Living With Paradox Part 1

October 6, 2008

image credit: bohman

The Oxford Dictionary defines paradox as a ” self-contradictory, essentially absurd statement; a person or thing conflicting with preconceived notions of what is reasonable or possible.”

I was at a dinner party when the conversation turned into a juicy discussion on the nature of paradox. The subject was Christ nailed to the cross, the greatest of paradoxes. Some people did not get that the person who brought up the subject was trying to express that this is an archetypal symbol. There is no way to understand it. One person said that the Crucifixion is an example of the human response, to condemn what we do not understand. Another person offered that if someone can be blamed, then the paradox can be solved.

It is essential to accept paradox and not try to fix everything, because it is impossible. Trying to fix everything is to be in denial of our shadow aspect. It allows us to continue to think that we have rational control of our lives.The great Christian mystic, St John of the Cross, called it “The dark night of the soul.” It is the place of groundlessness I referred to in a previous post. If we want to make progress in our healing journey, it is necessary to stay in this place when it is presented to us. We have to embrace the dark shadow of our psyche in order to experience our light. This is the theme of all mythology. In Paradox & Healing by Michael Greenwood MD and Peter Nunn MD it states, “As we are all sitting outside Eden, wanting to return to the state of wholeness it represents but unable to do so, what are we to do? One way out is to acknowledge our denial—we cannot expect to be whole if we persist in disowning parts of ourselves…”

Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher tells us that we need to practice Loving Kindness to honor ourselves and embrace the shadow side.The paradox is that in order to experience our light we cannot deny the dark aspect and we cannot indulge it either. It is in letting it be present and witnessing it, that we can let it go. Then there is a spaciousness that allows us to experience our light which is always present, even in the face of our darkest moments. Trying to run from our dark shadow side, only keeps us in a state of suffering. We condemn ourselves to living limited lives, with no awareness of our greater potential. It is only when we go through the “dark night of the soul,” that we become established in the truth of who we really are, the light of consciousness.

Facing fear, being present with what is, not trying to fix our problems or wishing they would go away, is to live with paradox. It is in acceptance of our brokenness that we can come to the wholeness of who we truly are. By being present, we open to our compassionate aspect, which loves anyway, and bring healing to our broken parts. If we struggle with our discomfort, we are in denial of those very parts that are asking for love and attention. When we realize that we have no alternative but to be present to our experience and are willing to enter into our pain, transformation takes place. In surrendering, we touch the space of pure consciousness, where all our thoughts and expectations dissolve. This transformation is a threat to the ego. We need to let go in order to experience our greatest potential, the truth of who we really are. This is the crux of the paradox of healing and we must live with it.

To be continued.


1 Liara Covert 10.07.08 at 12:25 am

This is such a comprehensive and uplifting post. I have read books by Pema Chodron and respect how she juxtaposes key issues. Human beings have no need to fear what they do not choose to understand. We always have the choice to resist or let go to ‘go with the flow.’ That does not necessitate we ignore sources of conflict or quyandry within ourselves. Rather, it is an invitation to explore and release it so negative energy dissipates. If we let go of the label of ‘paradox,’ we might evolve to view this as the natural flow of energy toward love.

2 Maithri 10.07.08 at 4:42 am

Beautiful words – reflecting deep truth, my friend

I think it is the inability to deal with paradox that manifests as fear and dogmatic, rigid thinking.

Life is fluid, dynamic and yet eternally constant all at the same time…

To hold two seemingly diametrically opposed thoughts in our mind and find the harmony between them – is to learn the art of wholesome living.

My deep appreciation for your words and spirit,

With reverent love, Maithri

3 Miruh 10.07.08 at 1:25 pm

Hi Liara,
I appreciate your kind comment, thank you for stopping by!
I like what you said, “If we let go of the label of ‘paradox’…”
This is the heart of the healing journey; opening into what is; acceptance of duality without the compulsive need to make sense of it all, through the lens of our limited mind-sets. Loving what is, anyway!
May your day be filled with Loving Kindness! :-))

4 Miruh 10.07.08 at 1:42 pm

Maithri, thank you for your gracious presence here! Your wise, loving words are a soothing balm to uplift the soul!

I am with you there, it is the inability to deal with paradox and the fear of the unknown, that keeps us bound in finding a solution that we can hold on to, based on our concepts, and thereby, a false sense of freedom.

May your day be filled with warm love and deep stillness! :-))

5 Alexys Fairfield 10.07.08 at 6:31 pm

Hi Miruh,
Have you ever though that a paradox is a paradox? This reminds me of the moon, which in itself is a paradox. Sometimes it is illuminating and other times it is eclipsed, but it still emanates all that it is, even though it is seemingly covered. I view people in the same light. We are light, we are dark, always the twain shall meets. It is in our darkness that we are shown light and we realize that darkness is nothing but an illusion. 😀

6 Miruh 10.08.08 at 10:25 am

Alexys, profound words my friend!
I have thought of a paradox being a paradox. To hold a paradox it implies that you have a perception of wholeness, then it isn’t paradox, it just is! That ‘s paradoxical. It kind of feels like looking at a work of Escher’s.
Good analogy; the moon and the human spirit, to know that when you are perceiving the dark aspect, the light aspect is just behind it.
Thank you for your deep thoughts!
May your day be filled with illumination!

Comments on this entry are closed.