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Contemplating and embracing the paradoxes of life to live life fully

For a while now, much of my mind has been consumed with the contemplation of paradox. How contradictory life can be. I’m going to discuss a few of the major paradoxes that have been present in my life and how I’ve been focusing on working with them rather than against them. As you read, I invite you to consider what paradoxes show up in your life and if being more open to, accepting of, and exploring them more deeply, may potentially open up new dimensions for you.

I also want to make sure it is clear: These are my reflections of paradoxes showing up in my life. They are not universal and while it may be helpful to consider my paradoxes, it is probably not the best idea to adopt all of the pathways or “solutions” that have been present in my life for yours.

Here we go…

Paradox 1: The pathway to peace and happiness is through pain.

The silhouette of a woman pole dancer in an arabesque position on the pole.

One of the biggest paradoxes in my life has been that creating a greater experience of happiness has come from allowing a greater experience of pain. The more I’ve allowed myself to feel the depths of grief, sadness, worry, frustration, anger, and other so-called “negative” emotions…the more I’ve seemingly enabled the experience of peace, joy, and happiness.

I feel like I’ve also changed HOW I experience these “negative” emotions. Like, I used to see them as negative because they were aroused in reaction to something probably negative and they seemed to just fester within me as I tried to hold them in so as not to outwardly react in a mean and socially unacceptable kind of way.

Now, there’s a good reason that this kind of reaction is socially unacceptable - it’s because the reaction is hurtful and essentially just spewing my emotions on others from a place of pain. However, when I change my intention to experience these emotions from a loving, nurturing, compassionate response, actually processing them, letting them move through me in a more natural way (like flowing as needed instead of holding them in until the dam bursts and it all comes firing out), my capacity for peace and joy grows with it.

It makes a lot of sense to me. Processing emotions, moving them through and releasing them from the body obviously creates conditions more conducive to peace and joy. My challenge now is to accept that - yes, I must process emotions. Experiencing my pain may be a pathway to my happiness. But I do not have to seek out pain in order to experience more joy.

As I write this, I realize that perhaps it is not at all happiness that is the end goal. Perhaps happiness is just another fleeting emotion that passes through me. Perhaps it is the acceptance and allowing of pain in my pursuit of happiness that actually led me to…I’m not sure exactly what…Satisfaction? Contentment? Hmmm, it might even be Fulfillment? Whatever it is, my life now feels much more of it when I allow the full spectrum of emotions to colour my experiences as they will.

Paradox 2: Caring deeply, while not caring at all.

The silhouette of a slim woman in high heels arching her back against a dance pole.

Another somewhat paradox that I’ve been working on in my life is the practice of being fully committed and caring deeply about the things I do in life, but not caring at all, or being unattached to the outcome. This feels paradoxical to me because for the most part of my life, I’ve been pretty goal-oriented. I’d like to put all this work into this project so I can produce this product. I will dedicate myself to working on my business so I can achieve success. I will commit to working out so I can perform these challenging pole tricks. I will connect with people so I will grow my social circle. And so on.

In the past, when I’ve started to get frustrated with how something is going and have started to feel really unsure of the outcome, I’ve often attempted to detach myself from the outcome by being less committed to the input. Thinking things like “well, if it’s meant to be, it will be, so it’ll happen” and then somewhat half-assing the process. I feel like this was a protective mechanism for my ego - if it “fails” then at least I’ll know it wasn’t my “best” that failed and I’ll believe that it just wasn’t meant to be. Because if it was, it would have just happened, right?

But, I’ve realized that this way of being unattached was really making me, like, the shittiest co-creator of life. Like being the worst member of a group project. I realized (and it is actually super obvious) that I need to be committed. I WANT to care deeply about the things I spend my energy on. Otherwise, why even bother?

Living a life so conditioned to goal achievement and outcome can make it super challenging to really care about and commit to a process. If I really commit to my business, but only get mediocre results, what does that say about me? If I give everything I’ve got to training a routine and it flops on stage, what does that say about me?

Here's the thing I’ve (slowly) realized…

The process is the majority of your life. It is where the majority of your growth comes from…whether the outcome is “successful” as you’d hoped for or not.

For example:

It seems like after training a routine for so long, those few minutes on stage are the crux of it all. But it’s not. You actually achieve very little from the medal that may be hung around your neck if you win. Most of what you gained was from the training (physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively), plus the little bit about stage fright, being seen and other moments of growth that come from the actual performance. But the medal is nothing really.

Same with a project. It may flop. Perhaps you worked for three months to write a grant application and the grant was not approved. Was it all for nothing? No. What did you gain out of the two months of work that you researched and learned and brought the grant together? I bet a lot. What else may come from that?

Same with a business. Same with networking, same with painting, same with writing, same with any creation, education, or other activity. When you truly care about what you are doing, the process becomes the main purpose and you can grow and learn immensely with or without achieving the outcome you had intended.

My failures have opened a lot of doors for me when I’ve not been too busy sulking about them to notice. Who knows where it will lead you.

Paradox 3: Being in relationship with giving and receiving for an abundant life that is free of “hunger.”

The silhouette of a woman in high heels in a pegasus position on the pole, hanging upside down off of her elbow with her legs in a double stag position

This one is a little more challenging for me to articulate because, while I am consistently contemplating all of these topics, this one is a little more fresh but really important to me.

