I’m not a great believer in the traditional ‘New Year resolutions’. More often than not, they seem designed to put pressure on an already exhausted system – bodies and souls that should be deep in winter repose, resting in the heart of the long, creative dark. When we get to this time of the year, many of us are frazzled, frayed around the edges. The last thing we need is to launch ourselves like rockets into a regime of major lifestyle change, based on a day in the calendar randomly imposed on us, rather than called for by the seasonal, cyclical wisdom of our bodies. We don’t have the fuel to sustain the kind of changes we so often insist on trying to make at this time of the year. And that’s why, so often, our New Year resolutions fail.
But that’s not to say that this can’t be an important time for reflection, and for focusing in on our intentions for the year ahead. After all, that’s what the season of the dark is for. It’s a time to think about change and transformation, about letting the long, cold dark strip us down to the bare bones and seeing what remains of us that matters.
A key truth which we’ve forgotten is that the old (pre-Biblical) mythologies and philosophies of the West are rich and complex and beautiful. They offer up a world in which everything is not only alive, but has purpose, intentionality of its own. A world to which each incarnated soul chooses to come, for a reason, and to offer up a gift which can only be expressed through relationship with and participation in that animate world. Carrying the fire, carrying with us the image that we were born with, that we brought with us when we chose to come into this world. Knowing that there are Others – who come to us in stories, dreams, images – who will help and guide us if we know how to find them, know how to properly listen.
Over the centuries, this old knowledge – this older and very much wilder mythology – has been deliberately overwritten. It’s my belief that we badly need to find our way back to it. We need to find our mythic ground again. We need to re-enchant ourselves – to fall in love again with the world, to find a genuine sense of deeply embodied belonging to this beautiful, animate Earth. To remember, as Carl Jung also said, that humans have always been myth-makers. And to take back that myth-making power from the failing forces that govern us, and find the stories we really want to live by.
And so I invite you, in the year ahead, to focus in on finding your way back into the heart of the Mystery. I’d like to offer you some suggestions not just for gently reflecting on your intentions, but for focusing in on cultivating your mythic imagination, in the months ahead.
Setting intentions for 2021
Word of the Year
Each year I like to find a ‘Word of the Year’: a word which represents what I need to focus on in the year ahead, as part of the ritual of moving from an old year into a new one. I choose it in a meditative space, after lighting a candle which I then focus on as I allow words to slip into my mind, where I hold them until the one that feels right comes to the fore. My word sometimes reflects qualities I want to embody, or qualities I want to attract into my life during the year ahead. Sometimes it will reflect a quality I need to let go of – and it’s important not just focus on positive qualities and things which you would like to attract to you; think about what you might need to release, too.
After you’ve found your word, spend some time sitting with it. What does it mean to you? Write down all the different facets of it which seem relevant to you. What might it look like, and feel like, for that quality to show up in your life, or for that quality to be let go of?
Then what might be required to make it happen? The setting of specific goals and targets, or something rather less tangible, such as a shift in mindset? Don’t feel obliged always to focus on DOING. Think about gentler words, like becoming. Sometimes it’s okay to grow less certain about some things, rather than more; life isn’t a linear progression, but a great, rich spiral.
Your intentions for embracing the mystery, for cultivating the mythic imaginaiton
The basis of all of my work on the mythic imagination is, at heart, about delving into the Mystery; and so my invitation to you, for the months ahead, is to work with these suggestions for embracing the Mystery in your life.
- Pay close attention to your dreams. Those of you who have worked through my ‘Courting the World Soul’ course will be familiar with my way of working with dreams; others of you might already have a dream-recording practice. Whatever way you choose, make a commitment to recording your dreams and exploring the characters and images within them. Keep a dream-journal and work with it throughout the year.
- Cultivate and engage with the imaginal world. My DreamWeaving technique (offered as part of ‘Courting the World Soul’ and ‘This Mythic Life’ courses) helps you to journey into the imaginal world and connect with the archetypal presences there. Or if you already have a ‘journeying’ or guided imagination practice, make good use of it.
- Keep the idea of ‘calling’ in your head at all times. Always ask yourself – not just at critical choice points, but every day of your life – is this act/choice aligned with my calling, or in opposition to it? What is the unique gift that I bring to the world at this time? Why might I have chosen to come to this body, at this time, in this place?
- Think mythically. What is the story you’re living inside now? How is your own personal story determined by the overarching cultural story? How can you extract yourself from the more pernicious cultural narratives which surround us? What archetypes are active within you at this time? What archetypal energies are active in the world around you?
- Stay in your body. Use it, in any ways that are possible to you. Walk, dance, sway, embrace input into all of your senses.
- Pay attention to your intuition. Always be on the lookout for guidance, for synchronicities. But be wise: not everything is a ‘sign’. Learn to discriminate.
- Honour the things which make your heart sing. Make time for them in your life.
- Honour, and pay attention to, the cycles and seasons of this beautiful planet we inhabit, and the other-than-humans who inhabit it with us. Align yourself with the directions; always know where north is. Pay attention to the cycles and seasons of the moon, of the planets, of the wider patterns of this beautiful cosmos.
I wish you all a rich and fruitful 2021.
Image: Maxime Simoncelli
Courses to help you cultivate the mythic imagination
If you’re interested in working more deeply with the mythic imagination during 2021, these two on-demand, self-study courses are designed to help you do so.
COURTING THE WORLD SOUL – practical techniques for cultivating the mythic imagination; find out more here.
THIS MYTHIC LIFE – delve deeply into the world of archetypes, myth and stories; find out more here.