Measuring Progress

Swimming Against The TideWe all have a mental view of where we are going in life, what we would like our future to look like, a set of challenges that we must conquer if we are to find our utopia.

Each day, maybe even each second of each day, that view changes, usually just a little, sometimes quite a lot.

In a way, we can look at this from the view of a swimmer who is trying to swim against the flow of a river or a tide. He or she can swim at a constant pace, from their own viewpoint, a set number of strokes per minute, but their progress, from the viewpoint of an observer on the bank or the shore may be anything but constant.

It all depends on the strength of the current. If the current is flowing slower than the swimmer, the swimmer moves forward, if it is flowing faster than the swimmer, the swimmer moves backwards. Unsurprisingly, if the two are the same, the swimmer stays in exactly the same place.

Now we know that rivers and tides change, hourly, daily, in fact all the time. In order for the swimmer to know how fast to swim in order to make his or her desired progress they need to have a constant unchanging point on which to focus, a pole in the river, or a landmark on the shore, a point against which they can measure that progress.

Our situation in life changes in a similar way, so when we are striving towards our goals, we may think we are ‘swimming’ fast enough, think that we are making progress, when in fact, from another viewpoint, we are going nowhere, or even going backwards.

So what can we use as our ‘pole in the river’, our landmark by which we can measure our progress? Something that is constant, no matter what else changes around us. The answer, for me at least, is my practice. It is unchanging, it is strong and resilient and is always in the same place, no matter what else may be going on around me.

My practice gives me a great view of my progress. No matter what the challenge, when I chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, my perspective on things is focussed on a wider view of the situation rather than just my own viewpoint. So I know whether I am ‘swimming’ fast enough to reach my goal, or whether I need to put in more effort to achieve my aims.

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