The giving and receiving part is a little easier for me to understand and I think it is essential to the hunger vs. abundance part of it. I’d always learned to give. Most of us probably have. And for many of us, it probably looks a lot like expectation of perfect reciprocity or overgiving.

Overgiving is pretty self-explanatory.

What I mean by giving with perfect reciprocity is that we generally learn to expect that when we give, we should receive. If I invite you to my home, you should invite me next. If I greet you, you greet me in return. If I buy you dinner, you’ll get the check next time. Have you ever noticed that if you give someone a compliment, one of the rarest responses is just “Thank you!” Responses are more likely an addition of a condition or negative characteristic, like “oh, no it’s really nothing” or “sure, but…” OR a returned compliment. Like you said something nice to me so I owe you one. It’s not exactly generous giving if you’re expecting a return is it? More of either a validation of your “niceness” or a forced receiving by initiating with giving. This actually relates a little to paradox 2, but there is such a beauty in just giving because you care deeply while not caring about receiving a response.

Now onto the tough part for me.

It will probably seem so simple as I write it out. In essence, I know it is. And yet, it is one of the things I struggle with most.

Fully embodying abundance without the hunger of desire.

Since becoming a business owner, the idea of an abundance mindset has been very trendy. And I’m not against it. When I shifted to a time abundance instead of a time scarcity mindset, my life changed hugely. It was relatively easy for me to shift my understanding of time and align my priorities with it.

When it comes to material abundance - money, home, vacations, clients, etc - it gets much more tricky for me.

The way that I’ve learned, in many ways, to “build a better relationship” with money is to “call in more.” I’m not against that and I think that there are some people who this works brilliantly for. If this is you, please do not change.

However, in my experience, I’ve felt like I always NEED to want more.

I remember my coach asking me about my ideal home and I said this one (my 1 bedroom apartment), but with enough space for a dedicated office area since I now work from home and it would be helpful to have a proper set up and not just work at my counter. Also, I’d love to have a yard and a gas fireplace.

But what about bigger?

Why not a big penthouse apartment overlooking the water or even a mansion? You work from home, you don't even have to stay in the city.

You can’t dream so small and expect the universe to give you big returns.

But what if I’m not dreaming small? What if my dreams are not to live in a space that feels cold and empty to me? Do I have to figure out how to shift my dreams to be huge, yet warm and cozy? Is it inevitable that I must keep moving to bigger and bigger if I am to be able to continue to grow and create?

Is that actually abundance?

Perhaps it is one form of it, and I’m sure it is a form that works really well for some people.

But I’m sure there’s others for whom it doesn’t resonate.

I feel like in trying to align myself with always wanting bigger, more money - trying to want a bigger home and hey, why settle for wanting $10k months when you could double it to $20k months? What’s your dream car? Can you dream fancier? Why settle for —-- when you could go for —----?

I feel like when I tried to “dream more abundantly” I never felt more abundant. I just felt more hungry.

Like everything I had was not enough.

I felt like a fraud because I practiced gratitude, yet always forced myself to dream bigger and to want more than what I was grateful for.

Now, don’t get me wrong…

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with wanting more. I’ve been at a place before where I legitimately want something more despite being fully gracious for what I have. It’s a nice place to be when you’re there.

But I don’t think I believe that you need to force more desire in order to receive abundance.

I was listening to a really interesting podcast about de-colonizing manifesting, and the host said something that was so obvious, but I’d never really thought of:

I’m totally paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of: when people think of manifesting, they almost ALWAYS want to manifest a new car or relationship or home or more money. Is that really what we want the most?

And, again…

I’m not against the want for money or material things. We live in a material world and money is required to live a good life and all people should all have access to that. It’s not the current reality, but we should.

Money is power.

Money amplifies.

I 100% believe that we need more money in the hands of people with good hearts.

If you have a good heart and good intentions, please, by all means manifest money and use the power that comes with it to amplify your wonderful self.

But I digress.

The challenge with manifestation and abundance is that, I think a lot of the time, the desire for it is driven from a place of fear and scarcity.

And so, I suppose the paradox for me is:

How do we continue to hold all of our dreams no matter how big or how small in our hearts and from a place of love, trust in the abundance and the boundlessness of the world? And avoid trying to manifest from a place of fear and hunger for more?

I don’t have an answer to this, but I do believe it is possible. To have the utmost gratitude for your life right now AND to genuinely desire something more. To trust that the world is boundlessly abundant and that everything that is meant for you will be yours.

Anyway, I feel like I left you hanging a little bit here, but I also believe that paradoxes are a great and powerful mystery to life and that following and allowing the contradictory nature of life can be really expansive. Let it all in..

You can have a broken heart AND your heart is still capable of growing love (Wicket taught me that after John died - perhaps my heart never broke - perhaps only my ego did).

You can acknowledge and fully experience your pain AND feel deeply happy with a meaningful life. Perhaps meaning comes from embracing a fully human experience.

You can care deeply about the things you do AND not care about the outcome. Perhaps the journey is the purpose and your actions may have different impacts and meanings than you’d intended and expected.

You can be satisfied with your life AND call on abundance to expand you even more. Perhaps the trick to being abundant is to know that no matter how much or how little you have right now, the world is full of support, of solutions, and of love. You don’t need to hoard it all right now, because it is there and available when you’ll need to call on it.

Confusion lives in the mind. Clarity lives in the heart. Paradoxes seem to work themselves out when you lead from the heart. That’s what I’ve learned so far.

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