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  EDITOR'S CHOICE ARTICLES June/July 1999 Issue  

Personal Lunar Cycles
by Samten Williams, B.S.N., R.N.

There is nothing more primal than the basic rhythm of ebb and flow. We constantly live with the dualities of empty/full, inner/outer, give/take. These rocking rhythms are linked with heartbeat, breath, life, and death. As a holistic nurse astrologer, the intention of my work is to help people find the point of cohesion, where inner is one with outer, where sky is one with earth. The instrument of my work is natural cycles - primarily the cycles of the Moon.

The Moon mirrors duality: New Moon to Full, Full to Dark of Moon, then dissolution and the beginning of another cycle. In this consistent rhythm of waxing and waning, the Moon teaches us how to live with duality. It is in the transition period between lunar cycles, however, that the Moon teaches us how to transcend duality. The space between ending cycle and beginning cycle - and there is such a space - represents an emptiness that encompasses all. Master meditation teachers of many traditions teach about this still point in relation to the moment between breaths. The moment of spaciousness between cycles, or between breaths, is a place of wisdom. When our intention is to become aware of this turning point, we resonate with the core from which duality arises, the root of our Oneness.

Moon Phase Activity

Dark of Moon Rest, Dissolution
New Moon Beginning
First Quarter Moon External Resistance
Full Moon Union
Last Quarter Moon Internal Resistance

I suggest that the capacity to transcend duality is part of an ultimate state of health. Since change is the only constant in life, and we are always in the position of having to make a choice, it is important to ask: What is our ground, how are we rooted, where are we safe? By hanging out in that moment of stillness between cycles, we begin to open to a multidimensional knowingness that sees beyond the duality of self/other. We no longer feel isolated or alienated because we are aware of being actively linked to All That Is. We then make choices based on this broad view rather than from the limited, dualistic vision of ego and personality. Connecting consciously, and habitually, with the root of Oneness, we begin to generate self-certainty. No matter what the tides of change bring us, we know we will be safe because we are rooted in belonging.

Many people ignore the Moon as she whispers, "Watch this, transcend duality" at the end of each cycle. Do you ever overhear the statement "I am so tired and I don't know why" during the Dark of the Moon, those three days before each New Moon? We are often blood-and-bone tired as one cycle dissolves and another begins. Yet most people do not connect this sky/earth event with their physical experience of tiredness.

It was through awareness of the Collective Lunar Cycle (1) that I uncovered another, equally reliable cycle of the Moon, which I call the Personal Lunar Cycle.

The Personal Lunar Cycle is based on the return of a person's natal Sun-Moon phase angle. As an echoed vibration of the Collective Lunar Cycle, the Personal Cycle contains the same four components: New, First Quarter, Full, and Last Quarter Moons. The vibration of the Personal Lunar Cycle can be perceived as subtler than the Collective Cycle because the potency of the Personal Cycle relates to the fulfillment of individual destiny.

In a fairly recent TMA interview, Michael Erlewine mentioned that the natal Sun-Moon phase angle is very important in Tibetan astrology. (2) Although I've been a practicing Tibetan Buddhist for many years, I have not studied Tibetan astrology. Instead, I came to awareness of the Personal Lunar Cycle through a kinesthetic experience I had in 1993.

At the time, I was in the middle of a transition to home-based self-employment, and was no longer battling Boston traffic or the stress of an organizational environment. Living in the country, working creatively, I was making my own schedule, so there was no reason to feel a familiar tiredness I had always related to job burnout. I began to track these periods of inordinate tiredness and discovered, to my amazement, that they came with unfailing regularity during the three days before my Sun-Moon phase-angle return. (3) I have come to refer to this time as the Personal Dark of the Moon.

During these periods I experience a pulling downward and in. Just as in the Collective Lunar Cycle's Dark of the Moon, the Personal Dark of the Moon is a time for observing the void, in absolute stillness, as one cycle dissolves and the next begins. It is a time for reviewing the goals of past cycles and seeding intention for future cycles, although this is often a subconscious process.

