Thursday, August 25, 2016

51 Shades of Grey

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance
Thomas Merton

     I had a friend several decades ago that would engage me in a repetitive argument, her stance was everything in life is black OR white, right or wrong and my answer was "no it's all shades of grey". We had a lot of fun with this spirited debate, but as positions do,  over time mine has changed. I no longer think things are solely "shades of grey" but neither do I think they are "black OR white". Instead I am learning through the practice of yoga that things are black AND white. Sometimes this black and white blends together to create a beautiful grey as in balancing the effort and ease of a yoga posture perfectly. But sometimes we have to expand our capacity to hold opposites, to live with the black and white.  I am trying to hold the fact that despite my good intentions and loving heart I still cause suffering to others. We are all mixed blessings. A few years ago I heard an NPR interview with a Baptist minister in Alabama who is also an ob/gyn. He said that he performs abortions not despite his religion but because of it. He said that his spiritual explorations had led him to discover the dividing line between good and evil and that it ran down the center of every human being. Can you hold the truth that you are both good and evil or do you need to see yourself as only good or only bad? A full life like a yoga practice involves balance and that is a lot more than standing on one foot. Can you see yourself for the incredibly simple creature that you are and still embrace your complexity?

     The challenge here is that if you apply black OR white thinking to yourself you will also apply it to others. And when we put ourselves in boxes what we are really doing is creating barriers to connection. What about your ideas about the Divine Mystery? Have you put God in a box? I love Richard Rohrs thought "mystics speak of the God experience as simultaneously falling into an abyss and being grounded." Can you come to the idea of a Divine Mystery like a little child, curious and open while at the same time being a seasoned mature seeker? When you stand on one foot on the yoga mat there is so much more to practice than simply not falling down. Can you also balance the rooting down into the earth and the rising up towards heaven? They say the human is the unique space in which the animal energies of the earth mingle with the Divine energies. Can you allow yourself to hold both? To be both?

     Our culture is so divided right now and I believe that is a symptom of us seeing in black OR white. But can you hold the pain of the oppressed and the fear of the oppressor without boxing them in? Can you hold black AND white?  Can you do this for your self? Can you do something bad and not label yourself as a bad person or remember when you do something good that you still have the capacity for evil? Practice doing this for yourself and your capacity for empathy will increase.
On and off the mat we must balance everything. reaching out and solitary time, grounding into the earth and letting go, spending time and money and saving our resources. The more we can accept seeming contradictions the more we expand our world view. Suddenly we don't see our "adversaries" as simply evil but as complex and deep just like us. And yet we are all so simple. we want to be seen and loved. The very basic meaning of the word yoga can be translated as "union". But we will not find union, internal or external, as long as we see things in black or white. Let's practice today holding our opinions, beliefs and judgments lightly enough to make space. I share these thoughts knowing that you already know this but at the same time you may have forgotten. You are wonderful and yet sometimes quite full of mischief! Can you love all the parts of you?


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