April 08, 2010

Milestone: A stone serving as a milepost or a significant point in development
--- 1662, Merriam Webster Dictionary
Through life we learn to measure distance, accumulation, progress, speed, and a myriad other calculated changes. From the early markings on the kitchen wall signifying our height growing up, to reflecting on one’s life accomplishments as we age, we place attention and significance on progress. The milestone, with origins as early as the Roman Empire, provides information on where you are now as well as how far you need to go to reach your destination. Our Spiritual development eludes demarcation, with no clearly defined end goal, yet how we live our lives points loudly to our place on the path of discovery. With milestones arbitrary on the invisible plane of existence, our happiness and fulfillment serve as concrete monuments to a well-lived life.

The historical and everyday functional significance of the number 100 pervades our culture. The jovial Italian toast "Per cent'anni" wishes our friends a hundred years of life. Centenarians, whose population increases every year, traditionally receive a note from the White House in recognition of their reaching the esteemed age of 100. Anaesthesiologists direct us to "count backwards from one-hundred" as if many of us make it much beyond 95 before we fall asleep. Television shows pique the interest of syndicates when the 100th episode airs. All in all, one hundred signifies consistency, stability, a goal attained, and most of all, an earned aura of wisdom and understanding of how life works.

Life’s Checklists
Along the way, we learned to make lists. Grocery lists, composed in front of the refrigerator or pantry, often never make it to the store with us! With sincere intention to remember the list, our human nature takes over and we often go shopping from memory. We also make daily to-do lists and for a time, follow them quite well. The irony of list-making escapes us – if we knew how to x-y-z to achieve a goal, then we’d just do it, right? Why bother breaking it down into small increments to form a list? It’s almost as if the exercise of making the list helps us to envision a path of progress.

In our Spiritual lives, like our physical existence, we integrate our lesson bits at a time. Rarely can we learn from total immersion into a concept or scheme. Our minds grasp the big picture more effectively when we allow ourselves small steps to achievement, and take note of the completion of each individual task. The conundrum occurs when we realize multiple routes to consciousness exist, all with neither right nor wrong approaches. As we attain an understanding of new insights, we amend our lists and we grow.

Thomas Edison allegedly made over 10,000 attempts before discovering the components that comprise the electric light bulb. Colonel Sanders, Walt Disney, and others labored tirelessly in their pursuit of prosperity from their ideas. When the common man reaches the milestone of inventor or magnate, the rest of us rarely learn of the thousands of obstacles they faced prior to attaining their goals.

In 1941, Winston Churchill gave his famous speech at Harrow School and said:
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
Our personal milestones endure challenges on a daily basis in our professional and spiritual pursuits. While the practice of surrendering to the Infinite separates us from controlling every detail of the route, we must remember to do the work necessary to accomplish our declared outcome.

The next one
We set goals, work our way through a number of different processes, and reach our destination. Then, armed with new information and emboldened by the fuel of passion, we set new goals, new levels of accomplishments, and higher rungs on the ladder of success. We know where we are in our lives in the present moment, and where we’d like to go. We see each milestone as not a goal in itself, yet as evidence of our forward movement through time.

The roads the Romans built thousands of years ago, still function today. Long gone are the oxen and leather sandals which trod on the cobblestones, only replaced by modern vehicles and sophisticated footwear we enjoy today. Yet, the roads still stand as a testament to visionaries who believed it possible to transport people, cargo and ultimately an Empire into greatness. It is through each milestone, each list-item and each satisfied smile, that we move our spiritual centers into new possibilities and personal achievements.

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