Transcending the Tension of Opposites

Many have said that it is the nature of this world to be in a state of continuous tension – polar opposites dance and tug and no utopia or dystopia is ever meant to be reached. However, it is one thing to read about this concept in a book and something altogether different to live as continuous change.

I began my life seeking “good” in the world and within myself. When I was about 13 years old, I briefly spent time with a spiritual teacher who never called himself that. He asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I quickly answered “Fix the world.” He then asked me, “What is broken?” There was something about the way he asked the question that made me pause for years to come. I knew life often felt uncomfortable and even painful – to me and to others – but the root cause was not obvious.

I wrestled with life scenarios that resulted in no pain or suffering of any kind for anyone. This problem held my interest because I was in pain and also was very sensitive to the pain of others – I wanted the discomfort to stop for everyone. At the time, I had defined the problem with my mind, in absence of real feeling or understanding, and also tried to solve the problem with the mind. But the mind was limited by the kinds of solutions it was capable of producing – logic could only lead to a conclusion that to stop feeling pain, one would need to stop feeling everything.

A number of years passed until I met someone who practiced acupuncture. I watched her work and saw that she helped many people feel better. I thought that, maybe, I could help others by taking away their pain through some healing modality. I studied yoga, Reiki, and even enrolled in acupuncture school for awhile. But it didn’t make sense to me why people would have suffering in the first place, only to make it necessary for someone else to try to heal it. If the goal was to heal all disease and end all dysfunction and destitute, then happiness is nothing more than the result of life working out. Such conditional happiness is destined to stop and go in this plane of existence where conditions are ever in flux. I gave up looking to “heal” or “fix” anything and turned toward the possibility that unconditional happiness was the only freedom in a world of conditions.

At first, the idea seemed rediculous – how could one be happy unless everything in  life was just right? Why would one choose to be happy when one is alone, poor, hungry, overworked, or sick? The breakthrough comes when life situations cease to define how you feel. While the mind has trouble grasping this possibility, the heart yearns for it naturally. Once the illusion of defining oneself through “life success” dissolves, a deeper realization about life takes hold – a freedom from the tension of opposites and an appreciation of its wisdom for our evolution. 

Suffering is there when there is either something to gain or lose. Freedom is the feeling of “having it all” in any situation because “I” am no longer defined by the situation.

So, this world moans in anguish and laughs with abandon, drinks and eats, and thirsts and starves. There is no permanent “fix” for the tension of opposites, but there appears to be a way to stop playing the game altogether that surprisingly ignites an ever deepening and unconditional appreciation of the life process. It is through the futility of trying to change the changing reality that we are free to simply revel in our true nature that is bliss. From this perspective, helping others takes on a meaning that is very different from “fixing.”