death and life.
Many of us don’t think too much about our wombs until something happens there—or doesn’t, if we are waiting for a late period to arrive. Some women don’t have physical wombs, but instead a space that may be felt energetically or imaginatively. Whether you have a good, bad, complex, or neutral relationship with this part of your body, how often have you thought about it?
I thought about mine the most, perhaps, when I was newly pregnant after having had a miscarriage. I had a hard time understanding that this was a place of both nourishment and growth for a new baby when it had felt like a graveyard just a few short months ago. I sat with it, meditated with it, placed my hands over my belly and tried to feel and breathe and understand this part of me. It felt very strange to be creating life in a place that had so recently brought me death and devastation.
Though we do not see them together very often in our culture, death and life constantly feed into each other in the natural world. Wild animals must kill in order to find life-giving nourishment.
A tree that dies in the forest becomes a nurse log. One way to think about cancer is that it is a disease of too much life— cells refusing to die properly, causing them to overgrow and threaten the body.
In the Hindu worldview, death and life are constantly intersecting cycles: One cannot exist without the other. The three main godheads are Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Sustainer, and Shiva the Destroyer.
In one famous story, Shiva’s great love has died, and he carries her body across the skies, grieving desperately, his wails threatening to throw the universe out of balance. In order to restore that balance, Vishnu uses a special weapon to cut Shiva’s wife’s body into pieces, allowing them to fall on different sacred places across India. Instead of snapping back to work (and who would, after an experience like that?) Shiva retreats to his meditation cave and refuses to come out. That means he isn’t doing the vital work of destroying things so that new things can be born. This allows new demons to come to power in the world of the Gods, and Shiva must be coaxed out of his meditation and into relationship with the world again so that he can continue to cause appropriate endings so that beginnings can be possible.
In the Western/Christian worldview, there is a very different narrative. We have one continuous life here on earth, and if we are good, we get to one day join God in a beautiful Heaven that will never change. The end of the world is a terror, a moment when the devil takes over, something we hope never to see in our lifetime. But from the Hindu perspective, worlds are constantly, necessarily ending in order for new worlds to be born. Death and destruction are necessary, even life-giving on some level, because while one thing remains, the next thing cannot be born.
Menstruation is a sort of monthly death: The lining of the uterus grows to support a baby if one should be conceived, and when one is not, the lining is shed, released to create the possibility of a new cycle beginning again. This is a good thing—some people believe this monthly shedding is an important way for women to detoxify their systems. This might be one reason women tend to live longer—we have an extra way of releasing toxins from the body that people who don’t menstruate do not have.
For many women, the womb is also the seed of our femininity—our sensuality, our sexuality, our feelings about ourselves as women—or however we experience our femininity.
Energetically, our wombs can also help us shed the toxins of our lives once a month (or however frequently we menstruate). Many a time after a breakup or some other painful experience in my life, I have waited for the blood to come to help release the experience from my body. Our wombs gather our experiences over the course of a cycle and then go through a sacred process of releasing those experiences, of letting go.
If we do not menstruate, that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t cleanse our systems in some other way. Once a month, we could still light some sage, write down what we want to let go of, and burn the paper, or simply take a mindful bath or shower.
For many women, the womb is also the seed of our femininity—our sensuality, our sexuality, our feelings about ourselves as women—or however we experience our femininity. Part of us may want to reject our own femininity—it is not a quality that we see as powerful in our culture, and some of us turn from it in order to be seen and heard better, for example. For the many women who have experienced sexual trauma, there may be a sense of our femininity having betrayed us, having made us more vulnerable to violence.
People assigned male at birth who feel themselves to be truly female on the inside may also feel that their connection to femininity is a liability even as they are drawn to it and deeply desire to celebrate it within themselves.
