Taking time to reflect on what has happened over the past year is a great way to get perspective on your life.
Being self-aware and self-reflective is the sign of a thoughtful person taking consideration of what is important in their life.
However, being too tight and defensive in our self-reflecting can make us too self-absorbed and lead to us taking our life circumstances too seriously.
There are ways of looking back on the past that can cause harm to both ourselves and others. When we are too full of regret, resentment, and blame, we can fill our minds and hearts with a darkness that can later be hard to shake.
My friends have been referring to my past year as “Ruth’s Big Year.”
This makes me laugh.
Yes, major changes have happened for me and they do seem big both to myself and the people who care about me. My residence and family situation have changed, but in so many ways I feel the same. My mind has the same rhythms to it as it always has, and my heart loves what it loves. My once-life partner is now an ex, the house I now own is a new one to me, and the way my future plans are arranging themselves would not have been imaginable to me even two years ago.
But that doesn’t mean there is a problem. It just means new opportunities exist. Big years bring big changes.
For this, I am grateful.
Where I live in Northern Canada, December is a dark time. The perfect time for slow walks in the woods with the dog and quiet nights under the blanket (also with the dog). Both the ideal environments for contemplation and reverie.
As I review the events that have happened to me since separating from my partner a year ago, I am learning some good lessons on healthy ways to participate in reflection, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you here.
1) Hold it all lightly.
Yes, concrete life events have happened to all us over the past year. But things are always happening and always will happen.
Health, sickness, birth, and death are continual. Always occurring. This is what the Buddha taught us. So we don’t need to give our life events so much meaning. All events are temporary.
We can have compassion to words that were said, fears that arrived, and successes that occurred—but we don’t need to decide what they mean. Difficult times don’t represent failure, and good times don’t represent success.
Life is a journey of back and forth between pleasure and pain; no need to judge it. Hold the past lightly—that way it will be easy to let go of when you are perfectly ready.
2) Be observant and curious.
If you are having a memory, that means the event happened in the past and isn’t happening now. Only your reaction to the events of the past are happening now.
Can you simply watch the memories, observe, and be curious, without getting caught up in heated emotion and analysis in your head? This is how we watch and learn from our past in a healing way.
3) Have compassion.
As we remember the past year, of course we’re going to think about other people. We will think about people we love and people we are mad at. We will think about people we miss and people we wish we saw less.
No matter how close to a person we are, though, we will never fully know what goes on in their inner being. That is why analyzing other people, trying to figure out their motives, or coming up with solutions for them is often a waste of time.
Instead, sending love and compassion to any person we think of is always a good use of time and energy.
This is probably the hardest task there is—to trust.
There are so many ways things can go wrong on the human journey, so we become accustomed to being vigilant about our choices in order to attempt to prevent unwanted outcomes.
But we need both easy and challenging events to grow and evolve. We need to trust that these difficult events in our life are just as aligned for us as are the delightful events.
Because trust is such a difficult thing to do, it is worth at least trying to trust a little.
As you review the events of the past year and remember disappointing and even painful memories, see if you can say to yourself, “I trust the occurring of this event.” It might be hard to say and even harder to believe, but still, it can be done.
Even if the memories of the past year that are coming up are hard to see, or even if you are worried about the future, you are actually okay in the present moment. It can take time and experience for this to sink in.
Intentionally relaxing your shoulders, releasing your belly, and letting deeper, fuller breaths into your system can start to bring this truth of okayness into your system.
No one likes being stressed, and I am sure the past year was stressful for you more than a few times. I know it was for me, just like every other year I have lived.
So, as you review the stressful times of the past year, see if you can relax, because many of those challenges are now over and you are still here, ready to thrive.