Wizardly advice to close out the year we can’t wait to forget
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.
My husband’s annual December birthday ritual is to watch a trilogy of movies. Well actually to stay home, eat donuts, popcorn, and nacho cheese (not all together), and watch a trilogy of movies. It’s a naturally covid-friendly activity!
We’ve been celebrating his birthday this way together for as long as we’ve known each other. A few years ago, we watched 12 hours of The Lord of the Rings in one day. A true marathon.
This year he was feeling The Lord of the Rings again and while we didn’t manage to make it through all three lengthy movies, we still had a great time. If you’re thinking, wow, I didn’t peg her as a Lord of the Rings fan – you’re right. I had never seen any of the movies prior to meeting my husband and had zero interest in ever seeing them. Ah, what we do for love.
But as it turns out, J.R.R. Tolkien was a pretty wise guy. There’s a lot of symbolism relating to finding light in dark times, something I think we can all relate to in this year.
There’s a scene in the first of the three movies where the young Frodo, on his unexpected and challenging quest to save the world, is speaking with the wise wizard Gandalf:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
I feel like this rings so true as we come to the close of 2020, a similarly unexpected and challenging journey of a year.
So much of what we’re focused on as this year comes to a close relates to how this year went in an entirely different direction than any of us wished it had.
We’re so ready for it to be over that we can barely stay present to what is. Trust me, I know. I often chronically live in the future excited for what may be, forgetting to also focus on what IS.
If we pulled ourselves out of the future – where we are already happily pinning our hopes and dreams on 2021 – what would we find right now, with the time that is given us in this moment?
Well, we’d find ourselves right in the middle of the holiday season, of course.
And whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, the New Year, or any other celebration you enjoy this time of year, there are a lot of expectations of what this time of year ‘should’ be like – gatherings, rituals, traditions that we carry out every year without fail because that’s what we always do.
And yet, what else often happens this time of year? For me, this time of year is a magical time – but also one of the most stressful times of year. Usually full of so many different gatherings to attend, dishes to cook, errands to run, a house to clean for guests, we typically lose sight of the “peace and quiet” that this time of year also promises.
Normally when I’m teaching classes at this time of year, the theme is all about figuring out how to simplify, how to do less, how to carve out even just one hour of quiet in order to connect to our sense of peace.
And then…in the midst of the challenge and struggle and unexpectedness of this behemoth year, here we are being given Just. Exactly. That.
This holiday season seems to offer us just a little bit less to do, far fewer places to go, and the startling possibility of actually having that one hour of quiet. Maybe even two hours. Or a whole day. It’s the lowered expectations of holidays, which could in fact turn out to be – the most wonderful time of the year.
And yet, this change being forced upon us as one more sore spot in the saga that is 2020, we can’t help but resist it.
But when we become present to what IS, we realize we have a choice. We always have a choice. We can choose to see the restrictions of this holiday season as simply another burden of this irksome year, or…we could choose to ALSO see it as a strange gift.
Let me explain.
Do you know the definition of the word ‘holiday?’ “Vacation; leisure time away from work devoted to rest or pleasure.”
Mmm now doesn’t that sound delicious?
This might just be the perfect year for choosing to embrace the one aspect of the holidays that always seems to be missing…the well, holiday part. The leisure! The rest.
And did you know that winter is the perfect season to support this idea of a peaceful, restful holiday?
I think Bruce Davis says it best in his essay “The Quiet of Winter” (excerpts below):
“The quiet of winter at first can be unsettling. Nothing is happening. No great ideas, no productive breakthrough. Winter is winter. There is stillness.
We can stay busy during this time and pretend winter is just another season. Or we can listen to the sound of winter.
Plants, trees, even animals are more still, as if taking a much deserved pause. Can we give ourselves permission to stop and simply be?
There is a soundlessness that brings us closer to our core, a stillness snuggled in our heart.
In our solitude we rediscover our essential wholeness. We are whole no matter how productive, busy, resourceful we are.
Winter is nature’s way of meditation. We all are invited to unplug, simplify, receive the simple peace.”
Every year I share his essay in my yin yoga classes as it paints a beautiful picture of what winter is meant to mean in our lives, despite our attempts to forge on and pretend it’s “just another season.” I just love it.
And so here we are facing a very different kind of holiday season. One that offers us quiet, solitude, peace, stillness, wholeness.
Not having to move so fast and DO so much this holiday season, could we instead re-infuse the holidays not so much with the external joys of things and people, but with the internal joy of our very own feelings?
When we were little, sure we loved the presents that came with the holidays! But…we also loved the holidays for the feelings of wonder, magic, whimsy, and joy.
If we strip down all of the external displays, at it’s core, what is the essence or spirit of the holiday season?
Well, it is gratitude, ushered in by humble Thanksgiving.
It is the joy, magic and peace of Christmastime.
It is light, warmth, and hope symbolized by the Winter Solstice.
It is courage, faith, and the miraculous represented by Hanukkah.
It is life, growth and unity celebrated by Kwanzaa.
