The Tension Created by The Paradox at the Core
The paradox at the core creates a tension: what do we pay attention to?
The physical body has genuine needs. Both consciousness and the body have to be attentive to those needs. We have to attend to the matter of food, water, clothing, shelter and safety. If we scan the ads in the popular magazines we see how much the needs to the body dominate our concerns about what is important.
We have learned to scan our outer environment to ensure that we are not at risk of outside forces. We pull together into social groupings to share the responsibility for mutual protection of all. Social interactions add another level of complexity to our outer focus. The process of life requires that we be conscious of and attentive to other people and other things in the outside world.
This outer focus is dualistic in nature. We are a body that interacts with other bodies and other objects. We experience subject-object relationships. My actions impact you. Your actions impact me. This is a dualistic world.
Consciousness pulls us to focus on the inner world.
Pure consciousness pulls us to our inner world. It takes time for us to get attuned to it. If we pull our focus back away from the demands of the outer world and turn our attention inward, we become aware of an inner reality that is very different in nature than the outer reality.
We do not need the body to experience the inner world. We bring the body to complete stillness. We don’t need the mind to experience this world. We have to bring the mind to complete stillness as well. When body and mind are still, our inner world opens up and we feel the movement of energy inside.
We sense things. We feel things. There is a perceptible shift in the nature of the reality that we experience. Everything here is part of one single thing. It is not clear just what this one thing is, but that does not matter. There is a peacefulness and a gentleness and a stillness which is comforting and reassuring. We know that we are not alone. We know that we are not separate. We know that we are one.
When we spend time in the inner space, we start to realize and experience the presence of this oneness in the outer world as well. We feel a connection with other bodies that we did not feel before, and which cannot be seen with our physical eyes. This inner connection is reassuring because it counter balances the experience of the body as separate, isolated and alone in the world.
When we spend time in the inner world, we come to realize that a key aspect of the evolutionary process is learning how to balance and integrate these two realities into a single frame of reference.
The paradox seems to exist as a teaching tool for life. The world of form is a counterpoint to the formlessness of consciousness. Consciousness needs the body to experience life. Consciousness needs the body so that it can experience itself and evolve.
The paradox creates tension. Tension is uncomfortable. How do we resolve this tension at the core?
There are three possible strategies for resolving the tension.
1st Strategy: We can deny the paradox exists by claiming that we are only a body and the physical world alone is real.
This is the scientific and cultural view held here in the western world. This strategy focuses solely on the outer world. In this view, consciousness is created in the brain. Only the physical world is real.
This supports our cultural view that only the horizontal journey matters. Only the outer world is real.
2nd Strategy: We can deny the paradox exists by claiming that ultimately consciousness alone is real.
This strategy focuses on the inner world and the experience of pure consciousness. This is the approach taken by monks and hermits in many of the worlds religions. It is also the view of modern day Advaita which is the philosophy of non-duality It claims that before we are born and after we die, we exist as part of universal consciousness. If we are universal consciousness, then the body is not who we really are.
3rd Strategy: We can accept the paradox as who we are and embrace the tension that it creates.
We are both consciousness and the body. We experience oneness and duality as simultaneous realities.
This view supports the idea that we as consciousness have entered into a body in order to learn. This view sees life on earth as a learning laboratory. We are here to experience the tension that this synthesis creates. The needs of the body force us to interact with others and in the process of doing so, we come to learn more about ourselves. This type of embodied experience gives us much greater insight into the dynamics of love than we could ever experience in a realm where we have no body. The body enables our learning.
Consciousness and the body need each other
The body obviously needs consciousness to be alive. Consciousness animates the body. Perhaps less obvious, consciousness enables the body to become aware of itself. It is consciousness that recognizes the very real needs of the body and enables the body to respond to its own needs. The body has evolved to the point where it has the capacity to experience a rich and complex life. But it can experience nothing unless it has consciousness.
It is less obvious why consciousness needs the body. Consciousness is already alive in its own way, why does it need the body? The world of form enables consciousness to learn, and learning in turn enables consciousness to evolve. The consciousness that is in human’s today is, in many respects, more developed than the consciousness of early humans.
The evolutionary process that has been unfolding since the beginning of time can only occur in a dualistic environment. The world of form is a dualistic environment. Learning is a process of trial and error. Life in one form bumps into itself in other forms. The experience of encountering itself in another form becomes a learning moment. Consciousness absorbs this learning and spreads it out over its entire field.
Each moment of learning is very subtle. But as more and more learning spreads out through the field, consciousness understands more. Consciousness and the body together create the human mind, and the mind is able to interpret experience in a way that consciousness alone cannot.
The body receives life from consciousness. Consciousness receives insight and understanding from the body. The evolution of life needs both of them. There is no evolution of life without consciousness in form.
The paradox at our core is a teaching tool for life.