This article is part of a four-part mini-series about the different phases of the female cycle (the menstrual cycle or the moon cycle, depending on whether you’re pre-, peri- or post-menopausal). You can find the other three parts here:

Part 2 – Inner Spring (Follicular Phase / Waxing Moon Phase)
Part 3 – Inner Summer (Ovulation / Full Moon)
Part 4 – Inner Autumn (Luteal-/Premenstrual Phase / Waning Moon Phase)

If you prefer listening to it instead, HERE‘s my podcast episode on the Inner Winter.

Welcome to this little introduction to the four phases of your cycle!

Since very few of us are taught at home or at school what a miracle our body, and especially the menstrual cycle is, I hope this four-part series will help you make sense of and appreciate everything that’s going on inside of you during the different phases over the course of a month.

Because your cycle doesn’t only work you on a physical level. It also influences your emotional, mental and spiritual-energetic experience and well-being.

And especially if you struggle with menstrual problems, such as painful bleeds, PMS (PreMenstrual Syndrome), PMDD (PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), endometriosis or PCOS, it’s important to first of all understand what’s happening on the different levels during each phase – to help you put your experience into perspective, and also find the words to express what’s going on, so you feel less alone.

Below, I’ll explain what’s happening in each cycle phase – or inner season – on each of these four levels, and provide one practice and one journaling question to connect more deeply with the energetic quality of the respective phase, so you can explore your personal experience with it and the medicine it holds.

Because overall, a cycle is regenerative by nature. And when you consciously make space for each phase and learn to appreciate its respective flavours, you will see your cycle as a source of strength and (inner) power, providing you with all the energy you need to enjoy the fun things in life.

A note on the word “cycle”

Life is inherently cyclical, and every cycle shows the same four phases: A phase of inspiration and new beginnings (spring), a phase of growth and blooming (summer), a phase of harvest and reflection (autumn) and a phase of rest and dying (winter) – which in turn, prepares the ground for new inspiration in spring.

And as part of Nature, we humans are cyclical beings, too, surrounded and influenced by different cycles all the time. (So from a purely logical standpoint, the idea that you should be, feel or show up the same every day is complete BS – and that’s a good thing!)

There’s the menstrual cycle, the moon cycle, the yearly cycle and the pregnancy cycle. Our life and the planets have their own cycles, too, even projects at work. And they all show the same four phases, with very similar characteristics.

In my case, since I mainly work with women and non-binary menstruators, when I talk of “the cycle”, I specifically refer to the menstrual and the moon cycle. Because whether or not you’re still bleeding, whether or not you have a uterus and/or ovaries if you are a (cis- or trans-) woman or a non-binary menstruator, you have a cycle. Yes, even in perimenopause and post menopause!

Because I firmly believe that as women and/or menstruating people, what happens during perimenopause is that we transition from the menstrual to the moon cycle. So in post-menopause, your energy flow is probably more in line with the moon’s cycle. As I said, we are all cyclical beings at all times, it’s only the length and basis of the cycle that differ over time.

And of course, if you’re post-menopause or don’t have uterus and/or ovaries, you will not be influenced by the physical aspects of the cycle as much, because the hormonal shifts aren’t as pronounced as if you had a menstrual cycle. But still, when you start paying attention to this, I’m pretty sure you are going to find subtle energetic rhythms in your body.

The Inner Winter: Menstruation or Dark Moon

In a menstrual cycle, the Inner Winter refers to the menstruation phase, the bleed. Depending on your body, this can last between 3 and 7 days. The first day of your bleed is “Day 1” of your cycle.

If you don’t menstruate, for example if you’re pregnant, breast-feeding, in peri- or post-menopause or you don’t have a uterus and/or ovaries, this phase is the time around Dark Moon, when the moon isn’t visible in the sky (also called New Moon). In this case, the energetic phase lasts for three days: the day before, during and after the exact Dark Moon. If you follow the moon cycle, the Dark Moon day is “Day 1” of your cycle.

