What is progress? Well, the dictionary tells us that progress is a forward motion towards a destination. We are often taught that progress means consistently completing goals, checking off all of the boxes on our to do lists, and feeling a sense of forward-momentum. The 12-steps teach us that progress is sometimes not linear, as the steps are meant to be repeated and worked through constantly. There is no end, and this is wonderful, as this means we are always improving, learning, and growing. Nature, like the 12 steps, can teach us a lot about ideas of progress and self-worth. Gertrude Stein, the innovative poet and writer, once said, “When you get there, there is no there there.” She meant that what we seem to be working towards is not an actual destination. We miss the beauty and intricacies of the process when we are too future-oriented. Gertrude Stein also wrote, “Forget grammar and think about potatoes.” While this notion is sillier and stranger than the former, I think she is trying to illustrate the importance of staying present, of focusing on the concrete rather than strictly the abstract. Perhaps a way of translating Stein’s grammar and potatoes quote is to say: Focus on the natural world rather than societally-imposed structures. To do this, we turn to Mother Earth herself.
When we notice the rhythms of Mother Earth, her natural cycles, we realize that she is always making progress, always moving the world forward in her own way. She does this through cycles, seasons, birth, death, and rebirth or transformation. The heat of summer gives way to the death of plantlife in autumn, which gives way to the cold and harsh winter when animals go into hiding. Then spring emerges and everything comes to life again. Then, the cycle repeats and repeats. Sometimes progress doesn’t need to look like a straight line or a neat list of goals. Progress can be messy, cyclical, and filled with seeming failures (all of the leaves falling from the trees) that make room for huge successes (the trees are in full technicolor bloom come April). Look to nature when you’re feeling unsure of yourself or how to make progress. Mother Earth teaches us that the process of growth and healing is messy and beautiful.
RedCliff Ascent is a therapeutic wilderness program, nestled between two mountain ranges in the high desert of Enterprise, UT. We focus on adolescents ages 13-17 who are struggling with various challenges from anxiety and depression, to school abandonment and the need to reconnect with their family. With over 25 years of experience, RedCliff uses a relational model and narrative therapy to drive an outcome and an evidence-based approach. RedCliff Recovery offers an experience like no other through a proven, 12-step, adventure-based wilderness program. For more information, call us today: 801-921-8488.