Backward can be Forward

I’m scared of making the “wrong” choice. What’s funny is when someone else says the same thing, I usually respond with, “There are no ‘wrong’ choices. Only choices. If you don’t like the choice you made, choose something else.” I know that to be true, and yet obviously a part of me doesn’t believe there are no wrong choices, otherwise the idea of choosing something wouldn’t feel so threatening.

When I ask myself why, it all comes down to progress. I value forward movement, particularly the kind that leads to betterment. In other words, I want my life to improve and I worry that certain choices will lead me away from improvement and toward deterioration. I can feel my stomach tightening even as I write that. In my mind, progress is a steady line with no deviations and that means each decision I make is crucial.

Does progress always have to be a straight line? Photo by N. on Unsplash

I brought this concern into my meditation the other day and what came back is the notion that backward can be forward. That sometimes a person has to take a few steps back before they can move forward. Like living with a person’s parents to pay off student loans. At first, the choice seems regressive – when a person hits a certain age they should be independent and out of the house! – but paying off student loans gives the person more freedom to be independent in the future so ultimately it’s a choice that leads to a better life. I think progress is a straight line, but maybe progress is a tangled yarn ball.

What’s interesting for me to consider is true progress requires obstacles. When I think about it, it makes sense. We know that in order to build muscle we must lift weights. Perhaps the same is true in other arenas? My spiritual teacher says, “It is through psychic clash that the psychic field gets properly tilled, thereby increasing its fertility.” In this instance he’s referring to reading discourses and engaging in analysis, but I’d like to believe all the angst I’m going through is a kind of progress in itself. That in the mental sphere I’m expanding my capacities as I contemplate new ideas and new directions. However, I’m also clear that for me, spiritual practice is a must.

“Through physical or psychic clash absolute self expansion is not possible,” my teacher says. “Of course physical clash can take a person a certain distance, but not to the final destination …. you will have to continue your spiritual pursuit, you will have to surrender yourself to the force of attraction of the Great.”

Perhaps that seems off topic but I’m including it in this post because I’m reminded I make choices and then I surrender to something greater than myself. I take action and then let go as I keep aligning myself with my higher power. I find peace and serenity when I invite in divine guidance and that requires me to engage in spiritual practice. It also requires that I maintain perspective. Looking at the big picture means recognizing I can move left or right, backward or forward. I can stand still. I can move in circles, and with all that, still I can progress.

I dream of a world where we recognize progress doesn’t always mean forward motion. A world where we know just because we can’t draw a straight line from point A to point B doesn’t mean we aren’t progressing. A world where we remember often the big picture doesn’t become clear until later. A world where we realize the best we can do is keep inviting divine guidance and putting one foot in front of the other.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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