Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Spirituality of Paradox

"An Abundant Emptiness"

Soren Kierkegaard once said:

Take away paradox from the thinker and you have a professor

I am very fond of this piece of wisdom - probably because I see so much of myself in it. I have always been the professor, the educated theologian, priest and expert. I wanted clarity, unambiguous answers, clear cut direction in my life and in my beliefs.  

In my later years, I  have come to realize that the road to truth and wisdom is never a one-way street paved with clear-cut answers. The road to wisdom is winding and messy and always paved with ambiguity. The road to wisdom is always paradoxical.

When you embrace a paradox, you are placed in the midst of opposing points of view and yet truth emerges in the apparent contradictions. I have come to a place where I welcome and embrace paradox on my spiritual journey- my path of seeking deeper truth and greater wisdom.

I am reminded of something priest and author, Richard Rohr, once said,

All true spirituality has the character of paradox to it,
precisely because it is always holding together the Whole of reality.

As I reflect on my own spiritual path, I realize that most of my core and most fundamental beliefs are indeed paradoxical:   

I believe that:

I find my "self" when I lose my "self" - When I am able to shrink my false sense of a separate and self-important ego, I become aware of the truth that there are no different others out there apart from me. Everything is relationship "at-one-with" the ONE.

I am strong when I am weak - On my spiritual journey I have come to embrace failure, weakness, suffering as inherent to the human condition - to be human is to be imperfect. When I embrace my own imperfection, I become vulnerable enough to enter into deeper, truer and stronger relationships. My weakness becomes the source of my strength.

I am full only when I am empty - If my mind is cluttered with ready-made answers and clear-cut unambiguous solutions, there is no room for greater wisdom or deeper truth. 

Whenever I am right I am also wrong - My ideas, my opinions and beliefs of this day may be wise and even truthful, but they are never permanent and complete. Everything in this life is "impermanent" and in a constant flow of unending change. So on my spiritual journey I strive to be "detached" - I do not clutch tightly to my ideas and my beliefs -  who knows what tomorrow may bring.

I don't know where I am going but I'm not wandering around aimlessly - I don't have a clear cut plan for the rest of my life. In fact I want to be surprised as I walk in the wilderness. And at the same time, I do have a direction to follow.  I walk in the direction of compassion. I am never alone - surrounded by the people I love. I have my teachers. I am guided by an Abiding Holy Presence as I make my way through the wilderness.

The desert in which I live is a place of consummate paradox. It is barren, empty, and dry and it is also teeming with life. It is wild, sometimes scary, always untamed and yet also intimate and tender . It is a place of total absence and also a place of profound presence. 

 Life is like that. 

I embrace the paradox. 

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