There’s a cycle that we all experience many times throughout our lives: renewal, expansion, abundance, and contraction. It’s the same cycle that the earth experiences through its seasons and that the moon follows. Personal growth, earth’s seasons, and the moon’s cycles don’t always occur in unison (the moon will complete several cycles within a single season, for example), but the essence of each phase of the cycle is the same:
+ Renewal / New Moon / Winter – retreat to a state of rest and reset
+ Expansion / First Quarter / Spring – new beginnings and growth
+ Abundance / Full Moon / Summer – culmination of one’s work
+ Contraction / Last Quarter / Fall – release and let go
Understanding how the unfolding of our personal life experiences correlates with the intelligence of the universe can bring a sense of ease and trust through the process.
We’re each likely in different stages of the cycle. Take a moment to acknowledge where you’re at. Have you just left a phase of inactivity and are beginning to explore your new environment and what it has to teach (expansion)? Are you feeling confident and abundant where you’re at (abundance)? Have you outgrown your skin and are shedding what no longer serves you (contraction)? Or have you already let go and are now in a state of uncertainty or rest (renewal)?
Wherever you’re at, take time to recognize the journey up to this point and understand that your current experience is part of a cycle. If you’re in the abundance phase, you’ll eventually be called to enter contraction. If you’re contracting, you’ll soon find space to rest and start anew. And if you’re currently resting, you’ll next enter a period of expansion. Wherever you are now, be all there. Thoroughly experiencing your current phase is essential to laying the foundation for the one that will follow.
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will soon be transitioning into winter, the phase of renewal. This is a season correlated with beginnings, but on the surface winter appears to resemble death versus life. People tend to experience an increased sense of sadness during winter, and life seems nonexistent as the temperatures drop and the majority of life forms retreat to their dens or relocate until warmer days. So you may be wondering how exactly winter is connected with life and renewal.
Let me explain.
In winter, everything resets and prepares for spring, a period of growth and expansion. Since winter follows autumn (when nature lets go and experiences death), winter itself isn’t a phase of releasing; that has already happened. Instead, winter is a period of resting and resetting. Many animals hibernate during winter where they retreat to a space of calmness and inactivity. Plant roots also enter a state of dormancy during winter. The earth sends cues that it’s time to rest through the change in temperature and the decline of daylight, and all of nature reacts by withdrawing to a quiescent state.
Renewal is the space between an ending and a beginning where there often exists a period of inactivity and uncertainty, which can feel terrifying. When we’re in this phase of the cycle of growth, we might find ourselves feeling drained, somber, or uncomfortable. At this point we’ve just released something; a death has occured in our lives and now we’re in the space that follows an ending. It can feel dark and scary. We likely feel uncertain about what comes next, and we might even lack faith that longer, sunny days will return.
This space between what was and what will be is just as crucial as all the other phases. Before a caterpillar can transform into a butterfly, it has to experience stagnation in its own version of a den: the chrysalis. The caterpillar comes to life as a butterfly within the chrysalis, but there’s a period in between where the insect is literally a soupy substance within its den. At that point it’s neither a caterpillar or a butterfly. This is the insect’s own version of winter and renewal, and it’s both a crucial and vulnerable phase.
We too tend to feel vulnerable during this period. We no longer have what we let go of, but we also haven’t yet been introduced to what’s to come. Beginnings don’t immediately follow endings in our lives. Before we can step into something new, we must allow the process of transition to take place, which often requires being still in uncertainty and discomfort. It’s nearly impossible to know what will come next, and the good news is that we don’t need to know.
Perhaps more than any other phase, having trust in the intelligence of the universe is crucial during this time. We might feel tempted to force things to happen or desperately seek answers just to feel a sense of calm, but it’s important to resist those urges. When we react to uncertainty with fear and distress, we interrupt the process that’s currently underway. Our resistance is akin to swimming upstream, and the more we frantically search for security the more we keep ourselves from flowing with ease along the course of our development.
Simply acknowledging that you’re in this phase of the cycle will reduce your anxiety and help you focus on the unique benefits of this phase. Take a moment to rest. You’ve exerted a lot of energy through the previous phases of expansion, abundance, and contraction, and you deserve to enter a state of hibernation before it restarts. Think of it this way: the more you can be still and pull back into yourself, the more momentum you’re generating to leap into spring and expansion, like an arrow being pulled back on a bow.
A great practice to incorporate during this phase is journaling. Find a quiet space with a piece of paper and pen and write any thoughts that arise with these questions:
How have I grown from what I learned?
What new space has opened in me from whatever was released in the previous phase?
What new energy is stirring within me and preparing to grow?
What did I learn from the previous phases?
Is there any part of me still holding onto what I’ve let go of? If so, how can I continue to release it?
What can I do to be more present in this phase and not rush into the next one?
If a butterfly were to rush its evolution from caterpillar to butterfly, it would impair its own transformation. Every day it spends in its chrysalis is necessary for proper development, just as each moment and every emotion is essential for you to move through and experience. Therefore you will reach the other side feeling rested and prepared to reenter your life with increased energy and clearer vision through the remainder of the cycle.
Though this phase can be challenging, it can also be incredibly refreshing. When you trust the process, it creates spaces within you to relax into a fresh start, generate new ideas, and prepare to plant seeds. Like bare tree branches in winter, you are your lightest at this time. You have returned to the raw core of who you are, making it easier for you to listen intently to your heart. This transition between beginnings and endings is a beautiful time to come back to yourself, be still, express gratitude for what was, and prepare your soul soil for what’s to come.