From the Hindu Shakta Tantric perspective, femininity is the domain of the goddess—the domain of power. It contains multitudes. In Tantric mythology, the goddess is beautiful, sweet, and fertile—she is the one who is needed to coax Shiva out of his grief meditation, to call him into the pleasures of sex and relationship so he can return to his work as the god of destruction. She is fertile, the mother of everything. But she is also a warrior, like Kali, the dark goddess who thrives on the battlefield, fighting for justice and thirstily licking up the drops of blood shed by her enemies. The goddess is fierce, and can change her face from saumya, or beautiful and sweet, to ghori, or horrifying, depending on what she needs in the moment. She is pure creative energy, the energy of everything.
So how do we understand our wombs, these small dark places that can hold so much mythology, so much potential, and also so much pain?
There is a great value to sitting with our wombs, listening to them, talking to them, and allowing them to teach us something about the way life and death, joy and pain, can exist together inside this sacred center, whether there is a literal womb there or not. Meditating with this part of the body, even writing a letter to it, can be a deeply healing act that can help us to integrate our multitudes and find power in our feminine selves, even and especially when those feminine selves feel fraught or difficult to understand.
A RITUAL FOR HEALING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR WOMB
Sit comfortably for this meditation and ritual. Light a candle if you like.
Place your hands on your low belly at the front of your pelvis, where your womb is or would be. This is also the location of your second chakra, the energy center of sexuality, desire, playfulness, creativity, and joy—along with old traumas and fear.
Allow your breath to move down into this space. Feel the breath moving there underneath your hands and relax as much as you can. Feel into this area, which includes your lower back and your other sexual organs. Imagine a warm sunset orange, the color of the second chakra. Some people feel a tinge of pink here as well—there is no right or wrong. Breathe into this light and this energy and notice what comes up for you.
Observe any emotions. Name them if you can. Don’t judge or try to fix anything, simply sit with this part of your body. Notice if this part has anything it would like to say to you. If it had words, what would they be? Listen carefully.
Now notice if there’s anything you would like to say back. You may have some anger, pain, fear, or trauma related to this part—that’s normal and okay. Feel free to speak to that, but keep compassion and kindness in mind as you do.
When this conversation feels complete to you, thank your womb in whatever way you can.
This can certainly be the end of your ritual, but you may feel called to now write your womb a letter. Remember to honor the womb for what it tries to do for you, even if it comes with pain and difficulty. Offer the womb something—more attention, more care, whatever feels right.
When you have finished with the letter, blow out the candle. You may like to keep the letter, burn it safely to send it into the ether, or bury it in a safe place.
There is a great value to sitting with our wombs, listening to them, talking to them, and allowing them to teach us something about the way life and death, joy and pain, can exist together inside this sacred center, whether there is a literal womb there or not.
One way to practice honoring your womb is by honoring the sacred cycles of menstruation. Notice how your mood and energy shift around your period. Rather than trying to push through these energetic phases, try honoring them instead. When you are bleeding, you are in a death-state: a moment of mourning the potential of life while also cleansing the experiences of your last cycle. Rest more during this time and pay extra attention to your emotions. You do need to eat more while your body is going through this hard work of cleansing, so eat nourishing foods and drink lots of clean water that will help you with that cleansing.
While you are regrowing the lining of your uterus and ovulating, you may notice that you are more social, have more energy, are more interested in starting new projects—go for it. Use this energy to boost your work and life plans.
In the few days leading up to your period, your focus needs to turn inward again, and you may find that it’s a time when you want to organize, clean, tie up loose ends before the release of your period. Honor that. Let the natural cycles of your body work for you as you get to know your womb and the wisdom it has for you.
If you do not menstruate, you can still follow this practice by following the moon. The new moon would be the menstruation time and the full moon represents ovulation. Observe your mood and energy as you move through the moon cycles. Do a cleansing practice of some kind on the new moon, such as taking a mindful bath or burning some cleansing sage.
However you understand it, your womb is a powerful place for feminine energy—the energy of power, creativity, death, and life.