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 As You Step into This New Year  
by Esther Hizsa (from Used with permission)  

As 2021 comes to a close, I'm becoming more aware of what I'm leaving behind and what I want to take with me into the New Year. This year we've all had significant losses of one kind or another. We've also been enlightened as we learn more about ourselves and others and have stepped into some new freedoms.   Here are the questions I've been contemplating and some suggestions of how you might like to be with these questions. Allow yourself to linger with the questions or thoughts that draw you and let go of the rest. 

If you would like a quiet sacred space to reflect and pray, St. Stephen the Martyr is open for personal prayer on Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30-3:30 pm. Come and light a candle and enjoy the silence.

What are you leaving behind as you enter the new year?

  • What did you begin this year with that you don't have anymore? Perhaps you lost a loved one, a relationship, a job, a possession, a state of health, a freedom now restricted by the pandemic, climate change or the decisions of others.
  • What do you need to say goodbye to? How would you like to do that?  Light a candle, walk a labyrinth, write a prayer, sing a song loudly while vacuuming, watch the clouds or spend a few moments in silence? What sounds inviting to  you?
  • What happened this year that still makes you angry, ashamed or upset?  Pause here and be gentle with yourself. Where does it hurt? What does that part of yourself need to hear, know or feel? What might Love offer you now to comfort or ease you? Imagine Christ with you sharing the weight of this. Does anything slip away?
  • What old belief did you discover this year that isn't true? Perhaps you suddenly knew you were not responsible for someone else’s life or realized you can ask for what you need. Perhaps you discovered more about what it's like to be a person of colour, transgender, neurodivergent, or indigenous. Perhaps past trauma led you to believe that that there was something wrong with you and now you know: it isn't true.
  • What practice has grown stale? What do you notice you keep forgetting to do or have to push yourself to make happen? Take a moment to notice what you feel when you think about that practice without analyzing judging or fixing those feelings. As you listen to what's arising in you, what do you need? What did that practice offer you, and what do you notice when you name that?
  • What habit doesn't serve you? Have you noticed something that you used to do that you no longer find helpful or satisfying?
  • As you look back over the year, when did you fall under the spell that you are alone? When did you feel misunderstood, separate or excluded? When did you suspect that you are not enough or not lovable? Recall what that felt like. Where did it take you? What did it cost you? How did you get back?

What are you taking with you?

  • What new relationship, situation, work, or adventure are you welcoming into your life? What was birthed in you in Advent and Christmas that is now living and breathing in you?
  • What happened this year that made you smile or evoked gratitude? Linger there with Jesus. What made that experience so meaningful to you? What did you hear, know, or feel that you would like to remember and live into?
  • What belief sparkles for you? What have you discovered to be true and life-giving? Perhaps it is Jesus' words, "I am with you always." Perhaps it's Valarie Kaur's, "You are a part of me I have not yet met." What goes on for you when you say "I'm enough" or "I belong" or "I am just what the world needs"?
  • What new practice are you motivated to explore? Perhaps you'd like to try Tara Brach's RAIN of self-compassion, centering prayer, or praying Compline on Zoom with others from St. Stephen’s. Maybe you're drawn to eating more slowly and mindfully, trying out Yoga with Adriene, chair yoga or short daily walks. What would it be like to make a regular practice of simply noticing a negative thought and then pausing?
  • What new habit do you want to adopt that takes less than two minutes a day?  Drink a glass of water. Take a few deep breaths. What if you simply noticed when you've said something unkind to yourself and apologize?  Perhaps after you've learned why its important to use the pronouns others prefer, you set an intention to use them. You could name what you're grateful for. Be kind to the earth and your body by having one less serving of dairy or meat or one more serving of greens.
  • How might you live more fully into your oneness with God and all living things? Perhaps you'd like to say a prayer or touch a tree. Take a risk and affirm someone by letting them know how who they are makes your life better. Notice when you feel separate and invite yourself to come home to your soul. Pray word or breath prayers for another, yourself and the earth. Write a reminder of your unity with all on a post-it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror. What would you write? 

Image Credit: "Walk away"  Michał Koralewski. Used with permission.