Part I: An Introduction To THe Lunar Path
We do a lot in life that we don’t necessarily have to do, but exhaling and inhaling is a requirement. If your breath does not flow in deeply, and out slowly, it stresses your entire system. The inward breath is neurologically connected to the stress response—think of a short in-breath you may take when startled or surprised. The outward breath is tied to the relaxation response—that’s why you sigh when you feel relieved. But most of us consistently run on shallow breath. How often do you let stale air sit in your lungs having forgotten to set it free?
The lunar path is one that requires complete surrender to life’s cyclical nature—the change of the seasons, the hormonal cycle, breathing, and the list literally goes on forever—a never ending rising and falling to which we, whether we want to be or not, are beholden to. For those not too keen on this, an attempt to resist or control is inevitably made. But no one can hold Mother Nature in a corner (for long) without disastrous consequences: deforestation disrupts the water cycle, artificially manipulating the fertility cycle comes with severe negative effects, and there’s all the practices that have led to climate change. Crimes against nature may provide instant gratification but they do so at the risk of long-term defeat.
The understanding of life cycles expanded in 1729 when French astronomer Jean de Mairan reported that the movement of Mimosa Pudica’s leaves continued when the plant was isolated in continued darkness—proving that its daily cycle of opening and closing was not driven by exposure to light and darkness, but rather, was aligned to the rising and setting of the sun by an internal biological clock—a circadian rhythm.
Considering the biological female’s menstrual cycle could lead us back into the arms of our own internal rhythms. Despite being aligned with the natural 28-day moon cycle, menstruation is seen as a curse or a burden, a dirty and unclean endeavor (thanks to religion and cultural biases). But many indigenous cultures viewed it as positively sacred, a time when women stopped working, retreated from men and non-menstruating women, and threw themselves into introspection and creativity. They meditated, they made crafts, they dreamed, or communed with other menstruating women. “Moon time” was not only for shedding the uterine lining, but to also purify thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that were no longer of use—a monthly rebirth. Menses was seen as the essential precursor to creation, a time to let go of the old in order to make room for the new. So yes, women are biologically designed to slow down, rest, and let go once a month, but we are all made to periodically retreat into our lunar-ness—to pause, go within, and reflect upon what needs to die and what resurrects in its place.
We are expected to adapt our natural ebbing and flowing to artificial schedules of constant forward movement. This preoccupation with progress devalues times of rest and posits retreat as a failure. Many man-made cycles we adhere to are completely disharmonious to our natural biological needs, and the technologies that keep these in place are an affront to cyclical living. So driven by societal demand for progress, we rarely take time for rest and contemplation, so reliant on machines, we have forgotten that we are part of nature, not above it.
In a spiritual sense, the lunar path is about navigating the external world with an inner compass—because not only do our bodies run on cycles, our spirits do as well. To bring our relationship with life back into balance we need to understand and respect its rhythms, be they biological or otherwise.