Thich Nhat Hanh says: “The Earth turns. The seasons change. Time is not bound in any framework, yet, still we have deep gratitude to our ancestors who framed time in days, months, and years so that, now, we have an opportunity at the end of each year to look back: at the things that we have done or have not yet done, at the streams of mind, body and events that have shaped our being and our relationships.” 💚
His words evoke a sense of gentle and loving reflection on the continuum of life and our connectedness. The wisdom of knowing that nothing is starting and nothing is stopping on midnight December 31st. Simply taking this turn in the calendar as an opportunity to notice the streams that are shaping our lives and how we want to flow with them.
But the global conversation we’re having right now is one of resolutions and goals. It is very focused on “I want, I need, I must, I should”. It feels very contracted to me, very SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) and corporate, very staccato and striving, almost like a performance evaluation. This is why I think a lot of people are turned off or stressed by it.
I don’t think we need more resolutions and goals than we already have everywhere: at work, at home, in relationships.
As Elizabeth Gilbert wonderfully said last night, “You are not required to justify your existence on Earth through constant improvement. You are not a Fortune 500 company; you don’t have to show increasing profits. You don’t have to earn your right to be here by putting yourself to higher and higher standards. You just get to be here. You belong here. You are loved on Earth. January 1st can be a day like any other, where you can just sleep in, and maybe do a little bit more of nothing.” ❤️️
I don't claim to know the best way to meet the new year. It is, at the end of the day, a personal matter. Your heart knows how it usually likes to meet it and how it’d like to meet it this year. If setting goals and resolutions serves you well, this is wonderful. If you are not participating in the new year conversation, this is also wonderful. Listen to your own wisdom before anyone else's.
I don’t care much for New Year celebrations (this year I will be spending New Year’s Eve on a double date at home with my partner's grandparents 😍) and take the end of the year in a quiet reflection, practicing gratitude & compassion and setting intentions. This calms me down, fills me with joy, and serves me well for the year ahead. Here are some of the things I reflect on, in case it resonates with you.
1. Gratitude for the good moments of 2019
What have you accomplished this year that you are proud of? Which obstacles or fears did you overcome or made progress on?
What are some things you learned? Which piece of wisdom or information became very clear to you?
What are you thankful to have tried and experimented with?
In which moments of the year your body was open, flowing and relaxed? When were you truly enjoying yourself and being alive?
Was it drinking your morning coffee? That week of hiking in the mountains? A moment with loved ones where you laughed your head off? A new poem you read? A pigeon family giving birth on your windowsill?
Where does this gratitude live in your body? How can you linger with it? Can you breathe into it and establish it as the foundation of your life? Can you let it intensify and spread?
Can you start a conversation on gratitude on New Year’s Eve with your loved ones, near and far?
2. Compassion for the hard moments of 2019
What were the challenging or painful moments of the year? Where did you struggle? Where did you suffer?
Which unresolved questions pained you the most?
What are your emotions & thoughts? Sadness, fear, anger, resentment or frustration? Resistance, regret, criticism or judgement?
Could you invite these emotions & thoughts for a friendly cup of tea? Could you hear what they have to say? Could you calm your heart regarding where you suffered? Could you see the beauty that arrives in the form of “problems”?
What would you say to yourself if you were talking to a beloved friend? What is a kind and loving response? "You've been very brave"? "I love you and I'm here for you"? “Hang in there”?
And if compassion does not feel possible right now, could you let this be okay? Could you say the words without fully meaning them, planting seeds of compassion and kindness, to see if they grow in their own time?
3. Your best intentions for 2020
A quote I love and often share by Patricia A. Jennings is:
"Setting an intention is not the same as setting a goal. If I don't reach a goal, I may feel disappointed, as if I failed. Setting intention doesn't assume that I will reach an endpoint, but that I will stay on course. Setting intention is gentle and forgiving. Throughout the day, I can check my intention to see if I'm still on track. I can always adjust if necessary, or re-set it and go on with my day."
My invitation to you for 2020 is to think less in terms of stop and start, and more in terms renewing the intentions you already have or listening to what new intentions are emerging on the journey of your life.
What are some things you’d like to skillfully, mindfully and actively work toward without getting attached to specific results? In which areas you’d like to check in and see if you are still on track?
When you envision your most exciting, fulfilling and aligned life, what does it look like? What are your wildest dreams? What parts or steps of that can and might happen in 2020?
What are some resentments, limiting beliefs and real-but-not-true stories you'd like to let go of?
What feels true to your heart in terms of your work, body, home, relationships and spaces? What doesn’t feel true and can be put aside?
Which parts of yourself can you integrate more?
How could you accept yourself, others and life more? Who would you like to forgive for what?
What would you like to learn to love?
