Shakespeare said, “Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
Around the globe, many of us are experiencing deep frustration, pain and despair right now. Others are expanding joyfully in to radical new ways of being and seeing. And, most of us are dancing with both.
I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time at the library yesterday. She asked how I was doing. I paused (I’m a get real or go home gal; I tell you how I’m really doing). I recalled a recent painful parenting moment and my unbridled excitement about a new work collaboration. I smiled, recollecting these highs and lows, and said, “You know, many things are true at once.”
Despite the fact that the last three grueling years had an enormous impact on my international speaking career, I’ve never felt more alive, hopeful about the future and excited about the new partnerships I’m cultivating.
The concept of living with extreme opposite feelings—or what I like to call polarities– is not new. From as far back as we can remember, we’ve been fascinated with the balance between light and dark, contraction and expansion, life and death and how close tears are to laughter. Polarities are everywhere.
In fact, many of my colleagues in the field of mindfulness, neuroscience and leadership believe polarity—creating consciously from wholeness—is the key to unleashing enormous untapped potential.
Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, says, “The dualistic mind is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, smart/stupid, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. The dualistic mind limits our ability to feel fully as it cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, sexuality, death or love.”
If we are able to hold opposite feelings and experiences: frustrations—that are very real—and our highest aspirations, we open ourselves up to a vast space of possibility: to the great wide open.
I encourage you to pause and be open to the many gifts that can come from this thinking. Pull up two chairs and invite the extremes you’re experiencing to tea. What would they share? As you consider the concept of polarities, you might ask yourself:
- What are the current polarities I’m observing in my life/career/relationships?
- Which end of the spectrum do I tend to gravitate towards (continuously hopeful/optimistic or chronically negative and discouraged)?
- Am I comfortable holding extreme emotional states in the same space or do I want them at opposite ends of the building?!
- If I were to describe this dance (of extremes) would it be a waltz or Michael Jackson’s “Thriller?”
- What opportunities might come forth from “being” with both extremes (i.e. shifts, new perspectives, ideas, etc.)?
As you compassionately examine areas of your life where polarities exist, consider what brilliant breakthroughs might be awaiting if you’re willing to start pausing, becoming curious, listening more and including “and” as often as you include “or” in your debates. Many things are true at once.
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Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by mindfulness coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art/science of self-care, Renee has been facilitating high-impact, interactive workshops for Fortune 500 companies, national nonprofits/conferences and organizations/teams worldwide for 25 years. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Fast Company, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, AARP, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 450 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups/retreats based on her pioneering self-care curriculum. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. She and her husband live in Western North Carolina and Austin, Texas; her latest venture is Wild Souls Nature Adventures. More on Renee here.