The Way Life Moves

When you think about your life, how do you think about the pattern of its progression?

Do you see it as straight line — a pattern of events that falls along a relatively straight path and progresses from one event to the next? Or do you see it as a pulse, a beat, a rhythm that moves according to more circular pattern?

I’m a westerner, I was born in the West, I grew up in the West and I’ll likely die in the West. I also happen to be a white male. All of those things combined means my inherited tendency is to think about life in a linear fashion.

What do I mean by that?

Well, in the simplest of terms, it means that I think there’s a beginning, a middle and an end to everything and that life moves along a linear progression, moving from this point to that from start to finish.

I’m beginning to think that someone like me in the Copernican age would have also thought the world was flat.

Then, many years ago, I saw an episode of the series Six Feet Under called “Perfect Circles” that absolutely blew my mind wide open.

The episode painted a picture of life that consisted of alternate realities, parallel dimensions, and non-linear time that blew my linear paradigm out of the water.

Most of us think we’re moving along a linear progression in life.

We’re not.

And in particular, when it comes to going through any kind of process — healing, grieving, strengthening, recovery — it’s not going to be a linear process. It’s going to be a circular process that leads to leaps in growth, awareness, and progress.

Anyone who has ever gone through an intense physical training process knows this well. You get stronger and then you hit plateaus for a while and then you leap to another level of strength. If you’ve tried to start a business, learn a new musical instrument or raise a child, you know that the process is incredibly circular and then there are leaps, surges in growth that bear fruit on the outside.

The process is anything but linear.

I remember seeing an exhibit at the San Francisco Exploratorium a few years ago and being absolutely frozen, mesmerized as I watched. It looked something like this:

This is the physical nature of progress in life and it does NOT move along a linear path. It is wavelike in its progression and the stages oscillate between harmony, opposition, and chaos then back to harmony.

Sometimes our lives move in perfect waves, then there’s opposition (everything moving in the opposite direction), then there’s pure chaos with no discernable order whatsoever and then the wave returns and order is restored. Rinse and repeat…and then we die! :)

We’re set up to fail if we think that our lives should move along a linear progression. The laws of physics and energy are telling us that this is simply untrue, so why do we expect our lives to fall outside of this pattern?

There is of course always a linear movement to our lives, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. But growth and transformation moves according to a rhythmic pattern, a more circular pattern, a repeating beat.

For me, I experience this cycle with my own sadness and its healing. I expect to work through it, then work it down to it’s core, then eliminate it. Kind of like a cancer — throw various different types of treatments at it until eventually (hopefully) it goes into recession and is gone forever.

Doesn’t work that way.

How it works for me is that my sadness is consistently rising and falling, moving through me without announcing its arrival. Most often, when it shows up, I resist. I shut down and try to not feel it, I move in opposition to it. Other times it throws me into chaos without my understanding that it’s my sadness that has control of me. And finally, SOME times, I can stop, feel it, and move with its wave. It reminds me that this experience has a natural rising and falling like life itself, and that feeling the sadness allows me to feel more whole in my entire being, not disallowing certain experiences and therefore discounting certain aspects of myself. This wave comes around and will continue to come around so that I can be more whole, more present, more open and more compassionate to the people and the world around me.

This is the circular, wavelike motion of a process that knows no end, that continues in me and will continue outside of me when I’m gone. It is one that does eventually lead to a linear end but is circular in its progression to that end.

All movement, if it is to be transformative, must be circular, as well as linear. The linear keeps us grounded and the circular keeps us growing.

So if you’re in a particular period of chaos in your business right now, or if all that appears to be happening in your relationship is conflict and opposition, realize that there are lessons to be learned in these phases. They are natural and expected cycles that will always occur and part of your battle is in the expectation that it should be different.

THIS is the way life moves — harmony, opposition, chaos.

Harmony.

Opposition.

Chaos.

Back to harmony.

Stop expecting it to be any different.

And I shall do the same.

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