The lunar cycle offers us a template for reconnecting to Nature and living in more balanced, regenerative ways. And journaling with specific prompts for each phase of the cycle can be a useful way of amplifying the “still, small voice” of the inner source that holds answers to your individual quest.
In this post I share some lunar cycle and full moon concepts I’ve been learning about, along with the journal prompts I use at the time of the Full Moon.
Before we start, a disclaimer: I’ve barely scratched the surface of all that there is to learn about lunar lore. Please take this post as me sharing what I’m in the process of learning, and I encourage you to do your own reading and research to confirm or adjust whatever you take from what I’ve written here.
The lunar cycle – a template for Life
The lunar cycle is one expression of the cycle of life – an unending cycle of birth, growth, fulfilment, decline, death/rest/stillness, and rebirth.
The cycle of life presents itself in micro and macro forms, within and around us. We’re embedded in it, and it within us. Our culture encourages us to disregard it, but I’ve come to believe that we do so at our peril.
Of all the tools for self-parenting and personal growth I’ve found, paying attention to my own menstrual cycle and to the lunar cycle may have been the most helpful. And obviously, the lunar cycle is universally available to all of us, both men and women, in all the stages of our lives.
I’ve come to view the cycle of life, in all its different expressions, as a container for our lives. Within this container our patterns present themselves, over and over, and the lessons available in the cycles can enable us first to see the patterns, then to see how we might change them, if we wish.
Each time around builds on what has gone before. Tending to the cycle—your menstrual cycle if you have one, the lunar cycle, as well as the larger cycles of the seasons and of our lives—is a way of paying attention and care forward in your life, for future-you (and your family and all you care for, including your descendants) to benefit from.
At the same time, paying attention to any of these cycles is also a powerful way of “coming home” to the present moment, of freeing yourself from the hamster wheel and the grindstone, and dropping into trust, into the powerful embrace of Now.
A recipe for regenerative growth
The wisdom of the cycles offers us a recipe for regenerative growth. That’s as opposed to the linear growth required by the growth economy and the consumer culture.
We are meant to wax and wane, to flow and ebb, to expand and contract, just as the moon does.
Each period of growth and advancement (in which the drive for “more!” is appropriate), is balanced by a period of contraction, consolidation, and reckoning. Each bright, exciting peak is balanced by a period of rest. Aligning with all the phases of the cycle (not just the growth phases) helps us reconnect with the natural rhythms of life.
At the end/beginning of each cycle we have the opportunity to let go of what we no longer need, to rest, and then to make another new start. And at the brightly lit peak of each cycle we have the opportunity to “see our lives clearly.”
By seeking out the lessons available in the cycle, we can build the capacity to see the recurring patterns in our lives as they present themselves individually, inter-generationallyii and collectively – and that gives us a recurring, cumulative opportunity to deconstruct or change those patterns, if we wish.
The Full Moon phase of the lunar cycle
So, with that foundation in place, let’s talk about the Full Moon.
The Full Moon is a time of culmination, where any intentions you set back at the time of the New Moon (more on that below) may begin to fulfil themselves.
Or they may not.
Jane Hardwicke Collings points out that whatever you were thinking, saying, doing (or not doing) around the time of the New Moon was a form of intention-setting whether you were aware of it or not. So if you weren’t very conscious or deliberate two weeks ago when the moon was new, and especially if that’s a recurring theme for you, what culminates and comes to fullness with the Full Moon may not be what you were expecting or hoping for.
(Intention setting, and the different things that impact how we succeed in manifesting our intentions, is a big topic. So I’ve given it a section of its own near the end of this essay.)
Besides culmination, the other characteristic of full moon energy is that it’s very revealing. The Full Moon reveals everything, but especially the things we most need to pay attention to.
Sometimes it shines a light on our achievements, which we can and should celebrate at this bright time in the cycle. This is a great time to schedule social events and to celebrate all that there is to celebrate.
But if you’re anything like me, sometimes you won’t feel like there is anything to celebrate. Sometimes, what you will see most clearly at the Full Moon is obstacles.
If all the Full Moon seems to be showing you is how hard everything is, if your challenges take on an almost unbearable intensity, take heart. That’s actually a good thing, because you have to see your obstacles clearly before you can address them effectively.
By paying attention around the time of the Full Moon, you may “see” obstacles that were there all the time, but that you hadn’t been paying attention to.
You may have been ignoring them in hopes they’d go away by themselves.
Or they may even be obstacles that you’ve been unknowingly creating or maintaining because they were serving some other need, like the need to avoid the uncertainty involved in growth and change.
Insights and realisations about your intentions and desires (including your unconscious ones), and your challenges, all become easier to “see” around the time of the Full Moon if you’re paying attention.
Don’t be discouraged by the obstacles. Hang in there. Keep up your quest, and keep being as open as you can to what you’re receiving. In my experience it takes multiple cycles to really see the recurring patterns, which hold the information you need to begin to successfully address your challenges.
