Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
…The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
…Ring in the common love of good.
…Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace. From “Ring Out, Wild Bells” by Lord Tennyson
I am contemplating ritual and rebirth; contemplating balls falling at midnight, bells that ring out into the frosty darkness, champagne toasts, new resolutions, polar bear plunges. We crave a fresh start, to be cleansed of our past and to start anew. We love the ritual of rebirth, but need the balance and familiarity of tradition.
This year I have lived in both darkness and light. There have been periods of great insight, deep love, stunning success and rich possibility. There have been as many, if not more, periods in which I wept in fear, in sadness and doubt, in despair. Because of that darkness, I have learned to pause, to face my dragons with stillness, and remember that heavy and dark is always balanced by light. And so, I say, ring out wild bells, for union and for quiet periods of reflection within new beginnings.
T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem “Little Gidding”: What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make a beginning. Now is that beautiful in between time, just as we end, just before we begin. It’s like dawn or dusk, times that are traditionally thought of as magical, often bringing forth greater creativity. Our year is waning, a new one on the horizon. I am, like many, both reflective and eager to start again, to feel fresh and inspired. I will honor these last few days with reflection and then begin again with traditions and great spirit.
I will ring out this year by eating lentils (for good fortune) and drinking prosecco at midnight to honor my Italian family traditions, and I will start the new year with black eyed peas to honor my Southern family traditions and with 108 Sun Salutations to honor my own and others connection to the yoga practice. These rituals join together old and new; create union with past, present and future.
And then rebirth. Those are wild bells indeed.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. From “Little Gidding”
I feel within myself the need to reinvest myself with passion, dedication and faith to the practice and principles of yoga. Here I am, with you all, at the beginning again. It does not matter how many years we practice, there will always be another layer, a new understanding, additional faith and dedication to mine. The bells that we ring in our own lives could be for resolute commitment to never cease to explore, to begin again, to keep steadfast in our intentions. We are seduced by so much else that the shine often comes off our rebirth too quickly. These seductions–the ones of food or drink or technology–are so often mere distractions that leave us needing to undo another unhealthy or time-sucking habit.
Find your traditions–the ones that allow you connection and allow you to complete this year before starting fresh. Time is a continuum and yet is also portioned into moments that allow us periods of rebirth and renewal. Now is a wonderful time to ring out all that is a false distraction to the truth of you. Let this new year ring in a commitment to knowing yourself completely; to becoming mentally still enough to make wise and aware decisions; to learning to respond with grace and honesty. Let your commitment to your yoga practice be a daily exploration of all this and more. There will be grief and darkness, times when distractions will seduce and when what you knew was important in this time of renewal will seem too hard and you’ll want to scrap it all. In those times allow yourself room to begin again and again and again. For when you see each new day of your yoga practice as an opportunity to begin again, each time you come to your mat as if you’re opening a new door to yourself, you’ll receive a renewal all year long.
We are wild bells. Let this end be a beginning and the beginning be an end.