03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Metaphor of the Plate

I've been sharing this at many of the recent speaking engagements and workshops I've done so I wanted to do it with all with you.

As we go through our lives, we all tend to want to "fill up our plates" with jobs, family, health, money, some passions and hobbies, religion, friends, relationships, dreams and so on.

We compare our plate to other people's plates. We strive to increase various portions of our plate by setting goals, making New Year's resolutions. We try to lose weight, make more money, become more spiritual. It seems life is about adding to the all important "plate." For nearly all of us, what's on our plate determines who we are.

When life changes, something on our plate has changed. We may lose the "job" component of the plate. Maybe we've been dumped, so there's no more intimate relationship on there. We may not have children yet, so we feel we're missing the all-so-important "family" portion that the world tells us must be on our plate. We imagine that what's on our plate protects us. In reality, it is what makes us even more vulnerable.

For some of us, many parts of the plate change at once. We get divorced, may lose a parent, or have a health issue.

So here's the real question we need to ask. If the plate is what is holding everything we hold dear and important, what is the actual plate? How do we take better care of that?

Instead of us fixing, improving, holding on, clinging to and wanting everything that's on our plate to be and look a certain way, how about focusing on what holds all of that together?

Our plate is our glue. It's what and who we are, regardless of anything external. Our plate is our faith, our spirituality, the part of us that can simply say, I AM, with nothing more needed after those words. The part of us that can have everything taken away and not be defeated. It's our eternal side, the side that is detached from the drama of anything that's happening. We focus on "the plate" itself, not what's on it, or what's not. We strengthen that, support that. If we do, we will come to see that we are still whole and complete, even when nothing is on our plate -- no relationship, no job and no money. Our plate is our essence. We -- you, I -- exist.

How do we strengthen our plates? By remembering that sometimes we need to take things off our plates, not add to them. By not getting stuck between the extremes of fear and desire, where we yo-yo between them. This is what creates instability on the plate.

We may ask the question "What am I not?" instead of expressing all the things that we are/have. By having some silent time where we can simply "witness" whatever may be going on. By strengthening our relationship with our Creator, whatever we may call that in our words and in whatever way suits us best -- prayer, meditation, focusing simply on being loving, going to church and places of worship, retreats, fasting, reading, seeking knowledge, forgiving, finding the right teachers, giving back or simply being in nature.

Remember that at our core, we are all the same. We all get a plate. That gift is our birthright. Somehow we get misled into thinking life is about putting things on it, having more on the plate than others have on theirs. Instead, we should be happy simply to take care of our plates. It will give us perspective on everything that eventually gets on there and anything that may be taken away during times of change and transition. We may realize ourselves away from anything that's on our plates.