Ah, the new year. It’s a time for reflection, celebration, and redirection. With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be easy to miss the opportunity to slow down and reflect on all that has happened over this past year and how those experiences have led up to where you are today.

But that would be such a shame. The past year has so much to share! Before stepping forward into the new year, it’s worth taking a moment to honor 2013, and all the experiences it has given you.

What if 2013 was a particularly hard year, you ask? All the more reason to take a moment and look at it. What can you learn from it?

I love how Katie Fox, over at Simple Mom shares a series of worksheets for her readers every New Year’s holiday. She offers a New Year’s eve reflection worksheet, as well as a few pages to set some intentions for the upcoming year.  If you are wanting to honor this transition into 2014 in some way, but aren’t into traditional New Year’s resolutions, I recommend you stop over there to take a look.

I have looked at her questions over the last three years and this year I laughed when I realized there was a pattern to my answers!

  • What was the most difficult thing that happened to you this past year?
  • What do you feel most grateful for this past year?

For the last three years, my answers to both of these questions was exactly the same! Each year, the hardest thing I went through ended up being the thing I was most grateful for.

Isn’t it funny how that happens?

I was once told that the Chinese character for “crisis” is a combination of the symbols for “danger” and “opportunity”. I love that! In every difficult time, there is usually an equally great opportunity for growth. It’s all about perspective and meeting the challenge that is dropped in your lap.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but the opportunity is there. Here’s a New Year’s practice you can try that will help you squeeze all the good stuff you can out of 2013, so you can step into 2014 inspired, with a full heart.

You’ll need some paper, something to write with, and an envelope. I suggest you set aside at least a half hour for this project.

  1. Slow down your mind and find some stillness. Practice focusing your attention on the present moment through a meditation practice you like (mindful cooking, breathing, and movement are all good options).
  2. Once your mind quiets down, reflect on some of the major experiences you have had this past year. Good or bad experiences are both equally important here. Just make a mental list of the top 2 or 3 experiences that had the biggest impact on you. Write them down.
  3. Take a moment to sit with each of those experiences in turn. Try your best to regard each one with a simple observing awareness, without judgment or interpretation. Make a practice of redirecting your attention as it wanders into self-judgement (positive or negative), interpretation, or other plans and to-do’s. Just keep bringing it back to the present moment, again and again.
  4. After sitting with each experience, take a few moments to set some intentions for next year, based on the foundation of your experience sitting with your experience of 2013. What would you like to focus your efforts on this next year? Choose no more than 5 and write them on the outside of the envelope.
  5. Now take out some paper and a pen.  Imagine you, a year down the road, stepping into 2015. What do you want to tell that future you? What kind of encouragement and support can you offer yourself? Get it all down in a letter and seal it up. Write “Do not open until 12/31/15” on the envelope. Put the envelope on display somewhere you will see regularly so you can see your intentions and be reminded of your letter. Set a reminder on your phone or in your calendar to look for it next New Year’s eve. You’ll be glad you did.

My wish to all of my readers as we step into 2014 together:   May the coming year bring you unexpected joys that make you laugh deeply. May it bring you moments of self-reflection and stillness that distill your mental clutter to clarity and epiphany. May it bring you challenges that help you to leap beyond your currently accepted limits without pushing you so hard as to make you lose heart or hope. May you witness your loved ones experiencing great joy many many times. May you be well. May you always find light in the dark. May you be kind to yourself. May you feel love deeper than ever before. Namaste.