Today there is great interest in spiritual programmes. And there are so many to chose from. They are advertised everywhere.
For many of these programs the spiritual life is seen as a sequence of stages each with its own tasks and methodology. This view of life as linear progression is symptomatic of our culture – you go from one thing to another – you never go backwards, always going forward, making progress – your life working better all the time – it is always meant to be summer and if winter sets in something is wrong with us or the program.
The linear view, besides being inaccurate can be exhausting and depressing. Because life doesn’t work that way – it doesn’t always get better – at times it gets worse – you go backwards or so it seems – you regress and get depressed. This problem is particularly severe as we age – trying to do the things we used to do and we no longer can – falling back along that line of development and it is depressing – for we are told we shouldn’t fall backwards.
Other, more traditional cultures, have a circular view of reality- life is viewed as cyclical – there is a winter for every summer, a fallow period for every harvest. You do go into winter, you will fade and there will be hard times but then “in the midst of winter I finally learned that there is in me an invincible summer.” A. Camus.
I find it helpful to combine the cyclical and the linear to form a spiral – you move forward but each time you do, you pass through the seasons of dying, are reborn and flourish again – that is how life works – you know you will go down into the winter, into the darkness but you know it is just a cycle and spring and summer will return. This is the norm – this is nature and if you accept it you can relax into this pattern of life.