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.