Do you experience paradoxes? An encounter with a spiritual teacher

Several years ago, I went to a spiritual teacher. (The main one at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Oregon where I lived at the time.)

I told him about the awakening shift that initially happened in my mid-teens and never went away.

He asked me: Do you experience paradoxes?

I said honestly: “No”

And he responded: “Then it’s not an awakening”.

And that was it.

I was a bit baffled and later realized that he probably asked for one of the initial and common side-effects of awakening shifts.

WHAT IS A PARADOX?

What is a paradox?

For me, it’s when we have difficulty reconciling apparently contradictory things.

In an awakening, we may notice we are – in a sense – this human self and more fundamentally what the world happens within and as.

This is not a paradox. Both are valid. And they are two different things. In a conventional sense, I am a human being in the world. And to myself, in my first-person experience, I am capacity for the world and what the world happens within and as.

And if we hold thoughts as either true or not, and as having some kind of exclusive truth, then this can appear as a paradox. We may struggle with understanding how both can be true.

The experience of paradox is a reflection of a certain way of holding thoughts that’s out of alignment with reality.

PARADOXES AND AWAKENING SHIFTS

Following an initial awakening shift, our mind – still operating to some extent from separation consciousness – may have difficulty reconciling apparent opposites. For instance, that we are human and divine, or that we are something within the world and we are what the world happens within, and so on. After a while, we get familiar with this new terrain and the experience of paradox fades away. These are no longer paradoxes for us.

We can also say this another way: If we hold thoughts as holding some form of exclusive truth, then it’s natural to experience paradoxes following an awakening shift. But if we are more clear, we see that any thought holds validity (some kind of validity) and thoughts cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. And that removes the ground for experiencing paradoxes. We get used to the divine as everything and we recognize thoughts as guesses and hold them more lightly.

When I look back to the initial awakening shift, I remember experiencing paradoxes as an early reaction to the shift. My mind was baffled that everything is nothing and something, that what I am is this human self and the divine, and so on. At the same time, it was very clear that the divine embraces and takes the form of any and all polarities. And with time, I no longer experienced it as a paradox. My mind got used to it.

TESTING THE TEACHER & DON’T DO ANYTHING TO CLARIFY

There are also a few other things that may have happened here.

For me, this encounter was as much a test of the teacher as anything else.

It seems that he cannot see energies, otherwise he would have relied on that to evaluate how much awakening there is in someone’s system. (As I do.) It’s much more direct and reliable than words.

And it seems that he doesn’t understand that the experience of paradoxes is an initial reaction that tends to fade with time and as we get more familiar with the terrain. He asked a question that makes sense for a relatively fresh awakening shift, not one that happened 25 years ago.

This is in marked contrast to when I met with other spiritual teachers. For instance, in my teens and early twenties when I met teachers who sees energies and could see the awakening in my system before talking with me. And when I met with Adyashanti and there was a deep mutual sense of recognition.

My sense is that this particular teacher had a prejudice against new members. At the time, I had started the introductory course which contained pointers, books, and practices I was familiar with from twenty-five years of practice. He was reluctant to meet with me since I was a novice in his mind, and he seemed to meet me with that filter. He assumed that whatever I said came from a novice. (For the same reason, I was also not allowed to join their retreats, even if I had decades of serious meditation practice, and had done a large number of far longer and more intensive retreats as a resident of a Zen center.)

Another side of this is a wound I have. When people jump to conclusions about me, my pattern is to do nothing to clarify it even if their conclusion seems a bit odd – or doesn’t fit reality. I let them believe whatever they want to believe. This has, at times, created difficulties in my life and it’s something I am conscious of and work on changing. It’s also one of the more ingrained patterns in me.

This pattern is related to a wound of not being seen and understood. A part of me expects to not be seen and understood, so I don’t even try to clarify in anticipation of misunderstandings or clear up misconceptions that have already happened. My passivity then sets up a situation so just that – not being seen or understood – is more likely to happen. In this case, the teacher played into it. And I left feeling not seen and understood.

Finally, I may have understood the word paradox differently from the teacher. He may have just meant realizing the inherent richness of existence, and that the divine includes and takes the form of everything. And I understood it as having trouble reconciling apparently contradictory things.

WHAT QUESTION WOULD I USE?

If I were to ask one question to see if there is an awakening, what would it be?

Most likely, it would be: Is your human self happening on its own?

In your own direct and visceral experience, is your human self happening on its own? Is it living its own life?

And I would find a way to ask it that is a bit more open-ended.

In my experience, that’s one of the essential signs of awakening and it’s there whether the awakening shift is new or familiar.

Some other possible questions:

How do you experience your physical body? For me, where my mind has images of this body, I find space and consciousness with some sensations happening within and as space and consciousness.

How do you experience the world? To me, happening within and as what I am.

Of course, with all of these questions, there is a risk of getting an intellectual answer rather than how people viscerally and directly experience something. So finding questions that bypass this, and perhaps more finely grained questions, may be helpful.

