"A New Year Dawns"
- At The Desert Retreat House -
On this New Year's Day lots of people from all over the world are making long lists of New Year Resolutions - lose weight, go to the gym, eat or drink less. And in a few days, many of the resolutions made today will just as quickly be broken.
Actually I'm not a big fan of making New Year Resolutions. I know plenty of people who set all sorts of lofty goals for themselves on this day, and when they almost inevitably fail to honor them, they beat themselves up - yet another opportunity for failure.
On the other hand, I do believe that a New Year gives each of us a fresh start. For me, the New Year is an annual opportunity for checking the course of my life, making sure I am heading in the right direction and adjusting my path where I may have gone astray. I see the New Year as a time for recalibration rather then resolution.
Last night we returned to our desert home after our holiday visit back East. Interestingly enough the plane touched down at exactly the stroke of midnight. "Happy New Year" someone shouted as passengers whistled and cheered. "Welcome to Palm Springs," said the pilot.
Amidst all the cheering and applause I immediately recalled a very humorous airplane touchdown incident that happened to me several years ago when I was flying from Syracuse, New York to a conference in Chicago. It was a frigid day in January as our plane touched down in the Windy City and the flight attendant announced "Welcome to Chicago, Ladies and Gentlemen." Suddenly there was a loud shriek, almost a wail from one of the passengers. "Chicago? This can't be Chicago. I am going to Miami."
Somehow this frustrated passenger had gotten on the wrong plane. We had been traveling for three or more hours, and even after we landed she was oblivious to the fact that everything was snow-covered and icy - not a Palm Tree in sight.
Yesterday as our plane touched down at midnight in Palm Springs, California, I was reminded of that passenger who got herself onto the wrong plane, paying no attention to the fact that she was going in the wrong direction. I knew I was on the right plane yesterday; today I need to take some time to be sure I'm going in the right direction with my life.
I am reminded of a particular wisdom teaching of Jesus found in the gospels. He tells his disciples:
No one who puts his hand to the plow and keeps looking back is fit for the Kingdom of God.
While this saying may seem a bit obscure it is actually a perfect New Year guide for checking the direction of a spiritual path.
A farmer digging the field with a plow attached to his oxen has to keep focused in order to plow in a straight line. If he looks back to see if he was going in the right direction, he will lose focus and go every which way - tearing up the field, unable to sew his crops. So the farmer has to focus, keep paying attention carefully in the present in order to do the work he is supposed to do.
As I see it, walking a spiritual path is like putting a hand to a plow. The spiritual path moves in an intentional direction - the compass of my life is set to the direction of compassion and kindness and I want to be sure I am plowing in that direction, sewing seeds of love and compassion. But I can't keep looking back at the course of my life because if I do I will fail to pay attention to where I am.
So here I am. I have touched down in 2015. A good day for checking to see if I am going in the right direction.
Happy New Year!