When it comes to blogs, tweets, posts and the countless bids for your attention, you have to be choosy about how you spend your time. I’m guessing there’s a part of you that wants to drop this and hop to the next seductive soundbite and another part of you that feels compelled to jump in. (Good job holding both, by the way). This inevitable contradiction is the subject at hand. In a word, it’s all about nonduality. And I mean ALL.
What’s nondualism? Simply put, it means “not two.” Everthing is part of one connected whole. And folks, we’re not just talkin’ yin/yang symbol. It’s everywhere. So how does nonduality show itself in your daily life? Let’s take romantic relationships, given that Valentine’s Day is no doubt already all up in your face. Perhaps you want a commitment from someone and you want to protect your freedom at the same time. Impossible? Hardly. Having both togetherness and alone time, dependability and independence, structure and no structure, rules and no rules, is all good. It’s worth considering how seemingly opposing needs can be met in a single relationship. It may seem like one person wants one extreme while the other wants the opposite. But upon closer inspection, you’ll probably find that you both want a combination of extremes and a good bit of what lies in between.
Suppose someone asks you if you like your job. The answer is very likely yes and no. Right? It’s funny how we tend towards categorization, when human beings and life itself defy definition. Work can’t generally be summed up as good or bad. It’s probably awesome at times while at others, it sucks. Aren’t we all genius and stupid in isolated moments, landing most often somewhere on the continuum in between? Don’t we all have the capacity to be beautiful and ugly–even within the same day? Can’t you in fact be mean while you are being nice? An adolescent client of mine recently introduced me to the concept of “frienemy,” which is a person who pretends to be your friend when really–dun dun dun– they’re not. Yikes. It seems a tricky, complexly layered life. Unless you just assume that contradiction is inherent in everything. Then, it’s simple. All possibilities are included. Done.
On a recent trip to visit my dad in Aspen, Colorado, nondualism was a theme. I was doing yoga in his basement one day when I realized that right in front of his neon Marlilyn Monroe sign (you mean all dads don’t have one?!), there was a large bronze statue of Ganesha. American Goddess meets Indian God. It was a delightful display of dichotomy; the iconic glamour girl who symbolizes sex appeal, beauty, an idealized world of pretend and a tragically truncated reality. There she was, juxtaposed with Ganesha– the beloved Hindu deity, not particularly known for his good looks. The elephant-headed-one is widely revered as a spiritual symbol of intelligence and good luck. He’s also considered the remover of obstacles and the lord of all living things. The two of them made quite a pair: Goddess/God. Physical/Spiritual. Body/Mind. Innocence/Wisdom. Feminine/Masculine. And on and on. Unintentionally combined there next to a computer monitor, all points in time were represented as well, from the ancient to the cutting edge. What a perfect place to do yoga, right? In Sanskrit there is a saying– Neti Neti–which means neither this nor that. Notice how everything is included. Not just in this snapshot, but always. It’s worth mentioning, too, that the traits symbolized in these two figures are also shared by them both. Of course Marilyn was wise. She knew how to please her public like no other. And Ganesha is certainly magnetic with an unmistakable countenance all his own. The overlap is just as rich to contemplate as the contrast between them. Nonduality allows us to dig endlessly deeper.
If you can see how two seeming opposites are really just points on a single inclusive continuum, life ceases to be confusing. Are vegan chocolate chip cookies from Whole Foods healthy? Yes and no. Is being a parent a sacrifice or a gift? It’s both and a lot more. Can money buy happiness? As my dad likes to say, “No, but it sure helps.” Another one of his favorite phrases is, “I don’t want to go but I can’t stand to miss it.” Precisely! The more we are comfortable with contradiction, the more we can relax and enjoy the inevitable paradox in play.
Here’s another example of nondualism I stumbled upon while in Aspen. On the back of this bench is engraved: “It was the tension between a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other that kept me going.” A friend pointed out that this message of restlessness is funny on a place where one presumably stops to rest. So true, Stephanie! It also points to 2 very different motivations: destiny and death. Indeed, when we remember to “live each day as if it were the last,” the continuum of life and death is held in close proximity. Contradiction reconciled.
I invite you to keep this notion of nonduality on your radar. See the paradox in play. It’s fun, fascinating and covered thoroughly in my upcoming book (Hay House, 2013). Enjoy your fabuously multi-faceted February, fellow lovers of life. And thanks for reading. You made it. Muwah!
Thanks to digitalart for the illustration.