We do this ceremony on New Year’s Eve that involves a fire (or in lieu of a fire, candles), pieces of paper and a jug of water or a favorite beverage.
Once the fire has been built, or the candles lit, we begin by reflecting quietly on our lives, on where we’ve been and what we’ve been through, and maybe where we’re going too, but mostly we focus on where we are now, personally and collectively.
Then, we each take two small blank pieces of paper; on one of them we write down something we want to eliminate from our life, and on the other, something we want to bring into our life. When we’re ready, we each toss the one containing the trait or circumstances we want to get rid of into the flames, or hold it over the candle, and watch as it glows, shrivels and disappears. At the same time, we imagine the qualities or conditions represented by the words on the paper also being consumed in the flames of focused intention, disappearing up in smoke and becoming insubstantial.
Then, we shift our thoughts from what we want to get rid of to what we would like to bring into our lives. We visualize what it would look and feel like. Then, we pour the water or whatever we’re drinking into a cup or glass, and also symbolically pour in our wishes and intentions for the “new” thing. Once we have a firm image of it in our mind’s eye and a clear feeling of it in our heart, then we drink, and as it moves down our throat and spreads through our veins, we imagine the liquid having a magnetic quality that can attract the wish. With each conscious sip, we draw it closer to the surface and into our daily reality. Then, we throw the second piece of paper into the fire or hold it over the candle flame, thus releasing our “wish” to the universe, to the winds and the currents and the fates, and in the process releasing ourselves, too, from the bonds of attachment.
As with the wishes we make when blowing out candles on a birthday cake, we do not tell each other of our New Year’s wishes out of concern that exposure might sully or interfere with the process.
Granted, this little fire-and-water ceremony is but a representative ritual, but what I like about it is that it is hopeful in that it calls on us to imagine greater happiness, wellness and fulfillment, and to continue to strive for these things.
Some people say it’s the striving that’s the problem; the idea that we have to do more and be more, and somehow get from here to there that hinders realization. They prefer a simpler proclamation, like Be Here Now, and while that one certainly works for me, I am reminded of the Willie Nelson song, "Still is Still Moving," which tells us that outer appearance is not always reflective of inner reality, or in this context, that striving and stillness need not be regarded as mutually exclusive actions (or nonactions).
I’m reminded, too, of a poster that hung in the library of my junior high, which said, “The important thing is not where you stand but in which direction you are moving.”
For me, that’s really what the New Year’s Eve ceremony is about — showing that we are willing to keep moving in the direction of new and renewed wishes, to keep pursuing a meaningful and fulfilling life, to not hold the world in contempt, or join in the callousness and cold-heartedness, or accept apathy in ourselves, or settle for joyless living.
I mention the ceremony, in hopes that it might impel you to keep formulating and striving for your own conceptions of happiness and fulfillment, and that contrary to the reports and outward appearances of how bad things are, you (and I) may actually have an astonishingly great 2022!