An Alternate Approach

          Are you busy today, between getting ready for tonight’s festivities and making the ritual list of resolutions – you know, those things you’re either going to start or stop doing tomorrow? Is this year going to be like all the others when, after a week into it, those resolutions start to get lost in old patterns and habits?

Christine Paintner

          This alternate approach to the New Year is excerpted from Christine Paintner’s “Crossing the Threshold: New Year, New Beginnings” article in her Reflective Art Journal from the Abbey of the Arts in 2009. I found her method for creating a meaningful New Year ritual refreshing and certainly worth considering.

          “January 1st brings out our fervent desires for the future and our commitments to change, whatever that change entails. Our inclination is usually a set of “resolutions” aimed at working harder for whatever it is we want or fixing our self-perceived flaws. There is nothing wrong with making resolutions. However they often aim so high without first cultivating the change of heart necessary to prepare space for these new possibilities to take root.

          More and more often now people are taking the celebration of New Year’s as a time for reflection on what has gone before and to listen to their longing for what lies ahead. Each year I see retreat centers and other groups offering options for meaningful ritual and practice. While celebrating with friends can be a very joyful thing, the late night party on December 31st with its endless supply of alcohol has become far less satisfying for many. People are hungering for more depth to this time of transition. We are recognizing the opportunity of a threshold.

Suggestions for Ways to Celebrate the New Year in Meaningful Ways:
          Practice: Preparing
           We begin the year full of resolutions and promises to ourselves to perhaps eat better, exercise more, work less, find more time for friends or for ourselves. But these resolutions often rise up out of our sense of scarcity and the busyness and immediate desires we feel at the surface of our lives. Consider taking some time to prepare – even if only for an hour or two – to really listen for the deeper longings pulsing within you. What emerges from that place of stillness and grounding in your holiness and goodness, rather than from a list of your shortcomings? What new doors are waiting within you to be opened?

          Practice: Reconciliation
          In Jewish tradition, the New Year begins with the ten Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in autumn. During this time, Jews reflect on those relationships during the past year that need reconciliation, recognizing that the way to move forward in more fullness, is by acknowledging those places where we have failed another person in the past and then making amends. Is there someone you have hurt this past year through your words or actions? Is it possible to ask for their forgiveness? Is there someone who has hurt you this past year through their words or actions? Can you offer them forgiveness?

          Practice: Dream-Tending
          In Christian tradition, the New Year begins with the season of Advent four weeks before Christmas. There is wisdom in beginning the year during this darkest season, offering us the image of being in the dark and fertile womb of creation anticipating new birth. In the days leading up to your celebration of the New Year, honor the language of nighttime and darkness by recording your dreams. Keep paper and a pen by your bed and before going to sleep ask to receive dreams with wisdom for the year ahead. When you awaken, try to jot down some notes about images and feelings you notice before you get up and lose those threads that connect you to the dream’s story. Honor the way dreams speak in non-linear and intuitive language. As a part of your New Year ritual, consider spending time with your dreams, perhaps making a collage of images that have appeared to you and reflect on what these have to say to you about what lies ahead. Dreams often reveal the hidden rooms of our soul and invite us inside for exploration.

          Practice: Walking into the New Year          On New Year’s Day take a contemplative walk at a labyrinth if you have one near you, or in a peaceful, wooded place. As you take each step ask yourself how you want to walk in the year ahead. Pay attention to what responses rise up in you and embody this in the pace and movement of your body. As you continue to walk imagine yourself stepping across the threshold of something new and notice how your body feels.

          Practice: Doing What You Love
          Consider spending New Year’s Day doing all of the things with which you want your year ahead to be filled. Make a list of the five most important and soul-nourishing activities of your life and spend a day savoring these experiences.

          May you make friends with newness and know deep within that the God who keeps revealing new things to us, also fills us with hope for a future of peace.”

          What are your suggestions for a meaningful New Year practice?        

You may find out more about Christine and her work here.

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