Some (Just A Few) of the
Milestones on the Path

These are in a rough sequence, but different people learn things in varying order.
We get into trouble.
We realize that there is a problem (perhaps more than one problem) in our lives.
We get out of trouble.
We get into the same trouble again.
We say, "Why me?" and discover that we get no answer—or too many answers, all wrong because it's the wrong question.
We discover that we—the way we think, the way we respond—are a part of our own problems.
We begin to look for a solution.
We realize that daily life is a spiritual exercise.
We stop expecting others to meet all of our needs and start trying to meet some of them ourselves.
We become aware of our own emotions and sensitive to what hurts us.
We discover our inner child. Some of us feel so sorry for it that we spoil it until it becomes an unbearable brat.
We realize that having more things or money has not, does not, and apparently will not make us happy, safe or secure.
We stop doing things just because other people say they want us to do them. Eventually we even stop doing things just because we think other people want us to do them.
We realize that letting our inner child have its way all the time has an even worse effect on our lives than never letting it have its way. We no longer put its needs and desires first, and we begin to seek a workable balance.
We discover our inner adult. Hey!
We take responsibility for the effects of our actions on other people—and may unwisely try to take responsibility for the people as well, which they are often all too willing to give us.
We realize that, not only has what we have done made us what we are today, but our present choices are making us what we shall be in the future.
We stop blaming other people for our problems.
We start taking responsibility for our own actions and feelings.
We stop taking responsibility for the choices of others.
We discover that asking for guidance works. And we learn to ask for guidance before we do things, at least sometimes.
We discover that asking for guidance works best if we follow it when we get it.We discover that asking for guidance works best if we use some discernment about following it.
We stop assuming that everyone thinks the way we do (only not quite as well), needs what we need (only possibly less or later or after we have enough to feel secure), and wants what we want (or at least ought to want what we want).
We learn that everyone is unique. We stop generalizing about people.
We become sensitive to the feelings of others now that we are no longer projecting our own stuff (or at least some of our own stuff) on them.
We learn to hear what other people are really saying now that we can listen to them instead of to the voices in our heads.
We learn to hear what we are really saying.
We learn the difference between "right/wrong" and "appropriate/inappropriate."
We learn that 'blame' and 'guilt' and 'fault' are just power or ego trips when applied to others—and even when applied to ourselves.
We discover that most of our judgements about people are useless, without validity, and inappropriate.
We give up the words ought, should, and meant to be - about ourselves as well as about others.
We give up thinking of things in terms of right/wrong, negative/positive, good/bad.
We stop telling our adult children what to do and trying to take responsibility for them because we finally realize that they are grown up. We just give them the help they ask for— if we find that possible and appropriate.
We stop telling our parents what to do and how to run their lives because we finally realize that we are grown up. We just give them the help they ask for - if we find that possible and appropriate.
We stop telling friends and acquaintances (indeed, everyone) how to run their lives. We realize that, whether they are competent or not, they are going to do so anyway and it is not in our best interests - or theirs - to try to control them.
We stop telling our spiritual teachers how to manage their lives. We assume that they are probably reasonably adult and that they are going to do their own thing anyway. We just give them the help they ask for - if we find that possible and appropriate.
We discover that helping people and fixing them are not the same thing at all. We cease trying to fix them when they have not expressed a desire to be fixed. We cease trying to fix them even when they have asked to be fixed because we know that only they can fix themselves.
We discover that one of the greatest gifts we can give others is unconditional respect.
We discover that asking for help works.
We discover that prayer works.
We learn about unconditional giving. We learn to give without strings, conditions, expectations, or attachments.
We learn unconditional receiving, which is even harder than unconditional giving. Somewhere in this we learn unconditional asking.
We discover what unconditional love really is.
We do what we can for ourselves and then ask for help, unconditionally asking, unconditionally receiving.
We learn about trust, joy, serenity, and all that. We learn to trust the process.

People learn these things in varying order and at varying stages of their lives. This process is made more difficult by the fact that we have to learn each one of these things on three different levels:

    Mental—we learn to comprehend the concept and agree with it in principle, but at this stage we usually still act as if it were not true. If we're really thinking about it, we sometimes get it right.
    Emotional—we learn to believe the concept, and at this stage we act as if it were true, except when we reach certain levels of stress or pressure or exhaustion, when we often will revert to old behavior patterns.
    Energetic/structural—our bodies and our energy fields learn the concept so well that there is no inner conflict, no old stuff pulling us in another direction.

As you might suppose, the first level is relatively easy and the last is very much more difficult to achieve than the others. It often seems to require something on the order of divine intervention.
The good thing is that, once you get something on all three levels, you've really got it and don't need to learn it again in this life or any other. The bad thing is that there is a lot of stuff I've left out of this list - some because I've forgotten it and some, doubtless, because they are things I don't even know about and still have to learn myself.

Copyright © 1996. Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.
This first appeared in Otherworld Arts, January 1996.

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