We live in a culture that is heavily focused on the external. We’re encouraged to pursue our goals with fierce determination. Let’s say, for instance, we want a raise, a new partner or a new house (or all three!); we’re conditioned to go after it with a vengeance, assuming that the attainment of this particular thing will cement our happiness. Yet, life doesn’t work like that. As meaningful to us as these dreams may be, they’re outside of ourselves. True fulfillment comes from within and happens by aligning our actions with our most heartfelt yearnings and tending to our innermost needs. And then, letting go.
The Importance of Living with Intention
This is where intention setting comes in. Intentions, unlike goals, travel from the inside out. They invite psychological and spiritual investigation; they ask that we consider our innermost selves. While intentions may involve the pursuit of external goals, they do not chain our happiness to their arrival.
One of the ways to live with intention is to be conscious of and work in tandem with the moon’s cycles. I’ve been facilitating monthly moon circles for almost three years now in Venice, California, where we meditate, journal, set intentions and intimately share our experiences, dreams, sadness and joy. Month after month, women commit to themselves by openly expressing their vulnerabilities, struggles and wins.
I can say from experience how influential and life-changing these rituals truly are. Take, for example, one participant, a career-oriented woman who finally admitted to herself of her desire for intimacy and connection. After committing to a self-care practice, she shifted her focus, creating far more satisfying and meaningful relationships as a result. Another participant, a stay-at-home mom, yearned for creative self-expression, yet feared leaving her children behind. In attending to and heeding her innermost thoughts, she was able to assert her interest in part-time work. Soon afterward, she landed an ideal position with flexible hours. Often, it’s clarity we’re yearning for. And simply stating our truth is all that’s required to shift gears and open up our lives.
A New Moon Signifies New Beginnings
Lunar cycles, which last 28.5 days, begin on the new moon, when the moon is invisible from Earth. The sky is dark and we’re drawn inward. We’re offered an opportunity to begin anew on these days, to set intentions for what we’d like to call into our lives and, most importantly, how we wish to show up. We may, like the women I mention above, be seeking more communion or a deeper commitment to our creativity and self-care.
By writing these intentions out, we’re planting the seeds of our life’s garden. We’re taking responsibility in advancing our own lives. Because the truth is that we co-create our reality with our thoughts and our actions. And we’re more likely to take the inspired and appropriate steps needed to actualize our desires when we’re able to clarify them.
A Full Moon Signifies Release
Yet sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes there’s a fork in the road. That’s where the full moon comes in. Two weeks after the new moon, when the sun and moon are 180 degrees apart, we experience the full moon. It’s at this time that we become aware of what we need to let go of, what’s thwarting our progress. Our emotions may become more heightened. We may get confirmation on something we’ve been waiting for, or experience a peak or the culmination of something else. All of this is simply feedback. While new moons are about stating our dreams and wishes, full moons are about realization, illumination and release. The key lies, once again, in the willingness to listen within.
So by pausing on these days, either alone or with a trusted group, we remind ourselves of what really matters to us. We take stock of our internal mechanisms and, if necessary, alter the way in which we greet and navigate the world.
More than anything, moon rituals allow us moments to ground and return to ourselves. In our hyperconnected, hyperproductive world, we’re often more reactive than proactive. These offerings allow for an alternative, as we take ownership of our lives and harness our innate ability to self-actualize.
Below I offer rituals to perform during each of these phases. Just by taking the time to contemplate and consider our current states, we’re shifting our consciousness and directing our trajectory. It has been said that energy flows where focus goes, which is why writing down our intentions and, separately, what we’d like to let go of are very important steps in these moon rituals.
All this being said, it’s critical that we take into account that the only thing we truly have control over is our own perceptions and actions. Otherwise we risk becoming rigid and brittle; we risk enjoying the journey. Life is a dance, after all. We take action in the direction of our cherished dreams and then we let go, in trust that the Universe has its own agenda. It’s who we are in the everyday, how we relate to ourselves and the world around us—no matter our experience—that dictates our levels of satisfaction and joy.
New Moon Intention-Setting Ritual
You can do this alone or with a group:
- Find a quiet space.
- Light a candle.
- As yourself what is your most heartfelt yearning?
- Take some time to meditate on this question, centering yourself in your breath and the moment.
- Write down what it is you’d like to manifest, but here’s the trick: Write it as if it’s already happening, infusing it with as much detail as possible.
- If in a group, share at least one intention aloud, so as to anchor it in.
- You can keep your intentions and revisit them throughout the month. Personally, I like to write them on a slip of paper and sleep with them under my pillow.
Full Moon Releasing Ritual
Again, this can be done alone or with a group:
- Find a quiet space.
- Light a candle.
- Ask yourself what limiting behaviors and/or patterns you are ready to let go of.
- If in a group, you may want to share what came forward and also any past intentions that have manifested.
- Take some paper and just begin writing. Allow the writing to flow, without judgment, for at least 20 minutes. It does not have to be legible.
- Either rip up the paper or burn it, releasing it.
- Meditate for at least another five minutes to anchor in the process.