The dark is lifting and the snowdrops are out. The first lambs, wet-headed and eager on their feet, have been born.
The first month of the New Year has come to a close, but the very names of the months suggest the period of renewal has often been considered to be February, not January.
'Janus' was the Roman god with two faces, one facing forwards to the year ahead and the other facing back to the year just gone. He is a figure negotiating a delicate balance, each foot on a different tightrope. For me, January feels like a bridge from the old year to the new, and this involves recovering from festivities, tidying up my accounts and clarifying what I want to do. It does involve looking both ways at once, comparing and contrasting what has worked out for me and what hasn't in order to gain a clearer perspective. It can feel like a tiring and messy month, and to make matters worse the mornings are still pretty dark.
'Februus', on the other hand, was the Roman god who looked over the early spring festival of 'Februa', which later became Lent in the Christian calendar. Februa was a time when Romans performed ceremonies of cleansing and purification, which basically consisted of spring cleaning and washing. The idea was to emerge fresh, clean and renewed. Lent, too, carries the same basic theme of purification as its pagan predecessor.
For me, February does feels like the real month of renewal, as it's the beginning of the UK planting season (get those tomato seeds ready!) and the days start to feel noticeably lighter.
However our New Year's resolutions may have been going (or not going) so far, in the spirit of Februa we can take this month as a chance to start again and refocus on what really matters. Here are some secular ideas on how to 'clear' your life of clutter and 'sow seeds' for the brighter months ahead.
Take up meditation to gain clarity. If you want to learn how, an app like Headspace can guide you through the process. Just 5 - 15 minutes a day reduces stress and improves focus.
If you need to simplify your life, make your priorities clear by creating mission and vision statements. These will powerfully communicate your intentions and motivate you to realise an attractive vision of the future. A mission statement should sum up your purpose and your targets in less than five sentences. It should say who you are, what you do, what you stand for and why. A vision statement also defines purpose, but this time in terms of your guiding beliefs and values. This can be just one or two sentences that gets the soul of your intention into a nutshell.
Put your statements somewhere visible and keep going back to them in order to anchor your heart and mind. It'll help you keep your eye on what really matters and say 'no' to the things that don't serve you.
Make a list of all the things that make you feel good. Make time in your schedule to do a few of them again, as regularly as is desirable and practical. If you don't know where to begin, take a look at the '10 Keys for Happier Living' put together by Action for Happiness . Rather gorgeously, the first letters of the keys spell out the phrase 'GREAT DREAM'. Pick one and see where it takes you....