Ah, New Moon… the sky tonight is so vast, so quiet. And such a gift as we enter the heat and busy-ness of the summer season. Today marks the beginning of the month of Vaiśākha.
There’s no specific festival associated with this day, so it’s the perfect time to remember and experience the core practice for all New Moons. According to some traditional myths, amāvasyā (New Moon) is when the sun and moon are said to be together, out of our ordinary sight.
The effect of their hanging out together like this is that their energies combine and release a particularly potent nectar. You can recognize it as a very subtle, quiet, balanced, and beautiful energy. On Amāvasyā, this sweet transcendent energy fills the air and creates a space of profound mystery and stillness.
This all might sound very woo-woo to the everyday mind, especially if it has never consciously experienced its own stillness. If we don’t pay attention, all days can feel like any other, blurred together against a relentless backdrop of deadlines, routine, anxiety, and exhaustion.
One of the benefits of aligning with nature – and the cycle of the moon in particular – is that each day has its own distinct quality in our awareness. We can appreciate the subtleties and nuances that each moment brings, and differentiate them from each other.
The New Moon is a day that we pause from and digest all the activities of life, directing our attention and energy back to the mystery of source. We do this by making time to physically rest, fast lightly (which rests the digestive system), refrain from excessive speech and media consumption (resting the mind), cultivating solitude (resting the emotional/relational body), and sitting quietly, preferably in meditation (resting the karmic body).
Because we aren’t adding anything more for our mind-bodies to digest and process, our system can finally create some empty space. The presence of this space is essential to the process of transformation because as long as we are swimming in a world of stuff that is already familiar to us, there’s no room for anything new.
The moment that we let go is the beginning of the unfolding of mystery.
And, this path invites us to surrender ourselves to the great unknown with trust and elegance. Letting go of our usual stuff doesn’t have to be violent, challenging, or scary, unless we ourselves insist on having it be that way. For example, not watching tv or eating lightly doesn’t have to be a ferocious battle of wills. If you are willing, it can be a gentle act of love and mercy towards your overworked mind-body.
Our conditioning likes to fixate on what it stands to lose rather than gain. Remember that by pausing, you’re giving up more stuff to digest in exchange for freedom, space, and peace. And, most of all, the sweet nectar of not having to DO everything all. the. time.
We emerged from a space of pure being, and New Moon is the day that we return to that state. The tradition reminds us that there is a bigger and more beautiful power and presence than what we normally glimpse in our familiar mundane world. That power is always inviting us to come closer – and New Moon is the day to accept that invitation!
Practice: Let Yourself Be
Simple practices for New Moon:
-Let your body and senses rest. Bathe, wear white or light-colored (non-stimulating) colors, and eat lightly – if you like, you can even just eat some raw fruits, milk, and nuts. Again, nothing overly heavy, stimulating, or hard to digest. Leave space in your stomach after you eat.
-Give your mind and intellect a break. Refrain from excessive reading or tv watching. Instead spend some time quietly, preferably alone, and without a specific agenda. Enjoy just being.
-Sit under the evening or night sky. Let yourself experience the deep, quiet, vast, mysterious, elegance of amāvasyā. And, experience the sky inside, too – dark, deep, and beautifully invisible.
-Meditate. As best as possible, let meditation happen naturally and softly. Avoid intense visualizations or “goal-oriented” practices. Just sit, let your awareness and attention expand naturally, and let go of any need to control what happens in practice. For committed meditators, New Moon is an ideal time each month for a full day of meditation and silence.
-Let the mystery unfold. Make space throughout the day for your mind and body to rest, and release any need to push or control what happens in yourself or in your life today, as best as possible. Just stay present, and see what happens when you allow the sacred and natural energies to move through on their own.