Period of Rest

Taking time out each month to unbox your shadow
By Gretchen Giles

There is a seeming incongruity to the oxymoronic phrase "male lesbian." Rob Brezsny sees how others might find humor in it, but he's not laughing. As an active member of the Menstrual Temple of the Funky Grail, Brezsny has been among the 13 men who are initiated each year into this ancient mystery cult.

"It requires mastering an understanding of the spiritual value of menstrual periods," says Brezsny. "It's a very complex subject, and I can't do it justice in a few words. But I will say that the male body does not enforce a time-out for psychic growth. We can push ourselves relentlessly without having to check in with our deepest inner sources. Women's menstrual cycles, on the other hand, call them back into dark, fertile chaos on a regular basis.

"I don't want to glamourize the pain, emotional upheaval, and inconvenience that women have to go through," Brezsny muses, "but there is a way in which they are very lucky to have this monthly appointment. Potentially, it allows a conversation with the subtle self. It invites women to commune with those aspects of life that have been going unacknowledged or unrecognized -- what [philosopher and therapist Carl] Jung called 'The Shadow.'

"In a perfect world," he continues, "there would be menstrual huts everywhere, sanctuaries where women, and men, for that matter, could retreat and enjoy a three- or four-day soul vacation once every month. The hard-driving schedule that runs our culture makes it difficult for women, let alone men, to be able to have that privilege.

"Your withdrawal to the menstrual hut would be a perfect opportunity to deal with the areas of your life where you're not acting with full integrity and impeccability. Everything that you've been trying to put off and hold at bay would be allowed to wash over you in a safe, sacred setting."

In his book, The Televisionary Oracle, Brezsny offers a checklist of questions to guide a potential visit to the menstrual hut.

During your time of the month, meditate on the following questions:

1. What feelings and intuitions have you been trying to ignore since the moon was last in the phase it is now?
2. Which parts of your life are overdue for death?
3. What messages has life been trying to convey to you but you've chosen to ignore?
4. What red herrings, straw men, and scapegoats have you chased after obsessively in order to avoid dissolving your most well-rationalized delusions?

Brezsny has joked in the past that he would enjoy turning Radio Shack franchises across the nation into menstrual huts. He no longer necessarily advocates the emptying of one particular store to hunker down the menses.

"It's not for me to say," he shrugs. "That's something for the leaders of the Menstrual Temple of the Funky Grail to do. I don't make those kinds of decisions. My job right now is to create the poetry of the lesbian man, the macho feminist movement, and to stimulate the imagination about it and all the juicy possibilities. I'm not really a politician or an administrator or a bureaucrat. I'm an imaginist."

But back to being a male lesbian. "I don't mind calling myself that," he says, "it's just that I don't want to be overly presumptuous. When The Televisionary Oracle came out, there were some party-line feminists who didn't like it even though in my mind it's the one of the most feminist books ever written by a dude. My style -- my problem -- is that even as I embrace something with all my love, I also make fun of it. And that doesn't go over with some people.

"But it's the whole point for me," Brezsny says. "You have to make fun of the things that you believe in or they become rigid and sabotage you."