Truth and Paradox on the Path to Enlightenment


shutterstock_192265376One of the most important components of developing wisdom is keeping an open mind. When we learn something new, it can seem like we are more enlightened than we were before. As we learn more, we expand our previous concepts to integrate the new.

Developing wisdom as adults follows the same principles of assimilation and accommodation that learning theorist, Jean Piaget used to describe learning in infants. The infant develops intellectually by assimilating new experiences into the old structure of awareness, and accommodating that structure to ‘make room’ for something different.

It is much more complicated for adults on a path of growth, for we are continually challenged by paradoxes. We must assimilate and accommodate principles that may be diametrically opposed. On the one hand, we empower ourselves by recognizing that we create our own reality. We co-create our lives with the intelligence of the Universe, and can build whatever we dream. On the other hand, we empower ourselves by learning to surrender, to allow things to unfold, knowing that all is happening for the highest good. I have always believed that truth lies at the heart of the paradox, and speculated that life may be one big Zen koan.

The wisest path may be to not identify too strongly with either end of the polarity, but to hold that place of balance between them. The same principle might apply to healing ourselves, either physically or emotionally. Of course there is an integral connection between mind, body and spirit. However, polarizing can occur, which can blind us to the place of balance.

There is no one vitamin or superfood that will cure all that ails one. There is no one healing modality that will consistently create miracles. There is no one spiritual path that will lead everyone to Nirvana. I do believe that when one is physically ill, it is important to consider psychological components, and when one is suffering emotionally it is wise to look at the body and spirit as well. However, we must remain grounded in our wise observer.

A while ago I was experiencing considerable pain in some of my teeth and jaw. A friend suggested that perhaps I had some blocked energy or deeper issues that I was not addressing. I could not think of any, but knew that even therapists are not immune. I wondered if perhaps I was in so much denial about something that I was completely out of touch with the source of my pain. Perhaps it was stress? Being fundamentally practical, I decided first to visit my dentist. She in turn worried that I might have trigeminal neuralgia (which would be something to really worry about.) In the end, it turned out that a new crown had thrown out my bite, and a bit of filing instantly resolved the problem. I reflected on the time, energy and emotional drain I might have created in trying to find a deeper reason for my physical pain. While some fertile ground can be covered in such searches, and rewarding insights can be gained, the process is not always so positive.

I would not want someone who is seriously ill to have the added burden of guilt over the “thought patterns” that “created” the illness. Nor would I want the parent of a sick child to torment him or herself about why they have “attracted misfortune” into their lives. It is simply not that black and white.

By all means we can allow crises to serve as wake up calls, and focus on what we truly want to keep in our lives, and what we need to release. We can accommodate to new ways of thinking by expanding our awareness metaphorically. For example, one might think, “If I was somehow blocking my financial success, what reason might there be?” We might speculate about a fear of success or change, and then do some serious work getting comfortable with those possibilities. We might become more flexible and confident. Financial success might come.

Even so, we cannot imply causality and say that we were indeed “ blocking our success.” Maybe we were, maybe we weren’t. All we know for sure was that in this case, assuming a metaphor about blocked success allowed us to try some different things, and they helped. I prefer this approach, because it gives more power to our wise observer, and less to unruly inner children or unhealed parts bent on sabotaging our growth. We then avoid being locked in a battle between different aspects of consciousness.

The arena for such a battle is within the thinking mind, which can speculate and analyze endlessly. It is not there where the full picture will be revealed anyway, ever. The way to resolve the many paradoxes of life is to transcend them. They are only stepping-stones to a simultaneously deeper and higher level. Dropping into the heart, and simply being in this moment is the way to transcendence. It is so peaceful, so full, and so complete. It is effortless. You do not need to find the path. You are on it. Right here. Right now.

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