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Life is filled with paradox – the tension of opposites. Current market swings, divorce rates, and explosive war headlines are daily reminders of our inability to tolerate opposing tension. Our corporate and personal lives seem to teeter on the brink of a chasm created by contradiction. At this time in history, when we’re being called to hold the tension of paradoxical truths, harnessing the inherent potential of paradox to create positive change may be our only chance for survival.

The term “paradox” defines a situation where exact opposites exist simultaneously. For example, a person may be happy and sad, healthy and sick, wealthy and poor, living and dying. Paradoxically a business can be expanding and collapsing, succeeding and failing. Paradoxical tension is one of the most difficult things for the human mind to come to terms with. We’re instinctively programmed to invest in a preference and commit to a particular choice, certain that the opposites cannot possibly co-exist.

However, the transformative process that results from matching opposing tension evolves the original elements to a higher level of order. The product created is greater than the sum of its parts. Working with paradox we can tap into the power to consciously create positive change. And yet, at the core of human nature is the desire to choose between one of the seeming opposites and for good reason. A paradox is viewed as a dilemma to be avoided or an oddity to be accepted as mysterious.

It’s extremely hard to hold paradox for several reasons:

It calls us to rise above our heart’s desire.

We must acquire the ability to surrender our ego’s attachment to one of the aspects. For example, the longing to be happy verses sad or the judgment that immediate victory is more beneficial than failure in determining our future success.

It catapults us into uncharted territory where none of the old rules apply.

It’s far easier to run the same old pattern, even if it’s negative, because the familiar feels safe and we don’t like risk.

It creates permanent change.

Through a transformative shift, paradox invites an elimination of the original choices and we aren’t readily willing to go through the grieving process associated with that loss.

It demands trust of the unknown.

We have few role models for holding both/and instead of either/or. It’s difficult to trust that the process will result in a better solution than either of the current options. Better the demon you know…

It insists we give up control.

Holding paradoxical tension produces change at a level above the paradigm being dealt with, and as such the outcome is out of our control. Instinctively we know that the process will create tremendous change, something we tend to avoid at all cost.

It requires a deeper level of commitment and responsibility.

The resolution of opposing tensions inherently gives rise to an increase in power since the solution elevates the issue to a higher plane. While we all believe we want more power, we aren’t too keen on accepting the increased level of responsibility that comes along with it.

It necessitates being at ease with disorientation.

The process invites chaos, in the truest sense, and we prefer order. There’s no solid ground on which to stand as the current paradigm completely dissolves into the void in order to reform at a higher level.

It challenges our sense of identity.

It takes a great deal of consciousness and a profound understanding of self to withstand the consuming emptiness of the chasm that allows the phoenix to rise from the ashes.

It makes us feel helpless.

Remaining in duality and choosing one of the polar opposites allows us to take immediate action. We feel infinitely better acting on a problem than sitting around contemplating it without initiating a tangible solution for relieving the pressure.

It’s hard work and there’s no quick fix.

While the transformation can be instantaneous, the ordeal of getting to the point where that can occur involves a component of time, a great deal of sweat, and typically feels like we’re being ripped in two. Not all positive change is comfortable.

All this being said why would anyone be the least bit interested in working with paradox?

Well, simply stated, the balancing of equal and opposing forces is the most powerful and quintessential creative process in the universe. The mechanism invoked by paradoxical tension is responsible for the formation of atoms, planets, galaxies and even the human embryo.

Understanding that holding paradox initiates a specific and ordered sequence of events allows us to harness this creative potential. Equal and opposite forces meet and are held until they negate each other, and from the stillness of that void, a new element is created. This element is different from, and greater than, either of the initial components.

Quantum physics has verified how particles and antiparticles collide and annihilate each other dissolving into a zero point field or pool of all possibilities. Many healing modalities use the same principle to initiate change within the body. The ability to hold the paradox of opposite tension forms the basis of Carl Jung’s theory of Transcendent Function. Working with the body osteopathically, the holding of opposing tissue tension can dissolve an existing strain promoting health.

While the process may not be comfortable, avoiding the chance to work with paradox means passing up the creative potential required to evolve the current dilemma. When the tension of paradox is maintained an opening is created, change is fostered, and access is to something greater presents itself.

As the schisms in our personal and corporate worlds grow, embracing the transformative power of paradox becomes critical. So, the next time you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, practice holding both sides of the issue. –Something absolutely magical happens in the still place where the opposition meets.

A new option, unrelated to either of the original two choices will appear out of no where as an epiphany coming to you from a higher plane of consciousness. The work is to be ready, willing, and able, to recognize and accept the opportunity that presents itself.

Grab on to it with both hands and allow it to catapult the situation to another level creating transformative change. Positive change demands a process of evolution. You can consciously invoke this creative process by being willing to entertain the power of paradox.