Hello. Doctor Anita Johnston here and I am in Palau right now.
Wait, where is Palau? Well, Palau is south of Guam. Where is Guam? Well, both Guam and Palau, are part of the Micronesian islands. Polynesia, which most people know about, includes Hawaii and Tahiti. Then there’s Melanesia, which is near where New Guinea is, and then there’s Micronesia which means little islands — and there are lots of them. Palau is about 7 degrees north of the equator. Guam is about 14 degrees north of the equator and Hawaii about 22. To get to Palau, you go to Hawaii and then to Guam and then you turn left and go south and you get to Palau.
Now, the thing about Palau is I think it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. The islands are pristine. The water! The water feels like silk on your skin and is crystal clear. And the corals are brilliant and amazing. Culturally, however, Palau is a really interesting place. One of the things I find most compelling is that they still have rituals for girls when they have their first menstrual cycle. And they celebrate many of the phases that women typically go through.
One of the things I find most compelling is that they still have rituals for girls when they have their first menstrual cycle. And they celebrate many of the phases that women typically go through.
When a woman gives birth for the first time, it’s extraordinary what they do. They cover her body in oil and turmeric so that her skin shimmers. There’s dancing and celebration. And, when a girl goes into menarche, which is the very first experience of her menstrual cycle, her first menstrual period, they have this really lovely ritual where the aunties and the mother and big sisters and older cousins, gather herbs and flowers from the jungle. They make this steam bath and the girl, who is now becoming a woman, gets to be infused with fragrances that are amazing as a way of honoring her entry into womanhood.
One of the flowers they use is the ylang-ylang flower which you might call, Lang Lang. It’s pronounced in differently in different places. The flower itself, is not much to look at, but the fragrance is extraordinary.
I want you to think about it — just for a minute. Imagine that maybe you grew up in Palau and as a young girl to celebrate your very first experience of your menstrual cycle, you were taken to be with your aunties and maybe older sisters or your mother who gathered the herbs and the flowers to perform this very special ritual that infused you with the most delicious fragrances to celebrate you becoming a woman
Now, I want you to stretch your imagination a little further and think about if your very first experience of coming into the body of a woman was treated like that…and that there was this amazing celebration of your senses.
How do you think that might affect your body image?
How do you think it would affect your understanding of what it means to come into the body of a woman?
Now, of course, you probably weren’t raised in a place like Palau, but you do have an imagination, and that’s what our imagination is for — to imagine the possibilities and then to imagine a new way of thinking. A new way of being in the world. A new way of being in your body. One where you celebrate and honor the extraordinary event that marks your womanhood. Imagine what that would do to your relationship with the curves that come with becoming a woman. The natural changes that the body goes through. The extraordinary changes that mark the change from girlhood to womanhood.
Think about that.
Use your imagination in this way, so that you could imagine how your life might be different so that you could imagine how your relationship to your body might be different.
Know that there are places around the world that honor and celebrate this most extraordinary experience where they have rites of passage for all girls which gives them the message that coming into the body of a woman, with all of its curves, with all of its power, is really a most extraordinary event.
Again, think about it. How do you think your relationship to your body might be different if this had been your experience ,If this had been your introduction to womanhood.
And so, from the Light of the Moon Café in Palau, in Micronesia, in the Pacific, I hope to see you next time.
I would love to hear what you think, share a comment below!