“If day and night, summer and winter are well with you, you have surpassed the contradictions.”
Principle 5. Acceptance. Third Week.
Last time: East Meets West as Laozi and Heraclitus weigh in.
This time: Inner War — Inner Peace.
Over the last two weeks we considered the principle in general terms, as well as seeing how it related to past situations. This week we turn to the present situations in which we find ourselves.
Behind, or perhaps more accurately “copresent” with this effort we are always trying to amplify our vision of how we can turn the principles into a dynamic and permanent meditation. That is to say, into a practice applicable at every moment of our lives. In that way we go on shaping a style of, or way of, engaging with life.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
Here are some personal reflections. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
I found myself wondering about the phrases “Day and Night” and “Summer and Winter”. How literal are they meant to be? How metaphorical? A metaphor for what? For all opposites? How are they supposed to be “well” or if you prefer “fine”, “okay”, or “alright”? What does it mean for them to be well anyway?
Another other big question was raised by Roberto at the last meeting. He asked about when it says that if these things are well with me I will have surpassed the contradictions — what are these contradictions I will have surpassed? And of course that leads to an even more fundamental question: what is a contradiction?
The first thing that came to mind as I mulled over that last question was this quote from chapter 13 of the Inner Look: “Learn to distinguish a difficulty, a problem, an obstacle, from a contradiction. While those may move you or spur you on, contradiction traps you in a closed circle with no way out.”
I understand that contradiction traps me because it is an internal disagreement — me being at war with myself — and so I am left stuck between choices or possibilities. Finding a way out of my state of contradiction, a way to be in agreement with myself seems the most pressing task. Maybe that’s why in the Inner Look it says:
Chapter X. Evidence of Meaning
The eighth day:
- The real importance of an awakened life became evident to me.
- The real importance of eliminating internal contradictions convinced me.
- The real importance of mastering the Force in order to achieve unity and continuity filled me with joyful meaning.
The book, The Inner Look, is the first part of a trilogy published under the title, Humanize the Earth. The second book of that trilogy is the Internal Landscape. Here are a few thoughts about contradiction and coherence from that text:
Chapter IX. Contradiction and Unity
“1. Contradiction inverts life. The inversion of the growing stream of life is experienced as suffering. Thus, suffering is the signal that warns us of the need to change the direction of the opposing forces.
- I believe you will know how to distinguish a difficulty, which is welcome for you can leap over it, from a contradiction, that lonely labyrinth that has no exit.
- Every contradictory action that you have done in your life, whatever the circumstances, has the unequivocal flavor of internal violence and betrayal of yourself. Why you found yourself in that situation will not matter, but only how—at that precise moment—you organized your reality, your landscape. Something shattered then, and changed your direction. And this, in turn, predisposed you to a new rupture. In this way, all contradictory actions orient you toward repeating them, just as all unitive actions seek to reemerge later on.
- In daily actions difficulties are overcome, small objectives are achieved, little failures reaped. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, these acts accompany daily life like scaffolding accompanies a great building; it is not the structure itself, but it is necessary if it is to be built. It does not matter what material this scaffolding is made of, as long as it is suitable for its purpose.
- As for the building itself, where you put defective material, the defect will grow; where you put solid material, you increase the structure’s solidity.
- The essential construction of your life is built of contradictory or unifying actions. You must make no mistake at the moment you find yourself faced with your actions, for if you do you will jeopardize your future and invert the stream of your life—and how then will you end your suffering?
- But it happens that at this very moment your contradictory actions are already many. And if everything from the foundation up is false, what can be done? Would you pull your whole life apart to begin anew? Let me tell you that I do not believe that everything you have built is false, and you should abandon any such drastic thoughts. They will only bring you greater misfortune than is already yours today.
- A new life is not based upon destroying previous “sins” but upon recognizing them, so that from now on it will be clear how ill-advised are these mistakes.
- A life begins when unifying actions start to multiply, so that by their virtue they compensate and finally favorably overbalance the previous relationship of forces.
