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author, A Theory of Everything
The Duality of Full Engagement
It’s a strange time of year. As the holidays stream into the New Year, it can be a time of great duality for many of us. On the one hand, we’re showered with light and cheer and happy wishes for our well being, we have time with loved ones in restful reprieve, candlelight and fireplaces and dark, cozy evenings. On the other hand, it’s a hustling, bustling, shopping and visiting time that can ramp up expectations, anxieties and awaken a sadness that seems to stir in the short days and family gatherings or lack thereof.
And then, just when we thought we’d maxed out, we launch into the New Year! And what happens here? More opportunities for duality. It’s a time for resolutions or renewed goal setting or that high energized hurrah that’s apparently bursting with excitement for a new, clean slate. Yet here in the north, all of this is packed into the shortest daylight hours and coldest nights when the body aches for hibernation, retreat, silence, and when the natural world is lulled into a fallow season that will burst again in Spring.
At these times the duality of life can seem the most polarized. We can feel the most torn between extremes of busy times and a pull for retreat, an ending of a year and a beginning of a new year. We can feel quite disrupted in these weeks, and as with any disruption, there is much that it can teach us and that is: a fully engaged life naturally dances with duality. Damn!
I don’t know about you, but deep down I have this aching desire for my fully engaged life to not be so complicated. I’d like life to smooth out into a kind of soothing and blissful place where all is resolved, good and settled, while simultaneously being a romantic adventure of satisfying delight. You know, an island where it all turns out. As if. I remember when I first started to come to terms with the fact that my ongoing fantasies of a future that would one day work out, where I would arrive at perfection, where everything beautifully clicks into place and some version of nirvana would be attained, was only that - a fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that it is a fantasy to work toward greater happiness or achievement or growth or capacity or peace. But it’s an illusion that the highs, the great perfections, the heightened joy, or fabulous successes will come and stay and exist without their necessary balancing lows, imperfections, failures, dark sadness, or inevitable failures. Both. And.
Part of coming to terms with the fantasy of “the smooth and blissful life” is being in the continuous practice of paying attention to what is actually happening, that there is duality everywhere, not just in Hafiz poems, but in the everyday grit of living. Coming to terms with the truth that there’s no arrival point means catching ourselves every time we’re interpreting our reality as problematic while simultaneously distracting ourselves from what is and soothing ourselves with a future projection where all is settled and that certainly does not, and cannot, exist. Nor would I want it to. This dual life is gorgeous and balanced. Not something to settle for or come to terms with or build some new age acceptance of. Duality is, by its very nature, perfect, joyful, relaxed, easy…something we can count on, embrace, pull in close, rejoice over and be thankful for.
And this is what duality can teach us. It is something we must seek, look for, dance with in all the corners of our life. For it is when we are in healthy relationship with duality that we are fully engaged with life.
When we meet the holiday season and navigate all of the relational dynamics, dancing in duality with full engagement means that we find peace and compassion and wells of love for our family, seeking new understanding and even forgiveness where needed. And that simultaneously, we don’t put up with people’s shit. Both. And. Love. Boundaries. Infinite space for who people are. Infinite patience with ourselves and our limits. Zero tolerance for toxicity, including that which we tend to inflict on ourselves.
And so it is with taking on a New Year as we lean into new edges or dream of new heights. We need to wrestle and stretch and push and kick our own assess. Maybe that means early mornings, late nights, fully immersed hours, and deep discipline. And with it, rest, recoup, and kindness. Both. And. Giant leaps need soft landings. And some self-care comes with a whip. You know what I mean?
When parenting, be it our own children or the one inside ourselves, full engagement means that rules, boundaries, discipline, consequences, all of these are present as a container for our children; it gives them something to press up against, feel the solidity of. Unconditional love envelops and permeates them. Both. And. Where the buck stops and the love never does.
To be fully engaged in life is not to wrestle with duality, to hang in either the black or the white or to balance in some midline resolution where the toggle seizes and disruption can’t find you, but is to nimbly and resiliently dance. All the time. Dark days. Light days. Both. And. Life dancing with life, dancing with life.
-By Chela Davison
Photo credit: Noir-Division http://bit.ly/1myaKW7