[And just because this can be misunderstood: I DON’T mean to say that it’s “ideal” to bleed during the Dark Moon phase, just because they have a similar energetic quality! Some people try to influence their menstrual cycle to sync up with the moon’s cycle, but I don’t subscribe to that. I believe your cycle supports you at all times, and the way it shows up right now is exactly right for you!]

In terms of a life cycle, this is both the wisdom phase towards the end of life, as well as the time of conception, when new life is forming. So the theme of this phase is death, while rebirth is preparing.

And this process of dying, where you release and shed emotions, outdated beliefs and even identities that are no longer valid or working for you, happens during the bleed or at Dark Moon on different levels:

What happens during Inner Winter (Menstruation / Dark Moon) on a physical level?

And shedding is indeed the name of the game: Especially if you have a menstrual cycle, your body is busy shedding and releasing. It literally sheds part of the endometrial lining in the uterus, because when no egg was fertilised, the lining isn’t needed for implantation.

But even if you don’t have a menstrual cycle, I believe that there is a kind of release happening on a physical level. For example emotions, which are also processed and released on a physical level – because emotions, too, can hurt very viscerally.

Hormonally, this is the time when estrogen and progesterone, the two main sex hormones in a female body, are at their lowest levels. And because your body is so busy shedding, it’s not surprising that your energy levels are low as well at this time, and you might be tired and in need of rest. You probably have the lowest energy level in your entire cycle.

Note:
If you are menstruating, there can be physical symptoms like pain and cramps as well. I want to emphasise again that, although this is unfortunately very common, it isn’t “normal” or the way it’s “supposed to be”!

If you experience menstrual pain and discomfort and want to address the deeper causes in a holistic and natural way, i.e. preferably without medication, hormones or surgery – book a complimentary Discovery Call with me to create a plan for what this could look like for you:

What happens during Inner Winter (Menstruation / Dark Moon) on an emotional level?

In this cycle phase, the shedding also happens on an emotional level. Especially the more intense and uncomfortable emotions often rise to the surface for you to look at, process and release them, so they don’t get “stuck” in your body and possibly lead to physical symptoms.

Depending on what works for you, journaling (simply putting your thoughts and feelings on paper), EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)/tapping, or a meditation or hypnosis practice can help you allow the emotions that show up to flow through and out.

It’s usually the more difficult emotions that show up, those you may not have allowed yourself to feel and experience during the other cycle phases – completely understandable, because they can feel physically painful, as I shared. But now, in your Inner Winter phase, you no longer have the energy to suppress or shove them aside, so your system wants to help you process and release them.

You could also connect to these emotions and go into conversation:

  • What kind of emotion is it?
  • Where do you sense the emotion, where is it located (inside or outside your body)?
  • Does it have a shape or a size?
  • What would you like to have happen with it?
  • What would the emotion itself like to have happen?

Through this inquiry, you can slowly start releasing it.

And in the end, maybe you don’t even have to know exactly which emotion it is and where it’s coming from. The brain easily goes into rumination, trying to find out “what exactly the problem is” – but what if there is no problem? Maybe it’s enough to concentrate on the physical sensation(s) of this emotion and then let it go. If you really focus on your sensations alone, this process often only takes about 90 seconds.

You will definitely feel more calm and grounded afterwards.

And if you’ve had a relatively easeful rest of your cycle, maybe there won’t be as many emotions coming up to process, anyway, and you simply feel grounded and connected ot yourself on a deep level.

What happens during Inner Winter (Menstruation / Dark Moon) on a mental-psychological level?

On a mental and psychological level, this phase offers the unique opportunity to shed old beliefs and thoughts patterns. Those that are no longer working FOR you, that you no longer want to carry. Those you may have adopted when you were young, that kept you alive to this day, but that are no longer valid and instead keep you feeling stuck and unhappy.

Now is the time to process and release them.

