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Spirituality Essay:

I Can't Move Mountains    ( October 2007 )

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One of the most helpful pieces of advice a therapist ever gave me was this Muslim saying: "I can't move mountains; I can only move wheelbarrows." A more tangible rendition of the famous adage, "We're only humans, not gods".

Those of us who have devoted a large part of our life energy to making changes in "who we are" and/or setting significant goals for what we want to see happen in our lives are often frustrated and discouraged at how slowly progress comes.

Alas, we're unendingly being exposed to images and promises of the easy quick-fix. It's almost the American way . . . Losing 30 lbs. in 30 days . . . Celebrities' lives turned around instantly with breakthrough epiphanies . . . Making $100,000 in one week buying and selling coins . . . And the most insidious one, movies and TV shows that resolve complex problems with perfect endings in 60 minutes (everyone learning a valuable life lesson, to boot). It's hard not to absorb this constant drip-drip of instant solutions, without their filtering into our consciousness as the standard by which all humanity operates.

Reality check: Creating real change is hard . . . painstakingly slow and usually arduous. That is a fact.

We must accept, first, that beyond our control are our genes . . . and their significant component in determining "who we are." Add, next, the force of those crucial early years in our lives when our essential attitudes, values, and behavior patterns got etched into our lives (during our pre- awareness years) - and which we've been living out and inevitably reinforcing since . . . patterns that feel so comfortable and normal. And resistant to messing with!

We can't move mountains: We must always know who we are . . . what is realistic and possible.

"Lowering the bar" of our expectations . . . keeping them small and manageable . . . can, I think, actually help us make the changes we want; for we're much more likely to get discouraged and lose energy and desire when large desires don't rapidly appear.

We need to accept that creating change does take time. And our dedication and perseverance - and our patience.

Then, our wheelbarrows of daily, regular work will start producing those subtle, but delightfully noticeable, attitude and behavior shifts. Small they may be . . . but there, yes... precious and powerful. And the glow we feel fuels the next round of wheelbarrows.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
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