Many years ago, I was introduced to the idea of selecting a single word for each calendar year to act as an intention, touchstone, and big-picture goal. The beauty of a single word intention is that the simplicity means multiple ways of connecting are possible.
For example, my word for 2020 was ‘Manifest.’ An interesting aspect of single-word intention practice is watching the way a word will play out against opposition. One of the biggest, most ridiculous hats I wear in life is my Community Organizer hat. Manifesting community during a pandemic can seem like a laughable goal but somehow, that’s exactly what happened. To manifest something is to take it from an idea to a physical reality. With the work of the other organizers within Frederick CUUPS, we were able to manifest an online version of our community. A host of volunteers picked up the ball and ran with it – workshops, rituals, classes, social gatherings, the works. We manifested completely different versions of the rituals that are part of Frederick CUUPS liturgy. It was no small feat – our balance of offerings meant a lot of people working together in service to the community. Manifesting indeed.
My 2021 word was ‘Nurture.’ I entered the last calendar year in deep grief at the loss of my father on December 29th, 2020. I returned to therapy, a practice that continues to this day. I became more aggressive in my rejection of the Body Shame Profit Complex, and was gentler and more loving toward my body. I stayed more aware of my mental health and my needs on that front. When the vaccines came out and we had a spring and summer of something resembling normalcy, I spent time with my beloved family and community. The Full Moon Labyrinth walks during the warmer part of the year filled my soul and began healing the deep wounds the previous isolation caused. Best of all, I was at last able to marry my beloved partner in the sight of the gods, our family, and our community. Nurturing indeed.
This upcoming year, 2022, is arriving amidst great turmoil. On the macro level, a new variant of the plague is sweeping like wildfire across the country and we do not yet know what the upshot will be. The political system here in the United States continues to stagger forward unbalanced, the product of unchecked greed and poor governance in favor of ‘progress’ and capitalist values. Our cops continue to systematically oppress and assault black, indigenous, and people of color on a daily basis. The accelerating climate crisis is worsening (see also ‘progress’ and capitalist values).
On the micro level, my first book is coming out in the spring. My band has shows on the calendar for the warmer months. Depending on how the latest variant plays out, we may finally (knock wood) have a festival season. Some activities in my community have been in person, and with any luck we’ll get to keep seeing each other in the flesh as opposed to little boxes on screens. There is hope amidst the chaos, new growth below the muddling haze of life in these United States.
I have been sitting with all of these thoughts, and one particular memory keeps emerging. In 2013, I did a Temple Stay in South Korea. Temple Stays are wonderful experiences – participants spend a day (or whatever the length of stay they’ve chosen is) living in a fashion similar to a Buddhist nun or monk.
At the end of my Temple Stay, the woman who led our group (becoming a nun the next year, I later learned), told us that she’d spent several years studying Korean philosophy that included energy reading. She offered to read our characters for us, if we wanted. As a fan of all things Divination, I was of course instantly interested. In short, she told me that I am like a torch. Torches are important, not only because they shed light, but because they are also a symbol. Something that the people laboring in the trenches look to for inspiration. She advised me to remember that my word carries a lot of weight, that people put stock in my opinion, and instructed me to continue to shed light. She stressed the importance of sharing my illumination several times. Mind you, I said nothing about my life to her. Hard to make small talk when you’re doing 108 prostrations or sitting in quiet meditation.
I spent 2021 on an inward spiral of healing and self understanding. I think it’s time to reach out again. As I was contemplating what would be best this year, what would help the most, what would recenter me on bad days, what would act as the lamp I carry on good days, the word finally surfaced this morning:
My word for 2022 is ‘Shine.’ I love the meme that talks about letting your weird beacon glow brightly to attract all the other weirdos to it. Right now, with so much broken, it’s more important than ever to connect to our communities. One of my favorite quotes comes from ‘A House for Hope – The Promise of Progressive Religion for the Twenty-first Century.’
“Hope rises. It rises from the heart of life, here and now, beating with joy and sorrow. Hope longs. It longs for good to be affirmed, for justice and love to prevail, for suffering to be alleviated, and for life to flourish in peace. Hope remembers the dreams of those who have gone before and reaches for connection with them across the boundary of death. Hope acts – to bless, to protest, and to repair. Hope can be disappointed, especially when it is individual rather than shared, or when – even as shared aspiration – it encounters entrenched opposition. To thrive, hope requires a home, a sustaining structure of community, meaning, and ritual. Only with such a habitation can hope manifest the spiritual stamina it needs to confront evil, endure through trouble, and “hold fast to that which is good.'”
We need each other’s light right now. We need to see the beacons connecting us, even when we’re miles apart geographically. We need hope, and hope is renewed by togetherness. So this year, I want to light it up.
Things I think shining will look like when it is self-directed:
- Prioritizing my mental health. Light requires fuel.
- Feeding my body less convenient/easy foods and more nutritious and strengthening foods
- Moving my body in ways that feel good, that make me feel stronger
- Parenting myself through my ‘don’t wannas’ and my moments of giving in to despair. Knowing that grief and love are two sides of the same coin, and allowing time with both.
- Taking on spiritual practices that align me to my Gods and Allies so I can find the right path forward
Things I think shining will look like when it is outwardly-directed:
- Continuing to create, support, and otherwise hold spaces for others to connect with community
- Fully inhabiting the role of teacher and community organizer on every platform available to me
- Being a voice for the world we are trying to build
- Carrying a torch of pagan spirituality to shed more light on the path for my own feet as well as others
- Keeping my beacon of weird glowing brightly so the other weirdos can find me
There are a lot of ways to anchor your intention in your everyday surroundings.
Find an image containing your word, or that reminds you of your word, and set it as the background on your phone, tablet, or console. This is the one I’ve chosen for my own device:
Display your word. Write your word on a sticky note and stick it to your desk. Or, go one step more elaborate and build an entire vision board. There’s not a ton of useful stuff that’s going to happen between now and January first. Break out some old magazines, glue sticks, and scissors and make a big self-care mess. Arts and crafts will be a better use of your time than most stuff right now.
Build a playlist. I have one that I created for my Courageous year that I still listen to when I need to be brave.
Write an affirmation. Those of you who have studied with me personally have already most likely experienced my affirmation lecture, probably more than once. I’ll TL:DR it for you: self-talk matters. Say nice things instead of shitty ones. Here’s my Shine affirmation:
“I am aligned to my purpose and moving forward with compassion for myself and others.”
Journal. Write about your word. Think about what actions will support it and write those down too. Revisit that journal entry from time to time to help hang onto the thread on hard days.
Set some check-ins. Put a calendar notification in your device for two weeks from now, a month from now, three months from now, or even further out to check in with how you’re supporting your intention. Remember, we all fall off the wagon sometimes. Resilience is the ability to dust off and climb back on.
So, what’s the word?
Hit me up in the comments. Let’s figure out what we most need to carry with us into a new calendar year.
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