The Holiday season is a time for gratitude and reflection. We see the lights and decorations go up. We hear the music and songs and we smell and taste the delicious flavors of the season, all of us are reminded that the Holidays also mean that the year is drawing to a close. 2019 will begin. A fresh new year, with endless opportunities, waiting for us to craft.
As we age, time seems to move more swiftly, especially with the pace of growth and advances in the last century. At the end of the year, we reflect on what we accomplished. Unfortunately, many times we also think about things that we haven’t achieved.
Maybe this year, you finally started yoga or an exercise program that you’ve been thinking about after years of postponing. Perhaps you’ve been eating healthier or purged a few things simplifying your life somewhat. With one accomplishment, there always seems to be something you haven’t done or have failed at. Consider career steps in light of a missed opportunity can be frustrating. Perhaps you haven’t stopped talking about people behind their backs. In the space of a broken heart, you may have given up on finding a partner.
Introspection and recollection are good things. Many teachers, now and throughout history, have taught that recollection is actually crucial for personal and spiritual growth. Now, this doesn’t mean dwelling on past mistakes and regrets that you can’t do anything about. Instead, recollection is a precursor to letting go of all the negativity and self-judgment. When we let go of something, we have to acknowledge it; we can’t let go what you don’t know we already have. So in order to surrender, you need to remember. And we need to do so consciously.
We can’t consciously move onto the next phase of growth until we bring consciousness to our past. As we experience every year, life moves at light speed, disappearing behind us as soon as we ask “Where the heck did the year go?” We easily forget the good and the bad, the joys and regrets.
Beneath our consciousness, all emotions and experiences accumulate. We hold to them at a deeper level of meaning when it comes to self-acceptance. The memories get embedded in our neurons and eventually affect the rest of our bodies.
Stress and physical pain are often the very manifestations of holding on. Unless these past memories and emotions are released, they basically become like sludge: toxic things that inhibit our growth and progress. When they accumulate too much, eventually they will find ways to escape, often through the pain-body, negative moods coming out of nowhere, and laying constant blame on others.
Instead of dwelling on the regrets of the past year, we can engage in conscious recollection and letting go at any day of the year, at any time of day, and since we’re in the New Year season, why not take advantage of this symbolic time? It’s the perfect time to do some mental and emotional housecleaning.
Life is all about growth and regrowth, discovering and rediscovering ourselves. Let’s learn how we can free ourselves from the chains of the past year so we can start anew. Below are concrete, actionable steps for conscious recollection and letting go.
If possible, get into a group of people you trust and who are comforting. If the group can create a shared space of compassion and support, it could be a very powerful thing. The people in your group should be non-judgmental of one another’s so-called regrets, or be envious of another’s success. But if you decide to do this alone, it’s just as powerful.
Also, make sure you have a pen and paper. As you’ll see, using your smartphone won’t be wise!
Relax and remember a time when you felt loved, appreciated, or valued. This is the most powerful way to get into the zone of self-acceptance. It could be from a loved one, a friend, or even from nature. Once you have found that moment, let the feeling dissipate and spread throughout your body. Another way is to say out loud, “I feel a deep sense of acceptance to this wonderful universe that I live within.”
With a pen, write down the events and ideas in your mind that have a particularly strong energy. Make two lists: one for positive, one for negative. In each, write the story of what has happened, but don’t go too long. Just a few sentences would do. Make sure you include what the person did or said. Then write how this made you feel: proud? dejected? grateful? embarrassed? angry?
Continue by making a list for both positive and negative. Take as long as you need until you feel it’s finished.
You may be surprised to visually see how much you’ve bottled up. If you haven’t written it all down, you wouldn’t have this visual representation of what has impacted you. When reading, note if certain moments feel unresolved. In your mind or out loud, say what you need to say to release the bottled-up energy. You can apologize, forgive, say thank you, or whatever you need to say to accept. There doesn’t need to be a resolution right now. Only acceptance is necessary.
Take your negative list and tear it apart. Yes, tear it up! Don’t wrinkle of crumple: rip it apart and allow yourself to feel that energy release. If you have a fireplace or an outdoor firepit, burn your list (just don’t use your stove). Otherwise, simply toss the torn papers in the trash.
When purging the negative list, say out loud or to yourself: “Let the negativity be dissolved so I can let go and can move on.”
When purging the positive list, say: “Let these thoughts and actions benefit and improve the lives of others.”
Do this as fast as you can. When written words are stored, it also cements them in our minds. By burning these words, we visually see a release, freeing ourselves of past burdens.
Some may find this ritual trivial, but it’s not so weird if we realize that this is based on science. By physically doing this, we are consciously creating different neural pathways. Brain science has shown that whenever one wants to change a habit or a way of thinking, taking physical action is the best and fastest way to elicit that change. When we write, we’re engaging our consciousness. When we read, we engage our sight and the connection to the cognitive part of our brain. When we purge, we witness our own intentions being set free.
It takes more energy to grab onto something than to let go. In the most literal sense, grabbing an object takes more energy than releasing and letting it drop.
“We think that through our efforts we can practice aparigraha (non-grasping). We try to let go. And the harder we try to release, let go, open up, the worse it gets and the more we clench. Effort will not work. If I want to open my hand, open my mind or open my heart, I can’t use effort, because effort will only close it tighter, I have to surrender.”
– Dylan Werner, 6/20/2017, Facebook
When we learn to let go, we will always be looking forward.
This post was part of our Monthly Intentions program throughout the year. Each month at Evolutions we focus on one intention to guide our practice, our wellness and our attention – inside and outside the club. Join us on this journey through Facebook and Instagram @EvolutionsAnnapolis #monthlyintentions #evolutionsannapolis.