Usually when we think of the end of the year, we are either talking about December (in the secular year) or in Jewish time, right before the High Holidays in early Fall.
Yet, there’s another time of year that is all about endings: the school or class year.
As human beings, we have many different ways of dealing with endings. Some of us like to slink out the door, hoping nobody will notice, so that we don’t have to feel the feelings of “goodbye” or “I am so happy THIS is over…” And some of us get super busy with what’s “next” and immerse ourselves in filling the empty time with new activities.
A mindful way of experiencing endings is to stop, pay attention, notice our feelings (depressed? excited relief?) and register our habitual tendencies when something is over.
Whether we breathe a sigh of relief that the year has come to an end, or feel sad that this year’s learning has come to a close, it’s important to take the time to reflect on the experience of what we have learned and to integrate we’ve learned into our new selves.
Endings give us the opportunity to think about who we are NOW:
- What difference has this year/class/course made in my life?
- How am I a better person because of this experience?
- What did I learn that I most want to remember?
- In what ways was the “veil lifted and my soul felt delight?”
One of my favorite poets, John O’Donohue, has a beautiful blessing that I turn to at ending times:
AT THE END OF THE YEAR
The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline’s longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.
As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.
The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.
Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.
The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.
The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.
Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.
We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.
— John O’Donohue (To Bless The Space Between Us/Benedictus)