The Art of Moon Bathing
When I was a kid growing up in rural America, I remember long car rides home after dark, jostling gently in the backseat with my sisters, watching the moon follow us all the way home to the farm where we lived. The moonlight was crystalline and stunningly bright; its light draping over the deep bluish-green leaves of cornfields or shimmering a path to the horizon over prairies full of snow.
On the open farmlands where I spent my youth, the moon was a cyclical and reassuring presence, a source of both wonder and steadfastness. I remember watching clouds pass over the face of the moon while my toes rested in the cool grass, or the way unfettered moonlight cast silvery shadows about my childhood bedroom. This rhythm quietly shaped the months and then years that brought me into adulthood.
I eventually left these little moonlit acres in the country and lived a decade and then some in cities and apartments, experiencing the many delights of urban existence — and also the discomfort which comes with always feeling a little bit out of place, out of my place.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to piece this feeling of place back together for myself. After years of living in the city, and planning weekend getaways to the rural places where I found nature to be a therapeutic escape for my mind, I made the move out of the city and back to the country for good — and this is where I have discovered nature to be a healing therapy not just for my mind, but for my body.
As the months passed living away from the streetlights and vertical architecture of the city, the surprising space which rooted me back in the feeling of the place I came from, was in the light of the moon.
In the nighttime absence of artificial light, the full moon unmistakably found me, its re-collected cool light once again wrapping around the geometry of my bedroom, wrapping around the soft contours of me. A half month later, the new moon brought with it the absence of moonlight so noteworthy I began to see the dark.
This cyclical awareness of the moon brings me into a relationship with time that moves beyond 24-hour cycles of technologically enhanced states of anxiety and distraction, redirecting my attention to the monthly, yearly, and generational processes enfolding my being. The cooling, grounding effect of the light of the sun as reflected off the moon and absorbed by my senses have begun to noticeably influence my hormones, my mood, my presence in the current moment, and my ability to connect with the bigger picture.
It took me a long time to circle back around to what was so effortlessly embodied in my childhood under those wide-open, moonlit skies. Now I seek out the waxing and full moon, draw a chair across the cool grass or perch in the windowsill, and intentionally bathe in the moonlight. More gentle than sunbathing, I find moon bathing to be revitalizing, calming, grounding.
I put many miles between myself and the city to rediscover the moon, but you can connect to the enduring cycles of the moon wherever you are.
How to Moonbathe¹ (wherever you are)
- Use a moon chart or moon phase app to learn the cycles of the moon.
- When the full moon comes, find the moonlight in your home and leave a curtain open to let it shine in. Sit, lounge or sleep in the moonlight. Alternatively, take an evening walk to a place where you can see the moon and spend some time letting it shine on your face.
- If you can’t see the moon where you are or safely access it at night, darken your windows and keep a dim light on in your bedroom to mimic the light of a full moon. If this seems dishonest, compassionately let go of the idea that you can only get in touch with the rhythms of nature in pristine environments or ideal circumstances. Start now, where you are, with what you have. Simply bringing awareness to the phases of the moon where before there was none is a step in a new direction.
- When the new moon comes, keep your bedroom very dark; remove night lights and darken the windows to keep out any artificial light.
- Practice for many months. Continue for years. Observe how you feel. Bring awareness and intention to the action. If you menstruate, track your menstrual cycle and observe any shifts or repeating patterns, and how these relate to the phases of the moon.
Let the effects accumulate over time, with subtlety. You may find you are already grounded right in the place where you belong.
¹ I draw the term moon bathing from Ayurveda, a 3,000-year-old system of natural medicine indigenous to India, and still practiced widely in India and throughout the world.