Embracing Polarity

Embracing Polarity

It's only because I've spent so much time resisting polarity that I can say what I'm about to say without the slightest equivocation: embracing the very things about myself that once seemed contradictory has been one of the most important steps I've ever taken in my life. In my case, that has meant embracing a passion for social and environmental justice with a love for fashion. I spent too much time thinking I couldn't hold both of those things in one spirit. So much of why I created this site is to have a place where I finally felt free to embrace this specific polarity, as well as so many of the other polarities that emerge in our human experience. 

A couple of years ago, I had just finished the first year of a PhD program in social epidemiology. I was out-of-place, at most in my own mind, where I had a constant, nagging feeling that I belonged somewhere else. I had done the right things for the wrong reasons and was left feeling so confused about my purpose. My reason for being here, now. As always, I turned to a book to give me some perspective and as fate would have it, I picked one up that quite literally changed my life, in large part due to the following lines:

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We're going to consider the contradictions that make you gorgeously multidimensional but aren't so easy to reconcile. Your spicy, finicky, indiosyncratic-isms. This tension is where your creativity likes to hang. Tension. Creates.

If we want to live bold, full lives, we must take our whole selves into the future. Nothing can be forsaken or hidden, because it is in integrating all of the aspects of our beings that we expand. Cosmic love and worldly ambition, consciousness and cash, high standards and compassion- this is where it all comes together.

 - Danielle LaPorte, The Fire Starter Sessions

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Suddenly, it clicked. Aha! Eureka! We spend so much time being externally conditioned that we have to be either this or that. Love fashion or care about the environment. Care about how you look or care about what you think. When we turn inward, we're even more sure we have to get clear on whether we are this or that because we all know we're harder on ourselves than anyone else is. Our internal process is constantly driving us towards resolution (and fast). As Pema Chodron has written, "As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don't deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity." 

Magnetic fields at the earth's northern and southern poles, and Van Allen Radiation Belts. Image via NASA.

Magnetic fields at the earth's northern and southern poles, and Van Allen Radiation Belts. Image via NASA.

Essentially, what Danielle LaPorte and Pema Chodron are giving us permission to do is to embrace polarity: to ditch the cold rigidity of either, or for the warm flexibility of and. To really lean in to being many things at once rather than struggling to fit ourselves into an unnaturally neat box that feels like it should make us understand ourselves better, but actually distances us from who we are at our core. Permission to love fashion and care about the environment. To care about how we look and care about what we think. And- now that's a concept to hang on to.  

I'd be most thrilled if this is a space you feel comfortable to come to exactly as you are- contradictions, polarities, paradoxes and all. Maybe you embrace some of those seemingly irreconcilable traits. Maybe you give and a spin. Maybe you struggle. Hopefully you expand. I know I am doing all of that, and I have to say, it feels pretty good. 

 

 

The feature image is a snapshot of the Earth's inward and outward magnetic fields during normal polarity in a computer simulation by Dr. Gary A. Glatzmaier - Los Alamos National Laboratory - U.S. Department of Energy.

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