The Personal Lunar Cycle phases are identical to those of the Collective Cycle. During the first few days of the Personal New Moon phase, just as with the Collective New Moon phase, we find ourselves moving through a nebulous, formless state and back into a more corporeal, formed state again. Then, during the Personal First Quarter phase, we meet with an outer resistance to our life or work. This sensation of external resistance is similar to the work that occurs both at age two and during the teen years, when we feel the pressure to individuate in order to mature and grow. The true work of this First Quarter phase is to push beyond others' expectations and manifest our singular selves.

The Personal Full Moon phase presents us with a crisis of yes or no proportions. We must choose either to say yes to life and the opportunity for mind/body integration, or to say no to life and remain in the shadow lands of our potential, frustrated and self-thwarted. Then, during each Personal Last Quarter phase, we meet with inner resistance to our life and our work. Here, we resist the eventual dissolution that occurs as we move from the formed state back into the formless state as we approach the end of the cycle. We may be playing out a mini fear of death here, although this experience is often largely subconscious. We can use the Personal Last Quarter phase as a practice session for learning how to let go.

To begin, you need to know the degree of your natal Sun-Moon phase angle (the phase of the Moon during which you were born). Many astrological software programs provide this information, as do some web sites, e.g., or tycho.usno

Once you have determined your Sun-Moon phase angle, it is easy to track your Personal Lunar Cycle. Both Win*Star 2 and Solar Fire 4 offer phase-angle return options, and other software programs may have this option as well. If you do not have access to a phase-angle return program, you can figure out your Personal Lunar Cycle for yourself. Many general calendars list the four phases of the Moon. In the 360° cycle, the New Moon = 0°, the First Quarter Moon = 90°, the Full Moon = 180°, the Last Quarter Moon = 270°, and the Dark of the Moon Phase = approximately 324°. Determine which phase of the Moon is closest to your Sun-Moon phase angle.

Using the example of a Sun-Moon phase of 165°, we see that this Sun-Moon angle is closest to the Full Moon phase, or 180°. We then subtract 165° from 180°, which gives us a 15° difference. The Moon travels approximately 12° in one 24-hour period, or 1/2° per hour. (4) Therefore, the Personal Lunar Cycle, or phase-angle return, for the person with a 165° Sun-Moon angle would be about 30 hours before each Full Moon in the Collective Lunar Cycle. (See Table 1.)

To determine the entire four quarters of the Personal Lunar Cycle, start with the Sun-Moon phase-angle return and add 90° for each subsequent quarter. Using the example of a Sun-Moon phase angle of 165°, add 90° to get the First Quarter phase of the Personal Lunar Cycle at 255°. Add 90° to this First Quarter phase to get the Personal Full Moon phase at 345°. Add 90° to this Full Moon phase to get the Personal Last Quarter phase at 75°. To determine the Personal Dark of the Moon phase, subtract 36° from the New Moon phase of 165°. (5) In this example, the Personal Dark of the Moon phase will occur at 129°. (See Table 2.)

Coordinating the Personal with the Collective Lunar Cycle requires dexterity. It is where the work is: living the connection of inner with outer.

We see from the example of a Sun-Moon phase angle of 165° that the Personal Dark of the Moon occurs about four days before the Full Moon in the Collective Lunar Cycle (180° - 129° = 51 divided by 12 = 4.25). The person with a 165° Sun-Moon phase angle can expect to feel an inward pull toward stillness just as the rest of the world is building toward a Full Moon crescendo. Conversely, he or she will experience a Personal Full Moon just as the rest of the world is responding to the inward call to stillness with the approach of the Collective Dark of the Moon.

It is easier to integrate Personal and Collective Lunar Cycles for some of the Sun-Moon phases than for others. For instance, those with a Sun-Moon phase angle between 345° and 15° will have their Personal Lunar Cycle closely synchronized with the Collective cycle. They will also have a longer Dark of the Moon period - four to six days, rather than the usual three days - because the Personal and Collective Dark of the Moon times flow into one another.

