New Year, New Beginnings
In Jewish tradition, the New Year begins with the ten Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in autumn. During this time, Jews reflect on those relationships during the past year that need reconciliation, recognizing that the way to move forward in more fullness is by acknowledging those places where we have failed another person in the past and then making amends. Is there someone you have hurt this past year through your words or actions? Is it possible to ask for their forgiveness? Is there someone who has hurt you this past year through words or actions? Can you offer them forgiveness?
In Christian tradition, the New Year begins with the season of Advent four weeks before Christmas. There is wisdom in beginning the year during this darkest season, offering us the image of being in the dark and fertile womb of creation anticipating new birth. In the days leading up to your celebration of the New Year, honor the language of nighttime and darkness by recording your dreams. Keep paper and a pen by your bed and before going to sleep ask to receive dreams with wisdom for the year ahead. When you awaken, try to jot down some notes about images and feelings you notice before you get up and lose those threads that connect you to the dream's story. Honor the way dreams speak in non-linear and intuitive language. As a part of your New Year ritual, consider spending time with your dreams, perhaps making a collage of images that have appeared to you and reflect on what these have to say to you about what lies ahead. Dreams often reveal the hidden rooms of our soul and invite us inside for exploration.
Practice: Walking into the New Year
On New Year's Day take a contemplative walk at a labyrinth if you have one near you, or in a peaceful, wooded place. As you take each step, ask yourself how you want to walk in the year ahead. Pay attention to what responses rise up in you and embody this in the pace and movement of your body. As you continue to walk imagine yourself stepping across the threshold of something new and notice how your body feels.
Practice: Doing What You Love
Consider spending New Year's Day doing all of the things with which you want your year ahead to be filled. Make a list of the five most important and soul-nourishing activities of your life and spend a day savoring these experiences.
May you make friends with newness and know deep within that the God who keeps revealing new things to us, also fills us with hope for a future of peace.
This article was excerpted from Crossing the Threshold: New Year, New Beginnings, a reflective art journal created by Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D. filled with suggestions for creating a more meaningful New Year celebration and practice. To order a copy, please visit her website at www.AbbeyoftheArts.com and click on "Abbey Shop."
Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D. is a Benedictine Oblate and the founder and director of Abbey of the Arts, a non-profit ministry integrating contemplative practice with the expressive arts. She teaches at Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry and also works as a spiritual director, retreat facilitator, writer, and artist. She is the co-author of Lectio Divina: Contemplative Awakening and Awareness from Paulist Press. Visit her website www.AbbeyoftheArts.com.
Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D., is a Benedictine Oblate and the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery without walls offering online classes and resources in contemplative practice and creative expression. She is the author of seven books on monastic spirituality and creativity including The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom (Ave Maria Press), Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings (SkyLight Paths), and Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice (forthcoming 2013 from Ave Maria Press). Christine earned her Ph.D. in Christian Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and her work focuses on the intersection of the arts, contemplative spirituality and practice, and the wisdom of the seasons. Visit her website Abbey of the Arts.