How to Ritualize the Passing of the Year and Usher in a New Beginning

As the year draws to a close and the dawn of 2017 emerges, it is time to reflect. I recently looked back at my goals for the year and was surprised to find I had not achieved most of them. Interestingly, none of the amazing and beautiful things I was blessed to be a part of in 2016 were even on the list!

There is a lesson in this, and it might not be what you expect. Had I been operating under the popular paradigm of success, I would have felt disappointed and discouraged that I hadn’t reached my goals. In the past, I certainly felt that way.

But one of the gifts of forgiveness is faith in the unfolding of life as it is.

All non-forgiveness stems from the same judgment: There is something wrong right now. When we become forgiving, however, what we come to see is that this is not possible. If something was supposed to be different, it would be. The past, from 5 seconds to 50 years ago, lead to “now.” To yearn for what happened 5 seconds or 50 years ago to be different is, obviously, a futile use of energy.

Does that mean we have to be content with current circumstances no matter what they are? No. It means we begin from a place of acceptance and gratitude for the gifts that are present now, and we move forward with purpose from there.

Had my originally envisioned goals manifested, I would not be writing this today. Had I single-mindedly focused on what I thought I needed, I would have missed a powerful process of creation blossoming before me.

At the end of this year, I encourage you to honor 2016 and welcome the next chapter of the unknown through ritual and celebration.

Rituals have been practiced throughout human history. They help memorialize where we have been and welcome what is still to come. Rituals are powerful ways of marking rites of passage.  

Let Go of What You Don’t Want

The following is a ritual known as the burning bowl ceremony in many spiritual communities. You can do it in community or by yourself, but greater transformation can be possible when you are witnessing and being witnessed by others with the same intention of release, renewal, and awareness.

The burning bowl ceremony honors your intention to let go of things you have outgrown so you can embrace the delights of an unknowable future. Begin by relaxing into the moment. Get comfortable. If you like, take a few minutes to write your thoughts and feelings about the last year. What worked for you? What didn’t? What are you grateful for? What gifts, expected and unexpected, graced you? What are you ready to release? Reflect on your emotions, thoughts, and limiting beliefs. 

Next, on small strips of paper, jot down what you wish to release. Place the strips in a fire-safe bowl and set them on fire. As they disintegrate, say “I release you.” Take a moment to allow the power of that release to soak in.

Setting Intention for the Year to Come

Now, you are ready to bring in what you want. Dare to welcome new possibilities. On New Year’s Day, consider doing this by using the powerful metaphor of the white stone.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying…I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” Revelations 2:17

Quiet your mind and wait for a single word or short phrase (this is important because you want it to pop into your mind often as you navigate your year) to enter your consciousness. Write it on a small white stone (or something you can keep in your pocket) and carry it with you throughout the year as a reminder of who you are today, who you intend to be, and what you are creating.

Now, for those of you intent on setting goals. Begin from the word or phrase on the stone. Be specific or general, honor what comes to mind and what matters to you. But, hold those intentions loosely or you might miss a miracle or two.

No matter how you ritualize or celebrate the ushering in of the New Year, do it with purpose, meaning, and compassion for the person you have been, the one you are yet to become, and the gifts that the coming days and months are sure to bring.

Happy New Year!