Each year for the last two years I have invited readers to share a word that has chosen them for the year ahead. Give Me a Word for 2012 will be posted on Wedneday, December 21st and I have lots of wonderful goodies in store for you including a free gift for everyone who participates and a drawing for several wonderful prizes on January 6th. So make sure to come back to the Abbey blog to read more and share your own word with us then. If you want a reminder, make sure to subscribe to the Abbey email newsletter.
My own word for the coming year is *savor* – it shimmered in my imagination the other day as I walked downtown holding hands with my beloved.
I have been reading In the Company of Rilke by Stephanie Dowrick. The German poet Rilke has been a teacher of mine for many years but this last year his wisdom has become even more necessary for my life. Each morning as a part of my daily prayer and journaling time I read a poem of his in German and do my best to translate with my rusty language skills. Then I read the translation offered and see what nuances I might have missed.
Then I let a kind of lectio divina practice unfold in my prayer where I listen for a word or phrase that shimmers and then sit with what it has to reveal to me. Sometimes the meaning emerges quickly in the silence, often it ripens over many days. As I read in Dowrick's book the other morning, she was exploring how a central motivation of Rilke's poetry is to explore what it means to live this human life we are given, to discover the inner nature of my particular experience. She wrote: "This familiar life and body will not come again." And I paused there.
It seems fairly obvious in writing it here now, this life and body with which I have grown so fond and familiar are not permanent. I had an encounter with the stark reality of my own mortality a year ago and that experience has thrust me into a far more intense appreciation for everything in my life.
And yet this phrase caught me, saying "savor this life and this body." A question began to sparkle: What if the meaning of my life is to experience my particular life, my lens on the world, my encounters with grief and loss, delight and joy, but all as my unique story never to be repeated again? What might I discover by remembering this daily? How might my relationship to my own experience and to this wondrous vessel that carries me through it all be transformed if I not just offer gratitude for my life, but savor it with relish, knowing that this moment will never again happen. And to trust that this moment carries profound wisdom I need to transform my service to the world.
So the sweetness of my days last winter as I walked hand in hand with my beloved through parks with bare trees, so grateful to be together and be alive, are rushing upon me again. We walked together down our familiar Seattle streets the other day and again I found myself deeply in love with this man, in this moment, and I savored the feel of his rough skin against mine. I savored his gaze over at me, so full of love and familiarity. I savored the way his breath made a faint cloud with each exhale on this chilly evening.
Out of this experience with death last year has come a sense of urgency for me in my life. The things I have wanted to do someday, like live overseas, have suddenly become much more important to pay attention to now.
What happens when we delay our dreams, when we push aside the subtle whispers that rise up when we are quiet for a while? How do they lose their vigor and insistency through a haze of indifference, or holding them off?
Our days are truly jewels, each one a treasure, another opportunity to savor the story emerging in my life. Even the difficult threads, maybe especially the difficult ones.
The root of the word savor comes from the Latin word saporem which means to taste and is also the root of sapient which is the word for wisdom. Another definition I loved is "to give oneself over to the enjoyment of something." When I give myself over to the experience of savoring, wisdom emerges. Savoring calls for a kind of surrender.
Savoring calls me to slowness – I can't savor quickly, and to spaciousness – I can't savor everything at once, and to mindfulness – I can't savor without being fully present.
It also calls for a fierce and wise discernment about how I spend my time and energy. Now that I know deep in my bones the limits of my life breaths, how do I choose to spend those dazzling hours? What are the experiences ripening within me that long for exploration?
There is also a seasonal quality to savoring – this season, what is right before me, right now, is to be savored. It will rise and fall, come into fullness and then slip away. When I savor I pay attention to all the moments of that experience without trying to change it.
And finally, there is a tremendous sweetness to this open-hearted way of being in the world. Everything becomes grace because I recognize it could all be different, it could all be gone. Rather than grasp at how I think this moment should be, I savor the way things are.
What is your word for 2012? Come back on December 21st and share it with the Abbey community, get a free gift just for participating, and enter to win one of several prizes. The post will be open until January 6th so there will be plenty of time for pondering.
But most of all, pause and savor. Surrender to the wisdom of this moment. See what you discover waiting for you right here, right now.