There’s an image in enlightened education circles—the spiral of learning. We continue to return to the same information, but higher up on the spiral with a larger perspective and deeper understanding. So not a one-dimensional circle— there is an ascending movement— but also not the steady climb of corporate profits from Point A to Point B— there is a circling quality to it.
As with learning, so with life. Here I am back in Bali, a tourist again visiting Goa Gajah and Gununkawi, but with a vibrant adult daughter by my side where once there was a 2 ½ year old. Learning a new tingklik xylophone piece, I have 28 more years of musical patterns that have fired in my brain and that seems to help me learn a bit faster. Back then, I had been teaching for 12 whole years and thought that that was an impressive milestone. Now it’s 40. The sun rose and set some 10,000 times since that earlier trip and each day brought with it new possibilities, unexpected joys, surprise sorrows and my constant meager attempts to become somebody worthy, to be nobody in particular ready to partake and enjoy.
And if aging means ascending the spiral, let’s face it, there can be a downward spiral direction as well! Not only the ached and pained body, but the heart’s disappointments and the mind’s failing memory and the regretful farewells to all the ships that have sailed on or failed to come to port. Like all of us, I have my fair share. It’s some kind of weird pinball machine inside this body-mind, some ascending to ring the bell, some dropping down to the bottom, some stuck in the middle endlessly circling. At least it keeps things interesting.
It’s Friday morning in Bali, morning roosters announcing the day, the sun preparing it’s scorch, the farmers out in the fields, cooking smells wafting through the window. For this lone traveler in company with his daughter, it has been the backdrop for reflection and equally an invitation to release from self-absorption and enter the beauty of the landscape, the warmth of the people, the vibrancy of the culture. My daughter awakes for her morning yoga routine, I turn to my neglected zazen meditation, the world spins on, ascending, descending, stuck in one place. Which direction today?