Journal prompts and exercises modeled after the East-Indian ritual ‘Bohag Bihu’ to help you get past your hurdles.
Everything around me feels jaded.
I’m on the verge of a major career switch, and there’s still a month of notice period left.
It’s as if I’m stuck in limbo.
I can’t work wholeheartedly for my new life because some office commitments pull me back. And I can’t throw myself into my old job because I know only a few more days remain. It’s pointless getting invested in something I’m giving up soon.
This is taking a toll on my mental health, making me unable to start anything new, or even see my old projects to completion. I struggle to get out of bed each morning, wondering if there’s a point left to anything. It’s as if I’m on auto-pilot, mechanically counting off days on my calendar and waiting till I get the new lease of life.
Today, as I was scrolling through social media to get my mind off things, I got a call from my father wishing me a happy Bohag Bihu. It’s a festival marking the onset of the Assamese new year, and one of the most widely-loved holidays in the northeastern part of India.
Talking to my father reminded me of the seven-day ritual our village used to participate in when I was younger. Bohag Bihu is a celebration of the bounties of spring, of the freshness in the air, and a way to welcome all the wonderful opportunities lying in wait in the coming year. It’s also a goodbye to the bygone days, a way to say thank you for everything good and derive lessons from the painful incidents of the past year.
The memories brought tears to my eyes. How relevant was all this to my current situation!
It made me realize that no matter where we are or what we are currently facing, it’s never too late to let go of the pain in the past and welcome a happier tomorrow.
With that in mind, I set about designing a journaling and self-reflection routine based on the seven days of Bohag Bihu. And in this post, I’m sharing the ritual with you. You can treat it as an exercise in self-awareness and to welcome the mindset of abundance. This 7-day routine should help you move past a dark phase and begin life with renewed hope.
Note that the Bohag Bihu celebrations coincide with the onset of the Assamese new year, which usually falls on the 15th of April. But you can pick this exercise up whenever you feel like you’re done with life as it is and are ready to welcome a new beginning. It doesn’t have to be a career switch, but it can be a spiritual awakening, a way for you to get in touch with your innermost desires.
This 7-day routine should help you move past a dark phase and begin life with renewed hope.
Day One: Saying Goodbye
The first day of Bohag Bihu is called Raati Bihu. Back in my village, this was celebrated at night, by setting fire to the rice husk of the previous harvest. The village folk gathered around this bonfire and danced to the merriment of saying goodbye to a successful year.
The spirit of Raati Bihu is in bidding goodbye to a painful past and moving ahead with the lessons learned. Here are some journal prompts to help you achieve that:
- What are the three hardest hurdles you faced in the past few months?
- How did you get past these hurdles?
- What feelings of fear, sadness, or loss did the pain evoke in your heart?
As you write each answer, whisper a small prayer and say thank you to these struggles and negative feelings for stopping by. Then, bid them goodbye and cast them aside to the metaphorical funeral pyre.
Writing them down should feel like unloading. Like you’re physically taking these negative emotions and experiences out of your heart and keeping them aside. They shaped you, but their job is done. It’s time to look ahead.
Writing them should feel like unloading. Like you’re physically taking these negative emotions and experiences out of your heart and keeping them aside.
Day Two: Looking Forward
The next morning marks the onset of the second day of Bohag Bihu, known as Chot Bihu. This is celebrated by a gathering of the village folk in the morning and a ceremonial song and dance to welcome the new year.
The spirit of Chot Bihu lies in looking ahead to the upcoming year and welcoming it with open arms. Here are some journal prompts to help you achieve that:
- What did these struggles teach you about yourself?
- Do you see a recurring thread tying up all three?
- Keeping that in mind, what are the top three qualities in yourself you are proud of?
- What is the biggest lesson you learned from these obstacles? How did they change you as a person?
These prompts are designed for you to understand your strength of will. You have suffered enough pain. Now, it’s time to only carry the lessons forward and recognize the scars the dark phase left on your soul. These scars can be converted into armor that will help you deal with what life has in store for you next.
You’ve suffered enough pain. Now, it’s time to only carry the lessons forward and recognize the scars the dark phase left on your soul.
Day Three: Understanding the Tools in Your Arsenal
The third day of Bohag Bihu is Goru Bihu. Traditionally, the cows of the village are brought to a water source and given a good cleanse. They are washed with turmeric and gram paste and fed cakes made with rice flour and jaggery.
The spirit of Goru Bihu is to never forget every soul that contributed to your success. Since ancient Assam was largely an agrarian society and the cows played a significant role in a successful harvest, this day of the festival was dedicated to ensuring their well-being and getting them ready for another year of hard work.
We aren’t farmers any longer, but we can channel this spirit to achieve success. Here are some journal prompts to help you do so:
- What tools in your arsenal helped you win against your demons?
- How can you sharpen and polish them so they continue to serve you?
- What are some practices that helped you heal? (You can write about journaling, meditation, or any acts of self-care you practiced that helped you plow through the tough days.)
So often, we are engulfed in our daily struggles that we rarely take a moment to pause and reflect on everything that helped us move ahead. The goal of this step to is recognize the transformative power of such tools, and to gain a better understanding of how you can apply them to deal with setbacks in the future.
