Photo: ©Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg; Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga™
Writing Your Year Anew
Arrivals, Departures, and Your Own Best Life
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CARYN MIRRIAM-GOLDBERG
I’m all for New Year’s resolutions around the first of the year, and actually, any other day also. I figure that the Jewish New Year, Chinese New Year, Equinox and Solstice, First Blossoming of Lilac, and First Night Cold Enough To Dream Hot Cocoa are all worthy of reminding us, “Hey, the year is completely new. You have a clean slate! What do you want to do now?”
In this spirit my husband Ken and I sit down something during the end of one year and beginning of the next to write what we want to invite into our lives over the next year as well as what came, invited or not, during the last year. These aren’t exactly resolutions (as in “I will resist the Cheeto mightily”), which is good, because if you give me a rule, my little mind will spin itself silly trying to break it, but they’re more like gentle invitations, and usually to some part of ourselves that’s resisting what’s best for us.
Arrivals: Inviting in
For example, last year at this time, I invited in greater faith that my now-21-year-old son was a man in his own right, and I could trust him and honor his choices. Translation and note to self: Stop being a control freak from hell. Ken invited in greater spaciousness for exercise and rest. We both invited in more time to visit, and once again renewed our vow (only to break it within a week) to get off our computers by 9:30 p.m. every night.
In any case, doing this exercise helps us figure out what we want to welcome with arms spread wide into our lives, and in doing so, what we’re ready to release.
Departures: Releasing out
The releasing part is a little trickier, at least for me. Over the years, I’ve written my intentions to release needless obsessing about a friend who disappeared from my life, little bouts of self-hatred about my size, and all manner of wanting to change people close to me to make them more to my liking and comfort. Even if it can take years to release even a sliver of what I hold tight to, writing down these intentions has helped me enormously in letting go.
And here’s the yoga part of this (although consider that yoga means yoking, it’s all yoga!): Once I’m clearer on what I want to invite in and release, I can use my in breath to visualize and run the words through my head of what I’m ready to meet, and my out breath to do the same for what I’m ready to stop meeting for coffee on a regular basis. Inhalation and exhalation: one of the greatest symbols and realities of who we are and aren’t, and how to live in tune with the life force running through us.
A Writing Exercise for the New Year
I invite all of you to consider trying this writing exercise on your own or with a loved one (doesn’t have to be a spouse — a parent, child, friend, sister would be fine, and it helps to have a good witness):
Honor where you’re been: First, make a list of all that’s arrived in the last year, and all that’s left your life: friends, work, hobbies and avocations, journeys, things of great value to you (e.g. your great-aunt’s afghan she knitted during the war), qualities in yourself, and even abilities you never thought you had (e.g. for me, this would include touching my toes without bending my knees).
Give thanks for arrivals and departures: Write a statement, poem, sentence or even make a picture or collage that gives thanks for what life has brought you.
Honor losses: Write or make something to honor big losses in your life, to say to these losses, “I see and feel you.” Recognizing what you’re mourning is essential to being your true self.
Invite in what’s calling to you: Make a list of all that’s calling to you in terms of your friends and family, work and play, spiritual practice and emotional processing, and all else. It can include the little, such as “stretch for five minutes each morning,” as well as the big, such as “cultivate the strength to leave a soul-killing job.”
Recognize what you need to release: List all that you’re ready to let go of, or that you need to get ready to let go of, recognizing that the leaves only fall from the tree when the time is right. You may want and need to release certain habitual responses (yelling back at your husband whenever he yells at you), old dreams (winning an Oscar while starring opposite George Clooney), ideas about your body (that you should be able to do standing splits, for instance), desires to control and shape others (making your daughter eat healthier food while at college) or any manner of other things.
Edit and ponder: Looking over your lists of what to invite in and release, take time to ask yourself, about each item, “is this absolutely ‘it’ for me?” and revise accordingly.
Witness and be witnessed: Read your revised lists aloud to your friend, spousal unit, brother, cousin, etc. and listen to his/hers. Reading your words aloud helps you hear the full weight of them. Then type or or hand-write it all nicely in a way that pleases you, and post this where you’ll see it everyday (and if you’re living with others you don’t want to share this with, you could paste inside a journal, or have it in your wallet).
One more thing: Happy New Year, and may that happiness shine through you out into the big and generous world.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.