Please, Give Me A Word

After my many weeks where words stayed just out of my sight and hearing, I was inspired by the Abby of the Arts to seek and ponder a word for the year ahead. Christine Valters Paintner, the online Abbess of the Abby, wrote:

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.

She then asked her readers:

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?

I pondered and tried on words for many days, without finding one that “shimmered.” Words that I typically would find inspirational, words like “joy,” “adventure,” “truth,” “kindness'” fell like duds, without even the tiniest spark of life.

It was on my morning walk the day after my Alexander Technique lesson that the first gleam of a word appeared.

In my AT lesson, my teacher encouraged me to “use my eyes” to take in the space around me, and to see all the space above me that is mine to inhabit. She asked me to let my eyes sweep across the floor and up the wall in front of me to lead me in standing up from sitting on a chair.

I remembered how my harp teacher encourages me when I am trying to read music to allow my eyes to have a “wider aperture,” so that I will see more than one measure of music at a time. I continue to work on moving my eyes forward in the music so that I will see where I am going, instead of staying focused on where I’ve been.

Then I noticed how I was walking: head down, staring at the pavement, instead of seeing the bare trees etching their shapes against the remarkably blue sky above me. I lifted my head and saw two bluebirds, a male and a female, flitting from tree to tree. I wondered if my word for the year would be “Vision.”

The next morning, again while on my walk, the acrostic that came to me sealed the deal:

Vision requires

Inner and outer


Images await your discovery.

Open your eyes and your heart, so that they may

Nurture you.

My word for the year is “Vision.” Now I begin the discovery of all the treasure that this word holds for me.



10 thoughts on “Please, Give Me A Word

  1. Oh well done! I love Paintner’s books. And love the “wider aperture” metaphor. Photography has improved my ability to SEE so much. Look forward to reading more about what comes into your vision in 2015!


  2. I can’t believe it! I subscribe to the Abbey of the Arts newsletter too! We studied one of her books in my spirituality and meditation class. Another small world coincidence. I like your word and the acrostic. Oh to see those bluebirds when you looked up…you could have missed them.


    1. Obviously we were separated at birth! I haven’t yet read one of Christine’s books, but i find her newsletters very sustaining. I am getting better at remembering to look up. Already some of the trees are getting fuzzy with new buds, and cardinals are courting!


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