Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Paradoxes of Life

It's one of the great paradoxes of human psyche.....we want to be left in our comfort zones and yet we thrive on the experience of being taken out of them!

Our intuitive understanding of that is why, even among the most settled and comfortable of us, there's a lurking desire for something to happen.

Perhaps that helps explain a fundamental contradiction in our attitudes to this thing called "peace of mind". We claim to be yearning for it, yet we often act as if that's a mere fantasy. We say we want to slow down, de-stress and learn how to relax. We pay a fortune to massage therapists, yoga teachers, acupuncturists and other practitioners in our search for relief.

We seek counselling; we attend meditation classes; we swallow tranquillisers; we drink too much; we cling desperately to "the short break" as a kind of high-octane holiday, or the furious weekly work-out at the gym to compensate for the lack of gentler more integrated exercise every day. We push ourselves to extremes, high on endorphins, mistaking exhaustion for contentment. The struggle to find ways of reducing our stress often looks stressful in itself.

Are we fooling ourselves with all this talk about de-stressing, simplifying and slowing down? Some people have found personal pathways to peace yet many more act as if stillness is tantamount to death! Most of us seem addicted to stimulation and find silence hard to cope with, even in small doses - like a pause in the conversation. Yet even the most restless souls occasionally claim to hanker after "peace of mind".

Observing these swirling contradictions, I'm tempted to ask: is the buzz, the rush, the stimulation generated by our busy-ness, something we crave - and perhaps even need - more that the stability and calm we often say we want? Most of us would say we SHOULD be trying to strike a balance between the two but why does the achievement of that balance seem so elusive?

I suspect it's because many of us actually welcome distractions from questioning the meaning and purpose of our lives. We half-know that, if deeply examined in a contemplative moment, such questions might lead us to a radical rethink about the way we live.

If we were all preoccupied with the quest for personal peace, perhaps nothing would get done - too much om and not enough oomph doesn't sound like the right balance either. After all, it's the irritating grain of sand in the oyster that creates the pearl; it's the itch that gets the book written, or the picture painted, or the deal closed.

The world needs souls to be restless sometimes!

"Paradoxically though it may seem, it it none the less true that life imitates art far more than art imitates life"
~~ Oscar Wilde

The Jacaranda tree and the tall building in Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia
(The Yin and the Yang!)