We live our lives within the rhythms and cycles of the physical world. Our calendars commemorate this by marking each full rotation of the earth as a day, the total cycle of the moon around the earth as a month, and the complete trip of the earth around the sun as a year. Though modern life and the Time Grid1 suggest otherwise, our animal bodies are intimately tied to these rhythms through circadian cycles that let us know when to rest and when to move.
The end of the year, the equinox, the solistice, the end of a quarter - these can all be an auspicious and meaningful times to pause, reflect, and celebrate. To deepen what is congruent and course correct where we feel out of alignment. “At the End of the Cycle” is an exercise in service of you and your journey, and it can be completed whenever it is you feel called to mark some kind of transition, yearly2 or otherwise.
This exercise has three parts:
- Part 1: Becoming the Being That You Are. A macro level reflection about who you are and what you are becoming. Think of this as a snapshot of what holds deep meaning and resonance for you and your life, and less about the particular events of the last cycle.
- Part 2: Reflecting on the Past Cycle. Understanding what shaped you over the course of the past cycle. This takes a more traditional reflection approach across various dimensions of life.
- Part 3: Declaring Future Possibilities. Writing a letter to Future You, who will be starting the reflection process some time from now (whether that is in 3 months, 6 months, a year is entirely up to you). The letter acts as a synthesis of the work you did in Part 1 and Part 2, while simultaneously weaving in commitments about the future you are creating 3.
If you’d prefer that in business terms:
- Part 1: The Balance Sheet of You. A snapshot of who you are in the present. You can even map this exercise to the accounting equation: your wholeness = who you are + how you resist.
- Part 2: The Income Statement of Life. A summary of the past cycle across various dimensions of life.
- Part 3: Letter to Shareholders. In this case the shareholder is Future You.
A few tips: I recommend not doing this all in one sitting, but if that’s your jam then go for it. If any reflection or exercise does not feel good to you, skip it. Create whatever kind of space you need to engage in this work. This could be with a cup of tea and a cozy chair, outside in nature, at a your favorite cafe, with a group of friends, or at a noisy bar. Et cetera.
An Interlude: The Letter
If you did this exercise from a previous cycle, now is the time to read the letter you wrote to your future self. If you have no idea what this means, don’t worry about it! Move on to the next section.
Part 1: Becoming the Being That You Are
The intention of this exercise is to facilitate a macro understanding of who you understand yourself to be, in this very moment. Of sensing into what it is you long for and what holds you back. To connect with your wholeness, areas of resistance, and the possibilities that open up when you can hold both, together.
Who you are
Take a few breaths and connect with yourself in this moment. What are you in connection with, what felt senses are arising, and what is your capacity to be with what is here, now? Answer the following questions:
- Who am I in this moment? Who do I understand myself to be?
- What am I up to in the world?
- What matters?
- What do I really believe?
- What do I really want?
- How do my thoughts, practices, moods, and habits contribute to my sense of who I am?
How You Resist
As you worked through the previous exercise, did you notice any resistance to what you were thinking, feeling, and writing? As you begin to observe the resistance, answer the following questions:
- What am I resisting?
- How do I do that?
- What is underneath the resistance?
- What limiting beliefs do I hold?
- How does this keep me safe?
- How do my thoughts, practices, moods, and habits support my resistance?
Appreciating Your Wholeness
Who you are and how you resist are all part of your wholeness, the system of you. Resistance serves a purpose, though it may not always be obvious. Take a moment to appreciate all of who you are, and all of how you resist. See if you can drop in and really appreciate every part of you. Answer the following questions:
- Who am I in my wholeness?
- How can I deeply appreciate my wholeness?
- What is possible when I fully appreciate my wholeness?
- With this knowledge, what new thoughts, practices, moods, and habits do I want to begin?
Part 2: Reflecting on the Past Cycle
The second exercise in this series takes a more traditional reflection route, and uses the events of the last cycle to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments, challenges, surprises, and meaning that shaped you. Some folks like to go through their calendar, photos, journals, bank accounts, and other artifacts before jumping into the reflection questions.
- What went well?
- What needs to be celebrated?
- What didn’t go well?
- What needs to be let go of?
- What did I learn?
- What did I avoid?
- What did I heal?
- What do I want to remember?
- What brought me energy?
- What depleted me?
- What surprised me?
- What disappointed me?
- What do I want more of?
- What do I want less of?
- What is enough?
- What am I grateful for?
Dimensions of Life
When answering the questions in Part 2, it can be useful to reflect on specific dimensions of your life. You can use the questions to guide reflections in a specific dimension, or include the dimensions in your answers to each question.
- Health & Wellness
- Practices & Habits
- Community & Service
- Learning & Growth
- Energy & Vitality
Part 3: Declaring Future Possibilities (aka The Letter)
Once you feel complete with the appreciation and reflection exercises, give yourself space to let the work settle. This may look like taking a break (15 minutes, 1 day, 1 week, whatever feels right for you), creating a completion ritual, changing locations, having a mini-dance party, making some tea, really anything that can give you a sense of closing out and completing the first part of the process.
When you are ready to begin The Letter, take a few moments to settle your mind. Sit quietly and follow your breath, feel your feet on the floor and your seat in the chair. What do you notice? What sensations are you aware of? Allow the impressions from your reflections to float into your awareness. Imagine you are sitting across from your future self, one year from today. Your future self that has just started the yearly reflection process. The first thing your future self will do is read the letter you are about to write.
What do you want Future You to know? Sitting here now, in this exact moment, what seeds of the future do you hold and what hopes do you have for what these seeds will grow into? What do you want your future self to know about who you are and what you long for? Your hopes and dreams? What you are committed to? If you are a goal-oriented person, this is a great place to talk about the goals you set and achieved.
There is absolutely no wrong way to do this. However you feel called to communicate with Future You a year from now, do that. A letter, a video, a song, a collage, whatever captures what you are living into. Allow your creativity and heart to lead this process. When you are finished with the letter, put it somewhere safe. You will read it one year from now when you sit down once again to reflect on the year and the person you are becoming.
Closing With Gratitude
To close out the reflection process, take a moment to express your gratitude for everything and everyone that has brought you to where you are today, and for the amazing person you are (becoming). Let the gratitude fully wash over you before you get up and continue move back into the flow of life.
Honestly, Time Grid is a more accurate term for what we refer to as a “calendar”. ↩
In addition to the Lunar New Year, Islamic New Year, Tamil New Year, and Jewish New Year (among others), this exercise can also be used for shorter and longer time frames. Quarterly, semi-annually, your 7 year Saturn cycle, you name it. The Personal New Year (aka your birthday) is also a good time to pause and reflect. ↩
Writing The Letter is my favorite part. I write myself a lot of letters, both to Future Me and Past Me. ↩