As we are coming upon a New Year, or may have just crossed the threshold into a New Year (depending on when you are reading this), we come upon the inevitable thoughts of change, of becoming anew.

On my Facebook page a few weeks ago I talked about why resolutions don’t work. The short version is that we have a vested interested in the reality that we currently have.

On a deep level, we fear change, because we associate change with death. We lack understanding that this is a metaphorical, rather than an actual, death. With this fear of death comes the fear of the unknown, the fear of change, and a desire to be in control.

Basically, we know what our “known” is currently. We know the edges of our Universe, what we believe to be true. We may hate our lives, we may find that large aspects of our lives are simply not working, but we live in the known because we feel comforted by knowing said edges, and feel great anxiety about moving beyond the edges of our created universe.

The way to traverse such fear is to understand that said death (change) is a metaphorical death, rather than a literal one, as well as to clearly see how there are things about your life, health, and/or belief systems that are not working, could use more tools (such as nutritional guidance, spiritual and energetic tools, and other awareness and education), or could use the outside expertise of a healer of some variety to help us to clearly move into a process of change.

We also very much have a vested interest in our current reality, which is the real reason why resolutions and plans to change don’t work.

If we ask the question of what within us has a vested interest in our current reality, it is always our ego-minds, or what is wounded within us. Our minds take on the wounded beliefs and ideologies of prior trauma and conditioning (and trauma created from conditioning– needing to fit into said conditioning, feeling at odds with it, and the basic trauma that occurs from trying to fit into models of existence, personality, and behavior that is socially acceptable and/or thrust upon us. We work through models, which is why representation is so important, but what we don’t discuss is how limiting those models, as represented by pop culture in the modern world, typically are).

By working with our resistance and our wounded selves compassionately (rather than attempting to ram through them through sheer force of will or by telling our wounded selves that just want cookies for breakfast that they are “wrong”, thus perpetuating the trauma– and even re-traumatizing that trauma through attempting to, for example, tell our inner six year old whose only comfort and source of safe nurturing during that time was sweets that sweets are wrong), we can get to the root of what is not allowing us to come into present consciousness, what is resistant, what is craving destruction or ill health within us.

This is what works– by compassionately understanding what is resistant within us, by working with what is traumatized within us so it can realize that it is not in fact six years old, but an adult that can now have different options, different tools, and a different way of being that can allow for health.

I do, of course, suggest my book The Body Deva, for getting to the root of said traumas. Using this method you can ask your body things like what within me is not allowing me to exercise? Or what within me consistently wants to reach for numbing substances, television, treats, etc. instead of dynamically feeling?

Another big question when looking to dynamically change is to ask your body deva what within me fears change? What you find when you ask this question is that it is typically the traumatized self that fears change. Meaning that it is not your current age, your current self. It is your inner six year old (for example) that fears change.

What happens when we heal our trauma is that we become more integrated, we come more into our adult consciousness, and our adult consciousness has options. For example, our child selves could not leave their situations. They may have had only one or two options to deal with their pain, both of them not ideal. As an adult we typically have greater options, more tools, knowledge, or can in our adult capacity learn such tools and knowledge, if we are open to doing so.

In addition to the internal dynamics of change, we also have externalizing change. What is within is without, and what is without is within, and focusing on what is unhealed within us always creates tremendous change in our external reality. This is one of the things that I talk about all the time with my advanced students– that spiritual work creates changes in external reality, sometimes quite intensively. It clears away what is not working in our lives, or at the very least highlights what is not working in our lives.

But in this equation (what is without is within, and vice versa) we sometimes forget the vice versa aspect of things. Basically, that sometimes we need changes in our external reality to create internal change, or to make room for it.

This has been long known in varying forms of folk magic and spiritual work, which often focus on either anchoring the work to the physical world through physical objects (statues, offerings, vessels of varying sorts, dolls and other forms of sympathetic magic to represent the work being done), as well as often pragmatic advice about getting the “mundane” in order before attending to the spiritual layer of things.

More simply put, if you want to do spiritual work to bring in financial wellness, you would first get your finances in order, (this doesn’t mean everything paid off, more of an understanding of what your financial picture actually looks like with clarity), gain tools and knowledge about how finances work, and then do spiritual work surrounding finances. You can also add on top of this doing body deva or similar work to see what is unhealed within you in regards to finances, which typically goes far beyond the personal to the transpersonal– meaning ancestors and family lineage and their relationship with power, money, and financial solvency.

By working both internally (seeing what is unhealed), gaining tools and knowledge, as well as creating space energetically and spiritually through varying methods, change can be created and sustained.

While there can be more complex ritualization of bringing in “the new”, often we do not recognize that very simple acts can be done in our external environment to support our internal work and hopes for change. If you are not physically up to such things, there are folks out there who do house organizing, cleaning, or friends that may be willing to help. Or, you can just take things slow and at your own pace.

