Incremental is infinite, too
Reading all the social media posts from people who are newly discovering the Principles at work behind life, I’ve been noticing how easily we become disappointed in ourselves, dropping quickly from gratitude for an insight to discouragement that we’re not where we want to be. What we forget is that gratitude and contentment nourish the rich soil in which further insights blossom; discouragement is the drought that turns the soil to dust where insights cannot flourish.
It is rare, though never impossible, that an individual experiences what we call an epiphany, an insight so profound and remarkable that the person is totally transformed in an instant. It is common, though often unappreciated, for all of us to experience life-improving insights as we go. Some are so ordinary as to pass with scarce notice. Some inspire new ideas about how our lives work. Some surprise us into major changes. The gift we have is the capacity to keep learning, keep changing, keep seeing life with more and more clarity. It’s one step at a time up the spiral staircase of insights, and we can’t see where, or if, it ends. Sometimes it feels as though we’re bounding up the steps two at a time; sometimes it feels like we’re barely moving; sometimes we seem to be stuck on a landing.
I learned this lesson first nearly 30 years ago, when I first became aware that I was experiencing life from the inside-out, creating my experience from whatever bits of my thinking I was taking to heart and seeing as real. Immediately after that first insight — the insight that I could let thoughts pass, or I could hold them in place — my moods no longer meant very much to me. Prior to that seemingly small shift in understanding, I would get mad at myself for being in a bad mood when I most needed to be on top of my game, not understanding that I was holding low moods in place by fighting them or wishing they would go away. I had learned the “so what” lesson — “So what if you’re in a bad mood? Thoughts come and go. Leave it alone and it will quickly pass.” But I hadn’t found gratitude for it because I was still judging myself for having bad moods at all. Wasn’t I supposed to be free of bad moods if I really understood the Principles that explain how thinking works?
Still discouraged with my seemingly small progress, I was meeting with an employee who shared an idea she had that, while it was out of the box, could save our company a lot of time and money. I randomly asked when she had first thought of it. “Months ago,” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” I asked. “Because you were so upset so much of the time, I just didn’t feel like bringing things up that might set you off,” she said. “Lately you seem calmer and more approachable.”
Wow! Maybe that little so-what insight was more important than I thought it was. We worked with my employee’s new idea and made a significant improvement in our operations — and our bottom line. I realized that being able to shrug off a low mood had made enough of a difference in my composure that I was easier to work with, and more open to others’ ideas. I started feeling thankful for even that one small insight — and then came another.
I had the insight that I had never had a creative idea at work. Not once. Every really fresh thought I had that had helped propel the business I started forward had come to me at Disney World. Disney World! What was that about? Did I have to visit Fantasyland to find ideas? My spirits fell. I was too busy to run off to Disney World (even if it was less than three hours from home) every time I needed a good idea. I almost wished I’d never had that ridiculous insight. Yet, based on my first experience, I let that disappointment pass and just waited to see what I didn’t understand.
Aha! It quickly dawned on me that fresh ideas had nothing to do with Disney World, but everything to do with the state of mind I was in while there, just having fun with my family. I would leave my work behind and find myself in the moment, taking things as they came. So that was directional. I could look for that free and clear state of mind and not indulge myself when I started to ruminate about problems. That led to another seemingly small change with huge results. When I found myself going round and round and round over issues, I’d get up and walk around, allowing my thinking to turn elsewhere and my head to clear. Solutions started popping up out of the blue.
I could go on, but the point is made. Over time, I’ve had spiritually uplifting insights, silly little insights, wildly creative insights, helpful ordinary insights. I’ve come to be grateful that I can count on insights to brighten my experience, like wildflowers after rain in the desert, and lighten my life, like sun after the rain. Perfectly natural. Logically predictable, though always new. In my heart, I have learned to be grateful for gratitude, because it is the beautiful home where wisdom and insight dwell together and generate the life of our dreams.
As always, to quote Sydney Banks,
“Gratitude and satisfaction have wonderful effects on our souls. They open our minds, clearing the way for wisdom and contentment to eter. Once you become grateful, the prison bars of your mind will fall away. Peace and contentment will be yours.”
The Missing Link, p. 131.