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The Ritual of New Year’s Resolutions

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    The New Year is upon us – traditionally a period of reflection and resolve.

    I don’t so much “make resolutions” as form intentions for the coming year. Beyond that, no effort or will power is required: I simply speak my truth, then let go and trust the power of imagination to guide and shape experience to come.

    At least, that’s the theory.

    While some intentions from last New Year’s have yet to fully unfold, much of what I’ve imagined has come to pass, often in surprising ways.

    So, in keeping with tradition, in the New Year I give voice to my imaginings:

    It is my intention to live a contemplative, reflective life, open to my own depths and the depths of others.

    It is my intention to write, write, and to write – write for myself, and write for those who value the joy and the pain of life.

    It’s my intention to give Story expression – from the stage, on the page, and in the living of my life.

    In 2022 it is my intention to stay true to my Path, to perform the work – this magnum opus, unfolding within, around, and through me, of creative consciousness and the mythic imagination.

    I intend in the coming year to embrace spiritual transformation: to sit and breathe, tend to dreams, remain open to what the creative universe is telling me (whether in the whisper of the breeze, the pattern of tarot spreads and I Ching throws, the thrum of a hummingbird, or the imagery of myth), and to smudge and chant, drum and dance, pray and play.

    I intend to spend more time in Nature – to walk, hike, swim, and drink in the wonder of the world. It is my Intention to honor my body, enhance my health, and more fully enjoy the bounty of the material as well as spiritual realm.

    It is my intention in the days ahead to experience and embrace abundance.

    It is my intention to gracefully let go what has passed to make way for the new.

    I intend to embrace healing – to heal and be healed, to be made whole – which includes awareness and acceptance of shadow, coming to better know humanity, and my self.

    I intend to be a better Companion, Lover, Colleague, Brother, and Friend.

    It is my Intention to embody compassion, creativity, and love. I intend as much as possible to transcend “me” – my desires, my needs, my ego – yet remain true to Self, ever aware that the YOU in you is the same as the YOU in me.

    It is my intention to live life to the full and encourage All to do the same.

    How do you mark the New Year? Do you have a tradition, a ritual, from resolutions to maybe a specific celebration – some place you always go, something you always do – to celebrate this collective recognition of the passage of Time? Feel free to share . . .

    . . . and Happy New Year!


      Stephen, this is a wonderful creative approach for a New Year’s “to do” list, or for that matter an everyday kind of looking ahead list. And it reminds me of what we were talking about in discussion concerning Christmas reflections earlier in relation to seeking life’s meanings in the face of tragedy. In other words, going down deep inside and addressing some of the big questions that are driving us we may not be aware of and attempting to ferret them out and understand them.

      I had several of these issues confront me in the last few weeks and began to realize something else was in play in the things I was seeing and experiencing that was trying to tell me something and I needed to listen. One was the sense of recurring themes as the Christmas season has now turned into a sort of reflective period where I attempt to become aware of anything that moves me emotionally and I ask myself why it does so. The last two years several movies kept coming across my radar with powerful emotional resonances that forced me to look inward and ask myself what it was that kept pulling at my sleeve, sometimes quite profoundly by reminding me of past painful experiences, while others had relationships to outward more interpersonal connections to my everyday life and made me think in terms of: things left undone, unaddressed, or yet to be discovered. And as these different issues began alchemically to cook and conjure up things I had not considered or thought of my perspective began to see things in a way I never had before.

      Over the last few years since I retired, I’ve trying to go over my past and ask myself: “Have I done the things I wanted to, needed to, and felt gave my life meaning and purpose within my own context? And of course, there are going to be surprises when you ask yourself these kinds of things because life as Joseph reminds us, is not a dual “either or proposition”, and whatever meaning or purpose you give to it is up for you to decide. Or put another way, life doesn’t have a meaning it just “is”. And one way you can see this is with the symbol of the ouroboros, (a serpent that eats itself), or yet another with the message of the Buddha’s name- Tathagata: “the one thus come” or “life as it is”, and this (“isness” of existence), has nothing to do with a God, or a meaning, or a purpose, except what you bring to it.

