Samantha Neal is a menstrual activist and educator residing in Byron Bay, Australia. She is a passionate advocate for reclaiming our connection to our female bodies, each other and the earth.
Samantha, are you able to tell us a little about yourself and what you are passionate about?
I’m originally from Venice Beach, California and have lived in Byron Bay, Australia for the last three years. I was once a law student in Los Angeles, where I was working with homeless youth in my neighbourhood. While I was always oriented towards service, this path never felt quite right for me. During a break from classes, I participated in a silent meditation retreat. In that week of silence and stillness, I experienced a profound sense of coming home to myself. I felt alive to my own inner knowing and the wisdom of my body. When I returned home, I quit law school and bought a one-way ticket to Australia—a country I dreamt of travelling to since I was young. I became drawn to more feminine ways of relating—to myself, my body and to life in general. I immersed myself in trainings, books, and found a mentor who has supported me on this path of understanding, reclaiming, celebrating and supporting the female body and feminine wisdom. I am deeply passionate about the importance of connecting back to ways of relating that are respectful of our bodies and the Earth. I am passionate about returning to ways of living that are in alignment with nature and supportive of biology. I believe that relating to our bodies with reverence lays the foundation for our personal and collective healing.
When did your interest in menstrual cycles begin?
At the beginning, I was fascinated with female sexuality. What had been so layered with distorted images and messaging became a source of true power and connection for me. Naturally, my exploration of female sexuality led me to the menstrual cycle. The relationship we have to our sexuality is greatly intertwined—and almost cannot be separated—from the relationship we have to our blood and cycles. When I began exploring this work, I was completely in awe of the intelligence and brilliant orchestration of our hormones over a monthly cycle and how these changes inform our emotional, physiological and energetic capacities. This knowledge felt so foundational to my experience living in my body, yet I was never taught or exposed to it. The lack of understanding and education available is what initially fuelled me to begin sharing this work.
Can you tell us a little about how menstrual cycles were perceived historically? When is it that menstruating became taboo and what was it that led to this?
Depending on where we look to in the world, we will find differing views and relationships to the menstrual cycle. And yet, it is interesting that across cultures, we find a very strong and ingrained menstrual taboo. In some parts of the world, there are customs that do not allow menstruating women to enter the kitchen, touch food, speak to men, pray or enter their temple. We see this taboo in Western culture, although not expressed so explicitly. I grew up watching tampon ads that showed blue liquid and women dressed in all white playing sports. As a young person seeing this, the unconscious message I internalised was that the actual truth—the red blood of our female bodies wasn’t acceptable and that, to some extent, being a woman was inherently shameful.
When we begin to understand and experience the true magic of the menstrual cycle, we see that this widespread taboo and silencing of our nature has been used as a tool to control and oppress the female form and feminine power. Menstrual blood is life. It is literally the reason why every human being on this planet is alive. Menstruation holds a primordial power. And so, to a male-dominated world, it is threatening and must be diminished and shamed in order to maintain its control.
What impact do you believe menstrual stigmas have had on society at large?
We are currently existing in a patriarchal paradigm 5000 years in the making. It would not be possible to answer this question fully in this format, as the systemic disconnection of our bodies and cycles has impacted society in almost every facet. Everything is interconnected.
You’ve mentioned that “cycle awareness is environmental activism”. Can you talk a little about how the two are linked?
When we respect our own cyclical nature, we respect the cyclical nature of life. When I teach the phases of the menstrual cycle, I use the seasons and phases of the moon to represent energetically what is happening within each phase. I find one of the most beautiful pieces of this work to be the way the menstrual cycle reflects the cycles of the earth and moon. Similar to the energy of summer and, at the full moon, our ovulatory phase is one where we are hormonally supported to be more social, outward and expressive. Likewise, comparable to winter and the dark moon, our menstrual phase is one where our bodies need more rest and stillness and where our hormones and neurochemistry are supporting us to be reflective and meditative. When we practice menstrual cycle awareness, we learn that periods of rest and doing less are needed for productivity and creation to occur sustainably.
There is a beautiful intelligence to the rhythm of life. Our menstrual cycles are one way of experiencing this. In our current world, we are extremely disconnected from this rhythm. Slowing down, honouring our needs and listening to the body are forms of activism in a world that bows down to the “busy god”. They are ways of rebelling against the fast-paced, productivity-driven world that is only made possible by the extreme mistreatment of the Earth’s resources.
The way we treat our bodies reflects the way we treat the Earth. It’s all connected and can’t be separated. When we honour the life-giving power of the menstrual cycle, we honour what sustains us and makes life possible—the Earth. Cycle awareness is environmental activism that begins with the roots because when we respect the land of our own bodies, we respect the land that surrounds us.
How can your teachings around the power in our menstrual cycles help people who deal with painful periods?
With the growing awareness of the importance of embracing our cycles, I acknowledge that this has not necessarily been easy for or always inclusive of those who experience pain with bleeding. Period pain can be paralysing and isolating. To add to this, we have been collectively taught to normalise period pain and are rarely given proper or respectful treatment when we approach most conventional doctors with this extremely common symptom.
Like all pain, period pain is a call for attention and a messenger from our body. There are ways to mitigate it. Painful periods are not something that should have to be endured. There are ways to support your body and cycle in restoring balance and easing pain. For an in-depth resource on holistic treatment to pain and other menstrual imbalances, I recommend the Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden.
I wanted to bring something up because I don't believe it's talked about enough... especially in the setting of menstrual activism, the divine feminine and so on. Many gender-diverse people believe that when it comes to menstruation, the conversation should not just be about women since men bleed as well and that the language needs to be more inclusive. On the other hand, many women believe that by making the conversation more inclusive, they are erased. What are your thoughts on this topic? How can we address this issue so all who bleed are part of the conversation?
Menstruation is not gender-specific. And it is necessary to respect the varied ways menstruation and cycling is experienced in all bodies, especially the experiences that have been systematically erased by dominating cisgender ideology.
There is power and importance in speaking from a place of truth and personal experience. By nature, when speaking from this place, it cannot always be inclusive of everyone. We are all entitled to our own experience of our blood and cycles. I believe it is deeply important to have people from all gender identities sharing this work, so that it may truthfully resonate with as many people as possible. I identify as a woman and feel, in many ways, bleeding to be an expression of my womanhood. I respect that this is not true for many. There is no one right way to bleed and this should be acknowledged and celebrated in the conversation of menstrual awareness.
I would love to quickly touch on the immersion you released a few months back, "Cyclical Living". Can you tell us a bit about that?
The Cyclical Living Immersion is a comprehensive and holistic approach to menstrual cycle education. It was created from the intention to support people in cultivating an empowered and connected relationship with their menstrual cycle. It is grounded in the science and physiology of the cycle and the monthly journey of the ovum. It is an integrated and gentle guide for your practice of menstrual cycle awareness. The immersion is completely self-paced with a 70-page ebook, in-depth audio lessons, recorded interviews and womb meditation and yoga nidra practices. There was so much love, time and respect poured into this project and I am truly grateful to share it with the world!
Thank you so much for your time Samantha, we really appreciate it!