The hosts spent weeks building a gorgeous, elaborate wood sculpture in their backyard. On the solstice, they invited guests to scribble personal intentions (or wishes or desires) for the coming months on slips of paper, roll them up and fit them into the sculpture.
The year we went, the sculpture was a Pegasus. Reared up on hind legs with wings spread, we torched it; all our collective intentions burning into the night sky in flames and smoke.
I don’t make concrete New Year’s resolutions. Not for myself, not with my kids. They’re too narrowly defined, all about the specifics of what we will or won’t do and frankly, it’s a recipe for failure. I don’t make resolutions for the same reason that I hate going to the gym during the first few weeks of January: I have to stand in line to get on the elliptical because everyone who resolved to get in shape during the new year wants to use it. By February, most of them will be gone.
Still, there’s something beautiful and essential and necessary about taking time in these darkest days to consider who we were during this past circle around the sun, what worked and what didn’t, and what we aspire to in the next. If we’re not constantly seeking and growing, who are we? And why bother being? Without self-reflection how can we know who we are or what we want?
I know what I don’t want. I don’t want my daughters to start every year by making impossible promises and flogging themselves when they fail.
Instead, I want them to grow into women who understand that what they achieve or don’t achieve in their time on this planet will depend largely on the stories they tell themselves — and those stories begin with an awareness of what they think. Intentions.
The stories are theirs to write and rewrite.
If resolutions feel unrealistic to you, take time to set intentions with your kids. You don’t need to build a Pegasus to make a new annual ritual. It just takes time and thought.
- Talk about the difference between resolutions and intention. When you vow to clean your room every week, it’s a resolution. What if you drop the vow and instead set an intention to have respect and gratitude for yourself and your belongings, instead? Define concrete goals, then go deeper to the qualities it will take to achieve them — that’s where intention lives.
- Make a private list of 2014’s negatives. Have everyone write out their troubles, trials, obstacles and ways they disappointed themselves. Write anything you never care to repeat, and then shred the lists into tiny pieces and flush them down the toilet. They are past and gone. Let them go. Let the water carry them away.
- Make a second private list of everything you want to achieve or be in 2015 — your intentions. Write each intention on a scrap of paper small enough to burn and light them up, like we did at the solstice burn. Let the smoke and flames carry them out into the universe. Use your fireplace or fire pit, a candle, a lighter or a Chinese lantern. Put them out into the world and let them rise.
- Pick one or two words that embody your intentions. These are your themes for the coming year. Write them for keeps, make art of the words to hang where you’ll see them often, or tuck them in a bedside draw to read them every night.
- Believe that these are not wishes, but the path you choose to create. Follow it.