Mindfulness · Thoughts

Embrace the Duality Within You

Hello everyone! 🌞

It’s officially finals week for me. That means I have three more days filled with study and exams, and then getting ready to go into a crazy and fun road trip for spring break (the anticipation is keeping me going, to be honest). I’m not giving away anything else for now, but I’m so excited to share with you my upcoming adventures. You will love them! For now though, stuck in-between exams, I found some time to write about a precious topic to myself.

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Two months ago, I started hosting weekly mindfulness sessions in the living room of my apartment. Each session consists in discussions, activities and guided meditations on a certain topic. The aim is to help students take a break from the academic demand and experience the beauty of living in the present through mindful practices. This week I hosted the last session of the term, and the chosen topic was Duality. It inspired me so much that I decided to write a blog post about it. So here we go.

To get your mind thinking, I would like you to ask yourself the following two questions: How does duality manifest in your life? What does it mean to experience duality in your way of being?

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While you are thinking about it, I will talk about the way I see duality, and would love to start with the following quote from C. G. Jung (who founded analytical psychology, about which I truly want to learn more as it resonates with me pretty well):

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”

That, in a nutshell, is duality. How can one grow if they are not exposed to difficult times that make them rise even higher? How can one experience joy if they were not caught in moments of sadness?

Duality is about knowing when to be calm, but also when to be a storm. Duality is about being innocent, but not letting that innocence affect the way other people are treating you, in the sense that you know when to put a limit to another person’s unpleasant behavior towards you. Just came across this quote, in the book I’m currently reading: “Ignorance is not knowing anything and being attracted to the good. Innocence is knowing everything and still being attracted to the good.” (Estes, 160) That, for me, is a way to think about duality. I had a sigh of relief when I read the quote. Being exposed to the real world, an ocean away from home, definitely shows me parts of it that I preferred not to see. Nonetheless, I decided I will keep choosing good. See the good, do good, and be good. 

Even in mindfulness practice, I find duality. It’s the contradiction between thinking “I accept I can’t change it” versus “This is what I really want”: two conflicting ideas representing duality in a way that makes you avoid grasping (which is, according to Buddhism, one of the causes of suffering), while still being in a growth mindset that will push you to make your desired reality come to life. One week ago, I caught myself grasping and frustrated over a happening in my life. I spent days playing the victim, and  being angry at what I was experiencing. Then, I got exposed to the idea I just mentioned, I took a step back, and I transformed my frustration into those exact two thoughts. Everything changed in a second. Now, I’m trying to apply this mindset to everything I’m doing. It puts you in a state of Acceptance, while it sets your mind to Growth.

When it comes to our emotions, duality is represented in the best way possible. We are thought, since little, that being angry, or sad, or any other “negative emotion”, is wrong. Wrong! Being angry or sad, in the right context, and just for a period of time, is completely normal. It’s mandatory, I would say, in order to let the cycles of life manifest naturally. I have always been really harsh on myself, every time I experienced the not-so positive emotions. Then, I watched Susan David’s TED Talk on emotional agility, and it speaks truth about how we are almost infected by the push to be happy and always positive, while, in fact, this type of culture just avoids letting ourselves be true to our emotional states. I wish someone sent that to the 13-year old me. Also, if you want to watch an extremely cute and sincere movie about emotions and the way they manifest in our lives, check out Inside Out. What started as a class assignment turned out to be a life lesson that left me crying.

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Finally, as I already mentioned in my blog post on modern love, there is so much duality to be experienced in relationships. Here, we are facing the Life/Death/Life cycles: the way you need to face the not-so-beautiful parts of a relationship in order to re-give birth to Life. “A single love relationship will have many endings”, and, “by the time one side of the heart empties, the other fills” (Estes, 142) That’s why “it takes a heart that is willing to die and be born and die and be born again and again” to embark in a romantic journey. (Estes, 158) If dealing with the duality within you can be mastered and crafted throughout a lifetime, the challenge appears when you have to face it in relation to another individual. That’s when you discover even more about yourself.

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Asking people in my life about their definitions of duality, these are some of their thoughts:

  • The gain and loss you face in your life. Continuously.
  • The saying one of my friend’s mother used to tell her, when she was crying: “You cry in the morning, you laugh in the evening.” I loved this.
  • The way we are in complete control of the world within ourselves, but we have no control over the external world. Once you understand this, doesn’t everything become much simpler?

At Flow, the mindfulness club, I also asked members to draw the way they see duality. Here is what they did:

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I loved all of these! The idea came after I spent a whole evening making the following artwork, which is my representation of duality:

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In conclusion, I’m asking you again the same questions, hoping you had time to reflect and get inspired by my stories: How does duality manifest in your life? What does it mean to experience duality in your way of being?

In case you want to dig even deeper, here are other questions you can think about:

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I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

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There are so many ways in which we experience duality in our life. Every second, minute, day comes with experiences that might seem to contradict each other, when, in reality, they simply make the beautiful whole that we are. This post is a reminder that we should embrace both the light and darkness inside us. Just like the moon and sun are completing each other, that’s how our good and bad parts are. Without the dark, how can we know light? Without one, the other can have no meaning. As they are nothing but two phases of the same energy, know that in darkness, there is light.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

With love,

Tori

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