Posted by: smstrouse | January 25, 2014

My Word for the New Year: Wellness

wordI’m way behind on making my New Years resolutions. Except I don’t make New Years resolutions. Instead, for the past several years I’ve taken on the practice of asking for a word for the coming year.


The practice comes from the tradition of pilgrims of ancient days  going out to the desert mothers and fathers to ask for a word on which to reflect. (My thanks to Christine Valters Paintner of the Abbey of the Arts for this.)

Last year, in the midst of a traumatic move, the word that “shimmered” (as Christine describes) was “Sanctuary.” I became aware of the very deep need I have for a safe, secure, quite and contemplative place that is all my own. And I went about creating such a space. It didn’t happen overnight. Just because the word appears, it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden the challenges go away. My word will continue to both nourish and challenge me – even when the year is over and a new word appears.

This year, my word is “Wellness.” Since the end of summer, I’ve been plagued with some aggravating health issues. It started with an infected tooth, which led to three root canals within a week. I thought that was the end of it, but the week after my dental disaster, I was in a car accident. The car was totaled, but I was OK – or so I thought. But then I started having outbreaks of hives.  I developed a bunch of food allergies. Then my right shoulder began to hurt – a lot. My chiropractor kept working me over, promising that I would eventually get better. I admit that I had my doubts. But I am finally seeing some improvement.

Still, I’ve learned something in the midst of all this. Last week at an interfaith retreat at the Integral Yoga Institute, I heard a very timely story about Swami Satchidananda, the founder of Integral Yoga. Once, when he  was speaking to a group of medical students, someone asked him about the difference between illness and wellness. The swami went to the board at the front of the room and wrote “Illness” and “Wellness.” Then he circled the I in “Illness” and the We in “Wellness.”


Ta da! When “I” becomes “We,” illness becomes wellness. It might sound simplistic, a lovely saying to post on your Pinterest board. But it really struck me, especially since I’ve been wrestling with health issues AND “Wellness” had already shimmered before me as my word for this year.

What I believe has been revealed to me is my need to allow others into my struggles, to give up my addiction to self-sufficiency and to really and truly accept the fact of our interdependency. Not an easy lesson to learn! One of my mother’s classic sayings was “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken” and I learned early on that one did not admit to weakness.

So my New Years challenge will be to undo that flawed wisdom and to embrace the wisdom of true wellness – even when I’m hurting. So here we are. We’re all in this together – in sickness and in health, so to speak.


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