Looking Back to Look Forward

by Sue Staropoli, December 2021


So much of this modern life keeps people focusing on the outer world, reacting to what is happening around them, looking for how to engage.


What I have come to learn is that my inner life is most authentically me. Going inward is where I can most clearly understand who I am, who I am meant to be and what I am meant to do in the world.


The most profound way for me to do that is through self-reflection - listening to my inner voice and to the emotions that arise as I contemplate and relate to the world around me.


As December arrives, I sense my attention turning inward. It is a time of waiting - in the Christian tradition of Advent, this would be waiting for Christmas, but now I am also waiting for whatever is calling to me in the new year.


For decades, one of my practices has been to take the last week of the year as a period of retreat. I read through my journal of the year and review what I experienced, what moved me, and what lessons I learned along the way. As I read through my journal entries, I notice which ones call for my attention. Intuitively I watch for themes and patterns that are inviting me into growth and perhaps leading me into action.


What people, insights, and experiences were particularly heart-opening?


Is there a cause or issue that still pulls at my heart?


What breaks my heart? What stirs anger? What calls for action?


What grief am I being asked to experience more fully?


What gifts and qualities do I have that serve the well-being of all life?


What is alive in me now?


What is mine to do?


Who am I called to be?


Reading through the journal entries, highlighting experiences, insights, and lessons from the year, I begin to see what is most important to the continued unfolding of my life. The entries follow patterns that in turn form messages, helping me discern what is calling me into the future.


Gradually, I become aware of focused intentions I want to claim for the new year - disciplines I want to practice, desires or projects or causes I want to devote energy to, relationships I want to nurture. These I write down.


The process of consciously going inward allows me to take in the whole of the past year of my life, to cherish the blessings and joys amid the pain and challenges. In the quiet time of self-reflection I hear the inner voice guiding me, giving direction to my overall intention to be a channel of Love in the world.


Then, my heart rests in peace and gratitude, allowing the journey of my life to unfold. I enter the new year with readiness to engage outwardly, knowing that my unique life matters and contributes to whatever is arising in our shared world.


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