Amy Ward Brimmer

mother daughter wife teacher writer dreamer sister worker seeker activist minister healer student human


Three Words for 2017

Last year I began the practice of choosing three words to inform and guide my life for 2016. They were Prosperity, Interdependence, and Love. During the year I set the intention to notice how these three concepts showed up in various ways, and looked for ways to deepen my understanding of what they mean and how they operate.

Prosperity was the easiest one to work with, perhaps because it is tangible and not esoteric. I expected to learn about ways that are prosperous, and how that might be different from financial wealth. Things like an increase in public recognition of my work was a sign of prosperity, as was the wonderful, generous outpouring of financial support for my MBSR training fund. (You can still give, until January 15, here: I prospered in positive feedback, in skill development, in deepening connections with others. I confirmed what I suspected when I chose Prosperity: you don't have to be rich to prosper.

Interdependence was so beautiful to work with. This is the most wonderful reality of life, the way we need one another for our well-being. This is not just healthy psychology or sound philosophy, it is nature. Interdependence describes the foundation of all life. Trees, for example, use an intricate network of roots, spores, etc. to communicate and help other trees thrive, because when one tree thrives, they all do. That is true for all life forms, including humans. So in a year that saw the worst effects of polarization, petty hatred, and an "I got mine" mentality, the need for recognizing interdependence has never been more important or relevant. I sought out, and was blessed to experience, many instances of interdepent life. Everything's connected.

Love? Well, love could be the watchword every year. It's still a mystery to me, and as far as I can tell it is the reason we are here. I think life human life is a course -- a doctoral-level course -- in love. I (re)discovered some qualities of love, such as the fact that when love is present it makes you want to move closer to another person rather than farther away, or it makes it less impossible to do so. When there's love in the equation, courage arises, or compassion, or openness and flexibility. Love makes one stronger, more clear, more willing and able. This is why Michelle Obama encourages us to "go high when they go low." This is why Jesus advises us to love our enemies, because in the act of bringing love into the mix, we ourselves change (not sure what it does for the enemy). And of course there's romantic love, sexual love, spiritual love, friendly love, love for the earth, and so on. Love takes many forms and it's been an eye-opener to recognize love in action.

For 2017 -- a year that arrives full of foreboding and determination in equal measure -- I have chosen three words that hold huge potential for personal growth. Like last year, I'm choosing concepts that are a bit daunting. If I want to experience and cultivate these elements, I will need to make some pretty big changes. Part of my discernment process was to identify the words that scared me the most or made me react by contracting. That's often a sign that I'm at my growing edge. I also wanted to notice which words intrigued me the most, what ideas I was willing to explore thoroughly and consistently through the year. It's no surprise that in each case, I am both curious and afraid. How like life!

My three words for 2017 are (drumroll please):

  • Simplicity
  • Power
  • Forgiveness

  • I'll be writing more about each as the year unfolds, but for now I will say that I chose Simplicity because I tend to over-complicate things and burden myself unnecessarily, and I want to stop doing that. Simplicity is one of the "Quaker Spices" or shared testimonies of our faith, and in my opinion, the least understood or followed by Quakers. Mostly, though, I want to understand my own lack of trust in the simple way.

    Power was sort of a no-brainer. The power grab in the U.S. by neo-Nazi elements, the myth of "people power" in an election run by the corporate oligarchy, the stories I keep hearing about how disempowered people feel, the lack of justice for people of color and women and immigrants -- it's all a swirly mass of fear and craving about who's got the power. So I am super motivated this year to learn about what constitutes true power. Stay tuned, I think we're all apt to learn about this in 2017.

    Forgiveness feels a little like Love, in that it is universal and absolutely necessary for a peaceful life. My immediate task is to cultivate forgiveness for myself, even as I seek to learn better how to forgive others. I don't believe in New Year's resolutions but I did renew my vow to recognize when I am being unkind or oppressing myself, and then to stop and extend some compassion my way.

    Like signposts along the way, my three words guide and even nudge me towards more fully awakening to life. May 2017 provide you with guidance and encouragement as you too seek awakening.

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