December 11, 2012
Life as Paradox
I look through a magazine on blogging; articles encourage writers to be true to themselves (ignore the expectations of others), yet peppered throughout are tips to attract blog readers. Even my Shambhala Sun--a magazine about Buddhism and meditation--has a section for vendors (buy these prayer beads or this meditation cushion or attend this particular retreat). Such is the way of the world. Paradox is what it means to be human.
At a recent meditation retreat, I heard Cheri Maples thoughtfully discuss a particular paradox: take refuge in yourself while also embracing egolessness. That is, establish yourself as a safe place, yet reduce the volume of the "me" dial on the radio. Safety within yourself is healthful; making yourself a huge player in the story of life is suffering.
Regularly, I experience the paradoxes of life. In the same moment, I can feel both shame and peace; fear and love; grief and hope. I was drawn to Buddhist philosophy because it embraces paradox and encourages the middle path. When I was younger, my thinking was more black and white. There was a rigidity to some of my views. Now my thinking is much more gray. There is always some piece of the story to which I'm not privy; there's much more space around my views. I'm genuinely curious about the paradoxes of life.
When I'm centered, I feel relief and equanimity about my mom's transition to a nursing home. And that's precisely when ego steps in and encourages me to feel guilty. Yet when I allow myself to feel grief and sadness about my mom's situation, that's when ego chides me for continuing to feel something I've already worked through in therapy. Ego is wily. Life is interesting. We are all walking paradoxes. In the words of Pema Chodron (Start Where You Are), "None of us is okay and all of us are fine. It's not just one way." Indeed, life is not just one way. It's an ever-changing, paradoxical, difficult, and interesting ride.