As I sit here in Washington, D.C, the winter wind is howling, and cold branches are snapping against the window panes—this is a day to be indoors, and I’m happy to be here, swaddled in layers of clothing, with my fingers peeking out just far enough to type. This time of year is a good time to be inside and look inward. And while we have all read a thousand articles talking about the futility of New Year’s resolutions (and have, perhaps, personal experience of said futility), it is still worthwhile to take time to think. But what are the questions to ask? How can we take stock without repeating futile patterns and making old promises again, only to break them? I love an old ritual, one taught to me by a friend decades ago, and one I now use to say goodbye to the old year and greet the new. It is a way to let go and set a clear end to the past, and a way to invite in what is right for me now—as the old liturgy says, what is “meet, and right, and good.” Start by going on a long walk, perhaps somewhere beautiful, even if the trees are bare of leaves.
My beloved and I walked along a local lakeshore—barren though it was, to do this ritual this year. Take a stone, one of any shape or color, and hold it in your hands—pour all of your sadnesses and losses into it, all of your negative emotions from the year past. Stop to think of what you would like to let go of….a relationship that is bearing no fruit? A habitual emotion that is getting in your way? Anger, fear, self-pity? A habit or negative pattern that is clipping your spiritual wings? Pour all of that into the stone—and then throw it far away. Into a body of water—a lake, a river, an ocean—and on its way, far from you, taking the weight of all that negativity. Take a deep breath, walk a little, and find another stone. This time, think of what you would like to bring into your life in the coming year. A better way of listening (to yourself or to others or both)? A new relationship? A deepened practice—perhaps meditation, daily? More white space in your life? Think of what you would like to bring in—more joy? How would joy look? More emotional and spiritual freedom? And then look at this stone—you can either throw it into the water, allowing the relinquishment to begin its activation, or keep it with you to place somewhere you will look at it each day. A reminder of all that you wish to draw in this year.
This simple ritual allows a little time for us to stop and think—what is it that we plan to do with our “one wild and precious life,” (as Mary Oliver would say).
May this be the happiest of years!