From Resolutions to Rituals

to-release-1-1245884-1279x1924It’s that time of year.  The time when we get busy writing our list of resolutions and checking them twice.  If you are at all interested in personal growth or self-help, you can find books, journals, and art projects to inspire you to live your best year yet.  Recently, there has been an emphasis on letting go of the list of to do’s and instead picking an image or a word for the year.  These New Year’s traditions can certainly help motivate you to self-actualize.  However, if you want to deepen your relationship with yourself, your partner, and your family, a ritual to release the previous year can help make space to manifest your hopes for the new year.

What sets a ritual apart from a tradition or a resolution?

Rituals are like living poetry.  They make a change come alive by honoring that change–real change–affects more than just what we do.  A real change takes body, mind, and spirit. Rituals also allow for the paradoxes and polarities to be seen, felt, named, and honored rather than resolved or reconciled.  Think about the many rituals that surround weddings…from the exchange of rings to the sand ceremony to the parent-child dance, these rituals honor the joy and grief of creating a new family.

What do I do to create a ritual?

  • Think over the last year and make a list of highs and lows.
  • Write the blessings and challenges that have come from both your highs and lows.
  • Thank the year for all you’ve received.
  • Look over your list and see if any themes or ideas emerge.
  • Think of what you want to release from the previous year.  How can you lovingly let those pieces go?
  • Think of what you want to grow more.  How can you invite those elements to flourish?
  • Think about how you want to mark this transition.  Do you want to do it privately?  Should you have a small gathering of friends?

For example, if you’re an engaged couple getting married in 2017–whether or not you live together, you are saying goodbye to single life.  What parts of single life will you miss? What aspects of singlehood are you ready to send packing?  Individually, take time to look back over your last year, and write a letter to your Single-Self.  Honor both the joy and the grief your Single-Self feels.  Does your Single-Self need a ritual with your friends?  Just thinking this way could transform the bachelor/bachelorette party from a to-do list item to a time of really celebrating your friendships.

Once you’ve written your letter and have an idea for a ritual your single-Self would like, you have an opportunity to deepen your relationship with your fiancee.  Create a date night where the two of you share your letters with each other.  Honor the fact that there might be some mixed emotions about saying “I do.”  Creating time and space for your Single-Selves to share with one another decreases stress and wedding jitters.  Better yet, you’ve started to navigate the tricky waters of self-care and relationship care.  This practice will not only sustain your engagement–it will help grow your marriage.

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