Besides obstacles, something else that the light of the Full Moon may reveal is where the shadows are, and what is hidden within them.
In the work of 20th century psychologist Carl Jung, our psychic “shadow” holds hidden parts of our being. These are aspects of ourselves that we learned to suppress when we were very young because they did not earn us the approval and connection we needed. We hid them away so well, we’ve forgotten they’re there. They stay in hiding for as long as their emergence might be a threat to our safety.
But we can’t be whole without them, so an important part of continuing to grow and evolve as an adult is becoming aware of our hidden aspects and finding ways to re-integrate them, to bring them home again. In her book Anatomy of the Spirit, Caroline Myss speaks of this as “bringing home the lost pieces of our spirit.” (I wrote about shadow work briefly in “Three Ways to Bring Ourselves Home.”)
Jane Hardwicke Collings has this to say about “seeing into the shadows” at the Full Moon:
Go out in the night, before your bedtime, put yourself between the full moon and the earth and look at your moon shadow.
Turn back around and look at the moon. Speak your full moon prayers – give thanks for all that is illuminated in your life, for all the fullness and peaks that you are experiencing, and ask for whatever you need to see in the shadows to reveal itself to you.
Ask for this to happen in a gentle and supportive way. Ask for what you need to see to be revealed to you…
Notice what arises for you, visions, memories, insights, concerns. Interpret these as messages that reveal to you what you need to see, that you may not have noticed or are maybe ignoring…
Pay heed to this information. Journal about it, see what else comes.
If it is cloudy and you can’t see the moon, she is still there, so still do this practice.”
Full Moon practices
There are practices you can use at each phase of the lunar cycle, to align with the energies of that phase and to access guidance. My favourite practice, which is free, safe, and easy, is journaling using specific prompts for the phase you’re in. Here is some more info about that, along with the prompts I use for the Full Moon.
I copy these prompts into my journal around the time of the Full Moon, and then respond to them in a free-writing style. Which simply means that I don’t think or analyse; I just write whatever wants to come to the surface.
I often find that when I read over what I’ve written, more information presents itself. And sometimes I’ll feel that feeling of “Ah ha!” as new clarity suddenly appears around some issue I’ve been struggling with.
I learned this practice of using journaling prompts, and these specific prompts, from Jane Hardwicke Collings.
Sometimes I use all these prompts; other times I might chose just one to focus on. And I’m always tweaking them.
Note that although there are ideas in the following sections for what you might want to “do” with the things that come up in your journaling, you don’t necessarily have to “do” anything with the information you receive. Just letting it percolate might be enough.
Consider allowing this journaling process to deepen, expand, or support you without having to be in charge of how and without demanding to see immediate, tangible results.
What is this Full Moon showing me? What is very obvious or intense—fully illuminated—in my life right now? What is peaking or climaxing right now?
What is coming to fullness or fruition as a result of my efforts in my relationships/health/work/creativity?
(You might like to choose one area and apply this question to it, especially if there is an area of your life you’ve been focusing on, or that’s been demanding your attention.)
How am I doing in upholding the intention/s I set at the beginning of this lunar cycle?
This question might apply to small intentions you were hoping to manifest in just one lunar cycle, or large ones that you may have been re-setting and working toward over a number of lunar cycles or even longer.
What blessing/s is this Full Moon revealing to me that I may not have been appreciating? What is working in my life, that I could embrace and celebrate?
What am I noticing right now that is not working for me?
Or, What have I been holding onto that’s no longer helpful or useful?
Or, What obstacles are presenting themselves for my attention now? What roadblocks am I becoming aware of?
How might this obstacle/these obstacles serve my growth and evolution?
In what ways might I grow whole, more compassionate, more wise, more effective, more ___ (fill in the blank) through the process of addressing this challenge?
What is this Full Moon showing me about what I need to do or be next? What do I need to notice, learn, change, or heal?
Releasing what doesn’t serve
If your journaling shows you things that are not serving you, the obvious next thing to do is to let them go.
There is a symbolic way to do this: write them down; be as specific as you can with your list of things you want to let go of; then burn the paper (this is my favourite way), or bury it or add it to your compost pile.
Literally let go of what is no longer serving you. Give it to the Earth, and ask the Earth Mother’s help to transmute it into wisdom, perspective, and experience.
(If you’re worried about giving your “negative stuff” to our already over burdened Earth Mother, don’t be. She can handle it; people have asked for Her help with this kind of work probably for as long as there has been ritual. And as this post shows, negative emotions are biodegradable.)
The waning phases of the lunar cycle, after the Full Moon and before the Dark Moon, will lend their energy to your process of learning from these experiences and releasing them.