What activities most lift your heart that you'd like to give more time to? What skills or lessons you'd love to learn? What would you like to practice?
My 2019 & 2020
The wisdom that emerged for me in 2018 and solidified in 2019 was integration. I proved to myself that I didn't need to leave any of my parts behind. I can be a mindfulness teacher and I can freelance as a product manager. I can start a business and become a writer. I can be stronger and happier by integrating all the Zeynep's that I am. I can harmonize all my different work around a common core purpose of nurturing everyday wellness. This learning felt to me like a healing of old wounds, and this is how I intend to live the rest of my life. I look at it as a slow movement over the course of long years, rather than a sudden change from one year to the next.
I am also grateful for learning that there are always solutions when it comes to financial health. I spent a year being supported by mechanisms I didn't know existed and providing for myself financially in my business (through mindfulness and product work) without the existence of established structures (company, managers, colleagues) around me. This was a wild experiment; I am grateful to have discovered that I love it and I feel more like myself in it even with all its difficult parts of feeling alone.
I also learned this year that I am never alone. Thanks to my ongoing mindfulness teacher training, I am understanding more and more that I am always connected to the world, to others, to the wisdom and the presence of the universe. I am surrounded and supported by amazing people I get to call friends, family, students, teachers, mentors and colleagues. They pave the way for me, inspire and align me in more ways than I can describe. They love me the way I am. I learn to love myself through watching them.
The hard moments of 2019 were the moments where I felt lost, anxious and fearful. The moments when I kept obsessively asking: Am I on the right path? Am I doing a good job? Is this good enough? Am I good enough?
As I embarked on some journeys for the first time (teaching mindfulness, creating a business), my performance anxiety increased, and so did the "soul sadness" I feel for this inner violence. This year I practiced more self-compassion than I ever did. I sense that I am, so much more than before, stepping fully into who I am and appreciating myself for who I am, although I know this wound will take some more years if not a lifetime to heal.
My intentions for 2020 are many.
I intend to go to spoken word on Mondays at Chat Noir, and soften as I listen to brave souls reading their beautiful poems. I intend to spend more time with poetry, write it and share it more. I intend to keep writing essays, stories, letters, as well as producing videos, podcasts, meditations. I intend to widen my community of poets, writers, producers and creators, increase my output and develop my skills and discipline.
I intend to keep tenderly reflecting on my relationship with dance. Dance is a conversation I'm having with the 12 year old Zeynep inside of me. I intend to continue the conversation. Whether or not we dance this year, we'll see. For the first time in my life, I don't want to rush or pressure her.
I intend to develop and deepen as a mindfulness teacher; I intend to teach mindfulness to many more people in many more ways. I intend to do my first weeklong meditation retreat. I intend to visit Plum Village. I intend to grow Mudita, my community. I intend to incorporate more yoga into my practice. I intend to get closer to being a clear forest pool so that I and others around me can live fiercer lives.
I intend to cook more at home, especially for lunch, for it grounds me to touch vegetables and food. I intend to dress myself in clothes that give me color, power and joy. I intend to find a reading nook to retire the day with a book rather than Netflix.
I intend to find more financial balance, save and invest more.
I intend to swim 500 meters in sidestroke and backstroke without stopping.
I intend to explore living and working spaces: Paris, Istanbul, South of France, South of Turkey. I intend to turn spaces into an anthology of my life and find a space continuum between all the places that make me, me.
I intend to create connections, invest in relationships that nurture me the most, and forgive in relationships I suffer in the most. I intend to get closer to loving unconditionally all that there is in human form; I intend to learn how to make trees out of people. I don't intend to give up on anyone and I intend to let people go and let people be as a way of loving them more.
I intend to keep exploring how to heal my female cycles. I intend to find more sexual play and freedom. I intend to keep falling in love with my partner, going to sleep and waking up with a deep gratitude for his existence. I intend to continue to find joy and celebration in the realm of our love. I intend to stay open to all the different partnerships I have in my life, rather than being laser focused on this one and suffocating it with my expectations.
As you can see, none of these intentions pertain specifically to 2020. Some are very old, some are new, and they are all on the continuum of my life. They are how I will know I am on track.
What are your best intentions for 2020? What are you most grateful for and practicing self-compassion for regarding 2019?
If you take a moment to reflect, maybe quietly with your coffee and journal, or maybe with your loved ones and smiley faces, I'd love to hear from you. Finding everyday wellness is a mutual and collective act. It happens mostly in our conversations.
Our new year workshop in Paris could not happen due to strikes. If you'd like to join us on January 4th to do these practices and to make your 2020 inspiration board in a cozy group, let me know here.
May this year bring you closer home, may this be the year you fall in love with life, may your peace, good fortune, love and kindness multiply, always. ✨
Happy New Year!
With love and light,