Fall is coming around again, and as it does, the echoes of autumns past come with it. Nostalgia for times past are inevitable as the growing season ends and we buckle down for winter’s arrival; Halloween in older traditions is said to be the day when the veil between living and dead is the thinnest. This brings to mind an expression one of my teachers, Ken Savage of the Winchendon Martial Arts Center, talks about at the beginning of every autumn’s New England Warrior Camp.
If you look only at the calendar, time looks like a loop. It’s September again, it’s your birthday again, it’s this or that again. History repeats itself, and except for maybe feeling a little bit older when you blow out the candles, time doesn’t feel different.
If you look away from the calendar as a loop and see a day as a notch on a wheel, then you can look past the cyclical repetition that permeates our days (“Monday again?”) to a more broad perspective. Like the wheel of a wagon on a trail, the same day, week, month, or year mark comes around again and again, but we forget to look at the progress the wheel makes on the road behind and in front of it. We forget to take a moment to see how far we’ve come in one turn of the wheel, and to look ahead for what adventures await us on the path in front of us.
Take a moment right now to reflect on your journey so far. How far have you traveled and how much have you achieved in the last year? How much different is your life in one turning of the wheel?
Stephen K. Hayes has an especially powerful insight into the familiar Zen painting of a brushed circle. From a limited perspective, it’s just a circle, signifying completion and no end or beginning, but if you delve into it, you see that it’s a spiral being observed from the top down. The brush is illustrating your ascent up the spiral towards achievement, and though it may look like a circle, it’s so much more if you have the broadness of mind to see past the surface.
Life is all too easy to let slip away in meetings, appointments, and routines, only to wake up one day and realize the wagon wheel is at the end of its journey. Know now that though the wheel returns to the same notch every so often, it only travels on any given part of your life’s trail once. Be sure to enjoy the trip before it’s over.
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