Before looking ahead to the new year, I will honor this past year in a beautiful way by approaching the year's end the same way I approach the day's end: with a reflection activity.
In my book The Practice, I describe reflection like this, "Reflection is our final exercise of the day. This is when we scan our day and 'officially' let go of everything that happened in the day — all the ups and downs — so that we can wake up the next morning in the new day without attachments or regrets over what happened the day before. Without yesterday's worries and stresses weighing us down, we can begin a new day with a peaceful mind and heart."
So let's approach the year's end as if it were the end of a very long day and settle in for a few moments to review our past year and make a conscious choice to release our experiences — the good, the bad and the neutral.
Here are seven steps to integrate the lessons we've learned, so that we can move forward in 2015 with greater wisdom and deeper peace.
1. Sit with yourself in silence as you mentally review the past year.
Find some time in the day when you will not be disturbed, perhaps 15 to 20 minutes, and go to your meditation space or other quiet place. Get comfortable and take a few deep breaths. The cross-legged posture you typically use for meditation is probably best. Close your eyes.
Now, bring to mind those things that brought you fulfillment and good health in 2014. Without judging yourself, think about things that may have interfered with your moving forward in life, or affected your overall well-being. These are your lessons learned. Be confident in knowing that you did the best you could at the time, in every single circumstance. The lessons learned remain with you, providing you with a solid foundation from which to approach similar experiences in the future.
This thoughtful activity will give you insight on what you want to do more of, as well as what you wish to limit or eliminate in 2015.
2. Turn to your Sacred Mantra for support.
A Sacred Mantra is a word, phrase, verse, or prayer, with a long history of use that is hallowed or considered holy by the tradition or culture from which it originated.
Choose one that has personal meaning to you for your use this year — and all throughout your life! There are many wonderful sources of sacred phrases to choose from, including spiritual/religious books and websites. Your Sacred Mantra intercepts negative, harmful thoughts and brings you back to the present moment where you have a choice.
You will find yourself using your Sacred Mantra any time you wish to be in the present moment, which will help you to follow through on the promises you make to yourself. One of my favorite Sacred Mantras is, "Be still and know that I am God."
3. Change up your resolutions.
Avoid falling back on resolutions you have made in prior years. If there is something you want to accomplish in 2015 but have not followed through on in years passed, maybe that particular change is just not a priority for you, or it is not resonating with you.
Be gentle with yourself by choosing another path toward your goal. Repeat your Sacred Mantra a few times to calm your mind, and then brainstorm variations of your old resolutions to discover new, meaningful commitments you wish to make.
4. Identify the aspect of yourself you wish to strengthen: mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual.
Once you've identified what you'd like to work on, choose a resolution that aligns with that aspect. You may even wish to choose more than one aspect upon which to make a resolution.
Quite often, making a change in one area will benefit other areas of your life. You can further strengthen your intentions by writing your Sacred Mantra in your journal, connecting you to your intentions for each resolution you make.
5. When making your resolutions, get really specific about what you will do to make the change.
Create a list of specific activities or steps you will take each day to carry you along toward your new destination.
Write these activities/steps down in your journal or notebook. Remember, it is all about the journey, so be sure you have a clear map to refer back to. You can decorate these "resolution" pages by writing your Sacred Mantra in cheerful colors to bring "light" to your intentions.
6. Make mini resolutions.
Think of where you want to be a year from now and then identify monthly steps you can take toward that goal. Write these steps down in your journal or notebook and then reaffirm your resolution on the first day of each new month.
Even if you have not followed through the previous month, you will still have many more opportunities to get back on track and move forward. If you are feeling a bit discouraged, remember your Sacred Mantra is always a steady source of support, love, and acceptance.
7. Have faith in your ability to make positive changes.
Avoid self-defeating thoughts like, "I'm going to fail again," or "This is probably not going to stick." When you find your mind going down that path, repeat your Sacred Mantra to yourself, bringing your mind back to the moment and to the positive intentions in your heart. Your Sacred Mantra connects you to your source of strength, courage, peace, and love. At that source, you will know deeply that you can do anything you desire.
Once you've completed these seven steps, take a few more deep breaths and until you are ready to open your eyes. Then, if you wish, you can say the following affirmation or even write one of your own if you're feeling creative:
"This year is now over. I choose to live in the present moment. I am thankful for having been given this year and the blessings it has held. I take comfort in now releasing any challenges or successes I experienced this past year. I will spend this last day of this year with the peace and knowledge that January 1st. is a new beginning, and I am always working toward the person I wish to be."
And there you are — that's it. Simply spending some time sitting with yourself is a beautiful way to honor the year you just spent on this earth.