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Have you picked your word of the year yet?

A few days ago, I happened upon a post at the lovely Abbey of the Arts blog suggesting I pick a word as a theme or focal point for the coming year. Or, more accurately, that I let my word pick me. At the time, I was working at my basement computer with all three kids buzzing around just on the other side of the little cloth folding screen that is part of my somewhat futile attempt to create a separate office space. In reality it has created the third ring in our little circus.

Anyway, as I read the blog and pondered what my word would be if I could hear it over the mayhem, I decided there was no way I was going be picked by a word this year, and, if I was, it would probably be forced. So I let it go.

The next morning, I decided to resume writing my Morning Pages, which is part of The Artist’s Way exercises. As I wrote about the start of the new year and my spiritual life and my journey in general, suddenly there it was:

LISTEN…

My word reached out and grabbed me and then shook me a bit for good measure. There was no denying it. This was my word. It had found me after all, in the brief quiet space I try to create every morning before I sit down to my silent breakfast.

Why did this word resonate with me so when I heard it? Because for the past year, or past several years, I have been desperately trying to listen more, to hear that still, small voice. Those of you who read this blog regularly are probably all too aware of this desire of mine. But this time, the need to listen goes beyond that.

Yes, yes, I absolutely need to listen for the Spirit, and, in order to do that, I need to make regular quiet time for just me and God. But as soon as I heard that word in my head, saw it in my journal, I realized that for 2012 the need to listen goes much deeper.

I need to listen to my children. Really listen. Look them in the eyes when they speak to me, not type an email and nod as they talk somewhere behind me. I need to listen for what they’re trying to tell me, not only with their words but with their hearts. I need to listen to my husband, to my family, to my friends without interrupting or fashioning a response in my head while they are still speaking, or multitasking while I talk to one of them on the phone. I need to listen to my work, to the world around me, to my life unfolding before me. That’s a lot of listening.

Such a simple word and yet so profound. It seems so easy to listen. But are we listening with our heads or are we, as St. Benedict instructed, listening with “the ear of our heart”? Too often I save the heart listening for prayer, when I really need to be doing that kind of listening all the time. Contemplative listening, even when there’s absolutely nothing contemplative about my life. That will be a real challenge for me, I promise you that.

That’s the theme of my year then. To listen. With the ear of my heart.

If you’d like some help exploring your word possibilities, head over to the Abbey of the Arts for that and so much other wonderful stuff. Just click HERE. And, when you find your word, or your word finds you, come back and share it with the rest of us.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Mary, Happy 2012! I’ve done this too, and my word for 2012 is BELOVED.

    I’ve encouraged some friends to do it too, and one told me today that hers is OBEDIENCE – that’s a tough one!

    January 6, 2012
  2. Bill #

    I’ve had a similar but different experience the last couple of days. A word has been coming to me in quiet moments, one that resonates with how I’ve been thinking and acting lately, but it’s not a word expressive of a quality I would like to embrace more deeply in the coming year. The word is “combative.” More and more I find myself being judgmental and wanting to put people who disagree with me in their place. That’s not my history, nor do I think that’s the real me. I think it’s a sign of the stress of my particular job. Still, your post made me think that maybe the Spirit IS speaking to me–giving me a word/quality that makes me uncomfortable so I’m inspired to find a word/quality to replace it. So my word for 2012 is UNDERSTANDING. I want to try to understand where those on the opposite side are coming from. Thank you for prompting me to have this conversation with myself.

    January 7, 2012
  3. Dear Sasha and Bill,

    Thanks for sharing your words.

    Sasha, Have you heard of Henri Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World”? Great book, especially considering your word.

    I’m also trying to remember a piece I did on obedience. If I can find it (it would have been for OSV), I’ll post it here.

    I’ll be back at some point later this year to let you know how my journey with my word is working out.

    Peace,
    Mary

    January 9, 2012

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