Take a bit of inspiration from LA-based rabbi and mental health advocate, Jaclyn Cohen. Each of these three ideas will help propel you into the new year with a renewed sense of purpose…
A new decade approaches and with it, a whole heap of feelings. For some, a new era affords an active new start; the perfect opportunity to hit “refresh” on life. Resolutions made, bad habits banished, negative energy eliminated. For others, the transition itself automatically wipes the slate clean; we enter January 1 simply yearning for a better year.
Every culture in the world has its own way of entering new time. Rituals both ancient and modern, time-honored customs and unique practices afford an active ushering in of new energy, hopes and opportunities.
The Jewish calendar, for example, officially welcomes a new year not in January but in autumn, tied to the Hebrew calendar month Tishrei. Rosh Hashanah (which translates to ‘head’ of the year) is a celebration of new beginnings; an opportunity for personal and communal reflection we call cheshbon ha-nefesh – checking in with one’s soul.
Nowruz, or Persian New Year, is tied to the spring equinox. The name means “new day,” signifying the start of spring – new life, growth and beginnings. Families around the world gather together to celebrate, exchanging gifts with one another as a sign of good fortune. And in the weeks leading up to Nowruz, homes undergo a deep cleaning with a particular focus on eliminating clutter (very Marie Kondo!).
And Chinese New Year – also known as Lunar New Year – is loaded with rituals. Celebrated in late January/February, Chinese New Year is an opportunity for families to gather for special reunion dinners, a large part of which involves the honoring of ancestors and deities. Like with Nowruz, homes are thoroughly cleaned with the intention of removing bad fortune, making room for good luck. Adding to the festivities are loud, celebratory firecrackers and money given in red paper envelopes – the latter a year-round custom signifying promise and potential.
Around the world, individuals are preparing mentally, physically and spiritually for a new decade. Interested in looking beyond resolutions? Here are three unique ways you can prepare body and soul for 2020:
Cleanse and (Re)claim Your Space
Our spaces are our sanctuaries. From home to office, where we live and work are so much more than repositories for our belongings. How many of us simply let things build up over the course of a year (or several)? When was the last time we went through our homes and offices to eliminate that which we no longer need? (I’m guessing a few of us actually did do this when “Tidying Up” first aired)
This year don’t just skim the surface to toss or donate the easy-to-reach stuff. Spend time going deep, cleaning out the nooks and crannies of all the spaces that are yours. Consider it a deeply spiritual act of reflection and release; not just eliminating but letting go of that which is no longer meaningful or relevant. Having trouble deciding what to keep or toss? Recruit a friend or colleague to partner with you, helping one another (and your respective spaces) with the task at hand.
Once you’ve reflected, removed and released, consider reclaiming your space. Less than a month ago I moved offices; a friend suggested I burn sage to cleanse the new office’s highly-charged energy. And so I did, saying the Hebrew prayer Shechecheyanu (for new beginnings) as I smudged for the very first time. The feeling was one of liberation and empowerment; I didn’t just clean, I rededicated, reclaimed and made a new space my own.
Honor the Past
With so much focus this time of year on the future, we often forget to recognize the path that led us here. For some that means spending considerable time in deep reflection, either with a trusted friend or therapist. For others that means gathering together with friends, family, or family-of-choice to share words of gratitude and grace. Or perhaps you’re interested in seeking out a medium or psychic, hoping to contact dearly departed loved ones.
At this significant shift from one decade to the next, go deeper. Look beyond the present, toward the generations that led to you. In Jewish tradition we evoke the phrase L’Dor Va’Dor (from generation to generation) at significant milestones; at times of transition we hold a sharp focus on legacy. No matter how complicated or fraught our history may be, rootedness in who we are gives us fuel to face who we are becoming. Figure out what that discovery might look like for you – try to push past a fear of uncovering what might be revealed.
Don’t yet have a full picture of your origins? Today it’s easier than ever to discover your heritage through organizations like 23andMe and Ancestry.com. Take note from Tiffany Haddish whose own DNA investigation confirmed Jewish roots; in early December 2019 she celebrated with a Bat Mitzvah, proudly affirming her Jewish identity.
Authentically Connect. In Person.
A new year isn’t just personal, it’s communal. Each and every one of us is beginning anew in 2020. Yet, this past decade has proven just how lonely and isolated we are from one another; technology has largely replaced face-to-face direct social connection all across our planet.
Without a doubt, the most impactful book I read in 2019 was “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters” by Priya Parker. In it, Parker beautifully weaves together not just the importance of gathering (and its benefits for professional and social/emotional growth) but also how to gather with purpose and intention. Even as a community builder, I had never before considered the science behind meaningfully gathering people together. This book changed my perspective – and it can change yours, too.
This year make the commitment to connect. Physically, in person, with other human beings. Do it for your mind, body and soul. Ready Priya Parker’s book. Join clubs & groups that take place offline. Engage! Having a hard time connecting with others? No matter where you live or work, chances are community centers, houses of worship or platforms like Meetup.org have already created local small-group gatherings focused on a common interest. (And if they haven’t, be bold and make one yourself!)
In this new decade, imagine how much we can elevate one another’s humanity through the simple, intentional practice of person-to-person connection.
To one and all, no matter how you celebrate: Happy New Year and Welcome, 2020!