      Now we get to the psyche and getting in touch with what it’s attempting to communicate from your inner unconscious to your outer consciousness. And you can sense there is something going on inside that’s moving you, but that question is asking you to pay attention and you don’t really know what the question is. So, we start looking for clues, both in our dreams and in one’s everyday life that might point you in the direction the question is coming from. You and I were discussing “transformation” as one example in the earlier Christmas thread; and what was the answer to the question: “what would sustain someone in the face of horrific life tragedy so we could pick up the pieces and go on living?; so, a transformation of some kind is called for to meet the challenge that’s presented to us; like in the movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life”, where George Bailey got to see what his life would have been like if he were never born and is transformed from committing suicide. (But now there is the question of where you are going with your life after that?) In other words, you’ve achieved passage of this threshold – where to next? Because as Joseph also reminds us life is a series of thresholds, and each has a passage gate you have to deal with in order to achieve realization.

      So now this year a new issue popped up on my radar when the movie: “Bucket List” came up, and so back to my original premise which your post so eloquently addresses. And as I go down this list; (which I hope everyone contemplates); it gives me food for thought because it asks me the vital question: Am I really listening and paying attention to what’s going on inside and what my life is showing me outside? Bucket List takes two old men at the end of their life in a hospital room who are strangers to each other, both with a bad prognosis who take on a bucket list quest. Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson take you on a self-reflective excursion full of laughs, but at the same time you are always invited by the dialogue to consider your own mortality and asks if you have faced some of these issues as well.

      One other issue surfaced that I have been thinking about for quite some time that was quite interesting was the understanding of impermanence. This one really got to me in an unusual way in that so many of us ask ourselves not only about legacy but about time. In other words, we ask ourselves: “What am I leaving behind that I was here?” What was my contribution, my gift, my story, and what does it mean toward the future of others?” And I got two answers; one was: “yes, it matters”; and the other; “not really”. The first had to do with one’s own sense of accomplishment and the relation of your life and its impact on others; and yes, I think that’s really important. But the other was much more difficult to pin down and put into words; and that’s the sense of timelessness and that nothing that exists can resist the power of change.

      This was profoundly delivered to me in a most unusual way in the form of the landscape where I live; and how its former biographical landscape is not only being destroyed but replaced by an entirely new and very different narrative. (Taking a city and turning it into a convention and tourist destination would be the example here.) Not only destroyed, but the memory that informed it is now replaced with something like a fable-like fairytale in which very different commercial enterprises are being constructed to take their place. In other words, all the neighborhoods, landmarks, streets, and buildings are being torn down for newer structures with a totally different purpose in mind. So, what this means is that if someone has a family that has been located in a specific place for many generations or that a city has a legacy story that is passed down it no longer matters what that is because commercial and political power can alter any legacy or narrative at any time; because civilization is always: “a work in progress”; and nothing lasts forever.

      So here is my point in relation to Joseph’s themes; the notion of legacy may have an outward physical symbol that can last for a very long time; but can also be gone in an instant with nothing left to show it was there or what it’s backstory was or what it had to say to future generations. For instance, even a graveyard; much less a monument; can have great meaning for those who know and understand it’s relevance to present and future generations; but “any legacy has to be kept alive” for it to have meaning and purpose for the present and for those who come after; (and that includes a myth as well). Last night for instance I even saw a special documentary about a dead language that was connected to Christianity for over 400 years that connected Islam to the Christian interpretation of God being taken out by a religious cleric who didn’t like what it symbolized. (It seems forever is not as long as it used to be.)  I think Joseph mentions something about this somewhere, but I can’t remember exactly what it was or where I came across it. This is as close as I could get. In other words, existence is all about being in the “here and now”, and not necessarily for the ages. At any rate, I hope my humble musings were not too confusing to navigate, and I think your topic is extremely relevant right now; especially concerning Covid and the new normal everyone is having to deal with. Happy New Year to you, my friend!


      Thanks, James, for that lovely meditation prompted by my post.

      I notice, though, you didn’t get around to answering the questions I posed, so I’ll toss that back out to you:

      How do you mark the New Year? Do you have a tradition, a ritual, from resolutions to maybe a specific celebration – some place you always go, something you always do – to celebrate this collective recognition of the passage of Time?”

