Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

A Clean, White Slate

I awoke this morning, the first day of a new year, to a fresh blanket of snow surrounding my Chicago apartment… not an unusual occurrence. But this morning, being a holiday, the city has been sleepier than usual. Often before I wake the streets are cleared, the sidewalks are scraped, and the vehicles have begun moving… but not today.

Today there was a white blanket resting comfortable between the buildings, covering the cars, muffling the constant sounds of city life. For a moment, it all seemed fresh, clean, and new… not a feeling the south side of Chicago has very often.

The year also seems fresh, clean, and new. The year, like the snow, is now resting comfortably upon the ground, muffling the sounds, distractions, successes and failings of life.

It is not a chance to begin again… but a reminder to come back to the breath.

In Zen meditation, the phrase “come back to the breath” is a reminder to let go of the gadfly distraction of a mind jumping from one thought to another, attaching to sounds and inventing stories about them, and instead to focus on one thing only… how the breath enters and leaves the body. It is to focus on the outbreath, so that you are intent on giving to the world, not taking from it.

Often the holiday season is like that gadfly distraction… jumping from one task to another, from one party, present, or person to the next. We are often so worn out by this holiday season.

It is not about no prescription imitrex creating a New Years Resolution to be more aware of ourselves, more centered, because such resolutions (being based on the model of the Ten Commandments) most certainly add more unnecessary responsibilities to our lives, and more often than not they later are generators of guilt that we wallow in.

No guilt attaches to the need to come back to the breath… to coming back to awareness of ourselves and the interconnection we have with all things. There can be no guilt in merely being human, and becoming distracted is part of being human. Enlightenment is not about being in a state of awareness all the time, but about being able to realize when you are in such a state of gadfly distraction, and choosing to return to awareness… to return to the breath.

In….. out….. one.
In….. out…..two

And when we fall into distraction, into un-awareness again, the practice is merely to return; no recriminations, no guilt, and no broken resolutions.

As I was writing this, this city sleeping so comfortably under the blanket of white snow has awoken. Snow plows have begun moving in the streets, snow blowers have begun clearing sidewalks, people have gone down to their cars to move into the busyness of life… But as we begin this new year, let us remember that we chose how we enter into the world each day. May we do so with open, compassionate hearts, hands willing to work, minds open to possibility, and aware of more than the distractions surrounding us.

Yours in Faith,


One Thought on “A Clean, White Slate

  1. I was feeling rather tense today for some reason. I haven’t been “remembering my breath” often enough lately. It’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture from time to time and stop and smell the roses and see the beauty in all things (and no-thing for that matter). Thanks for the reminder David.

    P.S. I like the new look of the website BTW. 🙂

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