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  • Anna Byrne

Releasing & Receiving: Two Practices for Bridging The Years

I have come to re-imagine the ways in which rituals can add depth to my life. I was raised Catholic, a tradition steeped in rituals. I still love the use of candles and incense, but at times, repetitive rituals can lead to apathy, and the practice becomes half-hearted.


A ritual is any gesture, action, or tangible element that expresses the conditions of the soul. Rituals materialize mysteries like love, grief, beauty, and separation, and can help us to articulate and integrate them into our previous understanding of life. They also slow down significant moments so we can better honour these shifts. Rituals have been used throughout the human experience to mark rites of passage, milestones, and times of transitions. Ring exchanges at weddings, wearing black at funerals, and sharing a pot of tea among friends are common rituals.


Here are two simple practices for bridging the years. The first, Releasing, is done on December 31st, on the eve of the new year. The second, Receiving, is done the morning of January 1st, the first day of the new year. If you can only do one, that's okay, too. The important thing is not to do these perfectly, but with intention. Give yourself some dedicated time and space to do these slowly and mindfully.


Releasing: New Year’s Eve


New Year’s Eve is a Gratitude Day. Every moment of this past year has ripened into the fullness of this day. Today is a time of harvest, of recalling and honouring these moments before crossing the threshold into the rhythm of a new year.


Using sticky notes or small pieces of paper, write down the following, one word per paper.

  • Three people/relationships you are grateful for (whether they are close relationships or difficult ones)

  • Three places you felt held and safe (be specific–the nook on the couch, laying with your child at night, the garden)

  • Three events of this year (a trip, an achievement, a milestone)

  • Three lessons you learned (these can be from challenging situations or a new awareness of yourself)

  • Three of anything else you feel especially thankful for in 2022

Arrange the papers in front of you or on the wall, if they are sticky notes. Spend time on each one, picturing the particular people, place, event, or lesson. Express your gratitude for each one before moving on to the next. This could mean saying, silently or aloud, Thank you. Or, you can place one palm over the paper and your other palm over your heart and rest there a moment.


Don’t rush this process. Fully express your gratitude for each item and for the wholeness of this past year. This was a year of your precious life.


When you are finished, choose a bowl that is big enough to hold the papers. Fill the bowl with water. One by one, pick up the papers. Saying Thank you one more time, release them to the water. Watch the water wet your words and absorb your gratitude. Let your gratitude soak and sink, twirl, or float. You can add something of beauty to it; a few drops of essential oils or flower petals, if you wish.


Put the bowl aside for tomorrow morning.





Receiving: New Year’s Day


This ritual is based on the water rituals held in many cultures across time. It is a method of preparing us physically, mentally, and spiritually to receive newness. The morning of New Year’s Day, return to your bowl. Remove the paper from the water. The water is now infused with your gratitude. With this stance of gratitude, the new year can be received. Each of the following statements can be changed to make them more personally meaningful.


Receiving Ceremony for the New Year*


With your eyes closed, begin with three inner statements. These are intentions for the year. They can include people, places, events, lessons, emotions, or experiences (forgiveness, wonder, healing, humility, joy, etc.).

  • For this new year, I wish to be open to…

  • For this new year, I wish to receive…

  • For this new year, I wish to embrace…

For each of the following, dip your fingers into the bowl and smooth each area with water while reading the statement silently or aloud. Do each of these very slowly and with intention.


Washing the eyes:

  • May my eyes, including my inner seeing, be clean and clear so that I may see what I need to see this year.

Washing the nose:

  • May I breathe deeply what I need to breathe this year.

Washing the mouth:

  • May I speak the words I need to speak this year.

Washing the ears:

  • May I hear the words I need to hear this year.

Washing the hands:

  • May I do the actions that I need to do this year.

Sprinkling of the forehead or top of the head:

  • May I receive all the gifts of this year.


Stay quiet and still for a moment when you are finished. Let the water dry on you, your gratitude and intentions coming together to both release and receive. When you are ready to conclude, gently stand. Treat your water with care, using it to nourish a plant, wet the ground outside, or pour it slowly into the sink.


* Adapted from Joseph Azize. http://www.josephazize.com/2020/11/02/an-ablutions-discipline/

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