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I know, living according to the phases of the moon sounds eccentric and maybe even confusing. But after following a full moon cycle and adjusting my daily life accordingly, I came to see its value. An interest in the spiritual realm isn't required to reap the benefits, though you can be the judge of that. If you're intrigued, read on to find out what you need to know about this practice and my experience of trialing it.
I've always been interested in things that claim to help people get better aligned. Anything that claims to provide healing, improve mental well-being, or help with manifesting, I'm there wanting to give it a try. What I try won't always resonate with me, but I've found it interesting to see the rise in popularity of people turning to things like tarot, crystals, and meditation, which makes me feel like I can't be the only one looking for meaning outside of the norm.
Despite my interest in these kinds of practices, I've never paid attention to the moon other than to note how pretty it looks in the sky. In a time where nothing feels certain - but in the most heavy, lackluster way - being open to harnessing the energies of the moon made for a welcome change.
To get started, I spoke to Kirsty Gallagher, an expert on lunar cycles - she has written a bestselling book on it (Lunar Living: Working With the Magic of the Moon Cycles $23) and runs a members-only club called Lunar Living. I saw her speak live at an event a year ago and found her conviction on the power of the moon fascinating. But, typically, I went home and forgot all about it.
Recently, her content starting popping up more in my Instagram feed (a sign, perhaps?) and my interest fired up again - so I reached out to her. On a personal level, things haven't felt as though they've moved forward (which is how I imagine most feel after the year we've had), so I decided to follow Gallagher's advice in an attempt at becoming "unstuck" and inviting in new energy.
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Step 1: Familiarize Yourself With the 8 Phases of the Moon
Before we dive in, Gallagher informed me that each moon phase lasts for around three to four days, as the length of the moon's cycle each month isn't fixed.
The lunar cycle begins with the waning crescent moon, though Gallagher prefers to call it the dark moon. The moon is so small in the sky, you can barely see it. "This is the most emotional and lowest energy point of the lunar cycle . . . we want to be inward focused, quiet, and reflective," Gallagher said, adding that it's at this stage that we become aware of what we don't like about our lives, which is important for the next phase.
Then comes the new moon, where the sun, Earth, and moon are in line together. It's the best time to set intentions (probably around the issues that arose during the dark moon). Rather than be a time of acting productively, it's about thinking productively. Gallagher recommended writing down these thoughts.
Next up is the waxing crescent moon, which is when a small crescent can been seen in the sky. This is the start of the "doing" phase. "Just as the moon is starting to show itself in the sky, we need to start doing the same," Gallagher affirmed. It's time to act on those intentions: send the email, make the call, ask for the help you need, apply for the job, go to the event.
This is followed by the waxing first quarter moon, which sees the moon become exactly half full. Gallagher said this is typically the "favorite phase" of her clients, as it's when things start to come together and become energetic. She advised that you follow your intuition, say yes to any opportunities that appeal, and "show up in life." Be mindful, as this is a prime moment for doubts to creep in as desires can feel far off, but Gallagher said to push past the fear.
The next phase is the waxing gibbous moon. Here, it's hard to tell if the moon is completely full. Gallagher mentioned it's typical at this stage to experience problems sleeping. "You get this big influx of energy to help you go after your dreams," she said, so if you're struggling to get shut-eye, pay attention to what's on your mind.
This all builds up to the full moon, which occurs when the sun, moon, and Earth are aligned once again, but now on the opposite side. "It's a time of completion, so the first thing we need to do is celebrate what we achieved," Gallagher instructed. She warned that people can become "quick to be emotional" because the peak of energy in the lunar cycle has been reached - so that trope about people going "mad" during a full moon hasn't come from nowhere. At this time, any issues you're facing will be brought to the surface. "Normally, any anger and frustration people feel during the full moon, if they get really honest, is directed towards themselves," Gallagher said, adding that you might look back and see where you procrastinated and self-sabotaged.
Close to the end, you get the waning gibbous moon, which is a time to reflect on the lunar month gone by. The moon begins to lose its fullness here. Finally, it's time for the waning last quarter moon. Gallagher explained that you should use this as an opportunity to let go of anything that no longer serves you. It's a motto that, while often flouted around by wellness influencers, has importance.
