Have you ever noticed life moves in circles?
The Earth spins as it orbits the sun; the seasons change from life to death to life again; a seed becomes a tree that produces fruit that produces a seed that becomes a tree…
And yet, nothing that repeats itself ever stays the same:
The Earth tumbles through time and space; each year is new; every tree is different from the one whose seed produced it.
So, the cycles of life and death repeat — but they’re always moving forward.
Such is the pattern of the universe.
I once watched my niece, who had just learned to walk, scale the front side of a sofa. She struggled with her whole body: face down; limbs flailing; diapered bottom raised high. She worked hard to bring her knees to the top of a seat cushion, pull herself up, and turn to sit facing me.
“Well done!” I cheered. “You made it!”
My niece grinned, then looked downward…and immediately began her descent to the floor.
I realized then that my niece didn’t care too much about her destination; she simply wanted to climb. And while she couldn’t possibly perceive it, her body was transforming. Her struggle was taking her someplace new — someplace other than the summit of a sofa, someplace she could neither see nor imagine. Remarkably, my niece didn’t need to fathom the outcome of her climbing in order to move forward. She simply knew what Mary Oliver knew: “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”*
It's easy to forget that transformation is a process — a process that doesn’t move in a straightforward line. We want the path of transformation to be predictable, or at least perceptible. We want to know exactly where we’re going, and when we will arrive. We especially want to make sure we don’t revisit past troubles — and when we do return to them (or, at least, to a place that looks disturbingly familiar), we wonder whether we took a wrong turn, or whether we ever moved at all. It’s as if we work so our work may be done; it’s as if we walk the path just to reach the place where it ends.
But what if we could trust that transformation happens even when we can't see or imagine the new life that stirs within us? What if we could know, as my niece’s body knew, that the path we choose to walk is the perfect place to be?
What if we could bless the very ground on which we're standing?
Have you ever noticed we move in circles?
We climb, we sit, then we descend; we weep, we laugh, then we weep some more; we live, we die, then we rise again…
And yet, none of us ever stays the same:
We’re always going someplace new; we’re never the people we were last year; we’re each becoming a different version of who we used to be.
The cycles of life and death repeat — but we’re always moving forward.
So it is for the universe...
And so it is for you and me.
A version of this post originally appeared at www.artisanclinical.com.
*This is a line from Oliver's poem “Wild Geese,” which first appeared in Dream Work.
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