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Use a personal ritual to help you let go and move forward

A ritual is a symbolic enactment of an intention. In this ritual, you’ll be symbolically releasing the past and affirming the future you want to create — turning your life experience into the wisdom that will guide you in the future.

Use these guidelines as a starting point for creating your personal ritual.

Step 1: Gather supplies

You’ll need:

▪ Your journal, or paper and pen

▪ Small piece of paper, cardboard or small piece of wood, such as a Popsicle stick

▪ White taper candle

▪ Matches and a safe way to burn something, such as in a fireplace or fire pit

▪ Votive or large candle

Step 2: Create the space

Choose to perform your ritual somewhere where you can have some privacy, if possible. Make the space clean and cleared of clutter. Make this time sacred by quieting all distractions, such as the phone, kids and TV. Put on some soft music, or have silence if you prefer. Dress comfortably so you can relax into this special time. Perhaps do some stretching or meditation to quiet your mind and relax your body.

Step 3: Set an intention

Write down a specific intention for the ritual such as: “I consciously choose to learn from and release the past year. I integrate and embody my new wisdom as I move forward in my life.” Begin the ritual by lighting the votive or large candle and reading your intention aloud. You may choose to invoke a loving presence, as your belief system allows.

Step 4: Spend time reflecting

Use the questions below as a starting point to prompt your reflections. Don’t dwell in regret or grief, but rather gently reflect and glean the valuable life lessons from the past to move forward with clear intentions for the future. Write your answers in your journal, or on your writing paper.

▪ What are the major themes of the past year? In retrospect, what has the year been about, whether intentionally or not?

▪ What were the major lessons (hardships, challenges, surprises and blessings) given to you this year?

▪ What did you learn about yourself and your needs, values and desires?

▪ What do you want to leave behind as the year ends? (This might be a habit, reactivity, behavior, fear or block that keeps you from being happy, creative and content.)

▪ What do you want to consciously draw to yourself in the new year?

▪ What qualities in yourself do you want to develop?

▪ What area of your life do you want to enliven? (relationships, health, finances, etc.)

Step 5: Declare, enact, release, embrace

Review your answers to the questions above and choose a word, phrase or sentence that sums up what you’d like to let go of from the previous year. It might be something like, “fear of intimacy” or “holding back my creativity.” Trust your own words.

Write this on the small piece of paper, cardboard or stick. Choose one or two words that affirm what you want to embrace in the new future. It might be “self compassion” or “boundaries.” Using a pencil or ballpoint pen, carve the word or phrase into the side of the taper candle.

Step 6: Perform the ritual

Safely create your fire. Taking your time, declare your specific intentions for letting go of the past as you toss the piece of paper or wood into the fire. Speak out loud, so you can hear and believe your own words. Feel them resonate in your body. Say as much as you need to.

Take the small, white taper candle with your affirmation carved in the side and light it from the fire you used to burn the paper or wood. As you do this, declare your affirmation for the new future. Take a few minutes to sit quietly with the candle. If possible, set up this taper candle to burn down or relight whenever you meditate or sit quietly, to remind you of what you want to manifest.

Step 7: Clean up

It’s important to consciously clean up when you finish your ritual. Blow out the large candle safely, and clear the area of all ritual materials.

Use this ritual anytime you want to let go and move forward.

Annie Mascelli is a holistic life coach and online teacher who creates online resources and courses for personal and professional growth at She can be reached at This column is coordinated by Learning to Live: What’s Your Story?,, whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.