Integrating Opposite Forces in Our Lives

Illuminations Newsletter 61

Unity is the balancing of opposites

As you probably know, I often write about issues related to the mind, emotions, and our conventional nature, and touch on issues that are relevant to many devotees. In this issue of Insight, I will touch on one such issue: “The opposing forces within us.” We have ideals of Krishna consciousness, but our conventional nature often wants the opposite, resisting our deepest spiritual desires.

We need to find a middle ground – a place where we recognize these competing natures – and combine them to achieve a balance. In this newsletter, I will tell you how to do it.

The approach I use is largely psychological. I specifically chose this method to deal with problems that affect our spiritual life from a psychological point of view, in response to the questions I receive.

This problem of duality within us is discussed in Madhurya Kadambini by Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakur. Of course, advancing in Krishna consciousness is the solution to all problems, because the difficulties we face are due to contact with the modes of nature. However, the approach I take is also important. This will help us deal with our special conditioning in such a way that it becomes easier for us to practice Krishna consciousness from where we are today.

I wish you always think of Krishna.

Mahatma das.

Spiritual schizophrenia

 Without uniting our opposite natures, we will live as a “spiritual schizophrenic”. For example, we understand the value of humility and thus strive to avoid finding fault with others and better understand our own mistakes. We also make efforts to appreciate the devotees, serve them humbly and avoid drawing attention to ourselves. However, we also find in ourselves a strong tendency to find fault and a need for our own recognition and positive evaluation. We may even become upset or dejected if we don’t get the recognition or praise we think we deserve. This negative side often causes feelings of guilt because our actions are not aligned with our values.

Don’t deny your feelings

What should we do about it?

The worst thing you can do is deny or suppress conflicting feelings. Do not run away from uncomfortable emotions and do not try to “bury” them. Without resistance, acknowledge both the saint and the sinner within you.

The more we connect with the unpleasant emotions that accompany material tendencies, the more we naturally integrate them through awareness of our emotions.

What does it mean to be “aware of our emotions”? As mentioned above, guilt sends us a message that we have an inconsistency in our minds. Thus, the process of unification is not some kind of mental or intellectual exercise by which we analyze our feelings. It allows us to experience… to experience both opposing emotions at the same time. At the same time, the unification (and balancing) of opposite entities begin to flow naturally.

It comes when the two opposites (the desire to be a saint and the desire to be a sinner) come into balance. This balances the desire to move beyond life experience with the desire (or fear) to do something wrong, sinful, or harmful. As a result, you become a more wholesome and healthy person who is able to understand, accept and connect both sides of your personality, and act with joy and enthusiasm, without being overly influenced by such extremes as attraction and aversion. Otherwise, your attraction and aversion can continue to push you around.

I love you – I hate you

Let’s look at a common example. A man appreciates the ability to control sexual desire and detachment, but he is very attracted to women. Usually, he either does not want to acknowledge this attraction, or does not want to be aware of how it makes him feel (which can manifest itself as false renunciation, disgust, or even insane passion for women).

In this case, the unification is the point of balance between the excessive desire to enjoy women and the excessive desire to avoid them. When a man reaches balance in this area, his interaction with women becomes healthy, because there is less attraction and repulsion in his life. Then he can make an excellent brahmachari or an excellent grhastha.

When we learn to better integrate our opposites, it will be easier for us to accept the level we are at without being overwhelmed by the “sinner within” or frustrated by our inability to immediately achieve our highest spiritual aspirations.

Opposites pull in different directions

It is important to find such unity within the framework of one’s varna and ashram; otherwise, we may find ourselves in a love/hate relationship with our spouses, other people, our ministry, or our profession. For example, when a married man is not a whole person, faced with constant difficulties in family life, he may lament that he should have remained single, or begin to dream of leaving family responsibilities prematurely.

A single older man, faced with attraction to women, may regret not getting married at a young age (even if it is too late to get married now).

How does imbalance affect work and ministry?

I may enjoy an activity, but then I do it for 16 hours a day and end up either hating what I liked or getting so involved in it that I neglect other important aspects of my life. Thus, what I like becomes a cause for anxiety.

Let us now consider the dualities associated with sadhana. I enjoy chanting, but I also put off chanting my rounds. I like to devote the early hours of the morning to sadhana, but I like to stay up late or sleep more than I need to. I enjoy sadhana, but I am a workaholic and therefore ruin my sadhana by letting work take up all my time. I love to read and study the shastras, but I also like to take a break or spend my study time in frivolous activities.

Union is the way out

When two opposites unite, everything aligns and passes without excessive attraction or repulsion in a natural way. However, if the opposites are too far apart, we tend to go to extremes, instead of combining both in a balanced way.

Until we become more mature, these contradictions will remain within us – at least to some extent. So we need to face these dualities and learn how to deal with them successfully. This will begin to heal our “spiritual schizophrenia.”


An exercise

Think of two opposing desires that you have (it could also be a desire for something and resistance to what you desire).

Think about what you desire and allow yourself to experience the feeling that desire evokes.

Then, as you feel that desire, think about the exact opposite desire (or your resistance to what you want).

Allow yourself to experience both of these opposites at the same time.

Feel the power of these desires within you as the opposite poles meet and begin to unite.

Other examples of opposites:

I want to be a more surrendered soul, but cherish my “freedom” and “independence.”

I want to have internal discipline but love to be spontaneous (or strongly resist too much discipline).

I want to live a simpler life, but love to spend, save and expand.

I want to start important projects in Krishna Consciousness, but I do not want to take responsibility for the implementation of these projects.

I have a strong desire to be peaceful, friendly, and kind, but I easily become spiteful, intolerant, and mischievous.

I want to be more compassionate and somehow help others become Krishna conscious, but I don’t want to do the necessary austerities for that.

I want to work in a team and be a team player, but I like being alone, controlling, or being a dictator (or both).

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