Excerpted from "Starting Over with the New Moon" in Mooncircles Newsletter.

My 7-year-old and I can argue, as mothers and sons will do. Yet if one of us goes too far, getting caught in a stand we regret, we have a policy of "starting over." We set aside the past and start anew. It's like pushing a computer's reset button when the screen freezes.

But I didn't learn this lesson from machines; the Moon taught me. Machines tell us to keep going no matter what; if we stop, it means something's broken. Getting sick is the only culturally sanctioned way to take a rest. But gradually, a monthly New Moon practice has helped to draw me into a different, more natural rhythm. This one hums with change; it sings with the wisdom and joy of starting afresh.

The New Moon is earth's monthly time for starting over. For humans, it works only if you're willing to let go of whatever you're caught up in, if you're willing to stop racing, even if just for a moment, to face the world with open arms. Then there's a rush of energy, exuberant as the relieved hug my son and I give each other after we stop our fight.

Moon cycles are a mysticism of rivers and weeds, not high church. They mark a wordless knowing, planted deep in our living cells. Because we think too much, we have to start there: making our way to the New Moon with our thinking. But the goal is to join the Moon with our body and spirit too.

Over time, I've found one of the best ways to honor the Moon's fresh start is with small domestic gestures. As a woman keeping a home, I already have rituals of renewal. I simply synchronize these activities with the rhythm of the Moon. At every New Moon, I fertilize my roses. I put out a new sponge in the kitchen. I check the toothbrushes. I replenish the color in my hair. I visit my garden to see if anything new needs planting. I do these things in secret pleasure, enjoying my kinship with the New Moon.

Little habits that hold a life together represent one kind of ritual. Formal ceremonies that mark and celebrate special events is another. One is "ritual," the other "A Ritual." I've found that the Moon comes alive through the attentions of both. But performing Rituals is much trickier. It's easy to follow someone else's formula and end up feeling like you're not doing it right. You gather your candles, your incense, your music, your crystals; you dutifully recite your invocations and poems, you send your wishes to the sky--and inside, nothing much happens. You feel like Cinderella after midnight amongst the pumpkin and mice, except you never even danced with the prince. That moment, I've found, is when the real Ritual begins. When you are past your expectations and deeply into what you're really feeling. Now you must improvise, from the heart. The Moon likes that.

Dana Gerhardt is a mom, astrologer, and corporate executive from Southern California. She's a regular columnist for The Mountain Astrologer magazine.

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