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Welcome to Earth Wisdom

your resource for fertility awareness and natural birth control,
family-centered sex education and parenting,
and practical information for living in harmony
with ourselves and each other.

The founder of Earth Wisdom, Marie Zenack,
is a fertility awareness teacher, mother, and grandmother.
Earth Wisdom was created in response to the needs
of her clients and her own children.

It is an evolving web site and we welcome input from our readers.

We hope you enjoy learning and feel free to contact us
if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

Teen Skin Care

The pH of our skin care products has a lot to do with the health of our skin. Whatever cleaner 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.

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. The extract in capsules is easier to take, since milk thistle is very bitter.

The Bra and Health Risks

The bra is a known contributor to the rise of breast cancer in our
modern society.

A carefully monitored retroactive study found that the more hours a
woman wears a bra, the greater are her chances of developing breast
cancer. (Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, Dressed to Kill,
Garden City Park, New York, Avery Publishing Group, 1995, pp. 110-126).

The problem with bras, or any restrictive clothing for that matter, is
that they block the circulation of the lymph system. The lymph system
is an important part of the body’s purification system. If the tissue
of the breasts is constricted due to a close fitting garment, the
toxins in the lymph system of this area are not allowed to drain
properly. Inadequate drainage causes more and more toxins to build up
in the area.

At the end of the day, take off your clothes and look in the mirror. If
your bra, camisole, or any other clothing has left a line on your body,
it is blocking off the circulation of your lymph system.

In the study connecting bras and breast cancer, women who wore
dangerously tight or restrictive bras were asked if their bras were
comfortable. Many said they were!

Throughout history, women have become accustomed to a variety of
clothing that was detrimental to health. We would never dream of
returning to the corset or to binding our feet. It is time for the bra
to become history, as well.

First Menstruation Ritual

A ritual can make the time of first menstruation easier and more
meaningful for both the young woman beginning menstruation, and her
mother.

When your daughter’s first menstruation arrives, congratulate her, love
her, and make sure you take care of her immediate physical and
emotional needs. Then call together your community of women to
participate in the ritual you have planned. Let other women support and
nurture you both at this time. Don’t worry if some of the women are
embarrassed by the idea of a “moon-time” ritual. Their feelings will be
healed as they join in the honoring of your daughter. And please don’t
put off your daughter’s ritual because she is shy and doesn’t want to
tell anyone “she has started.” This is her moment. I recommend helping
her to face it and feel good about it. Surround her with women she
loves and who love her. You may be surprised, especially if you have
never attended a moon time ritual, at the healing and joy that
accompany such a gathering.

A first menstruation ritual comforts the young woman and lets her know
that her feelings are natural and have been shared by women throughout
time. It focuses the nurturing attention of the community of women on
the young women’s needs at this time in her life. And it instructs the
young woman about what her family and mentors expect of her now that
she is entering womanhood.

At most moon-time (first menstruation) rituals, women only are present.
The men of the family, and the young girls who have not yet begun
menstruation, are invited to congratulate the new woman after the
ritual, and give her gifts.

Begin your ritual by creating a sacred space in whatever way feels
comfortable to you and to your friends and family. Turn off all phones
(and cell phones) 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.

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. We may have symbols of
the Earth, pictures or statues of great or holy women or pictures of
revered women family members. Flowers and other decorations are
welcome. A flower garland, to be worn later 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 has a rope that has been dyed red, which is used at
many community rituals. It is unwound around the circle of women at
moon-time rituals. You could also create a circle by sprinkling herbs
around the outside of the circle.

As you enter the sacred space, purify your minds and hearts of daily
concerns. You can symbolically sprinkle everyone with water, or throw
flower petals over everyone, or smudge. Choose whatever feels to you
like dropping the mundane. Smudging symbolizes cleaning off negative
energy and preparing for the sacred ritual. You can buy smudge sticks
at most food coops, natural food stores, or stores that sell herbs. Or
you can gather herbs from your garden and 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 dry place for two to four
weeks. At your ritual, light the stick, let it burn for a few seconds
and then extinquish it. It will continue to smoke. You then “smudge”
each other or yourself by letting the smoke drift around the body.

The Woman’s Blessing: At your ritual, have ready a dish of clean sand
or corn meal. (I use a large clay flowerpot 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 her to wipe her feel
afterwards.)

