How to Clean Your Plate…I mean Slate

Growing up in the 60’s (that is the 1960’s to those of you whose generation is defined by the last letters of the alphabet), we were always told to “clean your plate.”  No reason, except food shouldn’t be wasted because it would help some poor starving kid in Africa…never did understand why my overeating would benefit someone on the other side of the globe.  Another mystery for the Baby Boomer generation to solve, or resolve.

Anyway, I had not thought about “clean your plate” in quite some time, until I saw the Burning Question posed by Danielle LaPorte on her website (  Every week, she poses a Burning Question and asks people to thoughtfully consider it, respond and comment on either her FaceBook page, or on your own blog (c’est moi).

This week’s burning question was…”What would you be more of if you let go of the past?”

Which reminded me of the expression from my childhood… “clean your plate.”   When I react poorly, without thought or regard for the hurt my words may cause, it is a signal that my plate isn’t clean.  Crusty drops of resentment, painted red by the brush of jealousy or carved by frustration’s chisel, mar the beauty of my “plate.”  My response is triggered by past events that continue to color the present moment, robbing it of joy and mindfulness.

So who would I be if I let go of the past and started with a clean plate (or slate)?  Sometimes the layers of past hurts pile up so high that I struggle to answer such a simple question. But lately, I have found a solution that frees me from the instant judgment of my analytical mind.  I find that when I can take a step back and not react immediately, my response is more genuine and sincere.  I manage this feat by asking myself one simple question that clarifies and defines my response.  It only has seven words, but it will change your life if you use it.

Who Am I in Relation to That?

Who am I in relation to the person who is so close to my rear bumper that we should be properly introduced? Am I the nasty, angry driver who seeks revenge, or am I the calm detached operator of a motor vehicle who sends a prayer and blessing of peace?  My reaction to the tail gating is determined by my decision of Who I Am…in that moment.

When someone in my family says or does something that instantly takes me back to my childhood, do I respond the same way I always have, or do I take a deep breath and choose differently?  My reaction can be the unconscious, habitual response I have always given, or it can be a deliberate choice to see beyond the situation.  To view the person and the circumstance in the present moment, not colored by the past.

Who Am I in Relation to That?

Simple, effective, and difficult to remember, until it isn’t.  Cleaning your plate can be an arduous task or an instant transformation of perspective.  The good news and the bad news… is that it is totally up to you.

Maybe cleaning your plate (and your slate) isn’t such a bad thing after all!


To learn more about this technique, as well as many others that are simple, effective and actually work, please check out my latest novel, Dance with the Divine, available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook.  I will soon have it available in paperback form, for those who still like to smell the ink and feel the pages turn.

5 thoughts on “How to Clean Your Plate…I mean Slate

  1. Certainly your are right!! Not only about this simple method being effective …but “difficult to remember!” I think most of us start out with the “intention” of doing the right thing or having a good attitude …but boy!! how easy it is to turn on a dime and spiral down to a level I never planned to sink! I love your analogy of the “plate.” Keeping it in mind will help me remember I only want it to be “clean” ..not broken.


  2. This actually really hit home with me Kathryn. The past 3 weeks or so I have been struggling with these exact types of issues.
    Driving is a huge one. I’m always taking my time trying to enjoy my drive and it seems there’s always someone always “testing” me. Especially since I drive through Worcester Ma. every day. It’s quite a lesson.
    I tend to use the phrase “what good am I accomplishing?” and it helps to snap me back to consciousness, but I’m going to enjoy having another phrase as well.
    I do have a lingering desire for ideas on how to mantain good relations with relentless evangelical conservative parents? This is a mega challenge also.
    I love your subject matter. I think I will enjoy this blog. thanks-


    • Thank you for reaching out and connecting with me! It is always gratifying to hear someone else “gets” my message.

      I am reading a wonderful book that might help you find a common ground with your parents. It’s called “Discover the Power within You” by Eric Butterworth. He looks at the spiritual Jesus and uses text from the Bible to support his descriptions. It is very insightful and meaningful for a spiritual seeker who also believes that Jesus is who he said he is.

      I love your touch phrase, “What good am I accomplishing?” It does put the brakes on habitual reactions that are based on past experiences! Thank you for sharing that bit of wisdom.

      Remember to ask that with your parents. You cannot convince them of your position and they cannot convince you of theirs. Peaceful acceptance of differences and focus on the underlying love is the key to maintaining “good relations” with anyone. If you can tell them that you hear what they are saying, perhaps that will mollify them enough for you to discover God on your own.

      Just some thoughts that I hope were helpful. Thank you again for sending me your note.


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