Maybe you feel more inward and reflective at this time anyway, but also more present in the current moment. This is where journaling, meditation or hypnosis can help you transform and reframe these outdated thought patterns and beliefs into something that you want to invite in and believe instead, because it feels motivating, helps you look forward to the future.

I’m aware that this is easier said than done, so here’s my tip:
What do you NOT want to (believe/think) anymore?
What do you want to let go of, what do you no longer want to tolerate?

Make a list and then rephrase each item – what do you want instead?
Start with “Wouldn’t it be nice/liberating if …?”

And then read through it every day, read through what you want more of in your life. It’s not the ultimate solution, but it’s a starting point to set powerful intentions and redesign your belief system.

What happens during Inner Winter (Menstruation / Dark Moon) on a spiritual-energetic level?

During Inner Winter, we tend to be in a more dreamy state, because we’re so deeply connected, inward and present. Sometimes, it can even be hard to focus, and that’s okay! Don’t try to push yourself to mental peak performance – instead, allow your thoughts to wander and stay curious as to what emerges …

Because everything you see in the world around you once was a dream, an idea in a human head before they made it manifest in the world. In that sense, manifestation isn’t a “woo concept”: The computer, tablet or smartphone you’re reading this on, once was but an idea in a human brain, got planned and built and is now something palpable – it was “manifested”, which simply means “tangible”!

And then also, Inner Winter is often a time of deep inner connection, this sense of belonging – belonging to yourself, but also to something that’s bigger than you. That may be the Divine, God, Goddess, Universe, your ancestors or simply Nature. How do you call this loving presence that’s surrounding us? That gives you the feeling that everything is kind of okay as it is?

In your Inner Winter, you’re intuitively connected to that.

Journaling in Inner Winter (Menstruation / Dark Moon)

If you enjoy the practice of journaling, here’s a question to ponder in your Inner Winter: “Who am I?”
And then just start writing.

You might even want to set yourself a timer for 5-10 minutes, to make sure you come back into the present moment afterwards. Sometimes, such a simple question can take us deep within. Especially in Inner Winter, because it’s the cycle phase when you’re most closely connected to yourself, with the person you are deep down, underneath all the ides of who and how you “should” be. Connected to your deep inner truth.

In that sense, Inner Winter is your North Star that, month by month, reminds you of who are, the true you, your passions, your desires, what you feel called to do or bring into this world. That’s why I like to call the cycle your compass, because it shows you the way to your True North.

So just see what happens, what wants to bubble up when you ask yourself this question of “Who am I?” in this dreamy, intuitive and connected state.

Inner Winter practice (Menstruation / Dark Moon)

During Inner Winter, take some time to yourself and practice rest!

I’m totally aware that rest and BEing (or non-doing) isn’t exactly celebrated in our society, because they seem “unproductive”. Or at least not “outwardly productive”. But believe me, over the course of a whole cycle, Inner Winter rest is actually VERY productive. Because when you’ve rested during this phase, where your energy level is low anyway, you will have exponentially more energy available during the other phases of your cycle.

Just ask Nature if she’d have stuck around for billions of years without her winter rest ;-)

And of course, depending on your personal situation, rest will look differently.

If you’ve toddlers, your rest might be closing the bathroom door when you go to the bathroom and that’s all you get. That’s okay. Or, if you’ve got a day full of meetings, maybe you can ask someone else to lead the meeting and just participate. Or you can spend your lunch break on your own in nature, to recharge your batteries.

And if your situation is different, you may want to plan an hour or even a whole afternoon to yourself – to unwind, to let your thoughts wander, to give your system the opportunity to sort itself out and allow the inner decomposing and composting to happen. Preparing new soil, so to speak.

What is 1% of rest that’s possible for you in your situation, that you can gift yourself?

Your Cycle – a monthly process of evolution and growth

Maybe now you understand what I mean by saying that your cycle “works you” on all levels – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual-energetic. And it influences you on all these levels in a relativley stable rhythm, month by month. So it’s not like women and menstruating people are “unstable”, “emotional” or “unreliable”, their reliability is just related to a monthly rhythm.

