Bringing in the Light for the New Year
Coming to the end of this tough, transformative year, we need to celebrate a new beginning more than ever. Although the first of January is a calendar event, it could be seen as part of a continuum that goes from the Winter Solstice to mid-January. Since early humans first noticed the sun cycles of light to dark and dark to light, this time of year has brought people together to celebrate connection and renewal. Today, the rituals of Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, New Year’s Eve, and Twelfth Night all have one thing in common: Light.
Like many, my family couldn’t wait to bring in the Light this year. We got a Christmas tree early and festooned it with colorful lights and baubles. We lit candles each night at the dinner table and sang our Advent song. We watched the evening sky as Jupiter and Saturn crept closer and closer together, cheering their conjunction on the Winter Solstice. Then we did an old hippie ceremony and wrote out the things we’d like to leave behind, tossing them one by one into the fireplace. My eight-year-old grandson wrote the number 2020 on his offering. Afterwards, we thought about what we’d like to bring into our lives for the coming year, holding hands to empower our individual wishes with the intention of the collective.
Marking life’s various transitions in ritualistic ways is a distinct feature of human culture. Throughout history, our various tribes have come together to celebrate tradition, affirm connection and assure continuity. This practice benefits both the community and the individual. Although it’s unclear exactly why, participating in even the smallest ritual seems to reduce anxiety and increase self-confidence… even for people who don’t believe! Saul Levine, MD, author of Our Emotional Footprint: Ordinary People and Their Extra-Ordinary Lives, suggests that this is because celebrating traditions fulfill important criteria for achieving the Four B’s: Being, Belonging, Believing, and Benevolence.
When we have a good sense of being, we feel grounded in a core identity despite our foibles and frailties. Belonging gives us the personal comfort of knowing we’re an integral part of something bigger. Believing in a set of higher principles and values, whether secular or religious, encourages ethical behavior. And, this sense of being, belonging, and believing inspires us to benevolent acts of generosity and kindness. In this way, carrying on traditions supports our best, most comfortable selves in an essential way.
Even if you don’t have an established tradition, doing something ceremonial to bring in the Light is a good way to set a positive course for the new year. Anytime in January will work. All you have to do is set your intention, be introspective, and do a little ritual. You can use a variation of my family’s Solstice ceremony or design your own.
Steps for a New Year Ritual
Set your intention. Either by yourself or with others, design the time and place so you can be quiet without interruption. Dress for comfort. Light candles or incense to create sacred space.
Get present. Sitting quietly, get in touch with your surroundings. Feel the space, connect with your breath, and center in the moment. Expand your awareness to include your highest knowing.
Let it go. Take a few minutes to acknowledge the year past. Then let it go, bit by bit, with each successive exhale. Release anything that you don’t want to carry forward. Stream-of-consciousness will dredge up plenty of material, just begin with the stuff that’s surfaced as a result of COVID-19.
Be inspired. Once you’ve emptied the old stuff, there’s space for something new, something inspiring. Shift your attention to your inhale and breathe in all the things you’d like to come your way. No, not the Ferrari … things like equanimity, creativity, compassion, healing, opportunity.
Seal the deal. When you’re finished, reach your hands up toward the sky. Then bring the energy down to your head, heart, belly, and the ground beneath. Sit with palms up until you feel complete.
Celebrating both endings and beginnings is comforting and empowering. It’s about the intention. Even a few moments of inner reflection with your morning coffee can offer insight and clarity for the day ahead. Aligning with others simply increases the potency. As we embark on the new year ahead, why not take a moment to celebrate connection and renewal? Let’s take one breath together right now to bring in the Light and imagine it filtering out to touch all life on our precious planet.
What a great way to bring in the Light for the New Year!