Michael’s Macro Photos

Published on July 7, 2014

Click on the photo to see it large.

I have studied cycles for fifty years, not just planetary cycles, but all kinds of cycles. In this blog I want to talk about one particular kind of cycle and that is our personal cycles of ups and downs in everyday life. The Buddhists call this Samsara, the cyclic worldly existence of birth, life, and death that we all are embedded in.

It does not so much matter what is causing these ups and downs in life. Some we can perhaps label (lunar, planetary, etc.), some not, but who cares. It is like our tendency to want to lay blame. After all is said and done, it is not all about blame or where it came from, but also about going forward. What can we do with these cycles? How can we learn to use them?

And it may help to know that these personal cycles are the key to understanding reincarnation. As the western occult slogan says "As above, so below." We can get very good insight into how reincarnation works by examining the regular cycles of our ups and downs.

The Tibetan Buddhists make a big deal of differentiating our experiences (which go up and down) from what they term "realization," which is a marked change of view or attitude. Realization comes and stays. It never goes away because it is a perspective, a view, not a visceral experience that waxes and wanes. Realizations don't come and go. I won't elaborate that here, but it is worth noting.

Of course we have cycles going on beneath the level of our consciousness, like our breath, heartbeat, sub-atomic-whatever, as well as cycles going on beyond our ability to grasp, like the cycle of our Sun around the galaxy and so on. Not going there either, at least not now.

I would like to look at our personal cycles of ups and downs, and how they work. Let's start with our Ups, when we are feeling on top of the world. It happens. The western occultists call these big Ups "out-of-the-body experiences" because we are temporarily high and out of our body – above it all. We don't feel the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." We are game. We feel good.

It is at these times, when we are literally up for anything, that we sow the seeds for our own reincarnation, at least writ small. When we are "up" we feel that we can handle the world. Moreover, we willingly ask for more of it, more life, more challenges, more of whatever life is handing out. Our sincere desire at these times to live "more" sows the seeds of our own rebirth. We are literally asking for it as we go along. And we get what we are asking for.

Contrast this with the other end of the cycle, the lows, when we are down in the dumps and no longer game for much of anything. We may be licking our wounds, bemoaning our fate, and struggling to just come out even. This is the bottom of the bay for us. We are embedded, even mired in our own situation, something that we freely asked for earlier-on when we were at the top of our game and cycle. Now we are stuck with living out all that we took on when we were high. This is sometimes called the viciousness of Samsara.

Take for example a time when we meet someone and find joy in a new friend. We enthusiastically invite them over for dinner and to hang out. Then fast-forward a few weeks to the telephone call from our friend taking us up on our invitation. The problem is that by then we may be at the other end of the cycle, feeling caught in our own promises, with neither the energy, will, or interest to follow through with our invitation. Need I say more? We are cycling.

If we can put two and two together, we should be able to see how we constantly reincarnate as we go along, asking for more of life in the good times, and crying for less of it in the down times. A good friend told me a story of a toddler who decided to give up his bottle. He went to the edge of the porch and threw it as far as he could into the deep underbrush, only to be out there later, sobbing, crawling through the underbrush on hands and knees searching for his bottle. Cycles are like that with us.

When we are on top of things, our eyes are bigger than our stomach and we are victims of our own cycles (cyclic existence), victims of Samsara. How do we end or moderate these vicious cycles?

Obviously it is not easy or we would have done it already, but there are guidelines that can help if we are interested. And like all things dharmic, becoming aware of our own situation is the first step. Buddhism is nothing else if it is not self-investigative. We have to personally check out and verify how cycles work in our life; see how we handle our ups and downs, and at least recognize that we have them. Are we even aware of our own cycles?

Astrologically, one exercise is to learn to carry our awareness (remain conscious) without losing it around the cycle of the signs (year) or the lunar cycle (month), and on, i.e. without going to sleep. Can we remain awake all the way through a cycle or do we fall asleep as the hard times come on? Like the ostrich with its head in the sand, do we wait out the hard times (days, months, years, etc.) in darkness and finally emerge at a high time?

Have you ever had the experience of waking back up to life and knowing you have been here before, having forgotten what the better side of life feels like? We can be asleep at the wheel for long periods of time, with no awareness that we have even been away. It is so easy to turn inward and find sleep when the hard times come around. We just go under.

Another approach is not to take on new commitments when we are at the high end of our cycle, when we are out-of-the-body and feeling no pain. Just say no and don't say "I do," "I will," and leave it go at that. We can gradually temper our appetite for life to what we actually can sustain, instead of always biting off more than we can chew.

And finally, we can admit to being lost in our own cycles, and start to take ourselves less seriously in our ups and downs. Sweet in the mouth and bitter in the stomach are new friends if we cannot even maintain our friendly view for even one round of a cycle. In the good times it is easy to say yes, but when the hard times come we find ourselves eating our own words, breaking our vows with ourselves – one step forward and two steps back.

Sometimes I liken cycles to a swinging pendulum that goes from extreme left to extreme right and back again, endlessly. The time when the pendulum is at the center (balanced) is also the time it is moving fastest, so there is a very short time of balance. At all other times the pendulum is off to one side or the other. Cycles are like that.

It would seem that it is only when we are balanced that we can listen and take things in and, as mentioned, that is the briefest of times. In this samsaric world of cyclic existence real balance can be hard to come by.

In mythology it is Saturn (time) that is said to devoir his own children. We are living proof of that! In astrology, Saturn is the test of time and equally a lifetime of test, one where the house always wins, thanks to impermanence. We can hack it in the good times, but we tend to abandon our vows in the bad times. We end up destroying our own creations when the going gets tough.

This is a huge topic, one I have spent my life studying, so this blog is once-over-lightly, just touching on a few points. It might be good to have some discussion on this topic.

However, it would require that we each acknowledge that we are not yet master of our own cycles of up and down, but rather are beat about by them, surfing the crests of the good times and washing out at the lows. Awareness of and acknowledgement of that fact is the place to start.

LOOKING IN THAT NEAREST MIRROR Published on January 24, 2015THE DHARMA TOOLBOX Published on November 11, 2014LIVING BY INTUITION Published on October 10, 2014SHARING THE DHARMA Published on October 7, 2014SUDDEN QUIET ON THE SUN Published on July 17, 2014TIMEOUT Published on July 10, 2014UP AND DOWN CYCLES Published on July 7, 2014THE QUEEN OF MICHIGAN ORCHIDS Published on June 15, 2013DRUGS AND THE DHARMA Published on June 2, 2013CORE CHANGE Published on April 29, 2013ECLIPSE-ASSISTED CHANGE Published on April 28, 2013MICRO-KARMA Published on April 27, 2013