This past Sunday night, I attended my weekly Buddhist meditation group and participated, after our usual 45-minute sit, in a ritual to mark the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. We all wrote down things we wanted to let go of from the past year and burned the scraps of paper in a fire (in a cast-iron pan, while the owner of the house looked on nervously), then made a list of what we wanted 2009 to be about. Most people only talked about one or two of their things to let go of and things to strive for, and some didn't talk about them at all. It was a subtle and communal way of making what are normally called New Year's resolutions, and I felt for the first time that I might be able to let these statements guide me, at least a little, in the coming year.
The main thing I burned and desire to let go of is anger -- at myself and at other people, for things that seem important and things that I know not to be. What I want 2009 to be about: fitness and exercise, an area I've long struggled with (I'd add nutrition to the mix, while I'm at it), and setting and working towards goals, including my plan to go back to school (perhaps for an MFA in creative writing). Both lists included other items (self-centeredness and shelteredness on the first one; deepening community ties and doing good work on the second), but anger, fitness, and goal-setting are the "headlines," the main things I want to work on. I hope that all of us see better things in the year to come, in our own lives, in the lives of those we love, and in the troubled world that surrounds us. I hope we see at least some of the change we need.