Spiral staircase: photo by Heide Schleider, 2019.

“Wherever you go, there you are” (Jon Kabat Zinn)

I have been reminded multiple times in the past week about the spiral nature of learning and experience. We experience, reflect, experience, reflect, constantly returning back to the practice each time with new knowledge. If we allow ourselves to be present in the doing of a thing, rather than in the judgment of our doing (which, let’s be honest, is what most of us are engaged in), we can consistently increase our awareness and therefore create more options for ourselves in our actions. This kind of mindfulness or self-awareness allows what we might term “mistakes” to just be part of our experience. They become just steps along the journey to discovery. As Samuel Beckett famously said: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Ah! But how hard these words are to truly live in. We want to be perfect. Yesterday! We are frustrated by our permanent inability to do so. What if we gave ourselves–and by extension, one another–permission to fail? What if we all just had more fun doing that? This is something I have been trying to model for my students and also my colleagues. We come back over and over again to the same learnings, but always with new understanding and hopefully, a little more compassion. Let’s look at this Spiral of Learning for what it is: a beautiful, intricate, connected puzzle full of wonderment. Look at the picture above again: one step at a time, backwards, forwards, so many dimensions, angles, vantage points. Let’s enjoy the journey! Sing. Fail. No matter. Sing again. Fail again. Sing better.