Each woman comes forward, lights a candle, and puts it into the
footprints in the sand or corn meal, which represent the new woman’s
journey on Mother Earth. Each woman then gives her woman’s blessings,
such as: “I am Marie, sister of Georgia 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 (name of new woman)
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 containing her own foot prints.
She gives her woman’s introduction, and accepts the blessings of all
the women. “I am……,daughter of……., granddaughter of……. I
accept your blessings, and thank you all.

The new woman must be adorned in some way. I suggest decorating her
hands with henna. Henna is an herb that dyes the skin a red-orange
color that turns to brown the next day. Henna kits are available at
natural food stores or on the Internet. Flower crowns or garlands are
also beautiful. After the adornment, gifts may be given that have some
significance for her passage. Red jewelry is traditional. Red
underpants are useful! Each gift is given with some ritual words such
as, “I am giving you this book obout the life of ………….because I
have always found her life to be an inspiration. I know you will find
your own path in life and be an equal inspiration to all of us.”

Songs may be sung, poems recited, stories told. Continue with some
symbolic ceremony of passage. Women have invented a variety of ways to
create a passage ritual for their daughters entering puberty. The women
may stand in two lines with arms raised, forming an archway. The new
woman stands at the entrance to the archway. She holds a few toys
representing her childhood. She has been asked to bring the toys to the
ritual to be given to the younger children of the community. However,
she is not asked to bring all her toys, or her favorite toys, because
aspects of the child remain within all of us and continue to be
treasured throughout our lives.

The young woman’s grandmother leads the passage ritual. If her
grandmother is not present, then a grandmother figure may be chosen to
represent her. The grandmother asks, “Who approaches this passage?” The
new woman gives her name. Grandmother continues: “(New woman’s name,)
it is time for you to leave behind your childhood and become a member
of the circle of women. When you are ready to do so, leave your toys
behind, and walk through the archway.” The new woman puts down her toys
and walks through the arch. As she comes to the end of the archway, the
women ring bells, throw flower petals, and cheer. Everyone kisses and
hugs the new woman.

Closing prayers and/or songs end the ritual.

After the ritual the men of the family and the girls who have not yet
begun menstruation are invited to congratulate the new woman and
present gifts. Everybody joins in food and friendship.

Menstrual Calendar: Charting the Signs of Fertility

Charting the signs of your menstrual cycle is a good way to keep in
touch with your body, your feelings, and your health. It is also a good
way to predict your days of menstruation in advance, even if your
menstrual cycles are irregular, and to know the most fertile times if
you are hoping to conceive.

Cervical Mucus
The sign that is easiest to observe is the cervical mucus, since it is
noticed in the course of daily activity. Fertile type mucus is produced
by the cervix during the days when the ova are maturing and preparing
for ovulation. This mucus is not only an indicator of fertility, it is
essential for fertility. Cervical mucus nourishes the sperm, protects
them from the natural acidity of the vagina, and guides them toward the
ovum. Following is a simple way to observe and chart your fertile type
mucus.

Pay attention to how you feel as you go about your daily activities.
Just as you have learned to notice a certain wetness at menstruation,
you will begin to notice a second wet time, but later in the cycle, and
without bleeding. The second wet time is caused by your fertile type
mucus.

Each time you go to the bathroom, wipe with toilet paper both before
and after you use the toilet, noticing: a) the sensation you feel as
you wipe with toilet paper, b) what is on the toilet paper. Chart what
you see and what you feel in any way that makes sense to you.

1) Menstruation: mark the days of bleeding in some way, such as
coloring the calendar day red.
2) Nothing: if you don’t see or feel anything outside your vagina, you
can leave the calendar blank on those days.
3) Something: but if you see or feel something – anything – such as
pasty or sticky mucus, or a feeling of wetness – draw something, such
as a raindrop, on these days.
4) Slippery something: If the pasty or sticky mucus turns to slippery
mucus or a slippery feeling, color the raindrop dark to indicate the
slippery wetness.

After a few slippery wet days, the mucus may disappear or return to
sticky or pasty. When it does, begin to count the days until
menstruation arrives. In a normal fertile cycle, the time between the
last day of slippery mucus or slippery feeling and the next
menstruation is between 11-16 days. You will become quite accurate
about your predictions after you chart for about three cycles.

