Do you experience paradoxes?

I have been asked this a few times, including by a spiritual teacher who saw the experience of paradoxes as a sign of awakening.

My answer is, most honestly, no.


Paradoxes happen within stories, and if we look at stories more than direction noticing, or we hold stories as true, then there will be the appearance of paradoxes. If we hold any two stories as true, there will inherently be some kind of paradox.

Of course, we may or may not notice those inherent paradoxes, and we may experience them more as cognitive dissonance than paradoxes.


If we recognize that there is some validity in any story, and that stories cannot reflect any final or absolute truth, there are not really any paradoxes.

Most simply, if we find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as, there are no real paradoxes. It’s all happening within and as us, and our mental representations are here just to help us navigate and function, they cannot hold any ultimate truth.


What’s some examples of typical possible paradoxes?

The most obvious may be that we are this human self, and also capacity for the world. As what I am, I am capacity for the world and what my field of experience happens within and as, and that includes being capacity for this human self, and this human self – along with everything else here – happening within and as what I am. If we look mostly at thoughts, and we think the two are mutually exclusive, it may seem contradictory or a paradox. And if we look at our first-person experience, it’s just how it is and there is a simplicity to it. The more familiar we are with noticing what we are and living from it, the less likely we are to experience any paradox.

Another possible paradox may be that everything physical is void, insubstantial, and also substantial. I find I am capacity for this keyboard and these hands and fingers, and to me, all of it has the same true nature as my own. It’s all capacity for itself. It’s all void taking these forms. At the same time, it’s all happening within and as what I can call consciousness, so it’s insubstantial. I can explore that by noticing how the keyboard and my hands appear in my sense fields, and how my mind associates sensations with the mental representations of keyboard and hands to lend a sense of solidity and substance to it, and how my mental representations give a sense of meaning to the sensations. And in a conventional sense, both the keyboard and my hands are physical. I can easily damage this keyboard by dropping my laptop or dropping something on it, and if I hit my hands on the table, they’ll hurt. I don’t find any paradox here, and I can also imagine that it can seem like a paradox if we look at this in a conceptual way and imagine that each of these has some kind of exclusive truth to them.


So are paradoxes a sign of awakening, as that spiritual teacher seemed to assume? For me, it seems that we may experience paradoxes if we are partly or mostly operating from separation consciousness and have some glimpses or intuitions about what we are. If we see it more clearly, or if we have a more clear relationship with thoughts, it seems that paradoxes fall away.

I should add that this is just my experience. I haven’t checked with others how it is for them.

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