Recently, I’ve heard from many people that the concept of a paradox was really powerful for them. I believe that with all the judgment, anger, and hate that can arise when we have differing opinions – between others and also within our own minds – it’s important to remind ourselves of the value of paradox and the problems that black-and-white thinking can cause…
Problems that come with believing that there is a right and a wrong, or a definitive good and bad.
…The ways we lose out on connection and love when we can’t embrace polarity and the discomfort that arises when we open to the possibility that there may be more than one truth.
I hope you enjoy this Greatest Hit, and I hope it is of benefit in helping us cultivate more tolerance and compassion for things outside of us, and for the seeming paradoxes we hold within us.
We are all complex beings, made up of contrasts. Discipline and wildness. Security and freedom. Worldly and divine.
There are dichotomies everywhere. It’s part of nature, and we are all a part of that.
Yet often we are asked to choose only one aspect of ourselves and lose or leave the other. And for many of us, our culture believes it’s hypocritical to stand with one foot in each contrasting space.
The place that deep work happens is often when we are recognizing and living in polarity. It’s where we change, evolve, and strengthen.
It’s like the image of the Taoist tai chi or yin-yang. That dividing line isn’t just straight down the middle. It curves so that the two sides are cradling each other, and each side has a small circle of the opposite color embedded within it.
You can’t have one without the other. Like light needs darkness, the polarizing parts of you need each other to exist.
We all spend more time in this space than we realize. Maybe we are super healthy, but we can’t resist a greasy fast-food meal once every now and then. Or we post all these outdoor journeys on social media, but spend a full weekend binge-watching Netflix in our PJs and don’t tell a soul. Many people live in gender fluidity for this reason – acknowledging the limitations of choosing one polarity or another.
So if it’s part of nature and part of life, why do we resist living in polarity so much?
Some people may say that we feel hypocritical, or that our integrity is compromised when we want to live between polarities. I challenge that.
Integrity is not about moral perfection. It’s about accepting the whole and not trying to divide who we are.
We all have many parts to ourselves, and I want to invite us all to spend more time becoming whole instead of trying to pick which aspects of ourselves are valid or not.
Allow yourself to have polarities, and integrate all the parts, instead of casting away parts of yourself.
There is another image that embodies this: the mandorla. It’s used to demonstrate the concept that there is a space of overlap between two seemingly-opposed or contrasting realities, thoughts, or beliefs. It looks similar to a Venn diagram, with two overlapping circles and a small almond-shape in the middle where they overlap.
When we stand in this center, in the mandorla (the term is Italian for “almond”), without seeing two seemingly dissonant concepts as mutually exclusive, we can start to be real. Whole. Authentic. Integrated.
We all feel that tension between poles. It’s difficult to live between them instead of just choosing one when our culture or society doesn’t support that. So sometimes we can feel like we know who we are, yet we also feel like we must not really know ourselves.
That tension can be so painful, and the reaction may be to escape that by fleeing to one pole or the other, or judging one aspect of ourselves and not accepting it. But if we run from that tension, we can’t do the deep work of becoming whole and living in true integrity.
This isn’t about a resolution of the tension or a compromise between the opposites. Rather, it’s about going full-on into the tension so we can experience the true reality of them existing simultaneously in our being.
So how can we explore this tension and experience that much-needed growth and wholeness? We can complete a mandorla practice, which I learned from one of my own mentors!
The full practice is outlined in the podcast, but below is an outline of the practice:
- Imagine (or draw) two large overlapping circles. Each circle represents one aspect of your life.
- Stand in one circle, face the other, and fully embody one pole of the opposing aspects. Make the best arguments for living/being THAT WAY.
- Step into the other circle and do the same with that opposing side.
- Keep going back and forth, switching when the tension is exhausting or unbearable.
When you feel both sides have expressed themselves fully, sit in the middle (the mandorla) and feel the tension and pull from both sides.
Be mindful of what happens in your mind, in your psyche, and to changes in energy or physical sensations. As Bill Plotkin says, the goal is not to learn something, but to be changed.”
Keep doing the practice over and over. Eventually, you will realize that things are not as black-and-white as you thought.
It’s important to note that this practice isn’t to help you decide between two incompatible choices or come to a solution. It’s to trigger a dissolution of your identity.
So, what seemingly contradictory beliefs, thoughts, or aspects of your being do you have in your life that are difficult to reconcile?
Try out the practice and explore how you can truly embrace all parts of you.
And remember that you are human. Complex. And when we embrace the whole, that is when we are in full integrity.
In this Episode you will learn:
// Why we need to avoid putting ourselves into a box and casting out aspects of ourselves that seem contradictory
// How living in polarity is not hypocritical – it’s completely natural
// Why we must live in polarity to be whole and in integrity
// Why we feel tension for having opposite aspects within us, and how to overcome that
// How the yin-yang and mandorla symbols help us recognize our inner polarity and integrate them
// One practice to explore how we can embrace all parts of us
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.
// Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!