And, in reality, I would just look at their energy system and see it there. That cannot be mistaken and it cannot be faked.


INITIAL OUTLINE

Paradoxes? 

  • CSS, do you experience paradoxes? No. 
  • Baffled by the question. After, realized that he probably asked about what tends to happen for a while after an awakening shift, but obviously doesn’t apply after some years, especially not if people engage in some clarification etc. for themselves 
  • If put it in words: paradoxes only happen if we (a) hold thoughts as mostly true and (b) as holding some kind of exclusive truth. For me, any thought has some validity, and no thought hold any final or full or absolute truth, so there is no foundation for paradoxes or experiencing paradoxes. 
  • Two other things going on here
    • I never clarified. Usually don’t. If people make up their mind, I let them keep it. (Which sometimes creates a lot of problems in my life.) 
    • I came in wanting to test the teacher, and he didn’t pass. I made assumptions not aligned with reality. 

INITIAL DRAFT

Several years ago, I went to a spiritual teacher. (The main one at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Oregon where I lived at the time.)

I told him about the awakening shift that initially happened in my mid-teens and never went away.

He asked me: Do you experience paradoxes?

I said honestly “no”.

And he responded: “Then it’s not an awakening”.

And that was it.

I was a bit baffled and later realized that he probably asked for one of the common initial side-effects of awakening shifts.

PARADOXES AND AWAKENING SHIFTS

Following an initial awakening shift, our view may still operate – to some extent – from separation consciousness, so we will experience apparent paradoxes. (We are human and divine. We are something within the world and we are what the world happens within. And so on.) And after a while, we get familiar with the new terrain and the experience of paradoxes fades away.

We can also say this another way: If we hold thoughts as holding some form of exclusive truth, then it’s natural to experience paradoxes following an awakening shift. But if we are more clear, we see that any thought holds validity (some kind of validity) and thoughts cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth, and that doesn’t create a ground for experiencing paradoxes.

When I look back to the initial awakening shift, I remember experiencing paradoxes for the first few years. But that seems like another lifetime. It doesn’t exist anymore.

TESTING THE TEACHER & DON’T DO ANYTHING TO CLARIFY

There are also a couple of other things that happened here.

For me, this encounter was as much a test of the teacher as anything else. It seems that he cannot see energies, otherwise he would have relied on that to evaluate how much awakening there is in someone’s system. (As I do.) It’s much more direct and reliable than words. And it seems that he doesn’t understand that the experience of paradoxes tends to fade as we get more familiar with the terrain. He asked a question that makes sense for a relatively fresh awakening shift, not one that happened 25 years ago.

The other is a hangup I have. When people jump to conclusions, I tend to do nothing to clarify it even if their conclusion seems a bit odd – or doesn’t fit reality. I let them believe whatever they want to believe. This has, at times, created big difficulties in my life and it’s something I am conscious of and work on changing. It’s also very ingrained in me.

PARADOXES AND AWAKENING SHIFTS

Following an initial awakening shift, our view may still operate – to some extent – from separation consciousness, so we will experience apparent paradoxes. We may have difficult reconciling that we are human and divine, or that we are something within the world and we are what the world happens within, and so on. And after a while, we get familiar with this new terrain of the divine as all of existence and the experience of paradox fades away. It’s no longer a paradox for us.

We can also say this another way: If we hold thoughts as holding some form of exclusive truth, then it’s natural to experience paradoxes following an awakening shift. But if we are more clear, we see that any thought holds validity (some kind of validity) and thoughts cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth, and that doesn’t provide much of a ground for experiencing paradoxes. We get used to the divine as everything, and with any thought as holding some form of validity.

When I look back to the initial awakening shift, I remember experiencing paradoxes as an early reaction to the shift. My mind was baffled that everything is nothing and something, that what I am is this human self and the divine, and so on. At the same time, it was very clear that the divine embraces and takes the form of any and all polarities. And with time, I no longer experienced it as a paradox. My mind got used to it.

WHAT IS A PARADOX?

For me, it’s when we have difficulty reconciling apparently contradictory thoughts.

For instance, in a conventional sense, I am a human being in the world. And to myself, in my first-person experience, I am capacity for the world and what the world happens within and as.

This is not a paradox. They are two different things. Both are valid.

But if we hold onto thoughts as having exclusive truth, then it can appear as a paradox. The experience of paradox is a reflection of a certain way of holding thoughts that’s out of alignment with reality. It’s a reflection of holding thoughts as either true or not, and as having exclusive truth.

For me, it’s when we have difficulty reconciling apparently contradictory thoughts.

For instance, in a conventional sense, I am a human being in the world. And to myself, in my first-person experience, I am capacity for the world and what the world happens within and as.

This it can appear as a paradox. If we hold thoughts as either true or not, and as holding some kind of exclusive truth, then this appears as a paradox.

With another way of relating to thoughts, this is not a paradox. Both are valid. More specifically, they are two different things, one a conventional view and the other a first-person view.

The experience of paradox is a reflection of a certain way of holding thoughts that’s out of alignment with reality.

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