The Mysterious Blessing of Zero
© Callum Shaw
Keep fresh before me the moments of my High Resolve, that in fair weather or in foul, in good times or in tempests, in the days when the darkness and the foe are nameless or familiar, I may not forget that to which my life is committed. — Howard Thurman
‘Twas New Year’s Day, and all through the house,
I was lounging on the couch, with Dana, my spouse.
The Christmas tree was still strung with lights all aglow,
with stockings hung with garlands of glistening fake snow.
Ok, that’s enough poetry (cue the sound of a record scratch).
Dana and I spent the entire day snuggled and huddled, drifting in and out of meditative naps, taking breaks only for brief trips to the fridge for holiday leftovers.
The hubbub was behind us. All the presents had been purchased, wrapped, and distributed. Hugs and eggnog had been consumed.
Driving across town was done, and we reveled in the collective relief that we had another holiday season under our bulging-from-excess belts.
There was nothing left to do but rest…
So, rest we did, in our annual New Year’s tradition—a day of silence, a day of not doing, a day of quiet, being, breathing, lounging… ahhh.
Getting to Zero
I contemplated the book Getting to Zero by Jayson Gaddis that invites us to consider zero as a nonreactive state of consciousness to tap into when dealing with conflicts in our high-stake relationships.
Zero is that for me… and so much more. Zero, to me, is an inner country within myself, a favorite landscape I traveled to. Each time I visit, I’m deeply grateful I’ve arrived on its shores. I never want to leave, I always want to spend more time, and I often flirt with the notion of moving there, getting a passport and having actual citizenship. But that’s not the direction life has taken me thus far. Maybe one day.
As I write this, we are over a month into the new year, after that glorious day on the couch, but I can still feel zero pulling on my fringes. Like a whisp of a lovely dream, I try to reenter, but the best I can do is reminisce the echo of its sublime spaciousness.
A Sacred Gift
In the land of zero, my heart doesn’t race because I don’t feel behind. Zero is the reward for my doing, so I can earn zero. In the land of zero, I can free float, drift, drop into the snuggly embrace of timeless, ageless, infinite love. In zero I am full, I am whole, I am enough.
This is distinct from revenge procrastination: the attempt to not think about nor feel a looming obligation. No, zero arrives when the work is done. Then my piece of peace knocks at my door, like a smiling Amazon delivery with no hidden fees to pay on the back end.
Zero is the sacred gift I chase in all my doing and all my suiting up and showing up, returning emails and text messages, and fulfilling the obligations on my ever-expanding “to-do” list.
But isn’t zero death?
A flat line on a heart monitor?
Nothing, emptiness, the absence of meaning or value?
Well, kind of.
How to Juggle it All
Zero is why I felt such relief in my 2008 mini death experience I share about in my new book, A Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Waste: The Art of Transforming the Tragic into Magic (Beyond Words Publishing). The burden of juggling too many balls in the air, trying to prove myself, to justify my existence dropped. At first, I struggled as I felt myself slipping away, until I realized I was outnumbered, and all I could do was surrender. And that’s where I first met zero… along with the indescribable peace that passes human understanding.
It was then I discovered that zero is a state of consciousness that is full and whole, that contains the most heavenly heights and the deepest subterranean depths of confidence that isn’t trying to be more, do more, or go faster than what is natural.
If zero is so sacred, then why not live there all the time?
Maybe the real question is: can I keep a toehold in the land of zero while plugging fully into the vibrant activity and demands of my fast-paced life?
That’s the goal… until one day, my entire foot will land there, followed by a leg, then a torso, then ultimately, my whole self. Zero is, after all, another word for the place from whence we all originate and where we will all reconvene when our work here is done.
But maybe what Terry Pratchett said is true, “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Kimmerer refers to the Wendigo as a phantom creature from First Nations folklore—that takes but does not give back until the source is depleted. I wonder if doing without stopping for sips of zero (as distinct from the Coke Zero I naughtily treat myself to from time to time when I go to the movies) is akin to the Wendigo.
The antidote to Wendigo consciousness, I believe, is Zero—a resting in the spiritual fullness that needs no embellishment. Zero is a quiet, no-frills river that is always running, just beneath the surface of all the clamoring for more accolades, admiration, fortune, and fame that can’t give us the deep ease zero can. In fact, many of those things will likely just keep us further from zero.
It is There; Always
Now that life is back to full-tilt boogie, I carry a sweet souvenir of zero in my pocket as a touchstone of my day on the couch, singing to me a long-ago church song, “You are a child of God what’s your worry? Why are you always in a hurry?”
What if the hope and promise of delicious zero has been hiding in plain sight all along—closer than our breathing, nearer than our hands and feet, always just a breath away?