Is progress like a spiral staircase?

Last night I set an intention to start the following morning SLOWLY, simply because I’m always rushing. Upon waking, instead of ejecting out of bed I chose to meditate first. This felt great, like I was making great progress.

On my way to the kitchen I caught a whiff of what smelt like dog poop. “No way”, I thought to myself, “that’s impossible”. My dog Beamer is almost seven years old and very well house-trained, I thought we were way past the days of pooping inside the apartment. We’re all making progress here and with daily practice we’re becoming better people and better dogs!

To my horror however Beamer had indeed pooped inside the apartment. While I was giving Beamer an ear full (of course I talk to my dog, it’s perfectly normal, right?) telling him how disappointed his grandparents would be to wake up to the fresh smell of his poop, when they visit us in December, my husband cleaned up the mess. While he was busy sanitising the floor, he received a call from his boss and found out that he was late for an important strategy meeting. Since no progress was made there either, the meeting was postponed. Our day had only just begun and it already felt like the wolf had huffed and puffed and blown the house away.

Out I headed to walk Beamer, feeling rather MAD when suddenly I felt some drizzle landing on my brow. Great, that’s just what I need, I thought to myself. It turns out that my neighbour was washing her balcony and all her drain water had rained down on me. In that kerfuffle I left the gate open and the sight of another dog across the road was enough for Beamer to bolt. Sometimes Beamer is not the friendliest of dogs (yes he’s picky; he once had to be pulled out from the jaws of a Staffy, which left him with some healing issues of his own). The lady walking the other dog had to pin Beamer down, while I rushed over to claim responsibility, still wet behind the ears.

I breathed deeply and thought to myself “it’s alright, a coffee will make this all go away!” The coffee shop (which is almost always empty at that time of the morning) on this particular day was packed with people and their DOGS. With my over excited mutt tied firmly to a pole, I managed to grab a coffee and headed home, Beamer tugging hard at the leash in one hand and a cup of coffee balancing in the other. That’s when I thought to myself “S*** will we ever make any progress”?

Are you having your own version of what seems like lots of struggle and no progress?

We all have those days, when nothing seems to be heading in the right direction, where all our plans and intentions seem to flop sideways. Progress to me has always felt linear. It’s following a logical order or sequence, like reading a map that takes you from bad to good. Life however is messier than that, maybe that’s where the Yiddish saying “Mann trachts und Gott lackts” (Man plans and God laughs) comes from. Sometimes we’re bound to wonder just how we’ve come to land exactly back where we started?

Recently I heard Glennon Doyle Melton talk about progress. She says “If we wish to change what happened, we cant! But maybe we can change our idea of progress? Maybe progress isn’t linear? Maybe we don’t travel in straight lines from BAD to GOOD, grief to joy, failure to success? Human progress is circular, like climbing a spiral staircase. Everyday we circle back to the same old insecurities, painful memories, failures, fears, all of it. Everyday is A Beginning Again! Here’s the magic of the spiral staircase: on each turn of the climb you grow wiser, stronger and more powerful, as you face your pain and survive it again and again. So even if your pain doesn’t change, you do”.

As I sit here and write on my computer, contemplating the wisdom of these words (it’s one of my main ways of making sense of life), I realize I’ve been given an opportunity to begin testing the linear progress theory in my own life. Which parts of my life have I experienced growth in, and how did it come about? Three years ago I joined a Pilates class as I was recovering from a car accident. It felt like a gentle introduction back into the world of exercise. On the third week of that class I tore my pectoral muscle. When you have a tendency of cranking up weights on the reformer, each time you show up for a BEGGINERS class, you know you are destined for injury. The linear goal of getting from pain to no pain began to look more like from pain to more pain.

Recovery happened when I took small steps and gentle actions. Some of these steps worked, whilst others did not. Three years later I’ve recovered but if I begin postponing chiropractic appointments, if I become lazy about stretching, or if I begin to engage in mindless heavy lifting, the pain invariably comes back. I realize now the real wisdom of Glennon’s words. Yes, my progress has not been linear, it’s been circular and Glennon’s analogy of climbing a spiral staircase seems very apt. I highly recommend trying this out in your own life to see if it holds true for you.

As we enter the final lap of 2016, the time will soon come when a lot of us will begin to evaluate and assess our individual progress, making new ground to plant new seeds so that we may grow and continue to learn as we enter 2017. When evaluating your own progress, try to work out if your viewfinder is that of the liner lens, which I’ve come to learn is pretty superficial. When we focus too much on achieving things in a linear fashion, I suspect that’s when we begin withdrawing compassion from others as well as ourselves. If we perceive our lives superficially we might get bogged down by the fact that we are still with the same partner, still living in the same country, in the same house, with the same dog, same job, same boss, same body, you know the saying: ‘same old same old’. But if we begin digging deep does that continue to ring true? Whilst for a lot of us our circumstances might be the same, WE in fact might have changed.

 Rumi writes –

Some level of insanity and dysfunctionality lurks in the background of every life and the grind of a tough day can sometimes bring it all to the fore. This blog post is an attempt to share with you all the fact that you are still a full bucket, irrespective of the circumstances unfolding around you. We’re here to help you draw your “fullness bucket” back up from the dark well and your assignment is to lift it out into the light.

Journaling tip

Here is some food for thought – how many of us could have predicted our achievements and disappointments when we first set out from our parents’ homes for college, work or marriage? And for how many of us has life turned out exactly as we thought it was going to? I think we’ve all had to take that spiral staircase at some point in our lives.

Try recalling times in your life when you’ve experienced a growth spurt or some progress and write about it in ‘My Wellness Journal’. What does it look like? Record all the twists and turns and don’t hold back on the detail.

And tell us, how does progress unfold in your life? Is it linear? Or is it more like a spiral staircase?

Words To Grow By


“Be a full bucket, drawn up the dark way of the well, then lifted out, into the light.”