Speaking of Religion:

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The rituals performed for the New Year in each of the various cultures of the world have a similar theme. They have to do with sweeping out the cobwebs from the corners, settling old debts, starting new ledger books, and doing whatever is thought to insure a prosperous new year, or to bring good luck to the household. The sense of cleaning up and getting a fresh start remain in our cultural memory, no matter their origins.

Sometimes a period of personal reflection can help a person determine what old things must be swept away in order to make room for the new. Personal reflection usually requires some time alone.

Solitude, unlike loneliness, is a chosen state of being. We need solitude in order to turn down the noise of the world and listen to the still, small voice within. That voice reveals our deepest and most authentic self, and a kind of wisdom that may be a source for healing and wholeness.

Poet David Whyte writes about going into the safe, dark womb of night that "has eyes to recognize its own" and gives "a horizon farther than you can see." He writes of learning in the "darkness and sweet confinement of your aloneness" that "anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you."

Perhaps at the New Year we can become like the creatures that shed their shells or skins in order to grow — lobsters and lizards, arachnids and insects. In our solitude we might discern what no longer fits who we are or would become. The wisdom is revealed might be about what to shed to make the New Year bright. If we pay attention to what wisdom may come in solitude, it is usually a good idea to share it in council—in a group of trust and support, or with such an individual.

May your transition into the New Year bring you through to a fresh start. My New Year wish is that when you are able to let go of what no longer fits, that you may fully welcome what you will grow into.

The Rev. Lucy Ijams is minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington.


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