As I write this, the new year 2016 is already purring away much like a very curious kitten eager to delve into life wondering behind which corner does the next surprise in life lurk, waiting to be found.
I do love this time of year when our journey in life ventures onto a new path as the calendar year clicks onto a blank canvas, and a new chapter begins in our story of life.
I am always inspired when New Year's Eve comes around, not because of the celebrations that fill the streets but rather because I enjoy a quiet welcome to the new year, with my family, anticipating what may await us in the days, weeks, months ahead.
This year, my husband, my daughter and I have made a 2016 paper bunting where we will each write what we are thankful for in our lives, what we hold with gratitude in our hearts, and what we personally wish to focus on for ourselves, helping to dictate how our year will unfold for us, individually and as a family. But mostly, this bunting is meant as a reminder of the abundant ways we are blessed to feel thankful. In the week ahead, we will write our special sentiments and the bunting, when finished, will be draped on the wall overlooking our table, so we can reflect on what is meaningful to each other every time we sit as a family.
Since 1990, I have been creating an annual Vision Board, generally in January as that always feels like such a fresh, new place to begin. (I've called these many names over the years, such as Treasure Map, Guiding Board, Vision Map and so on.) It has been the most cathartic process for me as each new year has taken it's turn with the promise of another 12 months.
But I have been creative over the years, and my Vision Boards haven't always been poster collages. I've created several 'exploding boxes', filled with all of my hopes and dreams for the coming year.
Others have been expanding cards, with my intentions unfolding in concertina style. One year I made a woven pattern, some thin lengths of colourfully patterned paper representing something that I was grateful for, with other strips representing the areas I wanted to focus on in the coming year - it was fun to weave them together and see how they blended perfectly.
I have created banners, bunting, 3D hanging paper stars and hearts, a collaged bracelet, a life wand, small journaling books, artistic pages --- there are so many ways I have put my anticipated dreams to life, visually. Perhaps one of these days I will write more detail about the process here.
For now in this year of 2016, I want to have a particular word or phrase to focus on. I am still, as I write this, 'listening' to what that will be. So many words have rushed into my head and heart and it has been quite the arduous task to find that 'one word' that is most significant for me this year. But I am getting closer.
In the past I have had so many wishes on my Vision Boards and I have, over time, learned that 'less really is more' when it comes to focussing on how we want to nurture and inspire our lives. This in itself is a healthy challenge for the Piscean Idealist that I am; clutter and surrounding myself with 'stuff', both literally and figuratively, comes all to easy to me so this year I am simply focussing on a 'root' word. Perhaps my word will be something related to the idea of 'releasing' what I no longer need (on many levels in life) in order to make room to create what is waiting to join me in my life. Yes, 'releasing' is feeling like it has good potential this year.
I am incredibly blessed in my life, so it feels rather awkward to admit that I am also feeling a bit like I am 'nearly drowning' in all of the talents, skills, passions, and blessings that have graced my path over the decades. It is a very nice 'problem' to have, to feel as though I have so much to offer yet still unclear as to how it can all come together to be spent wisely. And while my life certainly hasn't been without it's dire challenges and life-changing experiences, there has been abundant reason for me to live thankfully and I know that focussing on gratitude means welcoming peace.
So that is why concentrating on one primary behaviour that will influence all aspects of my life is so important to me now. One Little Word to keep me focussed so that I can continue to fully serve others with my work and the talents I have been blessed to possess, rather than feeling overwhelmed and holding back more of what I am meant to share.
When I sit in my own quietness every 31st December, I have a recurring vision of how the stillness of the earth, which seems to be asleep at this time, is actually quite joyfully and eventfully busy with activity beneath the obvious surface of earth --- the activity of seeds germinating, bugs nesting, soil rejuvenating --- all in preparation for their 'rebirth' and explosion up through the earth in just a few months time.
In many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, we can be forgiven for looking at the surface of the ground and assuming all of nature has died. Most trees are without their glorious coat of many coloured leaves. The hedges are standing rigid in obedient rows of dried wood, motionless in the wind. The gorgeous, plentiful flowers that filled the countryside just a few months ago are now nowhere to be seen. The birds that defy migration linger, scouring the earth for the rare morsel of nourishment on the cold winter ground.
All seems quiet. There is a great sense of emptiness about. The 'life' seems to have dimmed in nature.
But for me, this onset of a new year is a most revered and, for many, a most spiritual season and it is a time when we must hold fast to our belief and our trust that what appears to be the 'sleepiness' of winter is, in fact, a necessary illusion ... a sort of magic trick performed flawlessly by nature, masking the 'birth' that is yet to come, of nature, of people, of animals. And when nature wakes up, she will be hungry and eager to get on with the miracle of 'rebirth', just as she has done every Spring since the beginning of time.
And that is much how it is with our own life. It ebbs and flows. There are times of vibrancy and lots of action - times when all just seems to 'fit and flow'. And there are times of dormancy and inward reflection - times when we question our intentions, impatient for the answers that have not yet revealed themselves.
So, these early days of 2016 mark a new beginning. It's a whole calendar year of celebrations ahead, some that we pass through every year such as birthdays, anniversaries and certain holidays. And there are celebrations that are so special , so unique that they happen perhaps only once --- and they are meant to be meticulously planned, thoughtfully shared and gratefully experienced with joy and love and often even with hope.
And this is why I cherish my vocation as a Celebrant - because Life's milestones need to be commemorated in special ways, not limited to standard, impersonal restrictions or worse, lost in the oversight that a busy world imposes. Life's milestones need to marked as memorable, amazing, distinctive, meaningful. (Visit me at ellenbowerceremonies.com)
So, bring something fresh and purposeful into your life this year.
What will capture your focus? What is calling for your attention? What is ready to come into your life with such eagerness that only your permission prevents its entry?
I wish you a thoroughly vibrant, happy and meaningful onset to this brand new year, this blank canvas ahead in 2016. May unexpected miracles fill your every day.