A reflective ritual of letting go…
Yesterday, Mark and I went to our favourite beach for a walk and also to recognise the ending of the calendar year and the start of the New Year.
We’ve had some interesting (read disturbing, difficult and delightful) times this year but instead of sliding headlong into whatever comes next, we wanted to draw a line in the sand – metaphorically – and take stock.
We both realised that before we could welcome in anything new, we needed to do some letting go of what we were ready to leave behind.
I know it’s already January 1st, 2019, but here’s a piece of wisdom from the Desert Monks:
Abba Moses asked Abba Sylvanus, ‘Can a man lay a new foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment’
Which is to say that any day can be the moment when you decide to engage in the letting go and welcoming ritual below….
After our walk, we spent some time sitting quietly thinking and writing notes about the following six areas of life:
For each area we considered this:
Is there an aspect of my self that is no longer serving my good? Is there a habit of thought or action, is there an attitude or an expectation, a behaviour or an automatic reaction that is no longer helpful to me? Is there a story I tell about myself, or about another, that is shaping my ability to be freely present here?
If we were able to identify something in the area in question, then we engaged in some compassionate curious enquiry….how is this aspect of self working against my deeper desires for good? On the other hand, how might I be benefitting from holding on to it?
If I imagine myself free of this habit/attitude/aspect…what would that be like? How would I feel?
What is stopping me from letting it go? What needs to happen for me to be free?
You may not need all of these questions to help you find where you have got stuck in or hooked by an old and now unhelpful habit/story. You may also find that you can identify something that isn’t helpful, but that the obstacles to letting it go are still compelling and powerful enough to keep you from the freedom you desire. If that’s the case for you, your reflection has led you to naming your truth as it is now – and this is powerful in itself. Letting go, forgiveness, growth and transformation are all slow journeys that require patience. Some things have to be repeatedly let go of….simply adjust the ritual below to recognise where you are now and what you can let go of in this moment.
For each area, find a short phrase to distill the habit/attitude you have identified and named something to let go of. You may find some of the areas don’t yield anything to let go of…no need to force anything here!
When you are ready with your phrases, head down to the ocean and for each phrase duck into a wave and let it wash over you. There is plenty of symbolism for you to engage with in the water; the saltiness, the tide (we had an outgoing), the ebb and flow, the power of the waves, the wideness of the ocean, the freshness of the air and the exhilaration of being alive in all of that. And, of course, baptism. All of these elements are present, and what feels significant and speaks to you as you go under the waves may surprise you….
Later, just before midnight, we took the paper we had written our phrases and reflections on and we burned them in the fireplace.
Welcome and Celebration
There was another outcome from reflecting on the year…some of the areas I reflected on yielded fruits of joy and delight rather than things to leave behind. Goodness needs to be savoured for it to sink in to long term memory and be available to guide and shape our thinking and perspectives.
There has been no shortage of delicious food to savour in our house over the last week, so we ate cake – along with our joyful phrases distilled from the morning.
My favourite one….Book Club!
Thank you, thank you, thank you and blessings for 2019.