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Step 2: Work With Each Cycle's Zodiac Sign . . . or Don't
It's worth knowing that the moon changes what zodiac sign it's in every couple of days, but Gallagher doesn't like to get too bogged down in this detail. She said due to this, there are a couple of ways to live according to the moon - depending on how intricate you want to be.
"You can massively overcomplicate it and live by the moon changing sign every couple of days, if you want to, but most people just don't have time for that," she explained. As an expert herself, she only pays attention to this part of the lunar journey when she feels out of kilter and wants extra clarification on what's happening in the sky.
Where it's ideal to work with the zodiac signs in relation to the moon is at the points of the new and full moons. The new moon will always be the same zodiac sign the sun is in (so right now we're in Scorpio season), whereas the full moon will always be in the opposite sign. Gallagher said these signs add a "flavor" to the overall energy of the lunar cycle each month.
Step 3: Be Open to Change
While I'm open minded, I know many will be skeptical. "I love skeptics. They're some of my favorite people, because it's better to be that way and get the proof in the pudding, so to speak," Gallagher said. For her, there are tangible results found in allowing yourself to be guided by the moon.
"We live now in a life where we have a lot of routine and no ritual. We live life in a linear way, expecting everything to be the same all day every day, and so we've lost the cyclical nature of life," Gallagher explained. In going about our lives like this, "we've lost the ability to check in with ourselves." This is where moon phases can help - they inject the cyclical nature of being back into the everyday.
Step 4: Hold Yourself Accountable
As we approach the end of this strange year, soon it'll be time to make New Year's resolutions. Again, that time has come around - though how many of us actually stick to them? Gallagher said we often let them slide, forget them, then question where the year has gone. According to her, it's all too easy to "never put enough attention and direction towards any dreams because we don't hold ourselves accountable." Rather than experience moon phases as a spiritual activity, it can simply work to give you a marker of the passage of time.
"Even if you don't want to believe that the moon could bring magic - which it does - a check-in each new moon or full moon gives you a way to take conscious control over your life by saying, 'I wanted this, so why didn't I apply any attention to it? Why am I avoiding doing that?'"
A monthly check-in can build towards majestic change as far as Gallagher is concerned. "Even if you don't want to believe that the moon could bring magic - which it does - a check-in each new moon or full moon gives you a way to take conscious control over your life by saying, 'I wanted this, so why didn't I apply any attention to it? Why am I avoiding doing that?'" By regularly questioning ourselves, Gallagher thinks this can help us observe the direction we're taking in real time. Often we choose to reflect on this once the direction we've taken is firmly set in stone or there's an obvious choice to be made. "It's a beautiful way to keep yourself moving forward," she said - and consciously so.
My Experience Living According to the Moon Cycles
While speaking with Gallagher for advice, she said people who are unable to rest tend to struggle with the quieter energies at the start of the lunar cycle. They have to learn to "be" and not always "do." On a personal level, this resonated with me as someone who hates nothing more than a quiet weekend. As I reluctantly eased my social schedule and dialed back extra commitments around work, I found myself gradually becoming more comfortable with that introspective and restful energy. I even became drawn to switch up my yoga practice, favoring gentler routines.
Working the different lunar energies into my lifestyle made it easier to chart the steps I was taking towards fulfilling my intentions set at the new moon. The phases became akin to small milestones or checkpoints, encouraging me to keep going. Usually, my sense of how fast time is moving hits when the seasons change, rather than with every full moon.
Gallagher told me that "when you become aware of the moon, it helps you deal with things very differently - not only in yourself but with everybody else around you." With this in mind, I was both more awake to how things are in a constant state of flux and accepting of that reality, too. Things changing unexpectedly still had their shock factor, but I was able to recover quicker. Getting into this mindset long-term is bound to prove helpful, if even just for remaining grounded. On a practical level, I used the energy of the Virgo new moon to declutter my living space as one of my intentions was to let go of the physical things that weren't serving a purpose anymore - a task I'd been ignoring for months. If using the moon phases is tempting but feels too complex, first focus on setting intentions at the new moon and releasing around the full moon.
Did I achieve my intentions and release all that I hoped to? No. Did I make mindful choices that honored my intentions? Yes. Regardless of your thoughts on the rise of spiritualism, living with the lunar phases in mind can serve as a tool to better navigate the ebb and flow of life.