New year prep, part 2: Letting go

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Celebration and Clearing

Have you started your annual review for 2016 yet? Whether or not you have started, one important part of moving into the new year is allowing yourself to let go of the old one.

This can be a fun and easy exercise.

After you’ve gone through the year review, write down on a separate sheet of paper what you would like to leave in 2016, things that you want to move on from. Examples could be: 

  • eating unhealthy foods
  • watching too much TV
  • swearing too much
  • self-judgment
  • unhealthy relationships
  • and so on.

When you complete your list, you can either keep it to yourself or share it with someone close to you. Writing your list might be something you do together with your significant other, or as an activity with some close friends. Share a couple laughs and tears by reading what you included. 

The burning bowl

The healing practice of Reiki offers this beautiful and therapeutic burning bowl ceremony:

"This ceremony opens us so we can listen to our hearts and gain clarity. We can then focus on our true intentions and ask for help in a clear and powerful way. The burning bowl is a fire ceremony designed to help us listen, become clear in our intentions, release the old habits that get in the way of intentions, and bring in new habits that can help us accomplish our intentions." ~ The International Center for Reiki Training

At or close to midnight on December 31st, 2016, either alone or with your friends, rip up the list you wrote into tiny pieces. 

Make a toast with a beverage of your choice, and light a candle in the center of a fire-proof bowl (cast iron or other metal). I encourage you to say a prayer of gratitude for 2016 and declare you are letting it go. Take a quiet moment to connect with your heart. Set for yourself an intention to move on from what hasn’t brought you joy and release anything that no longer serves you.

Light the pieces of paper in the bowl and watch them burn up and disappear. If you need to, allow yourself to grieve. 

There is a place where words are born of silence, a place where the whispers of the heart arise.
— Rumi

Spread the ashes on the ground or bury them, asking the earth to transform the ashes into nutrients. Do this safely, making sure the ashes are cool before spreading them.

The Benefits

  • Burning the old year is not just a symbolic act, but it is also a form of mental and emotional cleansing; it clears the slate for a better year to come. You rid yourself of any emotional, mental, physical, or interpersonal clutter so that you can get out of your own way towards becoming your true self. 
  • Whether you do this one or another ritual, when you practice a ritual that has been passed down through generations, it connects you to your ancestors and preserves your identity for the future. 
  • You are giving yourself time to focus on being “in the moment” of transition from old to new. This can be a grieving moment but also one of excitement, possibility and hope. 
  • The ceremony can help with ending relationships, releasing people or events we have an unhealthy attachment to, troubling world events, sadness, childhood trauma, accidents, or loss of a loved one or pet.
  • It opens up a space to celebrate the possibilities that lie ahead, whether you have specific hopes and dreams or just want it to be wonderful in its own, yet-to-be-revealed way. (Setting your intentions for the New Year will be part of an upcoming blog post.)
  • It is an opportunity to share your dreams and wishes with your loved ones and friends.

Other new year rituals

In some ancient traditions, burning or clearing away the old year is a common practice:

 Samhain (pronounced "sow-een"), a Celtic tradition.

Samhain (pronounced "sow-een"), a Celtic tradition.

  • The Celtic New Year is celebrated on October 31 (Samhain). It is a time when the “Veil Between the Worlds” grows thin, and we are better able to commune with our ancestors and the dead, allowing us to feel closer to those who have gone before us. As part of the Samhain ceremony, an effigy is ritually burned to get rid of the passing year. In addition, each of the year’s ills are named and burned, with prayers and offerings that they return to the elements from which they were formed. 
  • The Chinese New Year celebration (starting on the 2nd new moon after the winter solstice), often starts with burning a paper image of the hearth god, thus sending him on his way. The purpose of the celebration is to clear away the bad luck of the old year and beginning anew.
  • In Thai culture, water represents cleansing and renewal, and thus New Year is celebrated with rituals of splashing water.
  • In Japan, people spend the last day of the old year cleaning their homes and welcoming the New Year’s harvest god. Clearing away clutter and creating a clean, peaceful environment can be a tangible and meaningful way to symbolize the clearing out of old energy to create space for new, positive events and opportunities.
  • Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana), occurs in the autumn. It reflects the birthday of mankind and also calls for 10 days of repentance, culminating in Yum Kippur (also known as the Day of Atonement). There is a ritual of going to a lake, river or the sea to recite prayers and to symbolically cast the sins into the water, leaving old shortcomings behind, thus starting over with a clean slate. 

A ritual I did a few years ago on a spiritual retreat, not on New Year's, but as a way to let go of the past, involved mentally putting all of my negative and counter-productive thoughts and memories into a rock. Then I dug a hole in the sand and buried it, so that the earth could absorb my past and leave me unburdened. I found out recently that this is similar to a Native American tradition.

Next: Manifesting 2017

The final step of this transition period from old to new year is co-creating your dreams for 2017. That post will be coming next week. Stay tuned.