Paradox, overwhelm, and finding your truth

A quiet mind can hear the opportunities“If you want to be on a spiritual path, you’d better get used to living in paradox.”
– Godfrey Devereux

Paradox is when two seemingly opposite things are true at the same time. Much of the process of a spiritual path is reconciling what we “know” with another contrary, yet also seemingly true reality.

Like two panes of a larger window, the line that seems to divide one from the other is simultaneously the line that connects one to the other. When we can hold both at the same time, we see the bigger picture. We come out of either/or and shift into both/and thinking. Am I my body or my mind or my spirit? Am I an individual or part of a whole? Yoga translates literally as union, which means both/and. I am all of what I know myself to be, and more that I have yet to discover, but probably don’t think I am yet.

Douglas Brooks offered the tantric perspective: “I am not you, I am something like you, I am nothing but you.”

I used to hold my morning practice in the light of a quote from the Queen of Hearts in Through the Looking Glass: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Each morning before breakfast I’d get on my mat and try to do things I didn’t think I could do. And found myself doing (some of) them. Just because I haven’t, doesn’t mean I can’t. This shattered my relationship to my outdated and unhelpful belief systems.

There’s a challenging side effect to paradox, and the expansion of possibilities it offers: overwhelm.

When holding paradox, you are holding the bigger picture of all possibilities, This can be daunting, even overwhelming. Overwhelm is analogous to walking out of a matinee into the bright sun. Too much information coming too fast, overwhelming our senses. So we squint our eyelids. While we squint, our pupils contract making it so we can open our eyelids again. But what if we didn’t know that? What if we were so overwhelmed by that brightness that we kept squinting, and never opened our eyes and saw the full spectrum of light on a beautiful sunny day again?

When holding all possibilities you are also holding the good ones. It takes some fortitude and resilience to stay open long enough to discover them. While you may doubt your resilience from time to time, the fact that you are alive invalidates that doubt.

Part of the overwhelm is sometimes related to people telling us our favorite options are unrealistic, or even shameful. This makes it tempting to keep squinting out those options, and harder to see the sustainable path towards living our truth.

The point is, when you stop squinting, you can be with the plethora of all possible options. Keep your eyes open wide enough and long enough to choose what you want, lean towards it, and even commit to it.

In the Book of the Samurai there’s a line about how an eagle, once it has chosen the prey that it is pursuing out of the options, does not take their eyes off it, does not look at the other options.

In short – open up, be with the intensity of being open, make the best choice available, and stay with it until it’s yours.

Maybe even enjoy the process, and the rest of your day.

2 Comments

  1. Caroline Moralia

    Hi David,
    Thanks for sending these articles. Haven’t been able to attend your class for years due to chronic illness and energetic sensitivities. However….receiving these emails is lovely. They’re right in tune with my experience. Hope all’s well.

    I recently changed my last name as well as email address. Please add my new email to your list.

    Best,
    Caroline Moralia (formerly Caroline Ely)

    Reply
    • David Schlussel

      Thanks for writing Caroline, great to hear from you

      Reply

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