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A New Way of Thinking New

December 28, 2009

This week I will be breaking tradition with the rest of the writers and I won’t be posting my anti-resolutions or any other sort of resolutions for 2010. As Paul mentioned in his sandbox, not everyone starts their New Year at the end of this week. As it turns out – I am one such person. Following are my own ideas on new years and new beginnings.

When I was pregnant I did yoga once a week. I remember vividly my teacher saying peace was found in the space between the in breathe and out breathe. It was also a place of rest. As my pregnancy progressed and I was able to lengthen my breath considerably, I focused also on being able to hold the space between inhalation and exhalation for longer and longer times, to be able to immerse myself in this place of peace. This was the space of rest I went to as I worked my way through powerful expansions, to labour and then give birth to my son.

At this time of year there seems to be little or no breathing room between hurtling from Christmas into the New Year. We’re so rushed getting from the end of one year and into the next, we lose the opportunity to find the place of rest and peace to reflect on what has passed and what is coming. As a consequence I believe we make rash resolutions, rather than insightful and well thought out ones. We lose the opportunity to learn from the year which has passed. Isn’t there a better way?

The Pause Between Years

Transitions are often painful – any woman who has given birth knows this as does any one who has had to move out of a space of comfort to travel into the unknown or to let something go. It can be a difficult process, painful, but ultimately empowering.

Transition requires time and space – two things we don’t afford ourselves moving from one year to the next.

In 2007 I resigned my position as magazine editor, which had helped define who I was after I became a mother. It left me feeling like I had cleaved off a limb. As Dale writes in his wonderful short story Not Me, “(It’s) a bit like saying cutting off your leg with a piece of glass may cause some blood loss.” It was during this transition and between the years of 2007 and 2008 that I discovered the pause between years.

In 2008, I started working creatively within the boundaries of the Chinese calendar, kicking off my creative year on the Chinese New Year. I use the time between the Western and Eastern New Years to get out of the festive frenzy, have a proper rest, recharge and then spend time reflecting, plotting and planning. I give myself the opportunity to transition, rather than lurch from one year to another.

The first year I did it, I ‘tripped’ into using the weeks between the New Year and the Chinese New Year when I didn’t get my writing space converted from a ‘work’ space into a ‘creative’ space by 1st January. The Chinese New Year was early February that year and it became my new deadline, giving myself five weeks to get my creative house in order.

Three years on I see it as a necessity this time between New Years. I have shared this practice with a number of writing friends since. They too have embraced it, starting their creative years on the Chinese New Year, rather than on January 1.

The number of weeks between the two new years is different each year. The Chinese calendar, like many other calendars, is lunar. The New Year falls on the second new moon after the Winter Solstice. This year there are six and a half weeks between the two.

The time between allows you to truly get over NaNo madness and festive rush which comes on the heels of the busiest writing month for many. This pause allows you to get lingering project finished, to review your business plan from the previous year and see what worked and what didn’t, sort out your creative/writing space and develop a new business plan (rather than a list of resolutions) to work/write to over the next 13 lunar cycles.

Starting your creative year on the first day of the Chinese calendar, means you are working with the ‘right’ lunar energy, starting projects on the New Moon, rather than on an arbitrary date.

Theme Your Year

In Chinese Astrology the cycle consists of twelve years (rather than 12 months) and is represented by twelve animals. Taoists add their own flavour by incorporating five elements across the twelve year cycle, thus 2009 was the Year of the Golden Ox.

In this spirit, rather than make a list of resolutions, I choose a theme for my year – 2008 was ‘The Year of Authenticity’ and 2009 ‘The Year of Action’. If you feel that resolutions are redundant but you want to do something for the new year, take the time to contemplate just what you want to achieve or manifest in 2010 and theme it with a single word.

What I love most about giving a year a theme is it falls outside of the win/lose paradigm of resolutions. It is an overarching, broad spectrum reference point– something to work with and towards across the entire year. Having it in the back of your head, on an unconscious level, allows amazing things happen across the year.

Good-bye, Thank-You and Hello

Rituals are powerful acts which modern society has moved away from in many aspects or have assigned to religious practioners to conduct.  If you want to start your creative year on the 1st of January, here is a really simple and powerful way to say good-bye and  thank-you for what has transpired in 2009 and welcome 2010. It comes compliments of my soul sister.

What you need:

  • 3 pieces of paper
  • Something to write with
  • Matches
  • A candle
  • A safe vessel to burn the paper in (I use a mortar)
  • 30 minutes of quiet time

How to:

  • Take a couple of minutes to clear your head of the clutter and jumble of every day thoughts. If you have trouble doing this, imagine three glowing white orbs and focus on bringing the three orbs together until they are one orb.
  • Light the candle.
  • On the first piece of paper write up to ten things you want to say good-bye to. You can phrase it as, “I release…” or “I say good-bye to…”
  • On the second piece of paper write up to ten things you want to give thanks for. You can phrase it as, “I give thanks for/to…” or “I am grateful for/to…”
  • On the final piece of paper write up to ten things you want to welcome into or manifest in your life. You can phrase it as, “I welcome into my life…” or “I manifest…”

When you are finished fold the three piece of paper together and light from the candle flame. When they have finished burning, bury the ash in your garden. If you want plant a favourite flower, herb or shrub there.

Next week I’ll give some practical suggestions on how to utilise the weeks between the Western and Eastern new years. But for now – take what you want from my own experiences and enjoy all the anti-resolutions across this week. I promise my own list in the week leading up to the 14th February.

The Chinese New Year is Sunday 14th February. The Year of the Tiger runs from 14th February 2010 through to 2nd February 2011.

Image:  © Dave Harris, 2008.

Jodi Cleghorn took a wonderful three day break from the internet over Christmas and is here briefly to post her column before returning to her offline life for another day or two. January 1st 2010 marks the digital release of Chinese Whisperings:The Red Book, her debut as a fiction editor with Paul Anderson.
  1. December 28, 2009 11:44 am

    Much food for thought here, Jodi. I like your good-bye/hello ritual – and as it happens, I have a mortar. Now I know how I will ring in the new year.

  2. December 29, 2009 5:51 pm

    Glad you enjoyed them Sandra. I wanted to leave something at the end for those who don’t want to trek with me on the creative lunar highway.

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