The mucus is your most fertile time, since fertile type is produced
during the days leading up to and including ovulation. If you are
trying to conceive, use the wet, slippery days for sexual relations.
But don’t try to use this information for birth control unless you seek
out a qualified teacher of fertility awareness or natural family
planning.

When the fertile mucus is present, we are under the influence of the
hormone estrogen. We may feel courageous and loving. Men who bored us
last week may suddenly appear interesting and attractive. Like Mother
Earth in her rainy season, we are full of potential. We may also be
interested in sexual activity. These emotions and reactions are caused
by the hormone estrogen, which is getting us ready to have a baby,
whether or not we want one!

After ovulation, under the influence of the hormone progesterone, we
may feel somewhat deflated compared to our wet, fertile time. Like
Mother Earth in her dry time, we may feel quiet, with less energy. When
menstrual bleeding begins, both estrogen and progesterone are at low
levels. We may feel sensitive, solitary, or inward. Getting to know the
feelings that go along with your hormonal cycle can give you a new and
sensitive relationship with yourself.

Generally speaking, dark red bleeding for about three days indicates
that hormones are high enough to build a good uterine lining and
nourish a fetus in the event of conception. However, more than three
days of dark red bleeding can be exhausting.

Three to five days of wet, slippery mucus 11-14 days before the next
menstruation is a probable indicator of normal ovulation and a fertile
cycle. Cycles are often 28-30 days from the first day of bleeding to
the first day of the bleeding of the next menstruation. However,
irregular cycles do not indicate infertility. If the time between the
last day of slippery mucus and the next menstruation is 11-16 days, the
cycle is probably fertile. Even if one cycle is not fertile, the next
may well be fertile. Much depends on the stress we may be feeling.
Keeping a chart allows us to keep all things in perspective, and feel
our own harmony with all the cycles of nature.

Basal Body Temperature
If you are not sure you are ovulating, you can take your temperature.
The body’s resting temperature increases four-tenths of a degree
Fahrenheit or two-tenths of a degree Centigrade under the influence of
progesterone at ovulation. Observing this sign involves taking your
temperature at the same time each morning before rising. (This is not
as hard as it sounds. It takes less than two minutes and you can go
back to sleep if you want.)

To observe your temperature rise, buy a BD brand digital basal
thermometer. This brand will give you a consistent and accurate
reading. Other high quality brands of digital basal thermometers are
also probably accurate, but have not been tested for fertility
awareness. Make sure the battery is good. (You can replace it.) An
ordinary clinical thermometer is not accurate enough for fertility
awareness. Nor is the “ear thermometer” (tympanic thermometer).

Take your temperature every day immediately upon waking, before 7:30
a.m. The body’s rhythms (circadian rhythms) fluctuate over a 24-hour
period. Your temperature is lowest in the early morning and highest in
the afternoon. Fluctuations are greater after 7:30 a.m. If you go to
bed before midnight and wake up before 7:30 a.m., you will get the
clearest temperature readings.

If it is not convenient to take your temperature immediately upon
waking, you may take it during light morning activity. For example, if
you need to go to the bathroom, you may take your temperature while
getting up and using the toilet. But be consistent about the
circumstances under which you take your temperature. If you take it
during light morning activity, take it that way every morning. Don’t
take it sometimes before getting up and at other times during light
morning activity. If you have sexual relations, take your temperature
before.

Many women find that the digital thermometers require such a short time
to use that it is easy to take their temperature before getting up.
Take your temperature by mouth. Under arm and ear temperatures are not
accurate enough for family planning purposes. The thermometer will beep
softly several times before beginning to beep slightly louder and
repeatedly. Keep the thermometer under your tongue until the louder,
repeated beeps begin. You can read and chart your temperature as soon
as is convenient after taking it. Your thermometer has a recall button
that allows you to read the last temperature taken. Be sure to wash
your thermometer after each use.

Your Temperature Graph
Put a dot on a graph on the spot corresponding to each day’s
temperature. Join the dots of consecutive days. If you do not take your
temperature one day, do not join the dots across that day. Also write
out the temperature numerically, to guard against errors in graphing.

