a new year ritual

Perhaps you are like most of us and set New Year’s resolutions. And if you are like most, you have forgotten them by January 31st. Let’s do things differently. I want to share a new year ritual that ushers my family from one year to the next.

It all started at The Rochester Zen Center almost 20 years ago. In the waning days of December, members gathered to ritualistically clean the center from top to bottom. The Cleaning of the Temple was done in silence as we reflected on the cherished spiritual space and its role in our lives. In the quiet, we not only cleaned corners but we tended to the neglected areas of our own minds with each swipe of the cloth. My assignment that first year was doorknobs. Yes, those little round insignificant things that enable us to pass from room to room. I stopped counting the doorknobs after 20 and counted my breaths and blessings instead.

New Year Intentions Release The Old, Welcome The New

The temple cleaning nourishes a community, releases stagnant energy, and allows space to receive new energy for what is to come. It is a meditation practice that centers and grounds you, a remedy to the holiday chaos. We release the vestiges of the previous year, both physically and metaphorically. The old patterns, old storylines, and old habits that immobilize us can fade away. And in its place, a revitalized and invigorating perspective of what is possible in our lives.

Maybe you’re feeling like this message is a little woo-woo, and it isn’t your thing. That’s totally ok. I get it. But don’t be so quick to dismiss this practice. Keep it at the tactical level if you want and just clean your house.

So let’s embrace a new approach to the new year and “clean the temple” that is your home with this New Year ritual:

  1. Set a date. Decide when you’re going to clean your house with presence and intention. Attempt to get everyone who lives in the house onboard but do not let their resistance stop you. On the day of the cleaning, drop into the moment with a candle or a cup of tea before you begin.
  2. Touch every item in your home, going one room or one task like doorknobs, at a time. You can go all KonMari or simply dust each item, express gratitude for the item, toss the item out, or keep it in its place. You just want to make the intention to clean the physical space and watch as the mental clutter starts to drift away too.
  3. This is more than just a cleaning. It’s also a clearing. I challenge you not to turn on music or anything that will distract you from the task at hand. Embrace this “chore” as a mindfulness practice, a stillness of the mind even as your body moves. We suffer from too-muchness. Too much food, too many screens, too much alcohol. All of this too-muchness, this busyness, leads to complications, illness, chronic stress, and a life of unnecessary suffering. Your task is what’s right in front of you. Allow yourself to be deeply present for whatever task you face. We don’t have to sit atop a mountain cross-legged to reap the rewards of a mindfulness or meditative practice. We can do it right now in our own homes.
  4. Use natural ingredients like lavender oil and lemon oil. As you clean the temple of your home, you also want to care for the temple of your body by choosing non-toxic cleaning supplies and that foster wellbeing and calm.
  5. The final step is to open up the windows, if possible, in your house. This gesture symbolically and literally allows the energy to move in and out of your house. In my family, we meditate, light some incense, and spend time talking about the previous year. Where were the growth opportunities, what did we learn, how did life unfold in unexpected ways, what can we celebrate?

If there’s one thing to take away from this ritual, let it be that we have control over our perspective. Yes, there are countless things out of human control, but we can choose how we show up. Our environment dramatically impacts our physical, mental, and spiritual health. It can affect our relationships and all aspects of our lives. Cleaning the temple of our homes is a ritual to offer thanks to your home for sheltering you. Our homes can elevate or distract and diminish our best selves. How we tend to them is indicative of how we tend to ourselves.

As you conclude this ritual, declare your intentions.

“I choose to let go of this year, to embrace the lessons learned and let them guide me towards this coming year.”

I’d love to hear what you are choosing to embrace this year. If you’re stuck trying to figure out what to prioritize, give me a call. I’ll help you tame the chaos in your mind.


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