A Guide to Lunar Phases + Aligning with the Moon

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will openly admit that I am an unapologetic moon-child. Its luminosity and changeability have always had me in awe. The moon is powerful and influential; its waxing and waning affects ocean tides, sleep quality, moods and energy, and some studies suggest that the phases of the moon can even have an affect on the incidence of violent crime, libido/fertility, menstruation, mental health, and create shifts and swells in the water contained within our own bodies!

You may already be aware of how your energy fluctuates in tandem with the various lunar phases. In the shadow of the new moon you may feel low energy, mellow and in need of more rest—and you may find that you sleep deeply because of the darkened sky. Alternately, the heightened energy of the full moon is notorious: if you’ve got kids around (or if you are a school teacher!), you know undeniably that the full moon brings out the wolves!

If you’re not sure which phase the moon is in at any given time, I recommend downloading a lunar phase app to help. There are also websites you can reference to track the goings-on of the moon and other celestial treasures and planetary shifts (such as mercury retrograde… argh!) When you know where the moon is at, you can begin to consciously align with those lunar vibes, both in how you dig deep and explore your inner world, and in how you manifest in and relate to the outer world. Here are some suggestions as to where you might begin.

New Moon

During this first phase, the moon is completely in shadow and disappears from view. The moon is dark, the tides swell high. You could think of this as the “night time” of the month. Personal energy is generally lower, so it’s good to rest and dial things down into a chill, receptive mode.

This can be a beneficial phase to turn inwards and listen. Pay attention to the more subtle messages of your being; notice what your gut intuition is telling you. The new moon is all about new beginnings. Because it marks the start of a fresh lunar cycle, it offers a metaphorical erasing of the chalk board: clear the past and reset from here. It holds the resolution-setting powers of January 1st, but you can have it every month!

Questions to explore:

  • What fears have been arising for me lately? What might those fears have to teach me?
  • What do I feel drawn towards? What do I feel an aversion to? Investigate this.
  • What new ideas are ready for me to nurture?
  • What do I want to manifest in my life in the coming months?
  • Are there some small, tangible, and achievable steps that could help me to work towards those goals?

Lunar-aligned actions:

  • Smudge your spaces with burning sage, cedar or palo santo to clear away the stagnant energies.
  • Journal your thoughts and feelings as a way to document the strong internal messages that can be heard during the new moon.
  • Place your crystals on the window sill to reset their energies, facilitating a release of any stored, heavy, negative vibes.
  • Take advantage of the dark skies at bedtime: reduce your screen exposure in the evening hours (or use an app that provides a blue light filter), dim your artificial bulbs or use candles, and keep sounds/music ambient and natural. The nights around the new moon hold the greatest potential for deep sleep, so use them wisely!
  • Indulge in self-care rituals that are soothing, such as adding lavender oil to your bath, or sipping a chamomile tea instead of coffee in the afternoon.
  • Set aside time for meditation. Even 10 minutes a day has been shown to have profound impacts on the brain and your ability to regulate your mood. Take note of what arises for you after meditation, and record in your journal.
  • Participate in more gentle forms of movement or exercise such as long walks, tai chi or gentle/restorative yoga.

Waxing Moon

In its waxing phase, the moon grows gradually larger in the sky, from the thinnest crescent slice to the bulbous orb of the full moon.

This is a time to come up with brilliant new ideas, brainstorm, make plans, set goals and schedules, lay foundations, ask questions, do your research, prepare for the future, listen to your needs.

Questions to Explore:

  • What can I be doing now to serve me in the month to come?
  • In what ways might I improve my sleep hygiene so I can progress through my month well-rested?
  • Which activities and people make me feel the most fulfilled? How could I adjust my schedule to make more time for them?
  • What are my most important commitments this month? How might I put things in order now to see those commitments unfold smoothly?
  • What is one small, healthy change I can make to my diet to bring me more energy and vitality?

Lunar-aligned Actions:

  • Continue to journal. Notice any recurring themes. Let this content inform your decisions and priorities.
  • Set aside time for deep, connected conversations with close friends.
  • Express yourself, either through art, writing, talking with loved ones, or a trusted professional.
  • Prioritize self-care rituals that fill your well: book in a massage, see your therapist, make an appointment with a counsellor or advisor to help you make decisions and plan for your future.
  • If you’ve been stuck on a problem you need to solve, now is the time to dig in and
    brainstorm solutions. Make lists (pros/cons, to-dos, if/then), create vision boards, charts or diagrams…whatever you need to do to see things clearly and organize your thoughts.

