India, land of paradox

Living in India is a great reminder of the power of paradox. I love paradoxes because embracing them creates so much new energy and possibilities in my own life. And I often work with clients on discovering how they may hold themselves back by self limiting beliefs.

Predominantly Hindu, India is also the second largest Muslim country in the world. It’s daily life is infused with spirituality, yet there is a strong atheist tradition dating back to the early Middle Ages. It’s poor, and yet immensely rich. It’s chaotic and dirty, yet beautifully pure and quiet.

There’s a great lesson in this. Having no option but to embrace paradox, we have to accept that two extremes can exist at the same time. And life becomes much simpler. Why waste energy arguing that it’s this or that when it can be both at the same?

However, our mind seems keen to keep things black and white.

If you love one person, then you cannot love another. If you want to have money, you cannot be an artist. If you lead a spiritual life, you cannot have doubts. If you want a family, you cannot start your own business.

These are some examples of topics clients have brought to recent coaching sessions. All of them are apparent contradictions, or ‘collapses’ in coaching speak. A collapse happens when our mind identifies two separate things as the same. By believing this we hold ourselves back. The realisation that this is happening, is often enough to create fresh energy and new perspectives.

Giving ourselves permission to accept the simple truth that we can love two people at the same time, that we can be a rich artist, a doubtful believer, a dad entrepreneur – it’s liberating and often reveals a straightforward next step to take.

Last week I facilitated a workshop on fulfillment, that resonant, life affirming energy that opens up so much possibility. We talked about how simple fulfilment really is, and yet how complex we make it out to be.

The simplicity is about noticing what is going on, right here, right now, and creating from there. To recognise your feelings and intentions and act upon them. If you like someone, tell them, if you want something, say it. A simple message of true intent untangles a web of assumptions, of scenarios of potential rejection, failure, elation etc.

The next step is yet another paradox: letting go of attachment to the outcome of your truest intention. Instead, enjoy expressing yourself truly, which is a great gift and takes courage. It’s the joy of living your life according to your values.

The balancing act is worth it. It’s about truly holding both extremes at the same time: ‘I’m expressing what is in my heart of hearts’, and yet, ‘I’m observing how life aligns itself around that desire’. The most important goal then is not gratification, or happiness. Instead, fulfilment lies in the journey of growth.