The Stairs


It was junior year at high school. This is the time to generally panic about the future.

Standardized tests. College admissions. Ivy League hopes. Social Security. It all comes to a head junior year.

So to boost my chances for better undergrad prospects, I figured I needed to shape up my extra-curricular activities portfolio. And being the procrastinating opportunist that I was, I thrust myself into the one school sport that ‘met my standards’. Translate: required no try outs. That was Track & Field.

After my first week of practice, I decided to rename the sport – Pain & More of the Same. It was tough. The exhausting sequence of sprints and laps curled my stomach but no practice regimen was tougher than the stairs of the English Building.

Oh how I dreaded the stairs.

We raced up and down the long, winding staircase of the English Building to no end. My thighs would start to give way one-third into the practice. The pain would then pulsate through my hips and joints.

It was torturous. How I hated the stairs.

But all this agony had to count for something more than a silver star on my application.

Drawing Inspiration

As a spiritual practitioner, I am eager to draw out lessons from any experience, no matter how distasteful. I certainly did with the stairs.

Besides my suffering had to have some meaning!

3 Easy Steps to Financial Independence. 7 Laws of Success. 10-Days to Self-Esteem. The world is replete with bulleted-breakdowns on how to master life with tried and true steps and I certainly took as much advantage as I could of them.

I had a lot of time to think about those stairs while I lumbered my way to the top floor. Clearly, even so many years after, the intensity of the experience hasn’t left me.

As such I have spent some recent time drawing out some insight truths of personal growth from them. I was particularly inspired to do so when I observed how Krishna, throughout the Bhagavad Gita, provides various frameworks for gradual personal development.

Stairs, stages, steps. I need them and not just in practical, external terms. I never imagined I would dissect the nature of a step but it’s actually a wonderful little thing.

  • Each step provides the support you need to get to the next
  • Each step reminds you that your journey is not over
  • Each step gives you time to rest and reset
  • In turn, the steps allow you to pace yourself through your journey
  • Unless you’re the Incredible Hulk, you’ll climb one step at a time. This encourages you to be patient and take every (step) moment as it comes
  • The long way to the top of the English building reminds you that progress is gradual
  • The process of climbing builds strength and, over time, momentum

In this way, a staircase is a metaphor for a challenging but important journey that quietly and systematically helps us to grow.

Thank goodness for steps and the will to climb them.

Next Steps

  • Observe: Look around where ever you are right now. Pick something innocuous that you use all the time and take for granted.
  • Introspect: Take a moment to introspect. Then write down 5 benefits (especially intangible ones) from that object.
  • Do Akarma: Express gratitude for the ability to draw inspiration and knowledge from all angles of creation.

About Author

Palak Shah

Palak is an Executive Recruiter at a Fortune 500 firm. A spiritual entrepreneur at heart, Palak has spent more than 20 years as a practitioner and teacher of India's dharmic traditions.

Leave a Reply