  • Clean your house, apartment, etc. It seems so simple, but the first step in bringing in new energies is to remove stagnant ones. This means dusting, vacuuming, and picking up. Energy stagnates where there is stagnation– meaning if you have a pile of stuff, consider that to be a pile of internal stuckness within you.
  • Donate, give away what you have not used for 1-2 years. Those old clothes that you are hoping will some day fit? Those baby items from your last kid? There is likely another person that can use them, that is looking for them. Certainly you can keep a memento or two, you do not need to get rid of everything, but see what you own as a representation of your identity. Some of your clothes and other household items that are sitting around, never used, or that represent an old self are keeping you energetically as that old self. What that means is that you holding on to that old concert tee-shirt from when you were twenty might be a wonderful memento. You holding on to your entire wardrobe from when you were twenty when you are now thirty-five means that some aspect of you is being energetically still held in that past.
  • Likewise, consider a small ritual. Find an item that once held special meaning to you. This may be a toy, item of clothing, book, etc. This item represents who you might have been five years ago, ten, or forty. Donate or offer this item to someone else who may have use for it. In doing so, you are setting the intention that this aspect of you was cherished, but it is not who you currently are. Obviously only do this with items you are ready to part with, but this is something simple and profound that can be done to bring you into current consciousness, and to close a previous chapter of your identity.
  • Consider how many items you have out and in your space. Clutter means a lack of flow in your house, in your work space, and in your life. Carefully box away what you want to keep, and keep items out that have importance to you, but every form of feng shui and other forms of energy work that have to do with physical spaces focus on keeping spaces as clear as possible so energy can flow through your house and your life.

Here are some other ways to physically bring in a new self:

  • Take a Spiritual Bath. Instructions for how to do this comprehensively are in my book, The Shamanic Workbook 1, but after you have physically cleansed, a simple bath with some Epsom salts (a cup or two) and half a lemon or lime with some solid intention of clearing out the old is incredibly effective.
  • Consider who you want to be, who your true self is, and purchase one item that represents that (or, if you already have this item, bring it out). Put it in a place of prominence, a continual reminder of who you are and what you can grow into.
  • Learn something new. Put yourself in a situation that makes you feel slightly awkward (not unsafe, though). For example, take that Tai Chi class you have always wanted to take. Do something that you have always wanted to do but that doesn’t fit into your current personality/identity or what people might think of you. In Chinese Medicine we talk about how people tend to gravitate towards their imbalances and to consolidate them, and you doing something totally different from what is expected of you can quickly usher in a new self, whether it is done once or many times.
  • Realize that you deserve boundaries. That in order for other people to know what your boundaries are, they need to be clearly defined by you (you need to be solid on them internally). Learn to say “no”. Realize when you are in relationships, friendships, and other situations in which you are being asked to lessen yourself, to conform, to take on toxic energies. Realize that conflict is a necessary part of life, and it can be done in an adult way, even if the other person doesn’t appreciate it (and may not react in an adult way). Learn how to internally say “no” and externally say “no” when necessary. Love is not conditional, if it is conditional it isn’t love, and you changing yourself to find approval in those situations isn’t going to work. You enacting boundaries will clearly show you what you need to heal internally, what relationships in your life need space or to be let go of (or held onto), as situations involving necessary conflict will show you clearly what within you is not in an adult state of consciousness.
  • Clearly write out a list of what is not working in your life. I know this is hard, and this type of clarity can be brutal. This is not to bring you to a place of depression or despair, it really isn’t. What I can tell you is that the only way we create change is by seeing with clarity what is not working in our lives, and that even if we have created elaborate mythologies to block out seeing these things, we always intuitively know what they are. It just takes some honesty to be willing to look straight at them. This list should be focused on you– meaning if your relationship is not working, this is not a list of forty things that are wrong with your partner. Even if your list is a few pages long, being honest with yourself and seeing with clarity is the first step towards fixing things, towards healing them.
  • The next step after this list is to realize that healing does work. You can evolve, you can move forward from limiting beliefs, you can become healthier and stronger in a way that works for you (not necessarily in a way that society deems said things, that is just more limitation typically). But often we need more tools, more awareness, and a different perspective. Find a healer in the New Year, or whenever you want to change, to support you. Find someone who seems grounded, sane, and experienced. Someone who has clearly done their own work, who is not caught up in the superiority-inferiority loop (if they talk about how special they are, how enlightened, and how everyone else sucks, I suggest finding another healer; if they have become a healer or therapist to have control over others and to not do their own work, they will not have a grounded, compassionate presence).

If there were one thing I would say to people, it is that healing is worth it. It is worth the expense, the time, and the trouble. We live in such an era of rugged individualism and people often believe that they need to suffer alone. There are low cost options for healing, free or low cost events at yoga studios and the like, community acupuncture, sliding scale practitioners, and student clinics.

We heal in relation to one another, by connecting. What is traumatized within us has created a lot of beliefs; it also believes that it is alone. This is the hallmark of trauma– we feel as if we are “the only one”. Intellectually we may realize that we are not, of course. But the work of becoming anew does not need to sit solely on our shoulders– it is by doing what we can alone, and then reaching out to learn new tools, to gain new knowledge, and to see with clarity what is unhealed within us through the perspective of another human being– that we can evolve to become our greater selves.

Those who heal and awaken do so by becoming anew, again and again. It is a continual deconstruction process, one that often requires teachers and guides and helpers and friends. It is always our personal decision to look at what is not working in our lives, to heal what is within us that is unwilling to change. Often we become so invested in our personal realities that we block ourselves from ever interfacing with anything that may create change, or endanger our current selves and reality. It is by looking straight at what isn’t working in our lives, by being open and willing to see beyond where we are and who we are now, that we can change.

Being stuck is painful. We are meant to be in a continual state of flow, of evolution. That is the natural order of things. It is by tending to that pain, that stuckness, both within and without, that we can be in flow… and become our highest potential in this world.


Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual healer, teacher, and author. You can find out more information about spiritual cleansing in her book, The Shamanic Workbook I: Cleansing, Discernment, and Ancestral Practices