And it is reflection and letting go of the past on the eve of the New Year, as well as the wishes and dreams of new beginnings to come.
It is all of this and it is all of us, so close in the ways we celebrate divided only by our belief in an illusion that any of us are separate from each other.
In a word, it is Love.
Let us feel all of this this holiday season. Stripped down to the simplest of goings and doings, and receiving the gifts of leisure and rest, we have the time and space to simply feel the love that is always present here in the holidays.
Breathing Practice – 60 seconds to shift how you feel:
Feel or imagine your heart being filled with a bright golden light.
Feel this light filling up your whole body.
Send some love to yourself and let it fill your whole body.
Send some love out to your loved ones, to your friends and your family.
Send some love out to people the whole world over.
Even send some love out to those who you don’t like, because the more love you send out, the more you feel your own heart filled up with this splendid golden light.
Close your eyes and continue to breath deeply until you feel yourself re-centered in your heart.
We learn from our past in order to grow.
We dream for our future so that we may hope.
But all we must decide right here and right now
is to live fully in THIS moment,
full of Love.
– The wise wizard Gandalf
How to Close Out The Year You Can’t Wait to Forget
Practices + Rituals to Make Peace with 2020
Using the energetic support of the Winter Solstice, the December 29th Full Moon and the New Year!
The end of every year is a powerful time for letting go of an old chapter and starting a new one:
The Winter Solstice offers us the hope of a new beginning, a flicker of light during bleak times. A quiet reminder in the dark of winter that spring will come again as the days begin to lengthen.
The New Year offers us a chance to take stock of the year past, to learn and grow from the hard times, and to create new wishes, dreams and intentions for the year ahead.
And this year, December’s Full Moon on the 29th offers us an additional energetic boost for both celebrating and expressing gratitude for what has come to fruition as well as RELEASING what no longer serves us.
You’re on board for the releasing part, I know it!
I think everyone collectively is ready to let this year go and see what the next one brings.
And yet…the part about celebrating and expressing gratitude for what has come to fruition. Oh bother.
Could you challenge yourself to think of what you are grateful for from this strange year?
Sometimes we are given gifts in less overtly beautiful packages – can you reflect on not only how this year has gone wrong, but also on how it has gone right?
I know, no one wants to “thank” 2020. But sometimes it is the darkest of times that bring us the most light.
Thank you 2020…
Create Your 2020 Thank You List (serious or silly, whatever you can think of that went right)
– My 2020 Pandemic Thank You List –
Teaching virtual classes – I did not foresee teaching yin yoga, let alone tea ceremony, virtually! While it has its unique challenges, these virtual classes have been a blessing, allowing me to interact with students and friends from across four different time zones – and for that I am so grateful!
Taking virtual classes – I’ve also been on the other side of the virtual class screen, taking dance classes from the comfort of my own home. Since I’m someone who’s always running just a feeeew minutes late, this cuts out the stress of speeding to get there and frantically searching for parking. Bonus points for not having to do this IN the snow!
Grocery adventures – Yep, this was the year that I got sick of being stuck in my own rut of grocery shopping, buying the same old things over and over, and I made the hubs start coming with me to share the task. Turns out his fresh eyes make it way less tedious and way more fun. Waaaay more expensive when I bring him, but definitely more fun. And ironically we’re not spending any more money each month as there’s not much else to spend it on! Plus the hubs has really been honing his cooking skills this year. Bring on the Gordon Ramsey inspired dishes.
Self-care – I’ve got my yoga studio upstairs, and in the basement the hubs has a whole gym. We don’t have kids so we use the extra rooms for our dogs and our dreams. After all the gyms closed and people were trying to figure out ways to keep exercising at home, I realized how silly it was for me to not also take advantage of this in my own basement! The hubs started training me on weight lifting and to his credit he’s a very good teacher even tho I like to goof off and dance around the gym more than I like to pick up heavy things and put them back down again.
Staying home – Not everyone is going to agree with me on this one, but I love staying home and not being required to go anywhere so this has been a quiet WIN.
Personal growth – It’s definitely been a big year for bringing old wounds and patterns to the surface so they can be healed. “Shining light on dark places” is the theme given to this year by one of my teachers. True that.
Relationship growth – Ditto on the growth – a big year for bringing old wounds and patterns to the surface within our relationship as well, so that we can heal them!
Write it down and then move through the steps below.
1. So, you’ve made your Thank You 2020 List (see the instructions above!), and by doing so have now centered yourself in gratitude and love for the good that this year has brought to you.
2. Now – and here’s the easy part – make a second list where you write down all the things you are ready to let go of from this year! Call this the Goodbye 2020 List.
3. You now have 2 Lists. The Thank You 2020 List – keep it! The Goodbye 2020 List – burn it!! Seriously. Toss it in your fireplace or burn it outside (safely!). Or at the very least, shred it up and throw it away.
4. Take a few deep breaths, dance around, whatever feels good in your soul.
You’ve now released 2020 and are ready to step into 2021 with a clean slate and new outlook on life.