Full Moon

During this phase, the moon is completely illuminated by the sun and unobstructed by the earth’s shadow. Tides rise high, as does our energy. We may feel excited, vibrant, and communicative, and sometimes even agitated, anxious, and sensitive. You may feel this on the days just before and after as well. Supermoons, which appear a few times a year when the earth and moon are at their closest proximity, brighten the skies even further and can exaggerate the buzz of a more typical full moon.

This is essentially the “daytime” of the month. The moon hangs like a small sun in the night sky, and as a result it can feel like noon at midnight, so you may have trouble falling asleep. It’s a great phase to get things done, but it is not the best time to make important decisions as emotions may be heightened.

Questions to ask:

  • What is the best use of my time today?
  • What have I been putting off that could finally use this go-getter energy?
  • Can I identify, in the journals, lists or brainstorms made during the waxing phase, any possible places where thoughts or ideas might finally shift into action? What is one thing I could do today to take me in that direction?
  • Are there any social gatherings to attend where I might be able to use my energy towards solidifying relationships and a sense of community?
  • How might I temper my emotions and approach challenging tasks with equanimity and balance?

Lunar-aligned actions:

  • Create a daily to-do agenda, and stay accountable to your plan.
  • Save the larger tasks of the month for the full moon time, as you’re more likely to have the energy to get it done.
  • Schedule your big social gatherings at this time as chatter energy is high and you’re likely to be up late anyways. It’s a great time to book dates!
  • Move your body: think kickboxing, power yoga, HITT or spin classes. Not only will you feel great, but you might sleep a bit better too.
  • Set your crystals out in the moonlight overnight, charging them up with all that potent, positive energy the full moon has to give!
  • Dance! Sculpt! Draw! Express yourself in a big way. You’re likely feeling a lot at this time, so let those emotions manifest creatively. Remember your inner child who loved to make things without worrying about whether or not the art was any good. Let the process of creation speak for itself.

Waning Moon

When the moon is waning, it appears to be decreasing in size as it becomes more shadowed by the earth.

This is the time to assess your progress, tend to difficult tasks, make amends, and settle conflicts. It is also a time to face what may need to be eliminated from your life. When we clear out the clutter of our emotional, mental, and spiritual realms, we are making room for healing, growth and abundance. It’s a time to leave the baggage at the curb; come the next new moon, you’ll have the clarity to begin planning for what’s next.

Questions to ask:

  • What fears do I carry that are unfounded and need to be released?
  • What heaviness from the past do I no longer need to be carrying in the present?
  • Who could I reach out to for support during the more difficult aspects of releasing toxic memories/energy/people/activities from my life?
  • What bad habits do I need to kick?
  • What are the “stories” I keep telling myself that are preventing me from manifesting my full potential?

Lunar-aligned actions:

  • Donate or pass on to friends the things you no longer need or use.
  • Tend to the more mundane tasks you’ve been avoiding so the heaviness of those “to do” things is lessened.
  • Change your environment—move around your furniture, showcase different art, change the direction of your bed. Small shifts in our spaces can lead to big ones in our moods, and frames of mind.
  • Organize the clutter: tidy up messy closets, file your paperwork, pack away things in your home that are on display that do not bring you joy. Open up space for the things you love.
  • Identify a habit you have that you’d like to change. Organize yourself so that at the next new moon you have what you need for a fresh start in this area. It might be reaching for a piece of fruit instead of that second cup of coffee; it could be turning off your computer or phone when you’re in the company of others; it might mean reaching out and asking a friend to walk you to your first AA meeting. Remember that every habit is broken by taking a first step.

For thousands of years, we have organized entire cultures around the phases of the moon. From planting and harvesting, to celebrations, rites and rituals, the moon has held a position of great significance to people around the world. Its energy can influence and inspire us, and tuning in is another way of living in alignment with the natural order of things, looking to the skies as a way to understand ourselves.

Photo by Jeff Nissen on Unsplash

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