Last year I chose a word to represent what I wanted to explore, learn about and invite into my life in the year ahead instead of making traditional resolutions. The word I chose was harvest, and boy howdy did I learn about harvesting.
I learned that harvesting is mostly about letting go.
Visualize what is involved in harvesting food – you have to physically separate it from its life source, right? Zucchinnis must be cut from the vine, eggs plucked from beneath the hen that laid them, carrots pulled from the ground, firewood cut from a tree that was once alive and is now dead. There is a whole lot of death and dying involved in harvesting.
And yet: the harvest is necessary. Death is a necessary part of life. If done with respect, it can honour the life that came before and nourish the life that is coming up behind. If we never killed anything, we could never survive ourselves. This year I got very closely aquainted with this idea in many different ways: I started eating meat again after almost 14 years of being mostly vegetarian, our rooster fathered a few chicks before being killed, I cut countless zuchinnis from our monstrous zuchinni plant, I permanently said goodbye to any future childbearing, and at the very end of the year, I buried five of our hens, killed by a maurading dog who broke through the fence.
I also learned that the hard work of harvesting is not necessarily the killing part, it’s the processing that comes afterwards. It’s transporting, splitting and stacking that firewood after the tree has been felled. It’s baking, pureeing and using that pumpkin, or putting it by to use later. It’s working hard to be successful at something after you’ve made the decision to do it.
So when I started thinking about what word I wanted to choose for this year, I was feeling cautious. I sure got what I asked for when I chose harvest. I wanted to be very careful what I asked for this year.
This year’s word is Practice.
It’s a humble word, but powerful when put to use. It’s the cumulative strength that comes from doing something many, many times. It’s a path to mastery, creativity and fluency.
It’s also a personal, spiritual relationship between yourself and something that brings you into a new awareness of yourself. A yoga practice, a meditation practice, a dishwashing practice, an empathy practice.
Practicing leaves room for making mistakes, for exploring and repeating and private struggle. It carves out time for dedicated work, for honing one’s craft and skill. It’s about the act of doing. I’m ready to practice.