Letting Go of the Old … To Welcome the New

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben

Today marks the last day of 2020, a day in which we take time to look back on the old year and welcome a new one.

New Year’s Eve is usually a time of reflection for me. I look back on what the year has brought me (see my previous post on 20 things I learned in 2020) and I let go of what I don’t want to bring into the new year with me.

Letting go is a process. It doesn’t just happen with the snap of a finger. Changing habits, thought patterns or triggers is a labour that can take months and sometimes even years. But every plant starts with the sowing of a seed, and putting the intention out of letting something go can be precisely that seed.

How do you decide on what you want to let go of for yourself?
Well, let’s take a piece of paper and figure out what that could be for you.

First, look toward what you DO want. Write down in key phrases what kind of person you want to be. What are your dreams and aspirations? What thoughts would you like to hold of yourself and the world around you? What habits would help you be that person? What actions doest this ideal self take?

Then, go back over the past year and try to find which feelings, thoughts and behaviors didn’t meet that version of yourself. What triggers prevented you from acting in the way you wanted to act? What actions made it more difficult to live the life you long for? What words did you say to yourself that proved unhelpful?

When you have this list, the most important step of all follows. Look at these actions, these thoughts and triggers, and try to see how they benefited you.
I know, it sounds contradictory: You are looking at behaviors that blocked you, but at the same time you try to see how they helped you.
The truth is, we all have good reasons to act the way we do, even if our actions damage us in the long run. We eat junk food to comfort ourselves, or we lash out at others to relieve our stress. We try to escape our pain in the best way we know how.

As you see where your behavior comes from, take a moment with each of these things on your list, and thank them, from the depth of your being, for helping you. You could put your hand on your heart and hold the gratitude for a moment, realising that these actions, thoughts and feelings have served their purpose in your life. You used them because you needed them, even if you now realise you don’t need them anymore.

After you thank them, it’s time to release them. You can do this in a small ritual, by writing them on little pieces of paper and burning them. Or you could go to a beach nearby, write them in the sand and wait to see the waves wash them away.
This is the planting of a seed. It’s not a miracle cure for letting go of all your tendencies that no longer serve, but it can be a powerful first step.

Now, are you ready to welcome the new?
What feelings, thoughts and behaviors would help you in the coming year? What has proven helpful in 2020 that you want to keep and expand upon? Or what have you missed that you would like to incorporate in 2021?

Write these words down, but this time don’t burn them. These are also seeds you plant, but you want to be reminded of them. You could plant actual seeds in a garden or flower pot and infuse them with your intention. Or write these words or phrases on a piece of paper to hang in your kitchen, above your bed or keep in your smart phone case or wallet.
If you enjoy handlettering, you could turn them into a work of art. (Or if you don’t have the patience, you can try out this online tool like I did).

I look forward to this coming year. Even if we haven’t beaten Covid yet. Even if there’s a climate crisis that becomes more urgent by the minute. Even if our collective and individual traumas cause such a wide range of suffering throughout the world.
There is so much love, strength and hope around us.

In the words of Helen Keller…

Though the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.

Hellen Keller

Happy New Year!

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