The integration of the Collective and Personal Lunar Cycles is an end point of working with this information, not a beginning point. The alignment of one's life with natural cycles is subtle work. It has been thousands of years since most people have paid attention to the integration of inner and outer cycles. It takes time, therefore, to recognize the subtle mix of rhythms on the physical level.

Your can start this work by beginning to notice, over a six-month-to-two-year time frame, those three days of the Personal Dark of the Moon just before each Personal Lunar Cycle return. Once you have integrated the rhythms of the Personal Dark of the Moon and Personal New Moon phases, you will automatically sense the other phases of the Personal Lunar Cycle.

I stress the importance of the Personal Dark of the Moon because this is where the alignment between inner and outer rhythm feels most pronounced. There is a definitive tiredness during Personal Dark of the Moon times. When we rest during these times, naturally turning inward, this rest is like velvet. When we resist rest and keep pushing ourselves, we end up feeling depressed, spiteful, angry, and frustrated. This is because the Dark of the Moon is for deep receptivity. We must be still and quiet to receive the knowing available to us. If we insist on putting out effort, on doing, the result is discordance. This discordance can harm subtle energy fields, eventually affecting physical fields as well. (6)

One client with a tendency to overwork reported that she was "annoyed" when she didn't accomplish things at her usual pace during Personal Dark of the Moon periods. I explained to her that we are still working during Dark of the Moon times, although it is a very different kind of work. It is the work of releasing, resolving, and dissolving out of one cycle and into another.

Dark of the Moon times are prime for any activity that supports the exchange of information between the subconscious and conscious mind. Activities such as taking naps with the intention to bring subconscious material to the surface, non-dominant hand drawing, creative play, or outdoor exercise can facilitate this work. The purpose of this exchange is to awaken superconsiousness, or deep, inner knowing.

Those with a strong desire to manifest their highest spiritual potential can benefit from working with the Personal Lunar Cycle. No matter how much you meditate or dedicate yourself to a spiritual life, if you are still living by mechanical time you are stuck in a construct of limitation. (7) When you align with natural cycles you open to the fullest range of potential within any moment. You allow yourself 360° vision - forward, back, up, down, top, bottom. You have a freedom of movement that corresponds to nature and the unlimited potential for awakening. Intuition deepens, connection with All That Is strengthens, contentment flows.

On a more practical level, people with busy schedules can also benefit from working with natural cycles. It helps to know, in advance, when one can expect to feel more tired, such as in Dark of the Moon times, or when one might have an intensification of energy during Full Moon times.

Families can greatly benefit from respecting one another's Personal Dark of the Moon periods. Family members can cover chores for one another during low energy times, so that each person can experience adequate rest and renewal at the appropriate times.Families can expect to feel an increased sense of harmony, bonding, and support when they honor one another's rhythms in this way.

If corporations utilized the awareness of natural cycles when planning and scheduling, it is likely that corporate profits would increase. There is less margin for error in any kind of human production, and less waste, when people do not try to force themselves upstream during downstream times.

Persons living with chronic disease can benefit by recognizing that patterns of low energy are related to lunar cycles rather than to a deterioration of health. Anticipating personal and collective Dark of the Moon phases, one can allow more time for rest, which naturally boosts the immune system. Appreciating the natural rhythms of these energy dips makes for less worry, which also boosts the immune system.

If you have access to a software program that offers the phase-angle return option, run charts for each monthly Sun-Moon phase-angle return. Read these charts the way you would read a regular lunar return chart, searching for the deeper themes and issues that will be highlighted during a particular Personal Lunar Cycle Return. For instance, I find that the tightest dynamic aspect in these charts provides much valuable information. These themes thread into life lessons as you see the work of one cycle spiraling into the work of the following cycle.