- You must be very clear about this: You are not at war with yourself. Rather, you must begin treating yourself like an old friend with whom you must now reconcile, for ignorance and life itself have driven you apart.
- You must begin by making a decision to reconcile with yourself and to understand your previous contradictions. Then you need to make another decision—that you want to overcome these contradictions. Finally, you need to decide to build your life with acts of unity, rejecting those materials that until now have brought so much harm down upon your head.
- If you want to build a new life, free of contradictions, a life that increasingly overcomes suffering, you must be aware of two false arguments. The first holds that “I need to solve my personal problems before I can undertake any constructive action in the world.” The second leads you to declare “I am committed to the world!” while forgetting yourself completely.
- You may agree with me or not, but in any case I will affirm that this is the only way forward: If you want to grow, you will help those around you to grow.
Chapter X. Valid Action
- Contradiction is not the only source of mental harm; any reversal of the growing stream of life is experienced as suffering. Yet while the empire of circumstance may allow many forms of suffering to be overcome, contradiction persists, weaving its dark web of shadows.
- Who has not suffered the loss of affection, of images, of objects? Who has not feared, been desperate, felt pity, or become agitated in angry rebellion against people, against nature, against all those unwanted but inevitable endings? But what was feared in darkness faded with the coming of day, and much of what was lost was forgotten. Yet that innermost betrayal of oneself continues in the past and poisons the future.
- That which is most important in human life is constructed with materials of unity or contradiction. And this is the deep memory that either continues projecting existence beyond all apparent limit or causes it to disintegrate precisely at this threshold. May all human beings in their final review find remembrance of their internal unity!
- And what is the flavor of an act of unity? If you would recognize it, rely on that profound peace which, accompanied by a gentle joy, leads you into agreement with yourself. This act bears the sign of the most integral truth, for in it, thought, feeling, and action in the world are united in the most intimate friendship. Yes, valid action is unmistakable; you would affirm it a thousand times over should you live as many lives!
- Every phenomenon that makes suffering recede in others is registered as a valid action, as an act of unity, in the one who carries it out.
- All action is bounded by two tendencies: There is the abyss, which grows through contradiction, and the flight above that allows you to overcome it through valid action.”
And looking ahead to principle 12 from The Inner Look I’ll wrap this up with the rest of that earlier quote, since the whole thing points to some other key attributes of these vital acts, both unifying and contradictory:
“12. Contradictory or unifying actions accumulate within you. If you repeat your acts of internal unity, nothing can detain you.
You will be like a force of Nature when it finds no resistance in its path. Learn to distinguish a difficulty, a problem, an obstacle, from a contradiction. While those may move you or spur you on, contradiction traps you in a closed circle with no way out.
Whenever you find great strength, joy, and kindness in your heart, or when you feel free and without contradictions, immediately be internally thankful. When you find yourself in opposite circumstances, ask with faith, and the gratitude you have accumulated will return to you transformed and amplified in benefit.”
As noted many times before, the principles are not a list of “thou shalls” or “thou shall nots” as is typical of moral or ethical guidelines. We also have to keep in mind that the principles are not meant as isolated bits of wisdom, any more than they’re meant as moral commandments imposed from the great beyond. As it says in the chapter on the principles in The Inner Look:
“It is not indifferent what you do with your life. Your life, subject to laws, is open to possibilities among which you can choose… …Thus, what-one-must-do does not depend upon distant, incomprehensible, and conventional morals, but upon laws: laws of life, of light, of evolution.”
Whenever you find great strength, joy, and kindness in your heart, or when you feel free and without contradictions, immediately be internally thankful. When you find yourself in opposite circumstances, ask with faith, and the gratitude you have accumulated will return to you transformed and amplified in benefit.
Next week we’ll look continue with the Principle 5, also known as the principle of acceptance. We will focus on the future, and what the impact of applying the principle might mean for us and others.
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