Two years ago I began what has now become an annual tradition at Abbey of the Arts during this time of new year reflection. I offer the same invitation this year, again with some prizes to give away on January 6th, and this time with a free gift for everyone who participates.
*Everyone* who shares their word for the year and a brief description in the comments below also gets a *free guided meditation recording* from the Abbey with an *Embodied Examen Prayer for the New Year.* It is a great way to reflect on the past year and tend your dreams for the next. To claim your free gift, read through the instructions below and when your word for 2012 emerges, share it in the comments (scroll to the bottom of the page) and then email Eveline, the fabulous Abbey admin at email@example.com and request the link.
Then share this invitation with others! Help spread the love and opportunity for reflection!
Read on for more inspiration:
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.
Last year my word was sanctuary. Sanctuary has multiple meanings: the sanctuary in a church is the place where the holy of holies dwells, but we also create sanctuaries for animals needing protection or for persons fleeing persecution. The layers to this word shimmered throughout my year, but especially the sense of finding sanctuary within my own heart, to feel at home in the world. This was the grace of this past year, its fierce lesson for me. This year my word is *savor* (click the link if you want to read more about its meaning for me). It came to me in a moment of silent prayer as I reflected on the call I am feeling these days to deeply savor each moment of my life, to immerse myself even more in the present moment. I am eager to discover what the word holds for me this coming year.
If you want help in letting a word choose you, scroll down for several suggestions.
- What is your word for the year ahead? A word which contains within it a seed of invitation to cross a new threshold?
- What word, phrase, or image is shimmering before you right now inviting you to dwell with it until it ripens fully inside of you?
Share your word in the comments below before Friday, January 6th and then email Eveline at firstname.lastname@example.org for your free gift.
You will also be entered into a drawing to win one of several prizes from the Abbey and beloved Abbey partners:
- A space in the upcoming Lenten online art retreat Soul of a Pilgrim (starting February 22 through April 7, 2012 – registration will open in mid-January – description coming soon!)
- A space in one of the Abbey's on-demand courses – Water, Wind, Earth, & Fire: Praying with the Elements; Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Contemplative Practice; or Lectio Divina: The Sacred Art of Reading the World.
- A selection of Christine's books and art journals including The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, Lectio Divina–The Sacred Arts: Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayer, and Water, Wind, Earth and Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements.
- A copy of Kayce Stevens Hughlett's new book of daily reflection – As I Lay Pondering: Daily Invitations to Live a Transformed Life (a fabulous new book of daily meditations and practices)
- A copy of Betsey Beckman's newest storydance video – Woman at the Well (a powerful video of Betsey dancing this powerful biblical story)
Leave your word for the year ahead in the comments below plus a couple of sentences describing your choice. Please note that I have my comments moderated for those who are new to posting here (meaning I need to manually approve them) so it may not show up immediately, but should within 24-48 hours.
You can earn additional entries in the drawing by posting this invitation to Facebook (make sure to link to Abbey of the Arts of Christine Valters Paintner so I see it) or Tweet it using #AbbeyoftheArts.
Letting a Word Choose You
For some of you the word may have come right away, but for some you may desire a word to ripen within your soul these coming weeks and months, but one doesn't seem to be coming. So here are some suggestions for allowing a word to choose you:
- Release your thinking mind in this process, this isn't about figuring out just the right word to improve yourself this coming year. The word comes as gift, often your sense of it being "right" is more intuitive, a more embodied sense of yes. The word (or phrase) is one that will work in you (rather than you working on it). Remember that a word that creates a sense of inner resistance is as important to pay attention to as one that has a great deal of resonance.
- Lectio divina is one of the primary practices we have in Christian monastic tradition for listening for a word or phrase that shimmers or calls to our hearts. Lectio is traditionally applied to scripture, but can also be engaged to pray with life experience. Allow some time for prayer and in your imagination review this last year, honoring it as a sacred text. As you walk through your experiences notice which ones stand out, call to you for more attention, or shimmer forth. There may be more than one, but for this time of prayer select one of them (and you can return to others in future times of prayer). Enter into it with all of your senses. Remember it in all of its detail. Experience it from this place you are in now. Notice if there is a word or phrase which rises up. Then allow that word to unfold in your imagination and welcome in images, feelings, and memories which stir in you. After a time of making space for these, begin to ask what is the invitation or call rising up from these noticings? Where is God calling you to a new awareness or action in your life? Close with some time of silence.
- Approach a soul friend, a spiritual director, or a wise elder for your word, as in the desert tradition. They might need some time to ponder this with you. It is always wise to consult with a soul companion or community when testing the fruits of prayer.
- Create a time of retreat for this holy time of year. A couple of hours is enough. Make space to sink into silence, journal, reflect on your experiences of the year past. Write about your dreams and deep desires for the year ahead. In the space of contemplation and stillness, notice if there is a word, image, or phrase which rises up.
- Go for a contemplative walk where you aren't trying to get anywhere. Your sole purpose is to be as present as possible to each footfall. Listen for how your inner life is calling you forward with each step. Be present to the gifts of creation around you (even if it is the city pigeons and trees planted down the sidewalk). Listen if they might have a word to offer to you.
- Listen to your dreams in these coming days. As you go to sleep, lay a piece of paper and pen by your bed as a sign of your willingness to receive the wisdom that comes in dreams. Consider strong dream images as possible words calling to you. Pay attention to synchronicities through the day. Are there images or words which seem to repeat themselves? If so, take note.
- Allow time for the word to ripen. This may be a slow process. If you hear a word calling, sit with it for a couple of days. Listen attentively to the stirrings of your heart in response. Eventually there will be a tugging inside of you, where you feel yourself drawn again and again to this word. Allow yourself to be in a space of unknowing with this and practice being present to your anticipation knowing that things of the soul unfold in their own time. This is a journey of transformation and the word may not make immediate sense to you, but trust that over time more of its meaning will be revealed.
When the word emerges, please share it with me and others in the comments section below. I am truly blessed by the sharings offered there – it is such a gift of hope in this time of holy darkness (and if you share by Friday, January 6th you are entered into a random drawing for a chance to win one of several prizes!)
If you want to be notified of more Abbey gifts and offerings, consider subscribing to our email newsletter (which includes another free gift just for signing up!)