(Two other posts that share tips for using journaling and free-writing for this sort of purpose are “5 Questions to Help You Learn from Last Year and Make the Most of This Year,” and “Spring Equinox – Journaling to Invite Balance.“)
Celebration and Gratitude
Not all of what the Full Moon reveals is difficult. When your journaling or free-writing has helped you identify what you’re grateful for, celebrate it. Congratulate yourself. Enjoy!
Because the Full Moon phase is when light and dynamic energy are at their highest, there’s an invitation to pause and swim in the abundant now. To appreciate. To drop into presence, and feel gratitude for the moment!”
Kat Anne Lee, “What’s the Spiritual Meaning of the Full Moon Phase?“
On the topic of gratitude, in this post Peter Russel reminds us that while we’re busy being grateful for the outer world and for the people in our lives, others are grateful for us.
Remember to count the blessings that emanate from you as well as those you receive.
The Full Moon is the time for assessing how you’re travelling with intentions you’ve set for changes you want to make in your life.
In this post I wrote about the Dark Moon which precedes the New Moon, the beginning of the new lunar cycle. To sum up a big topic in one sentence, the Dark Moon is for letting go of what’s not serving you and the New Moon is for setting or resetting your intentions to build more of what will serve youiii.
Now here’s a thing I learned from Jane Hardwicke Collings that made a big difference to me once I really understood it: every time you set an intention, you’ll ALSO be calling up all the potential barriers to that intention, all the obstacles.
So if you set an intention to create more harmony in your life and what you get is more conflict and drama, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong! It means you had stuff standing in the way of having harmony in your life that is now making itself known to you so that you can work through it.
In my own experience, the obstacles that come up tend to match the size of the intentions I have set. Small intentions will only call up small obstacles, such that you can sometimes breeze through them in time to celebrate bringing that intention to fruition at the very next Full Moon.
But setting large intentions will wake up the large challenges, and in my experience these large challenges are likely to show up repeatedly over many moons, before you’ll feel/see the obstacles begin to shift and start to get glimpses of your intentions manifesting in some form.
It may not feel like it, but encountering all the things that block you from where you want to go IS evidence that things are shifting. The work you need to do to get where you want to go is presenting itself to you so that you can do it. Be grateful (as best you can at any given moment) for the clarity and guidance you’re receiving, and just stay in the game.
It seems to me that it’s totally OK to find yourself resetting the same intentions over and over at each new moon over many lunar cycles. At first it may not feel like it, but you will be building toward them as you gain perspective and see more clearly the patterns you’re dealing with through each recurring cycle.
From Susun Weed I’ve learned that life’s lessons are encountered on a spiral.
A spiral is a cycle as it moves through time.
A spiral is movement around and beyond a circle, always returning to itself, but never at exactly the same place.”
Susun Weed, Healing Wise
The cycle keeps bringing you back to the beginning again, back to the same old issues. But each time it does, if you’ve been doing the work, you’ll be revisiting those old issues with the expanded perspective and capacity that you’ve been developing during the previous go rounds. The spiral is ever-expanding, and you with it.
Finally on the topic of manifesting your intentions, I would say that some intentions you set are for things you will be building your whole life, without ever expecting to cross the finish line. Some of our most important intentions and reasons for being are larger than a single lifetime, so much larger than a single lunar cycle. Know that even if you cannot see the fruit of your labours, your efforts are needed and worthwhile.
Seeing by the light of the moon
If you’ve never tried to “see by the light of the moon” before, this will all be new to you. And new things take practice.
It’s practice of a kind that might feel unfamiliar; you can’t muscle your way into this. It’s subtle. The moonlit scene of your inner life won’t shout at you or grab your attention like most things in our culture do. You have to be paying attention in ways you may not have before.
There is a “still, small voice,” an inner source somewhere within you that holds answers to your individual quest.
The cycles of Life, the lunar, menstrual, seasonal, and life cycles, are the container for your quest. They hold archetypal energies that step forward each in their proper phase, over and over, to support you on your journey.
Using journaling as I’ve described in this post is a way of courting that inner voice and those timeless energies, as well as a way of practising being able to quiet the rest of you so that you can hear them more clearly.
i To “regenerate” means “to construct or create anew,” “to revitalize,” or to “replace or reconstruct what has been lost or damaged.”
ii By “inter-generationally,” I mean patterns created during earlier generations of your family and handed down to you, that you may be in the process of passing on to future generations. Very often this happens without any awareness; we just keep doing things the way they’ve always been done without questioning it. But you can bring awareness to these patterns and be more deliberate about what you’ll hand on. Yours can be the generation in which someone (you) says, “Hang on a minute. Is there a better/kinder/more wholesome/more effective way to do this?”
iii Keep in mind, when I say “what will serve you,” I mean what will serve your greater, longer term well-being. Sometimes, that will also serve your short term desires for comfort, quick fixes, and immediate gratification. And sometimes not.