image: Wikimedia commons (background link, foreground link).
By now, everyone who has been able to watch the November full moon rising over the horizon will know from personal experience that it is in fact visibly, stunningly, and breathtakingly larger and even more awe-inspiring than usual (and that all the articles saying that the difference from other moons is too slight to be perceived are patently wrong).
If you've been able to personally watch the moon rising on the past couple nights, you also know that seeing the moon can have a powerful effect on us.
But we don't have to wait for a lunar perigee coinciding with a full moon to experience the power of the moon. In fact, ancient practices made use of regular and deliberate lunar gazing as a practice for aligning our internal cycles with the cycles of the heavens (and in this case, the cycle of the moon).
In White Moon on the Mountain Peak: The Alchemical Firing Process of Nei Dan, Daoist teacher Damo Mitchell describes the discipline and benefits of lunar gazing.
This practice is from the Shen Gong (神功) aspect of the Daoist arts, which is a system translated as 'skill of working with the spirit.' Shen Gong exercises are some of the most abstract of all Daoist practices as they generally involve connection of the spirit to various entities; they also combine the use of hand positions, breathing methods, stepping patterns and other more esoteric aspects of the tradition. Shen Gong exercises work because they are empowered practices handed down through the ages; they are a direct link back to Daoism's shamanic roots. It can take a lifetime of cultivation before a person is able to work fully with Shen Gong methods, but some of the more simple practices can be accessed early on, particularly by women, who have a higher degree of natural sensitivity and a strong connection to environmental energies. One such practice is 'lunar gazing,' which is very simple and useful for all women to get used to.
In order to 'lunar gaze,' a woman needs to go outside and look up a t the moon every two to three nights over the course of a full lunar month. If she is able to go every night, then that is even better. Betweem the hours of 11pm and 1am is the best time to practise, although this can be difficult for many due to life commitments, so it is OK to go as soon as it gets dark. When trying this practice, a woman should go out and stand in a correct Qi Gong posture and look up towards the moon. Try to still the mind and be as calm as possible as you do this. Simply look up to the moon and place your awareness upon it in the same way that you may lightly drop your awareness into the lower Dan Tien during Qi Gong or Nei Dan practice. Breathe deeply and then, after a few minutes of looking up at the moon, gently bring your awareness back to rest upon the Heart centre and lightly keep your mind there while still looking at the moon. Stay with this practice for around 20 minutes and then close down as you would normally for any Qi Gong training. Repeat this process over the course of a lunar month, beginning with the full moon and returning to the full moon through the entire lunar cycle.
For the first few times you try this, little will happen. After some time, though, you will find that there begins a slight magnetic pull between you and the moon as you bring your mind back into the Heart centre. It can even sometimes be strong enough to pull you forward off your feet; if this happens, don't worry, it is all part of the process. 217 - 218.
Damo Mitchell explains that, although both men and women are connected to the moon and its various phases, "it was a far greater concern for women to work with the energy of the moon because it was largely the Blood that was affected by the energy coming down from the moon's surface" (216).
Connecting with the cycles of the heavenly bodies, including our earth's own awe-inspiring moon, is clearly held as being of the utmost importance by the ancient wisdom entrusted to humanity in the very earliest past.
I further believe that, because the celestial realms very directly represent the Invisible Realm or the Infinite Realm in the ancient system (being in fact infinite in nature), the incorporation of the cycles of the heavenly motions in to our lives is a way of acknowledging the truth that everything in the visible and material realm in fact flows from, has its origin within, and indeed depends upon the Invisible Realm -- the realm of the gods.
By bringing our lives into closer harmony with the heavenly cycles, we may be able to facilitate our integration with the divine realm, which may well be a large part of our purpose here in this incarnate life.
Please note that the image above is a composite image, in which a photograph of the actual moon of November 14 has been juxtaposed with an ancient temple of the goddess Artemis.