      Do you have a New Year’s ritual?

      I know mine have changed over time. There was a time when the Grateful Dead’s New Year’s Eve show was my tradition. And then, after getting together with my wife, we would go out; over time that switched to staying in and toasting the New Year with champagne.

      Now we’re more inclined to fade off before midnight, instead celebrating the New Year by rising early to watch the Tournament of Roses Parade.

      But I still take the time to form and review my Intentions for the coming year.


        Hello Stephen; yes; some of what I posted was a bit ambiguous concerning your query; (my apologies about that); so, let me clarify further what I was intending.

        “How do you mark the New Year? Do you have a tradition, a ritual, from resolutions to maybe a specific celebration – some place you always go, something you always do – to celebrate this collective recognition of the passage of Time?”

        Before the pandemic, yes, there were private meditative spots I would sometimes retreat to and attempt to communicate with my past experiences and refocus toward the future, but covid at the present time pretty much limits that option and much of my pursuits are focused inward. I also did, and still do, find that within my constant goings and comings what I’m thinking about much of the time is very relative to much of my inner individuation topics within the things I’m listening to, viewing through media, and reading about in hard copy such as some of the books in my personal library which cover a fairly large variety of topics, (many Campbell and Jung related); and then there are the internet research adventures I undertake where something I come across triggers an intense emotional reaction and I attempt to track it down. And then there is the dream work where the things I write down from my dreams are collected and then gone over the next day; (depending on what I’ve got to do for that day). But let me be clear in that because of my senior age and the pandemic, “I only go out to run necessary errands and then immediately return”; because so many people where I live often do not always observe proper Covid protocols; and many refuse to get vaccinated; plus, my vehicle is not in the best mechanical condition, so I have to improvise concerning what I use to do in my past rituals. For instance, before I would sometimes take some specific holiday music to play in my vehicle as I took long quiet meditative drives through a local park near where I grew up. One of my most meaningful ritual pursuits was with my camera where I would go to photograph specific spots that had particular significance.

        The last holiday excursion had two different designations; One was where much of my childhood drama had taken place and was being torn down; and I was able to capture not only the past that I had come from; but redefine how I had evolved. And the other to get a sense of what the future was pointing toward; (the newer structures that had some kind of meaning or purpose.)

        So let me give you a much clearer idea of what I mean. When I was very young, I was placed in a children’s psychiatric ward for about 9 months, and then transferred to a children’s home for 5 1/2 years. It was a nightmare pretty much; but I used that experience as a determined trajectory to define my own individual life; which I did through my musical career. But then comes the big Part 2 of the individuation process where you have to integrate the experience and the Shadow begins to have much more relevance since it is no longer being pushed down into the subconscious. And many of these various pursuits are focused on that direction.

        Sometimes I will call people and reminisce, and I had a wonderful holiday experience recently on a FB nostalgia page where dozens of old friends stopped by. But that is not what I’m getting at concerning Joseph’s themes. For instance, his birthday, where if my memory is correct, he would conduct teaching seminars at Esalen to help others on how to find one’s personal myth. (I think you told me that one; but perhaps I’m mistaken.)

        So, one of the things I did was to go out and capture the grounds where this children’s home was; and then I went and took some pictures of the children’s memorial to gun violence at a local park where Christmas lights and religious displays were reverently placed all around so the parents of these children could come and mourn. Sometimes I write about some of these things in various correspondences, so as a yearly formal church-like ritual, no, I don’t approach my personal communion with my past that way. But yes, I try every year to turn my attention in this direction. It’s a part of my personal Sacred Space you might say, but it’s not formally ritualized. I think each of us has their own version of the way they approach this season of Christmas to New Years. (I had many years of Christian indoctrination concerning this time of year; and yes, I put both Christmas and New Year’s together now because it represents or symbolizes to me a “doorway of transition”; which could also be seen as transformation as well.

        I really like the way you’ve approached yours; and it’s spectacularly arranged with a huge banquet of contemplative food for thought. I’m just at a much more subdued level right now; and the atmosphere surrounding Covid; especially concerning the Omicron variant, is definitely affecting much of what I do. I hope this is a little clearer since, yes, the last post didn’t quite answer your questions.

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