I like to begin my new year with an exercise that Abbey of the Arts shared several years ago – and shares again each year.
It involves letting a word choose you.
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? http://abbeyofthearts.com/blog/2016/12/06/give-me-a-word-2017-8th-annual-giveaway/
So I did a meditation yesterday asking my word for 2017 to come.
And it did.
It was a word that certainly challenges me. It also has mystery. I can’t grasp quite how it will be a part of my New Year.
And that’s okay. I’ll spend a year wrestling with it.
My word for 2017 is transmute.
I was resistant at first to let this word come. Partially because I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant.
I tried to change it to transform.
But it refused to change. Transmute is what it insisted on being.
After my meditation, I went to the dictionary to look at its meaning.
Google defines it as a verb that means:
1) change in form, nature, or substance,
2) subject (base metals) to alchemical transmutation.
The Cambridge English Dictionary definition is: to change something completely, especially into something different and better.
Now I see why transmute didn’t want to become transform. The alchemical connection seems particularly apt when I look at my personal journey (plus it’s connected with the “refiner’s fire” mentioned above). I feel as if I’m being changed on a cellular level, especially during and since my cancer journey.
I do see my word as a challenge.
Change can be hard. I often resist it, partially because I’m comfortable with what is – or think I am.
I’m also afraid of the unknown.
And becoming something different and better is surely the unknown!
Christian Valters Painter writes in another post in Abbey of the Arts:
New Year’s resolutions often come from a place of lack, or of thinking we know how to “fix” ourselves. Unfortunately, they are often fueled by a consumer culture that is eager to have us buy more and more things to improve ourselves. Embracing mystery, on the other hand, honors our profound giftedness and depth and acknowledges that coming to know ourselves and God is a lifetime exploration.
So my invitation to you, dear monks and artists, is to shift your thinking this year. Welcome in ambiguity. Learn to love the holy darkness of mystery. Dance on the fertile edges of life. Let what you love ripen forth.
For me, transmute certainly is in the realm of mystery. I don’t know what it means for my life in 2017.
But I am interested to take the journey and find out.
Won’t you join me in letting a word for 2017 choose you?
Won’t you join me in shifting your thinking?
Won’t you join me in letting what you love ripen forth?
Let’s journey together, each with our own word, each in our own place, but together on the journey.