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I was talking to a friend recently about how important it’s been, at the end of each year, to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned.
I’ve done this ritual every year since I was 18. I used to do it in writing, back when Tumblr was cool (although I still think it is), and it has helped form a sort of organized shelving of my thoughts and situations that have happened throughout this time.
Like an annual self-conference, I sit down with my memories of that year—connecting the dots on the timeline chronologically—so I can let go of any weight that I might still be carrying. I then feel fresh and prepared to take on the new year.
I think it’s helpful to have that moment in time when, instead of making a checklist of resolutions for the coming year, we cultivate some mindful introspection on what went right, what went wrong, and what we can do better next year.
Reflecting on our shortcomings can be daunting, and I’ve experienced the fear of facing that blank piece of paper many times—and I still do.
However, I’ve found it’s helpful to remember that we do this for ourselves so that we may become better people with stronger insight and perspective. This leaves us with a sharper understanding of who we are and of the world we live in, so why wouldn’t we take the leap?
“If your Nerve, deny you–
Go above your Nerve.”
~ Emily Dickinson
Once I’ve had a little jousting tournament with my fear, I sit down and let the words roll. Chunk by chunk. Month by month. Dismantling the events, and then the thoughts and feelings behind those events. I lay them all on the table.
Then the big questions come:
What can you learn from all of this? What can you be grateful for beyond a doubt? What are your current hesitations and why?
In asking these, I’m almost always surprised to find that my mind was hiding answers from me, just waiting for me to propose the question first.
While I’m still no master at this, over the years, these steps have led me to that full stop, pen down, peaceful, at-one-with-the-universe moment.
1. Clear the space.
Whether it’s decluttering the room and sorting out that pile of clothes that’s been sitting on the chair for a week (you do it too—don’t lie), or lighting up some incense and opening up the windows, do something that brings in the intention of a ritual and creates an open but self-contained space. I find that having a calm environment reflects a calm mind.
I sit down and do a 20 to 30-minute meditation. Normally, I meditate for 5 to 10 minutes, but since it’s once a year, I’ll give myself that extra time to really let go. I start by breathing first, followed by listening to the sounds around me, and then listening to the sounds and thoughts within me.
Then I’ll start bringing every month—starting with January—into my conscious mind. I’ll think of what happened during that time, then choose to let go.
3. Develop a spontaneous mantra.
After I’ve finished letting go of my months, I will have let go of a whole year. It’s a profound moment of acceptance: of the good, the bad, and the ugly. There’s no turning back, and there’s a gentle power in this presence.
I then let my creative mind wander and create a mantra that could help conclude this year and lift me up where I fell down.
“I am safe and protected”—if my sense of security was rattled in a major way that year.
Or, “I now trust my deepest instincts”—If I’ve lost some faith in my strength or I’m lacking direction.
Or simply, “I choose to let go”—I give myself permission to be free of the past.
It can be anything you want it to be. I’ve recently heard a mantra from a woman who survived an abusive relationship—what helped her pull through was saying, “I am not easily stressed, impressed, or intimidated.” I found that powerful and it served as a testament to how what we say to ourselves can influence our spirit and effect change.
Take a deep breath in. Similar to your meditation in step two, start with January. Begin writing an overview of every month and expand more on events that were special in some way and need some extra reflection. After you’ve gone through all 12 months, summarize all the lessons you’ve learned in bullet points. The more clear and concise, the more you’ll remember these lessons when you need them again.
5. Pray and give gratitude.
I find prayer one of the highest forms of surrender. You can pray to God, or your supreme being of choice, or even the night sky. Trust that you will be seen and heard. Then find things to be grateful for. After prayer is when I most often find the space to see and feel that gratitude.
6. Celebrate with a song that touched you this year.
I usually have a few songs in my head that stand out every year because they served as catalysts for change or as a soothing balm of acceptance during rough times. I blast my speaker in my room and just let myself go with the words and sounds that healed me. This isn’t necessary if you’re not musically inclined. You can celebrate with a friend or call your mom, or find a way where you can rejoice in your small or big victories. You sure as hell deserve it.~