“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”
— Hal Borland
One balmy Friday evening, a few weeks ago in Montevideo, I stood in the entranceway to my yoga studio, surrounded by teachers and fellow members of the studio — whose name, Alma Libre, means “free soul” in Spanish. We were gathered for Alma Libre’s first annual end-of-the-year party, and the air was filled with lively conversation and laughter befitting such an occasion.
Not long after the party started, though, the atmosphere shifted. One of Alma Libre’s owners, Alejandra, motioned for us to begin moving upstairs to the studio space, where we would share a group meditation session. One by one, we filed up the stairs, our laughter quieting to a hushed calm. Suddenly, the air was so still it felt reverent. When I finally reached the top of the stairs and turned to walk into the studio, I stopped on the threshold, amazed at the sight in front of me.
The studio was completely dark, apart from the dozens of tea lights placed across the wooden floor, each giving off a gentle orange glow. In the very center of the floor were five bowls brimming with fresh white gardenia blossoms, their fragrance suffusing the room with unbelievable sweetness. And up through the studio’s open windows filtered the rhythmic trickling of the water fixture in the courtyard below. I found a seat on the floor, closed my eyes, and breathed deeply — for all I knew, I had suddenly been transported from the center of Montevideo to a secret garden: The wind whispering of gardenias, a stream bubbling at my feet.
This moment of stillness and serenity would have been enough for me — it would have carried me right on through Christmas with its sacred beauty — however Alejandra began to speak again, quietly inviting us to prepare ourselves for the new year ahead.
“But first,” she said, “you need to leave behind lo vivido.”
Lo vivido — in English, the phrase literally translates as “the lived.” I interpreted this as Alejandra encouraging us to leave behind what we had already lived this year, in order to make room for what we are about to live and experience in 2018 — or what we might call the not-yet-lived. I always love the transition between one year and the next, but never before had I heard the process described in such a unique way.
About half an hour later, a single bell was rung three times, signaling the end of the meditation. When I opened my eyes, I was struck by the scene in front of me for the second time that evening: At some point during the meditation session, someone had gathered all of the tea lights scattered throughout the studio and arranged them in a circle around the bowls of gardenia flowers. To me, not only was it another picture of sacred beauty; it was also a perfect image for how we can prepare ourselves for the new year — by looking back on a year full of moments and events that might at first glance seem scattered and disparate, but with a bit of reflection and stillness, can soon be gathered together and given order, shape, and meaning.
It is this image of beauty and reflection that I will be carrying with me into the start of 2018, having left ‘the lived’ of this year behind — and I hope that this picture, and Alejandra’s timely words, hold inspiration for you as well.
Here’s to a new year full of beauty, light, and connection — Happy 2018, friends!