The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.
Barry H. Gillespie
I’m ’bout to get a little personal now. Brace yourself.
So I’ve been in therapy for just over a year. It’s a specific kind of therapy, Jungian psychoanalysis to be exact. It was created by psychologist Carl Jung (for those of you following this blog, this might explain to you why I talk about him all the time) approximately 100 years ago in Switzerland. Most of psychology has moved on, but there’s a pocket of us who are still awed by the process this man founded.
The thing that’s amazing about it is how remarkably close it is to Eastern spirituality, without having anything to do with it. I found this quote (on one of those smeary calligraphed Facebook posts, I will admit*) from a site called Elephant, a journal dedicated to mindfulness and Buddhism. The author was speaking directly about Buddhist practice.
What struck me, though, is that only a few days ago my therapist reminded me, “Your journey into yourself is not a straight path. It’s a spiral. And what does that mean?”
(God, I really hate a pop quiz. Really. And she does that to me all the time.)
What she eventually helped me see, as this Buddhist author saw, is that there is no moving forward on a spiral. You don’t ever look back, as one on a straight asphalt road in the middle of nowhere, and say, “I can’t even see where I started anymore.” In a spiral you don’t look back or ahead. You look all around you, and no matter where you’re standing, you see everything.
This means that the emphasis should not be in moving forward, or making it to the end of the road. The point is to move to the center, but that is not the end. Once you get there, you’ve reached the beginning.
The pressure to move forward on a personal journey can be debilitating. In fact, the reason my therapist said this at all was because I was despairing that I hadn’t moved forward. Actually I’d felt that I’d moved backward. But on a spiral there is no such thing. Even if I return to a spot where before I had been unaware and blind to the truth, now I’m not. Now I have awareness, consciousness of that truth, and thus have the opportunity to redo, reface, review that part of me.
And that’s really what it’s all about. It’s not getting to the finish line on that country road and shouting, “I’m enlightened!” It’s about being here, in this very moment, in this very life, with the simple knowing that no matter where you move on that spiral, you can still keep your eyes on the center.
Photo by Duncan Rawlinson