The more we deepen our spiritual practice, the more often we encounter paradox.
A common spiritual paradox is the paradox of surrender. To get what we want we have to be willing to move ahead quite happily without it. Yet how can we want it and not want it at the same time? When I was 9 I realized this principle but couldn't quite wrap my head around it. Here's that story:
Dad had a sweet tooth, so every now and then, he'd buy a family-sized chocolate bar on his way home from work to share with us. We didn't buy extras or snacks when we were kids so this was a real treat. There were 5 of us and the bar could be broken into 6 pieces, so one of the 5 of us got the extra piece. But it never seemed to be my turn. I argued, pleaded, tried whatever I could to sway Dad in my favour. It never worked. So finally, on this one day, I saw the extra piece, wanted it just as much as ever, but made a choice to move on happily without it. I remember wandering out the back door, and standing barefoot on the grass wondering what I'd do next, my 1/5th share melting slowly in my mouth. Not long afterwards, Dad came outside and handed me the 6th piece. This was an important moment. I knew this. I went over it in my mind, trying to make sense of it. "In order to get what you want, you have to stop wanting it." But, my 9 year old mind reasoned, "if you use this trick to get what you want then you haven't stopped wanting it have you?" Even though I knew I didn't fully understand, I promised myself I'd remember. It was important.
Paradox holds two contradicting truths together, and lets them both be true.
Here are other spiritual paradoxes we may encounter:
- It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
- We are imperfect creatures, yet we are already perfect.
- It is in giving that we receive.
- We must take responsibility for our life, yet ultimately God/Universe is in control.
- We are each individuals, yet we can not be separated from the Whole.
- To lead people, walk behind them.
My nine-year-old self didn't mind that she didn't understand the chocolate paradox fully. She knew she was onto something important. When my current self meets up with paradox, I try to do the same. And the more I do, the more fun it becomes. Intellect doesn't like paradox much, but when I let intellectual impossibility rest in a deeper bowl, joy bubbles up.
See also Manifesting 101