The Cycle of Life

(about a 2 minute read)

The universal cycle of life—birth/emergence, growth, full bloom, harvest, decay, death/dormancy, and rebirth—is present in the background regardless of where or how we live.

Our culture, particularly our economic system, does not align itself with the cycle of life.


In nature, there is a cycle that endlessly returns to its beginning. The archetypal1 example of this cycle is the seasons of the year:

  • spring, the time of new beginnings,
  • summer, the time of growth and action,
  • autumn, the time of harvest and reckoning, and
  • winter, the time of rest and renewal as we wait for the next new beginning of spring again.

We can find the same cycle, zoomed out or zoomed in, in the shifting energies of a 24-hour day, in the lunar cycle, the menstrual cycle, the seasons of our lives, and in our gardening, farming, and other endeavors.

I live in the tropics where of course the literal seasons are different to the four seasons of the temperate regions. But the archetypal energies of birth/emergence, growth, full bloom, harvest, decay, death/dormancy, and rebirth are ever-present regardless of where we live. This is the universal cycle of life.

Sometimes it's literal and obvious – things are born or germinate from the earth, new ideas and endeavors are begun. They grow. They reach a peak. And then there is a slow descent, death, and rest.

Depending on the particular cycle we're looking at and on your beliefs, the “rest” may be permanent, it may be a period of latency before the next new beginning, or it may be a transition to different state of being. But one thing we do all agree on: before something dies it leaves a seed of one kind or another for a new beginning, which allows the cycle to begin again.

Sometimes, the cycle of life is less obvious and literal, more subtle or metaphorical. But it’s always there, even if only in the background.

If we pay attention to it and align ourselves with it, the cycle of life brings us into balance between light and darkness, between beginnings and endings, and between doing/action and harvesting/reckoning/resting/renewal.

It’s the relationship, endlessly renewing and harmonizing, between the masculine, sunlit forces of growth and doing, and the feminine, moonlit forces of undoing, resting, and preparation for re-doing.

A linear trajectory of endless youth and endless growth

Our current economic system does not align itself with the cycle of life. Instead, it insists on a linear trajectory of endless growth, with no pause, no descent, no rest and no time for renewal.

Our culture (the dominant culture on earth today) does not align itself with the cycle of life either. We seek to be always in the light and action of the “spring and summer” seasons, always “on,” always busy.  We tend to be deeply uncomfortable with the inner reckoning of “autumn” and the stillness of “winter.”

Maybe some other time I’ll explore how the “spring and summer seasons” of the cycle of life are expressions of the type of masculine, outer-facing energy we are so comfortable with, and how the inward-looking feminine energy of the “autumn and winter seasons” has become feared and misunderstood in our culture.

I may also touch on some of the riches we’re missing out on by avoiding half of the experience of aliveness in this way – not to mention the damage it’s doing on individual and collective levels.

For now though, let me finish by saying that our lack of alignment with the cycle of life can be seen in our obsession with staying young forever as if it were always “spring,” with insisting on never-ending economic growth as if were always “summer,” avoiding or disregarding the reckoning inherent in the “season of autumn,” and refusing to have a “winter season” in which to stop and rest.  

Please leave a comment below

There is a larger article on this topic in the works. Please help me shape it by leaving your thoughts and comments below the endnotes - thank you!

Image credits

Vectors from OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay and Chinese Vectors by Vecteesy.


  1. From Wikipedia: The word archetype comes from the Greek words árkhō: "to begin" and túpos: "sort, type." An archetype can be:

     - a statement, pattern of behavior, prototype, "first" form, or a main model that other things copy, emulate, or "merge" into.

     - the Platonic concept of pure form, believed to embody the fundamental characteristics of a thing.

     - a collectively-inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., that is universally present in individual psyches, as in Jungian psychology

     - a constantly-recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, or mythology found throughout various, seemingly unrelated cases in classic storytelling, media, etc.

  • Hi Kate, That was a lovely very quick read on a rainy summer morning here visiting the UK. The ideas resonate so much with the work by Looby MacNamara in Cultural Emergence and the way she structures ideas around “Challenge and Awaken” “Move and Invigorate” and “Nourish and Empower”. Matching these ideas with seasons as you do is particularly interesting to bring “death” into the cycle. It is so true that our culture has an unhealthy tendancy to avoid and “deny” death rather than accept this part of the cycle.
    Rather off the topic of permaculture I’m reminded by writing this of the film “Guardians of the Galaxy”. A mainstream movie where one of the “good guys” dies (as always) but the ending (instead of ignoring them and being happy for the overall good beat evil) is a huge and beautiful funeral ceremony.

    I think the observations about masculine and feminine are interesting and I wonder how these words come to be used as we frame and promote more widely the importance of acceptance of death and rest, and nourish and empower. I imagine they will become distinct from gender. I also wonder how many male voices can be found on the topic. I know Looby worls closely with Jon Young in a balanced male / female facilitation team.
    All the best Kate, have a great “summer” in your climate without summer!

    • Hi Lou, thanks so much for your comment. You reminded me to add some references to the sources from whom I’ve been learning about “seasons” and the cycle of life — I’ll be sure to do that soon and let you all know via email. I would LOVE to hear some male voices on this topic of masculine/feminine as all of the writers/teachers I’m learning from currently are women. I’ll look up Looby MacNamara and Jon Young — thanks for the tip! All the best Lou!

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