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Year-End Ritual: Creating Space for the New Year

In my last post, I began a series on the topic of mental digestion.  Indigestion at this level is at the root of so much of the malaise, lack of focus and diminished vitality we feel in our lives that I wanted to focus some time on the topic and offer simple ways to work with it.

We all know what it’s like to be overly full at a physical level. In fact, over the holidays we probably experienced more than usual while socializing with friends and family, nibbling throughout the days and evening–not really hungry, but enjoying the abundance of celebratory food and drink. This is as it should be. Life was also made for celebrating, and these times can be wonderful in so many ways. AND these times take their toll on us when they have gone on for too long….All the leftovers and sugary treats around the house begin to bog us down and we start to feel lethargic, achy and ripe for whatever cold or flu is going around. The remedy is to give our bodies time to process the excess by waiting for true hunger to return, sipping hot water with lemon (gently detoxifying) and once our appetite has returned, eating easy to digest foods–in just the amount we are hungry for.

We get overloaded at the mental level too when we take in too much stimulation (which is easy to do in  in our modern, high-tech lives)–and then don’t take adequate time to digest our experience.  Our minds can seem like they’re spinning at the same time that we can’t quite remember ourselves. Our mood can fell heavy and weighted down. We might seek distraction to “unwind” but what we really need is time and space to process our lives’ experience.

I love all of the year-end rituals around intention setting for the New Year, but before we can bring in more of the good stuff, we need to make some space. This new moon, I am sending along a ritual you can do in these last days of 2016 to clear some inner space for the New Year. May it serve you well.


Clearing Inner Space for the New Year

To do this practice you will need a journal, pen or recording device and a timer.  Set aside 45 minutes to do this alone,  or do this with a friend, taking turns answering the questions aloud (75 minutes with a partner). To begin:

  1. Prepare an indoor or outdoor space where you will be comfortable and undistracted. Bring your journal, pen or recording device and timer (and maybe a cup of tea).

  2. Close your eyes and sit comfortably for a few minutes. Ground through your body and connect to the Earth. Center awareness on your breath and simply observe breath and sensation in your body. Stay still but allow micro-movements as you come into your body and your relationship to the Earth more fully. Do this for 5 minutes (set a timer if you like).

Now, open your journal or get your recording device ready. Set your timer for 15 minutes and write or speak about the following topic until your timer goes off:

  1. What difficult events occurred in 2016? Look at your relationships, family, work and your inner life…Did you allow yourself time to feel the grief of these difficult events at the time? As you write or speak, take time to breathe and feel your body and your feelings. Do not judge what arises, just allow yourself to feel it. If you run out of things to write or speak, simply continue in any way that suits you until the timer goes off. Do not end early (there will be time to go back to this later).

When you are finished, take a moment to get up and stretch. Have a sip of tea. Listen to this poem by David Whyte, The Well of Grief, HERE (the text is below).


Those who will not slip beneath the still surface on the well of grief,

turning down through its black water to the place we cannot breathe,

will never know the source from which we drink, the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering, the small round coins, thrown by those who wished for something else.

(-from, River Flow New & Selected Poems, Many Rivers Press © David Whyte)

For me this poem speaks to what is lost when we are unwilling to touch our grief and loss consciously. The very source of our vitality arises from the depths of our human heart: the pain and the joy. The curious result of descending into our grief is a deep connection with ourselves and with all of Life that feels really good. When we suffer deeply, we have a true and real understanding of our shared suffering as human beings. This is the ground of compassion. The end result of our willingness to feel our ordinary grief is that compassion (and wisdom)–the small round coins, glimmering in the darkness–available only to those of us willing to descend into the well.  Deep breath.

When your ready, set your timer for 15 minutes again. Write or speak about on the following:

  1. What were the successes I experienced this year? Look again at your relationships, family, work creative, and inner life. Did you allow yourself to take in these “wins?” (Again, do not stop writing or speaking until the timer goes off. If you don’t know what to say or write, let whatever wants to come fill that space).

Allowing ourselves time to take in the good in life is important to our feeling of satisfaction, contentment and real happiness. Savor the good that has come to you this year–that which arose from your good efforts–and that which seemed to arise spontaneously: Grace (which from a karmic perspective might be seen as a result of your good efforts over time).

Now to finish, get up and stretch. Then take a few minutes to sit, lie or walk around. Be aware of your environment, your breathe, your contact with the Earth, sensations in your body and any feelings. Turn attention away from your thoughts, and to your here and now experience of your body/breath/heart and the space around you. If there is anything else you want to write or speak, you can do that now, or make a plan to do that sometime later in the next 24 hours.

May this end-of-year ritual support you in digesting the events of the last year, creating the compost from which to fertilize your dreams and aspirations for 2017.  45 minutes of reflection may not be enough time to digest a year’s worth of material–but it is a good place to start and it offers a taste of the benefit of engaging this kind of practice in your life.  If you found this helpful, consider setting aside another 45 minutes in the first week of the new year to come back to either or both questions to further your process. I welcome your reflections and comments–anything you’d like to share–in the space below. (I always welcome your personal emails if you want to share more privately–

With love and care–Happy New Year! Shannon

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