LIVING IN THE PARADOX
Excerpt from 'FALLING OPEN in a WORLD FALLING APART.'
Being fully awake and fully human is the art of falling into grace while embracing the grit of the human experience. It is how we know the unbroken amidst the broken—how we dance in the waves of duality while merging with the ocean of non-duality.
Being fully awake and fully human is not a divided state. It is not a movement from one state of consciousness to another— falling into the grace of a non-dual perspective when things are going your way and you’re feeling good . . . and then getting lost in the duality of internal conflict when things don’t go so well and you’re feeling bad. It is a state of wholeness—you are both broken and unbroken, both fullness and emptiness, both form and formless at the same time. This art calls us to live on the razor’s edge of paradox.
As long as you clutch at the waves that make you feel high and resist the waves that make you feel low, as long as you run away from the waves that scare you and chase the waves that soothe you, you have problems in life. Problems in life are not what happens, but the conclusions you come to about what happens. The problem isn’t whether the waves are big or small, whether the waves are gentle or stormy—the problem is you.The problem is that you hand over your authority to the waves of thoughts and feelings that rise and fall in you. You believe your thoughts and feelings to be ultimate reality, you believe them to be the final say in the matter.
The fully awake human being welcomes all waves, without becoming any of them. When something good or pleasurable or uplifting happens, let the experience penetrate you all the way. Let it touch you, let it pour into you, let it soak every cell of your being. But don’t come to a conclusion about it, or about yourself. When something bad or irritating or painful happens, let the experience touch you, pour into you, pierce your heart. But don’t come to a conclusion about it or about yourself.
The knee-jerk reaction—whether we are faced with calamity or with ecstasy—is to identify with the wave. But if you truly want to awaken out of the dream of separation, you must take up the deeper invitation of this wave. The wave invites you to reign in this knee-jerk reactivity, to hold it like you would a wild horse—not tightly with force or aggression, but gently. This gentleness is a gentleness of the heart—the willingness to stay in that tender open space of nonresistance. And there is also a strength in this—the courage of mind to bow down to nonresistance.
As you tame the desire to identify with any wave that comes at you, you will come to know grace through the human experience. Grace is not a special state that elevates you above the human experience—it is simply the absence of resistance to what is here. Grace is what reveals itself when you’ve let the world obliterate you—not so you are a victim of it, but so you are a lover of it. When you open wide in nonresistance, you become a lover of what is.
Being a lover of what is has nothing to do with liking or disliking. You are neither lucky nor unlucky because of what’s happening. Life is neither good nor bad, neither rewarding nor punitive, because of what’s happening. The nature of life is duality—and there’s nothing you can do about that. There is birth and death, there is up and down, there is light and dark, there is pain and pleasure, and so on. The waves of life have been coming since the beginning of time and will continue until the end of time—and there’s nothing you can do about that. The deepest acceptance of that duality, is freedom.
The more you accept, the more you allow, the more you bow down to life as it appears now—and now and now—as your experience, the more you will fall into a state of such okay-ness, such tenderness, such beauty, such richness and such depth, that all attempts to awaken so as to escape reality will be seen as childish and futile.
The only freedom is here and now. No escape, just this.
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay