Embrace Paradox

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

|Photo by Arenamontanus|http://www.flickr.com/photos/arenamontanus/282327168|

Coming off of a couple of powerful days exploring power and privilege in the internal life and external work of the Interaction Institute for Social Change.  So much still to process, and one of my immediate take-aways was our facilitators’ invitation to embrace paradox in the form of different perspectives and experiences, intentions and impacts, stated and espoused values.  As one of our process agreements for our time together stated – “All of us, individually and collectively, embody paradox- identities, beliefs, and experiences that seem to contradict each other.”  As has been stated elsewhere on this blog, and more elegantly by my colleague Gibran Rivera, the invitation is to hold apparent contradictions and tension long enough for something new to emerge, that moves us down the evolutionary path.

I leave you with the words of Gunilla Norris, from her book Sharing Silence, that came our way via OpenSource Leadership.


It is a paradox that we encounter so much internal noise when we first try to sit in silence.

It is a paradox that experiencing pain releases pain.

It is a paradox that keeping still can lead us so fully into life and being.

Our minds do not like paradoxes.  We want things to be clear, so we can maintain our illusions of safety.  Certainty breeds tremendous smugness.

We each possess a deeper level of being, however, which loves paradox.  It knows that summer is already growing like a seed in the depth of winter.  It knows that the moment we are born, we begin to die.  It knows that all of life shimmers, in shades of becoming – that shadow and light are always together, the visible mingled with the invisible.

When we sit in stillness we are profoundly active.  Keeping silent, we can hear the roar of existence.  Through our willingness to be the one we are, we become one with everything.

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  • Gibrán says:

    Thanks for bringing out this poem Curtis, it certainly captured it for me when I read it. I too am sitting with our conversation over the last two days, specially in the context of evolution – the moment is rich with paradox, it needs to be held, and I’m feeling challenged in doing so.

  • Curtis says:

    Thanks, G. I keep thinking about that line – “there is a deeper level of being that loves paradox.” It certainly is the level beyond intellect!

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