I have a lot of reservations around New Year’s Resolutions. I do completely honor and understand the desire to draw a line between one year and the next – the desire to start with a clean slate. I love it when people take charge of their lives and implement needed change. My objection has more to do with the timing than anything else.
My spirituality is drenched in the Ayurveda of my yoga practice, and a good deal of that philosophy informs my mysticism. Right now, in the dead of winter, is not the right time to begin new things. This is a time of curling inward. We naturally gravitate toward heartier, heavier foods. The lack of sunlight and colder temperatures lead many of us to stay indoors. We sleep more, sit more, rest more. And all of that is good, believe it or not. We need this time of rest and recovery – it’s the human way to hibernate. By the time we’ve survived the Yuletide crush, most of us are completely spent – exhausted, frayed at the edges and dizzy from the whirlwind of activity.
What if the turning of the year isn’t a time to add something new? What if, instead, it’s a time to let go?
One of the rituals I’m most proud of is the New Year’s Day Purification Ritual put on by Frederick CUUPS, the community I serve. I created the ritual to focus on letting go of the past year rather than piling up a to-do list for the New Year. In reverent silence, participants are guided through the Elements. At each Elemental Altar, they are greeted with a question involving letting go. There is a ritual action to support that release, then a blessing – a healing – of that release.
If you are driveable to Frederick, MD, I invite you to attend the ritual on Tuesday. Sacred Space will be held from 7 to 9 pm, and we encourage people to arrive by 8:15 at the latest for their journey. It takes most folks a half hour to 45 minutes to travel through the ritual.
However, if you are further afield, or find your practice is best served in solitude, I have created a version of the ritual for Solitary Practitioners (also easily adaptable for small groups).
New Year’s Day Releasing Ritual
- Box of tissues (just in case)
- One stone per participant
- A sprig of evergreen or other plant
- A piece of paper that says “What stone do I no longer need to carry? What weight can I return to the Earth?”
- Incense of your choice
- A large feather, fan, or other smoke wand
- A piece of paper that says “What thoughts no longer serve me? What concerns can I release to the Air?”
- One candle
- A small piece of paper and pen for each participant
- A cauldron or other heatproof bowl
- A piece of paper that says “What habits or addictions restrict my growth? What patterns can I release to the Fire?”
- A bowl of warm water and a hand towel
- A piece of paper that says “What emotions way me down? What wounds can I wash away in the water?”
- A meditative tool – this can be a printable finger labyrinth, a mala, or simply a space in which to sit in meditation
- Journaling supplies
Lay out all of your ritual supplies, grouped by Element, in a way that feels harmonious to you. Ground and center (Patreon supporters, there’s a good all-purpose Grounding and Centering in the Facebook Group), and cast any protective measures you feel are appropriate. Light the incense and candle.
Begin with Elemental Earth. Read the question, and consider your answer. When you are ready, pick up the stone. Pour the weight you no longer need to carry into that stone. Imagine your burdens slipping down your arms, into your fingers, and into the rock. Let it absorb your pain and trauma. When you are finished, set the stone down. Pick up the spring of evergreen and brush it lightly over your skin. Smell the fragrance of the sap and needles. Let the scent and touch of the branch connect you to your own regenerative, earthy powers.
Continue with Elemental Air. Read the question, and consider your answer. When you are ready, visualize the thoughts and concerns that no longer serve you moving into your lungs. Take a deep breath in, and blow that energy out into the air. This may take more than one breath. When you are finished, bathe yourself in the smoke from the incense. Use the feather or wand to thoroughly cleanse the air around your body, returning you to your own creative, communicative powers.
Move on to Elemental Fire. Read the question, and consider your answer. Write down your answer on the piece of paper. You may find it helpful to also hold the piece of paper and visualize the pattern you are releasing moving into it. When you are ready, light the piece of paper on fire and drop it into the cauldron or other heatproof dish. Watch the paper burn away to ashes. Once the paper has been destroyed, turn your gaze to the flame of the candle. Gently close your eyes and visualize a beam of light reaching from the flame to your heart center. Let that connection to Elemental Fire fill you with light, returning you to your own sovereign, transformative powers.
Turn to Elemental Water. Read the question, and consider your answer. When you are ready, visualize your emotional burdens moving down into your hands. Wash your hands in the bowl of water. You may feel moved to wash your face, or run some water through your hair as well. Rinse away the wounds you no longer need to carry. Pat yourself dry with the towel. Take a moment to feel the coolness of your skin where the last of the moisture is evaporating. Let that cool, calm, quietude sink in, returning you to your own compassionate, empathetic powers.
Conclude with Elemental Spirit. There is no question here – this time of meditation is an opportunity to hear any messages for you while you are in an open state. Use the finger labyrinth, mala or other tool, or simply sit in meditation for a few minutes. When you are finished, write down any impressions, thoughts, or messages with your journaling supplies.
Ground and center once more. Snuff the candle and incense and release any protective measures you have put in place. Eat or drink something to help you stay integrated with your body.
You may feel more comfortable staying in silence for some time. Allow your experience to have space to breathe – try to avoid very stimulating or disruptive activities for the rest of the evening.
I wish you rest, healing, and growing lightness in this time of winter reflection. May 2019 be kind to you, and may your practice support you as we transition into the New Year.