Holding Paradox

Written by on June 5, 2018 in Conscious Living, Meditation with 0 Comments

Photo by Seneca Moore

The very first yoga class I ever attended, I came out of there saying—rather asking— myself, what was that?!

Yoga was physical but had a meditative, even spiritual quality to it, despite the clanking of the weights and heavy metal blaring in the other room of the gym. It cultivated calm while doing some intense poses and I even got to end the experience with a nap.

From my initial experience, I felt that yoga was was the practice of balancing opposites. Holding paradox. It was all of these things: gentle and intense, physical and mental/spiritual, it was taking difficult things and making them smooth and graceful. It was spending energy to get even more energy.

I’ve spent the better part of two decades devoting my life’s work to yoga and all these years later, I feel like in many ways, that first observation about yoga has held up, however in munch more profound ways than a simple definition of yoga.

Photo cred: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_cross#/media/File:Monasterboice_12.jpg

The perfect symbol of holding this paradox is a the symbol of a cross with a circle in the middle. Used by the Celts and borrowed by the Christians, this symbol represents the crossroads between the ephemeral and the physical, what is spiritual and mysterious about us and what is practical and real. The circle makes that intersection glaringly obvious as if drawing an x marks the spot on the map.

This intersection, this crossroads, is the magical spot within all of us. Clearly we are physical, we are here having these thoughts, reading these words, I can feel the muscles and tendons ripple as my bones make satisfying pops on the keyboard with every staccato word. I feel this physical being. Yet, there’s something deeper, more numinous, ephemeral, and hard to point to. It’s as if these two are locked in a dance. It’s as if these two are dancing together in an unending waltz.

One of the things I’ve learned in these many years of practicing yoga is that indeed yoga is about balancing opposites, holding the paradox. Yoga is also understanding that the paradox is the thing.

To see one or the other as separate is to be locked in the dualist world of contingencies, qualifiers, finite definitions, and summations. And truly holding paradox isn’t an understanding but rather an experience. The experience in yoga is facilitated by the difficult poses done in an easy way, the meditative quality about the physical being, the balance of effort and ease. All those set the condition for the experience of yoga, this experiencing of the Self that is large enough that it is impossible to see one without also seeing the other.

One of the things I’ve learned over these years is to notice the artifice but not to dismiss it because here’s the paradox: it’s not to see beyond the paradox, but rather gather it in and love it and truly examine it as part of the whole. Just like putting on a mask is both absurd and strangely appropriate. The illusion is the gateway to experiencing the part of us that isn’t illusion, the part that doesn’t change and that isn’t bound by binaries.

To seek to transcend the illusions and escape to a world beyond illusion is creating another binary, a polarity which by its very definition keeps you in the illusion. Rather, see that the part of us which creates the binary is inexorably bound to the whole.

What are the paradoxes in your life and how can they help you to experience your larger Self?


Yogi Scott Moore, scottmooreyoga.com

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he's not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats to places like Hawaii and Amalfi Coast and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program

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