Welcome to the sixth instalment in the Peaceful Warrior Series, a collection of articles inspired on a weekend seminar by best-selling author Dan Millman. If you’re new to this series, you may want to start by reading the previous articles in this series.
Today we will talk about a very timely topic: The law of cycles. According to Dan Millman’s book The Laws of Spirit, “the world of nature moves in rhythms, patterns and cycles – the passing of the seasons, the movement of the stars, the ebb and flow of the tides.” The idea is far from being earth-shattering; Yet despite our basic understanding of this natural law, modern living works against this law most of the time. In this article we will explore the law of cycles and what it means for us; and will describe a few ways in which we can apply and leverage the law in everyday living.
Understanding the law of cycles
“The seasons do not push one another; neither do clouds race the winds
across the sky. All things happen in their own good time – rising and
falling and rising like ocean waves, in the circles of time”.
- Dan Millman, The Laws of Spirit
Before we explore the law of cycles in detail, it is worth remembering what it is we usually call a ‘Natural Law’. According to the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, a natural law is “a theory that posits the existence of a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore has validity everywhere“. To discover a natural law, we use the empirical method of observing our natural surroundings, and making generalisations that apply to what we observe. A good example of a natural law is Newton’s law of universal gravitation, also known as the Law of Gravity. According to Newton’s second law, anything that is free-falling in our world will exhibit a constant rate of acceleration, irrespective of the object’s size or weight. This phenomena can be observed and measured with a variety of experiments, thus proving its Universal character.
By contrast, the universal law of cycles states that most things in nature, if observed for a long enough period of time, will repeat themselves. We can easily see this in the short cycles of day & night; in the somewhat longer reproductive cycles of menstruation; in the longer cycles of seasons; and even in the extra-long economic cycles everyone is talking about in recent times.
There are 3 important characteristics of the law of cycles:
- It is universal. The law of cycles spans all areas of knowledge and observation, from astronomy (day & night) to history (government cycling through a conservative/liberal cycle); from economics (boom/bust cycle) to biology (menstruation); from geography (seasons) to psychology (manic/depression).
- It is repetitive. Cycles (by definition) are the repetition of several stages, followed in a clearly defined order in a repetitive manner.
- It is predictable. Once you understand a cycle, you can predict what comes next at any stage of the cycle.
Become familiar with the law of cycles, and the world starts looking different. Your outlook will become more patient, understanding and compassionate then ever before.
Leveraging the law of cycles
Once you are familiar with the law of cycles, you will start recognising them everywhere. There are three ways in which you can benefit from this new understanding of the world around you:
- Leverage it to become more centred. Understanding cycles allows you to become more patient with challenging situations. I recently was made redundant from my old job; by remembering that I was in the middle of a cycle, and understanding that a new phase of the cycle would soon arise, I was able to navigate through difficult emotional times with less panic. I am not saying you can get rid of anxiety or depression; what I am saying is that using this new perspective, navigating those difficult times can become a little bit easier.
- Leverage it to become more successful. You can increase your personal success (in whichever area you desire to become more successful) simply by recognising the phases of the cycle where you are most productive / clear / articulate / powerful, and focusing these periods to the achievement of your most important goals. Viewed from this perspective, success is less a matter of pushing yourself to the limit all the time, and more a matter of recognising when you’re at your best, and using this knowledge to your advantage.
- Leverage it to achieve a more balanced life. In a previous article, I explored the universal Law of Balance. Understanding the Law of cycles allows you to comprehend why it is desirable to strive for balance, and gives you a powerful tool to achieve a more balanced life. Observe how most elite athletes train, and you will see the law of cycles in action: They will consistently use interval training, where they will push themselves to the ceiling of physical exertion, and then will slow down and allow a period of recovery, with this pattern repeating several times over a training session. If you recognise the cycles in your life, you can apply the same principle and ensure you allow both for times of effort and times of rest. Too much rest and you will not accomplish anything; Too much effort, and you will burn out. Synchronise your life’s cycle with your activities, and you will live a more balanced, successful life.
As we’ve explored in this article, our world is made of cycles, and learning to recognise them can lead to a better, more balanced and fulfilled life.