It’s a process of Death (Inner Winter) and Rebirth (Inner Spring) that you go through every month, and I find that really remarkable! With every cycle, you come a little closer to yourself, your deep, inner truth.

And when you explore and befriend your cycle, it’s going to be easier to understand the fluctuations over the course of a day, a week and a month and you’re less surprised or concerned when certain things happen in a particular phase. This doesn’t only foster a more loving relationship with yourself, it can also be helpful when you’re living together with other people.

For example, when your close ones know what you need in a certain phase and how they can support you. Or how you can support the people around you in their respective cycles.

And in the end, consciously journeying this process of Death and Rebirth will also help you navigate the bigger (and often challenging) life transitions with more ease. Practicing how to release one version of yourself to create space for something New on a monthly basis, will help you support yourself through transitions like a miscarriage, the end of an important relationship, becoming a mother or parent, empty-nest or moving through the perimenopause transition.

[And if you don’t want to move through those kinds of times alone, I offer support through challenging life transitions and crises! You can find out more about my services HERE, or book a free Discovery Call to get to know each other!]

Further Resources

This was a lot of information on the Inner Winter alone and I want to point out that it was only the basic overview of an archetypal cycle. Your personal experience is unique to you and can look very different to what I’ve described – this article is just a starting point for your exploration, so you know what to look out for, what to expect, what it can feel like.

In case you have any questions, you can ask them here or send me a voice message.

For a deeper dive into the emotional-spiritual side, including tips on how to support yourself in this phase, you can go here: Inner Winter – The Fallow Season (Rest)

But in the end, your experience is unique and can change over the course of your life cycle, so it’s really about charting your personal cycle to explore what menstruation or the Dark Moon phase is like for YOU. What do you experience in your Inner Winter? What’s present in you? What is your energetic capacity like? Are you more dreamy, inspired or maybe even tense?

A simple entryway is my free tiny course on cycle charting: “Unlock the Healing Power of Your Cycle”
It includes a short explanation of the different cycle phases, my super simply approach and a cycle chart to fill in and explore – everything you need to start charting your cycle right away.

Learn to speak the language of your body and uncover the innate healing power of your cycle!

And if you want to dive even deeper and have a facilitated heart-to-heart with your own cycle (whether you menstruate or not), I offer Sacred Cycle Deep Dive sessions. Because I can teach you all I know and give you all the tips you want, in the end your cycle can teach you better – it can even offer you support and guidance through life.

Especially, but not only, if you experience menstrual or perimenopausal health challenges, I know that your cycle has messages for you. So during this Deep Dive session I will ask you and your cycle very specific questions that will help you make sense of the messages. While there’s value in me explaining what’s going on inside the body and providing the necessary context, it’s infinitely more powerful for you to experience that the answers lie indeed inside of you already – you will form a much stronger bond with your cycle and deeply understand that it isn’t here to annoy or play tricks on you, but to be your best friend and ally.

Because I want you to feel safe, happy, healthy and (w)holy in your body and build this unique and beautiful relationship. And a good relationship is always based on open and effective communication. That’s why the Sacred Cycle Deep Dive comes with a special practice to foster and strengthen this communication once we’ve started it.

But whether you just start charting your cycle, or you want to dive deeper with me, be sure to subscribe to my Mo(o)nday Musings! They are my weekly e-letters on Mo(o)nday mornings, to start the week more grounded and connected to yourself and your body:

And don’t forget to read the other three articles of this 4-part series, to better understand how your cycle influences you on all four levels over the course of a month:

Part 2 – Inner Spring (Follicular Phase / Waxing Moon Phase)
Part 3 – Inner Summer (Ovulation / Full Moon)
Part 4 – Inner Autumn (Luteal-/Premenstrual Phase / Waning Moon Phase)