For the past several years – around each New Year’s Day – I follow the suggestion from Abbey of the Arts to let a word for my year find me.
This year I took my time and did some of the exercises from the Abbey’s “Give Me a Word 2018.” I didn’t arrive at my word until Friday, the 5th of January. I often have it by the 1st.
Here is the Abbey’s basic direction for finding your word:
In ancient times, wise men and women fled out into the desert to find a place where they could be fully present to God and to their own inner struggles at work within them. The desert became a place to enter into the refiner’s fire and be stripped down to one’s holy essence. The desert was a threshold place where you emerged different than when you entered.
Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life. One tradition was to ask for a word – this word or phrase would be something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime. This practice is connected to lectio divina, where we approach the sacred texts with the same request – “give me a word” we ask – something to nourish me, challenge me, a word I can wrestle with and grow into. The word which chooses us has the potential to transform us.
What is your word for the year ahead? A word which contains within it a seed of invitation to cross a new threshold in your life?
I did some of the Abbey’s suggested exercises, and then on Friday I tried a guided meditation from another online source.
During the meditation, I asked for my word.
And it came.
My word for 2018 is Community.
Yes, it came capitalized. None of my other words for the year have ever come capitalized. I suppose that could matter. We’ll see.
Last year my word was transmute. I found it daunting. It dealt with “change in form, nature, or substance.” And it also had an alchemical connection. I knew that alchemy dealt with heating things up in a crucible. That’s not a pleasant experience!
And I did indeed have a daunting, challenging year of some hot crucible situations in 2017. The major transmutation manifested in my physical body. Two big surgeries – a hysterectomy and a double knee replacement. And also add a little dermatologic surgery to remove a mole on my scalp last month, and that gave me almost an entire year of physical transmutation.
The challenges of physical recovery intensified the transmutation of my spirit and soul, as well.
So I was glad to leave 2017 and its transmutational challenges behind (even though I’m still recovering from the double knee replacement. That will take about a year). I let go of 2017 with a severe stomach virus in the week after Christmas. A very deep purging of 2017!
And now I’m in 2018, looking to explore Community.
I did think about Community quit a bit in the last several months because I depended on friends, people of my community, to help me after my sister (my caretaker) left five weeks after my knee surgery. When you’re healing from a big surgery, you need friends to help you with things you can’t do for yourself.
It turned out that people of my physically-nearby community were the ones who helped me. I’d thought that people from my spiritual communities would be the ones to help, but they weren’t. My helpers were from nearby, mostly people I’ve known for years.
So I have already been pondering community before this came as my word for this year.
I’ll be looking at Community with questions in mind:
What makes a Community? How does it manifest? What are its traits? How can a Community help us – and perhaps even hinder us?
Can online Communities be just as influential and important as physical ones?
Do people in a Community have to think alike, be alike, believe alike? Must there be several commonalities?
Are Communities essential for a happy human life? (I’m pretty sure I already know the answer to this one).
I’ll ponder these questions and many others that will arise during the course of the year. I’m curious to see if and/or how my current communities change. I’m feeling a disconnection with one that was essential for me for many years. I’m wondering how that will play out.
When I quit teaching high school a decade ago, I very much wanted to find a community of like-minded people. I joined several groups in my search for community.
I never found my ideal community.
But I think that’s because my ideal wasn’t realistic. That I had the wrong “requirements” in mind. I didn’t have the maturity necessary to know what Community actually meant.
So now I’m looking again – but not searching.
I’m much less needy now. I’m more mature now – less resentful, less critical.
Now I’m more open to various forms of Community. I’m looking to see how Community might help me grow, how I might contribute to Community, how Community might take many different forms, how I might be a part of many Communities.
I have a deep sense that Community might be what saves our world today.
That it may well be essential that we discover new ways of being Community within time-honored versions of Community.
Perhaps the entire earth is a Community – just as this smaller geographic area where I live is also one.
I’m already finding Community to be a rich word that will nourish me, challenge me, a word I can wrestle with and grow into.
Here’s to 2018 and opportunities for transformation at a new threshold.
And opportunities for Community – in many forms – in my life!