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 stop by this post and share it with me and others. 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 Monday, January 3rd you are entered into a random drawing for a chance to win a spot in one of my online classes!)
For a Visual Meditation on the gifts of Winter stop by here.