“You never, never come back to the the same place. Avoid compulsive repetition. Life is not a circle but a spiral around a central place, and we are working our way up and working our way down. Bad times give us strength to move into good times with a whole new vision of what life is about.”
Sometimes it seems we keep circling the same pond for ages, decades. We come back to the same issue, the same tripping-up place, and sure enough, we trip again. For many of us that stumbling block occurs in relationships with other people. We try to figure out how to live life cooperatively without being either too aloof or too enmeshed. How can we keep our individuality and yet move easily and comfortably into “we.” Some of us swing between the poles of that divide for our whole lives, especially if we're unconscious of our own participation in them. That is a circular path where no matter how many different relationships we have, they all seem to end up at the same place.
A spiral path is a nice image for a conscious life. With each new level, you bring the lessons learned in lower levels and use them to inform your forward and upward progress. When you see a pattern of behavior in yourself—a compulsive repetitive pattern—rather than projecting that outward, you take the time to assess what gets you there. Sometimes we can recognize repetitive patterns by the questions we ask ourselves: “Why does this always happen to me?” “Why does everybody treat me this way?” The answer: “Who's the common denominator?”
Edith, the middle Crawley sister on Downton Abby, is a case in point, and a good example of the spiral pattern. In the first few seasons, Edith was jilted at the altar by a man she desperately perused until he relented, and then couldn't go through with the wedding. Then, she fell in love with a married man, abandoned her own sense of decorum and spent the night with him, but she lost that lover, too. Throughout these episodes she was whiny and sorry for herself and went on about feeling helpless, “Whoa is me!” Then she discovered she was pregnant from her one-night-stand and went through all sorts of machinations to hide the pregnancy and then to hide the child, and predictably, all of them blew up in her face. Finally, she decided to take hold of her life and guide it herself. She had no choice but move forward, so she did. In doing so, she gained a real life, discovered her own capabilities and her own mind. And now, desperate no more, she may actually make a survivable union.
Each level of the spiral is designed to teach us skills needed for the next one, but we only learn the lessons if we're aware of our own participation in the stumbling blocks. Life is not something that happens to us, we are actively engaged in its unfolding. We can go round and round in a circle, repeating the same old patterns, or we can wake up and become conscious learners. We'll make it to the top if we do. Lord knows, if Edith can do it, anyone can.
In the Spirit,