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Life Kit: Reflecting on the past year


For a lot of folks, the time around New Year's is synonymous with parties and gathering with friends and family. But you know, New Year's can also be a golden opportunity to seek out quiet and turn inwards - you know, to reflect at where you're at and where you're headed. And if this sounds pretty good to you, check this out. Kyle Norris with NPR's Life Kit podcast brings us some tips on how to be reflective from a Buddhist teacher.

KYLE NORRIS, BYLINE: Lama Rod Owens' website calls him a Black Buddhist southern queen. As part of his training, Owens spent three years mostly alone and in silence. So he's intimate with spending time alone and reflecting. When mentally preparing for a new year, Owens says he does not like to say next year will be better.

ROD OWENS: But what I'm actually doing is saying that the next year will be different.

NORRIS: To take stock of the year and let it go. Owens likes to do an informal ceremony. He says you can do this at home, in a quiet place in the evening and light a candle.

OWENS: No matter how much we're struggling to be well and content or happy or just how much we're struggling to survive in general, like, there's still light, and that light represents joy, gratitude and belonging.

NORRIS: Owens says, spend a few minutes focusing on the positive parts from the last year.

OWENS: What excited you? What got you going? What were you grateful for?

NORRIS: He says, anchor yourself in the things you're grateful for, and this technique can be especially helpful if you had a tough year that you do not necessarily want to rehash. You'll also want to make a space for acknowledging grief and disappointment from the past year.

OWENS: I'd like to just start reflecting on the things that have changed, the loss of experience, the people that have transitioned in my life, offering prayers or aspirations that wherever they are now, that they're being cared for, you know, that they're happy, that they're free and so forth and so on.

NORRIS: During this informal ceremony, Owens likes to mentally cruise through the past year of his life with a sense of curiosity.

OWENS: What am I still confused about? What do I still have questions around? I'd like to go back and say, OK, oh, what happened there? Just reflect, unpack and just let it go.

NORRIS: Letting go of feelings can be easier said than done, so here's a tip - try visualizing your feelings.

OWENS: Like, just seeing it as, like, this cloud floating through the sky of your mind, right? - or a wave rising up from the ocean and then falling back into the ocean.

NORRIS: As for the future, Owens says shaping the future is rooted in the present, so do some bold dreaming.

OWENS: What is my ultimate, complete, golden-scenario vision for the future?

NORRIS: He says dreaming is not about what is possible but about what you want to manifest. And to help you figure out what you want, Owens loves a vision board, which he says can sound cliche and new agey, but a vision board helps you get specific.

OWENS: So many people are like, well, I hope this happens, and I hope that happens. And it's very ambiguous sometimes. But when we create a vision board, we get real clear.

NORRIS: And invite the energy you want into your life. Finally, weave in a little quiet time to celebrate New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Lama Rod Owens says there's something special about being still as the old year transitions and the new year emerges.

OWENS: I just kind of want to meet the new year in as much awareness as possible.

NORRIS: You can use these tools to be still and quiet throughout the year, whenever you might need them. For NPR News, I'm Kyle Norris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kyle Norris