Have you ever noticed how much of life moves in circles?

The earth repeatedly orbits the sun; the seasons move from life to death to life again; a seed becomes a tree that produces fruit that produces a seed that becomes another tree…

And yet nothing remains the same. The earth is always hurtling through space; no year is exactly like the last; each tree is different from the one that came before it.

The cycles of life and death repeat – but they’re always moving toward something new.

Such is the pattern of the universe.

And such is the pattern of our healing.

I recently watched my one-and-a-half-year-old niece scale the front side of a couch. She struggled with her entire body: her head bent forward, her limbs flailed, her diaper-covered butt waved high in the air while she worked to bring her knees to the top of the seat cushion, pull herself up, and turn to sit facing me. “Well done!” I applauded. “You made it!” Then my niece looked toward the ground, smiled, and immediately turned herself around to begin climbing back to the floor.

I realized then that my niece didn’t care too much about her destination; she just needed to climb. And without her knowing it, the struggle of climbing was creating strength and agility in her body. So her struggle was moving her toward someplace new, but that someplace wasn’t just a point at the top of a couch; it was someplace unimagined and invisible to her. Remarkably, my niece didn’t need to achieve or even fathom the outcome of her climbing; she simply felt that she must climb.

I often remind my clients (and myself) that healing is a process – a process that doesn’t move in a perfect, straight line. We want the healing path to be straightforward. We want to know exactly where we are on the path and when we will be finished with our suffering. We wish never to revisit our grief – and if we do, we wonder if we’ve made any progress at all.

It seems we work so that our struggle can be over; it seems we walk the path so that we can reach the place where it ends.

It seems the end is our goal.

But what if we could walk the path toward wholeness trusting that something new is being created in us independent of our ability to achieve or even fathom it? What if we could believe that the path is precisely the place to be, even though we seem to be moving in circles? What if we could bless the very ground we’re walking on?

What if the path were our goal?

Photo Credit: Bigstock (Grisha Bruev)

I sometimes want my life to move in a perfect, straight line. I want to empirically measure my progress and reasonably predict my future. I climb so that I can reach the top – and yet it seems to me that true life, the kind of life worth living, requires a lot of falling down and feeling lost and learning to thrive during winter. After all, why would I expect the pattern of my life to take a form any different from the pattern of the universe?

In the end, it’s the path itself that will determine where I’m going. It’s my climbing that will increase my capacity to dream. And as Joni Mitchell sings, “There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams, and plenty before the last revolving year is through.”

Have you ever noticed how much we move in circles?

We climb up, and we sit, and we climb back down; we grieve, and we heal, and we grieve some more; we live, and we die, and we come alive again…

And yet no one remains the same. We’re always heading somewhere; we’re never exactly like we were last year; we’re each becoming a different version of the person we used to be.

The cycles of life and death repeat – but they’re always moving toward something new.

So it is for the universe.

And so it is for you and me.


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Mandy Hughes

Mandy Hughes

Mandy is a licensed professional counselor. She counsels adults, adolescents, and groups and has a particular interest in helping survivors of trauma and abuse navigate their stories of harm with self-compassion instead of shame. Mandy is passionate about empowering her clients to live more integrated, vibrant and hope-filled lives.

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Mandy Hughes
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