Interpreting Your Chart
1) Breathe and relax. Study your chart.
2) Can you find six low temperatures during the fertile mucus days of
your cycle?
3) Draw a horizontal line at the highest of the six low temperatures.
This is your low temperature line.
4) Draw another horizontal line four-tenths of a degree F. or
two-tenths of a degree C. above your low temperature line. This is your
full thermal shift line.
5) Can you find three high temperatures after the low temperatures? All
of the high temperatures must be above the low temperature line. At
least the third high temperature must be at or above the full thermal
shift line.
6) This temperature pattern of low and high temperatures is called a
biphasic pattern with a full thermal shift. A biphasic pattern with a
full thermal shift confirms that you really did ovulate. A smaller, but
sustained temperature rise also probably indicates ovulation.

If you are hoping to become pregnant, please pay close attention to
nutrition. Look for unprocessed foods grown without chemicals. Exercise
in moderation. Get plenty of rest. Avoid stress. Think happy thoughts.
Pray for the child you desire, and begin sending your child love, now.
Heal any hurtful feelings between you and your mate, and between you
both and your parents. Your mate should avoid hot shower or baths and
tight clothing, both of which lower sperm count.To increase your
chances of conception, use the wet, slippery days for sexual relations.

If you have observed a biphasic pattern with a full thermal shift, and
it is now 18 days since your last slippery, wet day, and menstruation
has not arrived, you may feel confident that you have conceived.

Congratulations and blessings!

Fertility and Artificial Light

Artificial light may be affecting your fertility. Artificial light
while sleeping appears to interfere with the production of melatonin,
which is a hormone associated with ovarian activity. Research shows
that women’s cycles often normalize when artificial light is eliminated
while sleeping. Eliminating the artificial light seems to allow the
hormonal system to reset itself, so to speak, and take a fresh start.
Couples who were thought to be infertile have been able to conceive by
eliminating artificial light while sleeping.

In addition, many women find that menstrual cycles are easier and more
harmonious if they follow the cycles of the moon: menstruation on the
new moon, ovulation on the full moon. 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. Women report being able to
gradually harmonize their cycles with the cycles of the 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 total 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. Sleeping in
total darkness may well give your hormonal system a chance to find its
own natural cycle again.

If you want to try harmonizing your cycle with the moon’s cycles, open
your shades for one night during the full moon, and sleep in the moon’s
light. If this is not possible, get a nightlight 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.

Tampon Health Risks

Tampons may allow us more freedom during menstruation, but they raise
serious health concerns.

The natural secretions of the vagina are constantly cleaning the vagina
and making the growth of bacteria less likely. The tampon, however, is
not a natural part of this cleansing process. Some time after a tampon
is inserted, bacteria will begin to grow on the tampon. Bacteria, like
all living things, eat, digest, and excrete waste products. The waste
products excreted by the bacteria may be absorbed by the vagina. Women
have become seriously ill and have even died from the 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.

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
menstrual pads. Some women have even begun to call tampons, crampons!

If you decide to use tampons and want to reduce the risk, you can buy
the unbleached cotton variety. Bleached cotton or synthetic tampons
have been shown to contain dioxins, which are contaminants associated
with serious health problems. Always remove a tampon in two hours or
less, and do not sleep with them.

If you want to go swimming during your menstruation, a tampon allows
you to do so. And the cool water will probably slow the bleeding for a
while. However, according to many schools of traditional medicine,
swimming in cool water during menstruation cools the internal organs,
which can cause menstrual discomfort and cramping. If you decide to
swim during your days of bleeding, be sure to remove the tampon after
swimming. And take time for a warm bath or a warm heating pad over your
lower abdomen after swimming.

Whenever possible, consider using menstrual pads instead of tampons.
Get to know the downward flow of energy during your moon-time, and
enjoy your ancient and sacred time of retreat. Doing so will renew your
energy and creativity each cycle.

