This is a sacred time of the year for me, more important and powerful than even my birthday.
There is something powerful when our collective is experiencing something together, whether it is a concert or covid precautions, we are all in a similar mindset and mood. At this time, we all become a little more introspective, our interactions become a little quieter and the pace of everything slows down.
Picture yourself driving on an open highway really fast. When driving this fast, you cannot read the signs along the road. It is only once you slow down can you read the signs that are right there for you. Similarly, in this time when the world around us slows down, we feel more comfortable to slow down. And within that slowing down, we start to see signs on our journey that we otherwise may not see. These signs usually direct us towards needed and important change.
To bring about change, the environment matters.
Compare a large corporation to a nimble startup. The environment of one is more inviting to change than the other. It is not the people, but the environment.
At the start of a new year, our collective environment is more open to change as a result of us each being more open to individual change. When someone shares an intention for change, we meet their intention with encouragement. We also have our own intentions for change that we hope others will meet with encouragement.
The first step in setting intentions for a new year for me has nothing to do with the new year, and everything to do with the past year.
Learning to make peace with my recent past is the first, and most important, step in my end of year ritual. It is also the most difficult.
Naturally, there are disappointments about unfilled desires that I feel when reflecting on the past year. The practice of gratitude is one way to take the edge off any unpleasant emotions that I might feel during this reflection. Crying, as a way to process the emotions, is another way. Both have a way to cut through the noise and bring my attention to what it is that I appreciate.
To make peace with my recent past is not an easy task. It is easier to choose to not accept what happened, or what did not happen, and to ignore how I feel about it. The problem that I have found is that when I do not acknowledge and accept my past year, my intentions for the next year are tainted. What happens is that I drag my past into my future, and set intentions that are trying to compensate, or usually overcompensate, for past choices that I am dissatisfied with. Fast forward a few months, I am now doing something with so much conviction yet cannot remember or connect to why I am even doing it.
For example, imagine if my meditation practice was falling behind and inconsistent as of late. To compensate, I might set the intention to meditate for 3 hours a day in the new year. And a month into meditating for 3 hours a day, I have no idea why I am still doing it and feel frustrated that I do not have the space in my day for other people and priorities that I value. I go back to not meditating consistently.
Another example is to imagine that I have not kept in touch with close friends. I feel dissatisfied with myself, and build up the conviction to always stay in touch with everyone. I now spend 5 hours a day calling and messaging friends, and after about 5 days of this, I am burnt out and exhausted. I go back to not feeling inspired to stay in touch with anyone.
This is why I try to make peace with my past in this time, as a preventative measure for what I know I might otherwise do, is so important.
To bring closure to the year is like landing plans that are flying around me. All I want to do right now is land the planes. And avoid taking flight in new ones. These planes might be my inbox, my to-do list, open conversations, my physical or digital space. This ritual of landing planes naturally leads to these last few working days of the year feeling extra intense, however what they do is help create the mental space for what comes next.
Once I have made peace with my past and landed most of the planes flying around, now I can begin to retreat from the world outside of me. While in previous years, I would take a trip to somewhere remote, this year I will be doing a self-retreat. Current covid precautions are an extra encouragement for us each to do this. During the last week of the year, I will be screen-free. That means no phone, no laptop, no TV. By limiting the external stimuli for my mind, my focus naturally drifts inwards. All of these steps create the conditions for me to hangout with myself, without distraction.
In this space of deep inner reflection, I am forced to see the truth and cannot hide from it.
The truth is not good and it is not bad, it is what it is. Any discomfort that I feel in the face of the truth is a reflection that I am wanting some different version of the truth and not the real truth, as it is. Reality reflects the truth. And reality always wins. This is an important time for me to get up close and personal with it.
Reality is full of the wisdom that I need to hear. This is a time for inner harvest. The fields are ripe for picking and this end of year ritual is my invitation to see what this year’s crop has for me. The preparation for the harvest is clear: to make peace with my past. Only then can I pay attention to what is right there, in plain sight within me.