Day Four: Celebrating Yourself
Manuh Bihu, the fourth day of Bohag Bihu, is dedicated to the celebration of our humanity. It falls on the first day of the Bohag (or Vaisakh) month and is celebrated by taking a special bath with turmeric, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory qualities that prevent skin infection and prevent acne and scarring. Everyone wears new clothes and turns over a metaphorical new leaf.
The spirit of this day is to take a day off primarily for self-care. I didn’t design any journaling prompts for the fourth day, but here are some things you can do to celebrate the gorgeous mess that you are:
- Take a long shower, paying special attention to how the warm water feels on your skin. Visualize it washing away all the aches of the tough phase, and preparing your body for the wonderful things ahead.
- Light a candle, play some soothing music and put on a hydrating face mask.
- Go out for a walk, read a book, play with a stray puppy — basically do anything that makes you happy without having to worry about the outcome.
Notice how these aren’t activities that will take all day long. Even if you can’t take out an entire day for self-care, you can at least set aside a few minutes to pamper yourself and give your body the rest it needs.
So often we get caught up in the bustle of life that we forget to be grateful to our bodies for enduring so much. This day could be your way of saying “Thank you.”
Even if you can’t take out an entire day for self-care, you can at least set aside a few minutes to pamper yourself and give your body the rest it needs.
Day Five: Celebrating Your Tribe
The fifth day of Bohag Bihu is called Kutum Bihu. Kutum is the Assamese word for “family.” This day is marked by people visiting the homes of their friends and family, bearing gifts, and bonding over snacks.
The spirit of this day is to celebrate your community and cherish the bond you’ve forged. After all, no human is an island, and this day serves as a reminder of that fact. Here are some ways you can celebrate your own Kutum Bihu:
- Make a list of the ten friends and family members who have always stuck with you through thick and thin.
- Add to that list the names of those friends who used to be close as children but later drifted apart.
- Send them a message inquiring about their well-being, and call them up if possible. Celebrate the friendship you’ve shared for so long, and thank them for being a part of your life.
Humans are social animals, and it’s important to keep n touch with the people who matter. Even though you might have been in regular touch with your friends before, the pandemic has changed all that. This day could be your way of fighting back, of reaching out to your loved ones and reminding them how important they are to you.
The spirit of this day is to celebrate your community and cherish the bond you’ve forged.
Day Six: Carrying the Lessons Forward
Mela Bihu marks the sixth day of Bohag Bihu. Mela is Assamese for “fete.” This day marks a grand celebration in the village where people from all over attend cultural events, fairs, and competitions.
The spirit of this day is to mark the togetherness of the community and to welcome the upcoming year ahead with a bang. Once you’ve admitted the pain of the past, drawn lessons from it, taken time off to celebrate the tools in your arsenal, the people in your community, and yourself, it’s time to know how to carry the lessons you learned forward. Here are some journal prompts to help you do that:
- Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
- Based on what you learned in the past few months, what skills will help you in your chosen path?
- If you keep going at your current pace, how long will it take to reach your goal?
“Regrets are as nothing. The value lies in how they are answered.”
― Steven Erikson, House of Chains
Pain can be a great teacher only if you let it. These prompts will give you a broader perspective on life and help you understand where you are currently and what you need to do to reach where you want to be. Answering these might require a lot of soul-searching, but trust me, they’ll be worth the hard work.
Pain can be a great teacher only if you let it.
Day Seven: Preparing Yourself
The last day of Bohag Bihu is called Chera Bihu or Bohagi Bidai. It’s marked by wrapping up the celebrations, clearing up the festive decorations, making resolutions for the year ahead.
The theme of this day is to prepare yourself for what’s to come. This is your cue to set actionable goals and habits for yourself so you can reach your full potential. Here’s what you can do to go about this:
- Set long-term targets for yourself that you hope to achieve.
- Then, break these targets down into micro-habits that will help you make these dreams come true.
For example, if your target is to become a full-time writer, the micro-habit can be to write something every day. At this stage, it can be difficult to set concrete deadlines. For example, “I’ll be a full-time writer by December 2021” can be scary because it’s bound to shatter your hope if you can’t make it come true for some reason. But “I’ll write something every day” is an easy target to achieve, and if you get it done, you’ll feel good about yourself for the rest of the day.
This is your cue to set actionable goals and habits for yourself so you can reach your full potential.
I know this 7-day exercise will be super hard to stick to, but I’m committed to working through the entire process and coming out stronger on the other side. Writing this article is my way of promising myself that I’ll complete it, no matter what.
If you’re committed to getting rid of the pain and looking ahead to the future with renewed hope, here’s what you can do:
- Write about the hardest struggles you faced in the past months.
- Next, write about how you overcame them. Reflect on what it reveals about your character.
- Be aware of the tools and practices that helped you heal and introspect how you can use them better to deal with future challenges.
- Celebrate yourself and take off some time for self-care.
- Call up your old friends, and take a few moments to thank your closest family members for being with you through the dark phases.
- Reflect on the lessons learned and see how they fit into your long-term goals.
- Set some micro-habits for yourself that will help you make your long-term goals and dreams come true.
Yes, this 7-day routine is hard. But it might be the most important thing you do for yourself this year.
If you feel like giving up halfway through, remember that you’ve overcome far harder struggles. In the long run, this is going to be but a blip on your radar.
You can take steps to turn your pain into lessons and carry them forward to carve out a better future for yourself.
It’s not easy, but you can do it. I have full faith in you.
Yes, this 7-day routine is hard. But it might be the most important thing you do for yourself this year.
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