Making Love

Sexual relations can foster union and harmony if a couple is kind to
each other throughout the day and also learns some simple love-making
techniques to create peace and satisfaction in their sex life.
We can think of sexual relations as a balancing of the male and female
energies. The most satisfying lovemaking does not end in sexual
explosion. It ends in peace. For this kind of balance and peace to
arise, time is required. If intercourse lasts at least half an hour,
with deep, gentle penetration, a couple will cultivate love and peace
together. Unfortunately it can be difficult for a man to delay
ejaculation for the length of time required to reach this state of
loving surrender. Unfulfilling sexual encounters will create tension,
even anger, in a once loving relationship. Tantric and Taoist texts
recommend that a man strengthen his prostate through exercise. A
stronger prostate will allow the man to delay, or even avoid,
ejaculation. The resulting longer intercourse will allow the balancing
of energies, fostering peace and love in the relationship.
The prostate is a few inches back from the anus. When a man tightens
and relaxes his anus, he automatically massages and strengthens his
prostate. (This is called Kegel’s exercise.) A man can do this exercise
at any time, day, or night, to strengthen his prostate. He can also do
the exercise during sexual relations. During sexual relations the
exercise causes increased circulation to the prostate, which causes the
prostate to partially empty semen into the man’s own blood stream. The
partial emptying of the prostate takes away the urgency to ejaculate,
and allows intercourse to continue. The exercise can be repeated every
so often during intercourse as long as the couple desires to continue
relations. If a man wishes to avoid ejaculation completely, he can do
so without harm if he does Kegel’s exercise after intercourse, which
empties the prostate into the blood stream and eliminates the erection.
In this way his lovemaking is more harmonious and his physical and
emotional energy are conserved. For More information on this topic, see
The Tao of Sexology, by Dr. Stephen Chang.

Important: Even if a man learns to avoid ejaculation, pregnancy is
possible. The man’s arousal fluid, called Cowper’s fluid, contains
sperm. Cowper’s fluid leaks out of the penis during sexual arousal. In
addition, seminal fluid, containing millions of sperm, may leak out of
the penis during sexual arousal but before ejaculation. For these
reasons, pregnancy is possible with no ejaculation. Even with no
penetration, the microscopic sperm can swim in the woman’s fertile-type
mucus, into her vagina and up to her fallopian tubes. Therefore, during
the fertile time, pregnancy is possible with only genital contact
(touching of the penis near the vagina.)

Pregnancy without Intercourse

Pregnancy regularly happens without intercourse to unsuspecting couples
who do not understand the function of the fertile type mucus.

Fertile mucus, produced by the cervix, is present in the woman’s body
for five to six days before ovulation, as the ova are ripening. This
mucus flows down the vagina to the vulva. The vaginal canal is normally
acidic Semen is alkaline. Sperm would normally die in the acidic
environment of the vagina. However the fertile mucus is alkaline, like
the semen, and so protects and nourishes the sperm on their journey to
the egg.

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 sperm
are often present before ejaculation. The presence of sperm in the
Cowper’s fluid may be one reason for the ineffectiveness of withdrawal
as a method of birth control. Another reason may be the leaking of a
drop of seminal fluid before withdrawal occurs. The first drop of
seminal fluid may contain millions of sperm.

In addition, even without penetration of the man’s penis inside the
woman’s vagina, pregnancy is possible.  During the woman’s fertile
mucus time, the tiny, microscopic sperm can swim from outside the
vagina, into the vaginal opening, up the vagina, into the uterus, and
into the fallopian tubes. There the sperm may fertilize the ovum, and
pregnancy may begin.

For this reason, during the woman’s fertile time, pregnancy is possible
with only genital contact. This means, touching of the penis near the
vagina.

Sleep Needs of Teens

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 own goals.

Regular sleep is also the basis for developing clear intuition, that
inner voice that represents our truest desires. Throughout history wise
men and women have used the quiet night hours to get in touch with
their intuitive knowing. Try this simple practice: wait until you are
in bed, quiet and relaxed, just before falling asleep. If there is
something that you need or want, make your request or ask your question
of the Divine within you. Fall asleep naturally. In the morning, do not
jump up immediately. Wait for a few minutes, expectantly but not
anxiously, to see if some intuitive “knowing” comes to you. Do not be
discouraged if it doesn’t. It takes time to develop intuition. And the
answer may come later on in some quiet moment, when you least expect
it. Answers from the Indwelling Divine fill us with peace and security.
We know with confidence how to proceed. Or we know with confidence that
we are protected and guided.

If you are having trouble staying on top of life, try going to bed
early and getting 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Many of the answers
you seek may be no farther away than your own pillow.