It’s 11:20pm on New Year’s Eve, outside it’s stopped raining, Harnham hill is swathed in a wet fog. Inside the meditation hall, under the kindly gaze of a large Buddha image we are lining up to perform our year end ritual. Every New Year’s Eve for more than a decade we’ve said farewell to the old year in the same way.
In fact there are two rituals one aimed at helping up put down the old year, the other to look forward to the possibilities of the new year. For the last 20 minutes we’ve been quietly thinking and writing on two pieces of paper.
On one piece we write a list of all the people we wish to forgive for whatever they may a have done to us, on the other a list of people we would like to ask forgiveness of for the not so clever things we have may have done during the course of the year. Rather than carry the resentments on into the new year we want to be able to let them go and start afresh.
On the other peace of paper we write a list of intentions for the new year. It’s not a list of New Year resolutions rather than short term goals it’s a list of how you would like to be for this year.
In the centre of the hall is a large urn on a table surrounded by candles. One by one we step forward, light the forgiveness list and drop the flaming paper into the urn. Old hurts going up in smoke. Then we put our folded aspiration papers in another bowl. These will be collected, incorporated into cement and used in any building work that takes place over the year. You could say that the Harnham Monastery is built on our aspirations.
It takes more than half an hour for all of us to slowly and mindfully perform this process. We return to our meditation cushions and sit quietly as the old year slips quietly away. A few minutes later the monastery bell sounds twelve times inviting 2008 to take up the reins.
Although this ceremony is quite recent I really appreciate the formal opportunity to put down the old year and take up the new.
Making an aspiration or setting an intention is a way of lining yourself up with what is important in life. Setting New Year resolutions tend to be oriented around goals, getting this, doing that … an aspiration or intention is oriented to ‘being’ and you can ‘be’ in all sorts of different circumstances.
You might like to make a list of all the people you would like to forgive for this that or the other. Mentally or on paper forgive them. Make a list of all the people you would like to ask forgiveness of, mentally or on paper ask for their forgiveness. There may be many other things you can do to develop this process.
Make a list of aspirations for 2008, a list of who and how you would like to be. Keep it in a diary or on display to remind you of what’s important as the year wears on.