New Year’s Resolutions Gone Bad: the Burning Bowl Ritual Fail


Every year for almost a decade now, I do a burning bowl ritual to set my intentions for the New Year. Instead of doing these as resolutions on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, I perform this little ritual at the Winter Solstice with a non-denominational spiritual group I’ve hosted since early 2008.

As part of the ritual, we write down things that we want to say goodbye to in the old year and things we want to welcome in in the New Year. Afterward, in the latter part of the ritual, we choose a word for the New Year, usually an action verb, and then a two to three word phrase to be the personal mantra for each of us in the New Year. The verb I chose for 2014 was clearly a mistake. First off, it wasn’t an action verb, which I always prefer, but instead, a noun.

I chose EASE. I had just come through a heartbreak when I chose the word so maybe I was being lazy or maybe I just like the sound of doing everything in the New Year with ease. But, for the first time in all the years I have been setting intentions at the Burning Bowl ritual, the word EASE was a complete failure. If anything, it was as if the universe decided to re-write the word for me. It seems, looking back on the year, that the word was not EASE at all, but the Universe had added an R-E-L to the front of the word. The entire year was not about EASE at all, but about releasing.

RELEASE.  That’s an action verb. And one I certainly would not have chosen at a time when I was holding on for dear life to the few things I had left. RELEASE, this year, meant being willing to walk away from a job I loved. Being willing to move to a new place and start over completely.

By the end of the year, I had done neither of those things. But I was certainly, at several points, willing to do that. Willing to release what I loved to get to a place of relief from pain. It was an especially a hard time in my career, the one thing that I was so determined to hang onto when I had lost so much. And it took me far too long to figure out exactly what the problem was and to begin to address it. I have faith now though that it will be addressed and finished and brought to a satisfactory completion for me. It meant releasing old ideas about relationships and finding out that four of my five non-negotiables in a mate actually are negotiable. And that what I absolutely must have, and have such a hard time finding, is a man who exhibits both the intellectual and emotional intensity that I crave.

Releasing meant coming to understand the most important relationships with men that I’ve had in my life, all in a very short period of time. It meant understanding a significant relationship and what went wrong and that there was nothing I could’ve changed in myself to have made it better or right.

It meant releasing a year more of damage to my self-confidence, all because I didn’t understand what was really going on and I blamed myself. It meant discovering my father’s mental illness, seven years after his death and coming to understand my childhood and my adult life in the context of that legacy. It meant releasing years of hatred for him and self-doubt for myself. Not to the point of forgiveness, as I think of forgiveness, but to a point of…oh wait, to a point of EASE.

Releasing and ease–now there’s a thought. It was the year that my ex-husband remarried and though there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that we would ever reconcile, someone else becoming his wife was an interesting type of release for me from being thought of that way by others, even if I hadn’t thought of myself that way in a long time.

A significant relationship came back into my life. One that had ended with no closure and too much unfinished business. I got a chance to revisit that relationship from a different, more mature point in time. I was able to see the relationship in a different light. To know that it would never support me in a way that I needed to be supported. And that I no longer had any desire to support him in the way he needed to be supported. I got my answers. I got my closure. And I was able to walk away without a second thought, releasing all those old pains. All those old wounds closed and healed forever.

I started two brand new relationships, briefly at least,  during this year of releasing, and released both, as well as my feeling for them, so much more quickly than I ever would have thought. There’s no lingering or longing for any of these men. Once I realized that neither of them was a good choice for me, I was able to end both relationships quickly and….with EASE.

I released a lot of old habits, a lot of old relationships, a lot of things that no longer served me, if they ever did. One of the very last things I released was the pain of a brief relationship that ended in 2008. No matter how many times someone says to let it go, just let it go, that means nothing until you are able to. You can’t will yourself to let go of something that doesn’t want to let go. If I could have, I would have done that in 2008, not the last few days of 2014. But at some point throughout this past year, all thoughts of him had completely slipped away. And then, one night right after Christmas, someone sent me a video of him. Watching it, watching him older, heavier, might I say dumber by the actions in the video, and much less attractive. The only things I could think of as I watched it were, “My, he hasn’t aged well” and “Oh, wow…Just what is he doing?”  There were no feelings, no longings. It was all gone, dead, released. That release, in particular, came as a lovely surprise. It means that now all of my old relationships, with one exception, have been released. And I’m doing the difficult spiritual work on that one as I write this on the eve of the New Year.

So maybe EASE wasn’t such a bad word after all. Maybe RELEASE is the correct action verb to get to that point of ease. And maybe, just maybe, the burning bowl ritual was far more accurate for me this year than I realized.

Key Takeaway: Releasing is a form of healing oneself.