Photo Dec 02, 9 50 27 AM

One question I learned at Harvard changed things for me: instead of

What do You Believe?


What do You Belove?

A professor at the Divinity School told our class that we get the meaning of the word “believe” all wrong in our culture. We think it means that we need to surrender our intellectual capacities and cling to a spiritual idea even in the face of doubt or confusion. In fact, she suggested, the fuller definition of the verb “to believe” is closer to the old English “to belove.”

In other words to say “I believe in something… ” is better understood as a bow from the heart and not merely a nod from the head.

Advent Wreath _Closeup

Is there a practice from your inherited or chosen spiritual path that you belove?

How might you honor it or give it a fresh gloss this season?

I try to provide some basic structure to our celebrations but also take the lead from my children: asking what are they/we needing this year?

This question keeps my ears to the ground: listening for what we are hungry for and asking how can we use the season to draw a sacred circle around that which genuinely nourishes us.

And keep distractions and extra stress at bay!

Asking what I belove also keeps me from being wed to any aspect of the the tradition which feel stale and creates space to weave new experiences among the beautiful bones of the stories and celebrations we have inherited. 

One practice which forms the foundation of the season for us is creating an Advent wreath– an ancient practice of waiting for Christmas which is infused with a green sensibility. (I love decorating in such a way that I can dump the whole lot of it in the compost pile when the celebration is done:)

This week we placed special stones around the wreath as we light the first candle—hope. I love how the wreath starts out rather stark and bare and then week by week we add layers which symbolize the various candles lit: love, joy, peace, and ultimately the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve. Bit by bit the wreath fills with life. If you use aromatic herb bundles like thyme and rosemary it also smells amazing.  (You can see more pics and download full directions here).

What practices do you belove?  What is stopping you from building your holiday season around them?


Photo Oct 01, 12 56 17 PMCourtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life and leadership coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a weekly e-newsletter on real-world mindfulness practices. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram, meditation, and conscious approaches to leadership and parenting. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three children and remember to water their garden boxes. Courtney can be reached at

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