Why is it so important that we recognize these transitions? Why do we need to reflect upon the end of a day and the beginning of a new one, on the end of a month and the beginning of a new one, on the end of a year and the beginning of a new one?

I suspect that many of today's stress-related syndromes stem from a lack of connection with natural cycles. Birth time of day, Sun-Moon Phase, and season of birth all provide fail-proof rhythms by which to coordinate our lives. Relying solely on mechanical time - timing that is external to us - is a health hazard because it has no connection with our nature.

Something amazing happens when I present information on Personal Lunar Cycles in my workshops, usually to people who don't know the first thing about astrology or their own charts. Using relaxation techniques, guided imagery, and sound healing within a workshop setting, 95 percent of all participants intuit their own birth phase. Participants often reverse the Quarter Moons, mistaking First Quarter for Last Quarter, and vice versa; however, most everyone guesses whether they were born during the Dark of the Moon, the New Moon, the Quarter Moons, or the Full Moon.

This natural intuiting of birth phase, without any prior knowledge, amazes me. It suggests that we carry the knowing of our charts deep within us. Allowing our clients the space, time, and framework to experience their charts from the inside out empowers them and our profession.

Living in awareness of natural cycles is a wonderful source of self-care. The alignment of inner with outer reverberates through our being and the cosmos: we have found our place, and we stand in it even as it changes. Natural cycles awareness allows us to appreciate duality and transcend it. We see beyond ebb and flow to the rock-safe core that holds us steady. Natural cycles awareness is a medicine of the future.

If you are interested in living in alignment with natural cycles, the Personal Lunar Cycle is a good place to start. The benefits are plentiful. Do not take my word for it. Try it yourself. Over the next six-to-24-months, take a look at your energy levels in relation to the recurring Sun-Moon phase angle in your birth chart. With self-created ritual, observe the void as one cycle ends and the next one begins.

Sky above
earth below
we are the connection.

(I want to thank Paula R. Gassmann, Peter Perrone, and Rab Wilkie for their valuable help in the preparation of this article. Special thanks to Michael Erlewine and Philip Sedgwick as well; their pioneering work influences my own.)

1. "Collective Lunar Cycle" refers here to the recurring cycle beginning with each New Moon, when the Sun and Moon are at the same degree and minute in the zodiac.

2. "Tibetan Astrology: An Interview with Michael Erlewine," The Mountain Astrologer, June/July 1998, pp. 47-51.

3. The Astrological Calendar AFA/Circle Books lists the Sun-Moon phase angle in the bottom left-hand corner of the block for each day. This yearly calendar is written and compiled by Michael, Margaret, and Stephen Erlewine, Matrix Software, Big Rapids, MI. It is published by American Federation of Astrologers, Inc., Tempe, AZ.

4. There are 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes in each Lunar cycle, according to http://www.hawastsoc.org/solar/eng/moon.htm

5. We subtract 36° here because the Moon travels approximately 12° in a day; the Dark of the Moon phase occurs three days before the New Moon (3 x 12 = 36°).

6. Valerie Hunt, Infinite Mind, Science of the Human Vibrations of Consciousness, 2nd Edition, Malibu, CA: Malibu Press, 1996.

7. Skye Compton, "Natural Time, A Workshop on the Mayan Calendar," Oregon House, Yachats, OR, September 18-20, 1998.

© 1999 Samten Williams - all rights reserved

Samten Williams, B.S.N., R.N., is a holistic nurse and astrologer. Through her company, Fresh Perspectives, Applications of Astrology for Intuitive Living, she offers workshops, seminars, consultations, and writings. Samten offers a long-distance meditation group, Synchronizing with Natural Time, on solstices, equinoxes, eclipses, and other significant astrological events throughout the calendar year. She is also writing a book on Personal Lunar Cycles. Samten can be reached at (541) 552-0586; P.O. Box 1049, Ashland, OR 97520; e-mail; or visit her website.

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