Me: “How did I get here AGAIN?”
Self: “Bad decisions?”
Me: “Very funny. I’m serious. I’ve already learned this lesson!”
Self: “Um, apparently not.”
Me: “But I did. I’ve already been through this.”
Self: “Let me put it to you this way. If you’d actually learned the lesson, you wouldn’t be here again. But you didn’t, so you are. We thought you’d like another chance!”
Does this sound familiar to you? While the specifics of your inner dialogue might be a little different, I have the feeling you know what I’m talking about. One morning you take a look around with that unsettling Groundhog Day feeling. Perhaps you’re in a different town, or a new office, or surrounded by a different cast of characters, but the protagonist is the same, as is the plight. Welcome to Life Lessons 101. Again.
It’s the classic story of samskara: A guy walks down the road and falls into a hole. The next day, he walks down the road and falls in again. Same on the day after, and the ones after that. Eventually on this daily walk, he sees the hole before he falls in. Granted, he falls in anyway, but at least he sees what is happening before it happens. This process continues for a while until the day our hole-falling friend not only sees the hole but manages to walk around the hole, completely avoiding the falling-in part of the story. As before, this continues on. In fact it continues, until one day, perhaps, he chooses to walk down a different road.
Myth: Doing something the same way that you’ve done it before can yield different results.
If we look at life as a series of blessed opportunities to learn what we came here to learn; if we accept that each day, with all of its joys and sorrows is happening for us, not to us, what comes into view is that this life does not have a straight line trajectory. Rather, it is an endless spiral with ever-contracting rings. I believe they are contracting rather than expanding because the longer we live and the closer we are to death, the less time remaining to learn those lessons and the quicker a same or similar situation comes around again to allow us to pick up where we left off, and chip a bit more away at the lesson, the karma, the samskara.
The spiral image is also a solid visual aid for me to maybe possibly get into my thick head that there’s no getting there– really there’s not. Perhaps there is no learning the lesson in a “and now I’m done” kind of way, though I do at the very least aspire to the “walking around the hole” option. As I move on (note, not forward) I’m simply offered more opportunities for deeper examination of my unhealthy proclivities and variations on Themes for Self Study and Awareness that I’ve visited in the past. Rarely is it a brand new lesson at this point in my life. It’s usually one of the originals coming back around again, only this time wearing a better outfit or wrapped in nicer packaging. And maybe I wasn’t pulled back into the spiral because the lesson looked shiny and new, perhaps I’m getting another chance to take on the challenge because I now have a better toolbox and am more well-equipped for the task at hand. Either way, the key to survival is this reminder: if I didn’t (still) need this lesson in some way, I would be elsewhere. Likely in another lesson, a different story, having the same conversation with myself.
Myth: One day, the lessons will end.
Fact: The lessons end when the life ends.
One of my teachers early on said “You’re here to wake up!” There may have been an expletive in there as well. We are here because we have work to do and the vehicles through which to do that work come in the form of jobs, relationships, family, health crises, etc. I have my fun assortment and you have yours. Rarely, if ever, will we get the big lessons in one go; it usually takes multiple rounds for a complete knock out. But continue we must, to take one step at a time, even and especially when in familiar territory. For this provides the chance and choice to be different in this “same” situation, and thereby create a new outcome.
My questions for you today- if you are also in the spin cycle of life lessons- are these: Can you accurately discern where you are now and take stock of what you learned in previous iterations of this current circumstance? Can you gather up those experiences and form them into tools which you can employ and respond differently this time? How might this allow for life-expanding growth? When we fall blindly into the lesson, there is no orientation to where we are, what happened, or how we ended up there in the first place. But it is honest and compassionate to recognize that if we are paying attention, the more times we fall and rise again, the better equipped we are to see, to climb, perhaps to even do a proper survey and avoid the hole completely next time.
I’m hoping for that day of choosing an entirely different, never before trod upon path, even as I recognize that it too will have something to teach me. But for now, I’m climbing out again, and when I look up, I can see the sky overhead is clear and blue. All is as it must be and in the center of things, all is well.