From Resolutions to Affirmations

by Edward Espe Brown

It’s the Winter Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere:
the longest night, the shortest day. While on the other side
of the Earth the day extends its luxurious length, the night is
fully abbreviated.

Many offer a passing nod to this date on the calendar,
while some perhaps share the occasion as an opportunity
to welcome back the light ceremonially, acknowledging
the age-old understanding that each of us is sparked with
the Divine. It is easy to forget that each of us is a Sacred
Being, that each of us carries the light within us. So, ceremony
can be a way of re-embodying our sacred nature.

We are ordinary beings with daily struggles, tasks, and
chores, while we are also beings of light bringing forth
joy and happiness into the world, sharing kind words and
warm smiles not because we have succeeded or triumphed,
but because we have allowed or permitted our heart and soul
to flower in the unique ways they have to embody and share
their light.

Ah the Sacred! Ah Ceremony! A way to stand in the midst
of it all, allow it to radiate, within and without. We can
never succeed or triumph enough to lighten our hearts — after
all that process is endless — what have you done for us lately?
How will you outdo yourself? Yet we can offer ritual gestures
that allow us to reinhabit our hearts and allow them to blossom.

This brings us to New Year’s resolutions. Shall we set up
some goals? Keep to that diet? Stay with the exercise routine?
Clean up our act? Get places on time? Pay the bills by the due

Shall we establish some ways to measure and assess compliance?
Even though those standards have most commonly resulted in ways to
discredit our flagging commitment to the established program?

On the other hand, what about giving words to that bright effervescence
that is innately ours to express:
I will come to know and embody my inmost request, my true heart’s desire.
I will learn how to be at home in this body, in this place, at this time—
again and again!
I will learn to stand my ground, to embody my body.
I will learn to speak my truth, not in order to defeat others,
but to express myself fully without abandoning myself.
I will study how to be available for connection with each
moment that appears—far beyond my ability to have
orchestrated how that moment will manifest.

In other words, these are not resolutions that set
us up for failure, but vows or affirmations, expressions
which describe what is in the marrow of our bones.
Whether you succeed or fail by some arbitrary standard,
there they are, words that you can return to! On you go!
Always more to learn. Always more to study. Any
adjustments being offered? Thank you!

Yes, we say: Yes, this is what my inner life wants for
my life! Or perhaps you have access to wording that
flows from your inner world with language that resonates
more effectively for you.

Then, yes! Bring your words to ceremony. Write them
out and put them on a home altar. Ask the Everything
for help. Ask the Ancestors, the spirits, the deities. Let
them know: “This is what I’m up to.” And, “I welcome
your help!” Whether I succeed or fail, this is the work of
my life, this is the play of the Sacred within me. Sing!
Chant! Pray silently! Dance! Hit bells! Do some drumming!

If you do not have a home altar, create one, setting aside
a space for a candle, a statue, a stone, a scroll, what-have-you.
If you are without an altar, write out your vows and offer them
to fire, bury them, or put them in a crevice in Jerusalem’s wall.
(That’s somewhere you call Sacred: under a stone, under
a flower pot, at the foot of a tree.) Again, offer your prayers,
a mantra, a chant, a song, a movement piece.

In other words, mean it! Set your bright effervescence
in motion with ceremony!