I suppose for someone who writes, picking a word to define the coming year makes sense. After all; it’s the same process with my stories. By the end of planning a story, I have a vague idea of what themes may be explored within the book.
A new year is a little like a blank page. So full of promise and possibility. So many unknowns. The moment you realise you have the potential to fill it with story, character, setting and change; that what you write will change the nature of this page forever — that’s like a new year. Picking a word to focus on is that first word on the page, and unlike in story, I can choose a positive thing to spur me into the next act of my journey.
I’ve had mixed ‘results’ from a word of the year practice. In 2011, I managed to complete 75% of my new year’s goals by December, using one word to guide my actions. Since then, I’ve picked a word, but never had the same type of success with the goals related to it.
Still, it’s become a tradition I value, and as a wordsmith, it feels important to value the practice here.
In 2014, I wanted to ‘settle’ – I knew I’d be moving house and that my job was shifting. I wanted to feel grounded and stable. What did 2014 bring me? A less-than-perfect home, a job I didn’t understand, health issues, family health scares, my work team lost 12 people and gained 5, and as of Jan 1st, I will have my fifth manager in 2 years.
For 2015, I don’t want to ‘tempt the fates’ by picking a word, only to have the characteristic tested at every corner. I wanted a word that would help ‘undo’ this year: which sounds ridiculous on paper, but it feels like the main thing I’ve gained this year is fear.
What attribute can undo fear?
Hope doesn’t feel like something I can do; you can’t enforce hope. Yet, we know that positive thinking has a positive impact. Humans are a connective species, rewarded biologically for kindness. I thought of the happiness project, and all the links between my psychology degree and the meditation classes I ran at university.
Each year, I’ve aimed to get back into meditation and yoga: to settle my mind, or to lend me strength, or to give me inner knowledge. Whatever my word for the year, meditation has been on my resolution list.
So what melds love (my anti-fear word) and meditation?
Metta / Loving-Kindness:: .
Do I want to be kind, or to alleviate suffering? Something about alleviating suffering feels too much; like it’s too righteous or too much pressure. But then, isn’t metta a part of compassion?
Do I want to act towards the year with affection? That sounds ever weirder.
But I want something more than kindness – something about the mindful response and the grace of conscious action. I want to include the meditation, and words are important.
How would a year look, if guided by kindness? If guided by trust? If I could “love everyone”; to send every person the metta phrases: “may you be happy, may you have shelter and food, may you be well.” How would the world look then?
“It’s really easy to love passing strangers unconditionally.
They demand nothing of you.
It is really hard to love people unconditionally when they can hurt you.”
When I began leading meditations and speaking with a Buddhist on campus at University, I realised that no matter how ‘wronged’ I felt, or how much hurt I felt from someone’s actions, I could always find a part of me to wish them safety and understanding of their impact on the world. I found a way to give metta to my ‘enemies’, as it were.
My word for 2015 is Metta
(shortened from metta bhavana: the cultivation of kindness).
For me, this is practice of treating people with compassion and cultivating positivity in myself; meditation included. Let’s see how that transforms the year.