"The heart of a human being is no different from the soul of heaven and earth. In your practice always keep in your thoughts the interaction of heaven and earth, water and fire, yin and yang."
These are all worthy pursuits, but I do believe everything is best done in moderation, and when I forget this, I tend to burn out. This is when I come back to my kindergarten geometry and geek out on systems.
When I get into that pattern of continually forging ahead, I'm following a linear mentality. This mindset perceives a prize in the far off future, an ultimate goal, and insists I must keep going until I get there. This thinking is certainly useful for short-term projects or endeavours- you create a timeline, you stick with it, and it takes you to your destination. But it becomes problematic when we're using this over the long-haul because there is no end to the hard slog.
What I find more effective for the long-term is working with circles instead. More specifically, following cyclical patterns of being and doing. As a species we've been working this angle for a long time because we have mimicked systems in the natural world. The common theme among all cyclical processes is an understanding that there are times to do/act, and times to be/reflect. Each feeds the other, and by observing this we can bring more wisdom to the way we structure our lives.
Below are 5 tools that I have gathered over the years and weave into my life at different times. Some of them work directly with cycles found in the natural world, and others are human constructs formed through myth, mathematics and divination. I'm personally fascinated with esotericism and the unseen, but I'm also quite pragmatic. So I have found these systems useful in terms of providing practical frameworks through which to organise my life and explore my psyche, while also offering magical threads to dive deeper when it feels relevant.
I first came upon the mythology behind the names of weekdays through a blog post by the lovely Vienda Maria. Basically, the name of each day is derived from classical planets in Hellenistic astrology, and with the mythological deities associated with those planets. For example, Wednesday correlates to Mercury, messenger of the gods, and therefore this is a great day for any tasks involving communication, e.g. blogging and journalling, connecting with clients or important customers, teaching, or writing love letters to your kindreds. (For any word nerds and language lovers, you can see the linguistic connections across languages here, it's quite fascinating.)
I've started incorporating this cycle into my lifestyle more recently now that I structure my own work week, and I love how it brings mythology into my everyday. Check out Vienda's post on this topic for more details and how to best use this cycle.
The moon shimmies around the earth in a cycle that lasts roughly 29.5 days. I've worked with the 2 halves of the cycle- waxing (moon growing full) and waning (moon decreasing) - for many years as a rough guide to building the momentum on a project or a wish and then slowing down to reflect. However, more recently I've started working with the 8 phases across a moon cycle and their respective yin and yang energies to navigate my own rhythms. Today is a New Moon, so it's the perfect time to muse on intentions for anything you're wanting to create in your life.
You can read all about this and more in Ezzie Spencer's beautiful new book, An Abundant Life, and in her Lunar Abundance program that teaches flourishing with the cycles of the moon.
Ancient European cultures developed celebrations and lifestyles around the turning of the seasonal wheel- summer/winter solstice, autumn/spring equinox, and the four periods in between, which add up to 8 sabbats or festivals across a year. On a practical level these tied in with agricultural processes, but on a metaphoric level each phase also corresponds with a multitude of mythology and symbolism.
In some ways this becomes less relevant depending on where you live, and the holidays fall at opposite ends of the year in the northern and southern hemispheres. As a general rule of thumb I work with the seasons in terms of going inward and prioritising rest over the darker/cooler months, and getting into a more productive/sociable mode of being in the lighter/warmer months. I naturally tend to travel a lot more over Spring and Summer and then hibernate over Winter. The seasons are different closer to the equator, but still have their unique times of internal focus (wet season) and outward attention (dry season).
Mystic Mamma has a few good articles on working with the equinox and solstice, and if you want to get a bit foodie with it, Gather Victoria weaves together recipes with traditional lore (it's northern hemisphere-based, but still provides inspiration for those of us in the south).
There are so many glorious cycles within Astrology. There are the 12 sun and moon cycles each year, which move through the zodiac and give us themes to explore based on the symbolism and elements of each sign. Then there are the larger cycles of faraway planets like Saturn (e.g. the often dreaded Saturn return- which is actually an amazing time of growth if you work with it and not against it). You also get planets going into retrograde motion, which signifies a time to slow down and reflect.
These can be applied to many aspects of our lives. Check out the stunning 2017 Seasonal Astrology Guide by CosmoMuse, or their online magazine, which offers an interdisciplinary approach to integrating the astro seasons into daily life.
According to Numerology, every year is assigned a particular theme depending on its number, and also each personal birth year carries symbolic meanings. These work in 9 year cycles. For example, 2017 is a 1 year, meaning it's all about new beginnings. Whereas my personal year is currently a 5 year, which is a turning point between the "in breath" years (1-5) and "out breath" years (6-9), and heralds significant change. I've been observing these cycles for the last 5 years, and utilise them as a broad framework to guide my focus for the year ahead.
You can read more about 2017 and calculate what number personal year you are in, and how to best work with it, over at Stevie Bee's numerology site.