LIVING WITH PARADOX
Spirituality includes being able to embrace paradox. Examples include:
· We need to be detached, but we need to be fully present (here and now) in the drama of
· We need to be self-disciplined, yet act in a spontaneous manner at
· We need to make our own
effort, but also to realize that we do nothing.
· We need to differentiate good from bad, yet go beyond both.
· We need to think in new spiritual ways, yet to know that all thoughts are just
· We need to cultivate compassion and relieve suffering, but also to understand that everything is
perfect just the way it is.
All of these dilemmas stem from one great dilemma. We experience ourselves as separate bodies and personalities, but
we are also indivisible parts
of the Whole. Superficially we are individual waves which rise and fall on the one great ocean of Being, with
which our deeper identity is linked.
Following a spiritual path is an ongoing process of attempting to resolve the great paradox of
being a part of an indivisible Whole. How can this be done? The word “paradox” itself gives us a clue, coming
from the Greek para dokien –
“beyond thought”. The dilemma cannot be resolved by thinking about it. It is resolved in a profound
acceptance of the fact that this is the way things are. A wave doesn’t worry about being the ocean. It just
We all know that living can be a frightening, lonely, painful, grief-stricken ordeal at times.
In the face of this, we desperately need to feel that in some way we are essentially safe. We need to know
that our joys and suffering have real meaning. Spirituality answers these needs. It also frees us from the
deep anxieties caused by believing ourselves to be isolated egos.
Finally, spirituality connects us to an immense benevolence that permeates creation, an
unconditional compassion that beats the pulse of life, that Great Mystery. Those who dare to look beyond the
limits of their habitual horizons and glimpse the infinite goodness that is God are forever reassured that
all is well.
Source: Adapted from Timothy Freke, Encyclopedia of Spirituality: Information and Inspiration to Transform Your Life
(New York: Sterling Publishing Company, 2000).
Peace, the Hebrew shalom, means wholeness and
completeness. Peace is not when all agree, for this is impossible. It is the ability to realise that all the
various perspectives, even if contradictory, are only partial
perspectives of the whole picture. The truth is greater than the sum of those parts. The path to paradise
is really paradox and we need to make peace with the apparent conflict. One perspective can never be the be-all and end-all for understanding the
ultimate truth and therefore should not be taken too seriously – though it is a partial accurate view of reality. From a higher perspective, it will
realised that there were no contradictions, but rather different perspectives of one complete
Source: Based on Rabbi David Aaron, The Secret Life of God: Discovering the Divine Within You (Boston: Shambala
Publications, 2004), 130.
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