Duality is just an illusion.

Duality Free (Part I)

What is duality? Duality is a concept that is present in a smorgasbord of modern and ancient religious traditions. It is also something that we experience every day.

One simple definition that we can use is the following:

Duality is any viewpoint that holds certain things to be total and irreconcilable opposites.

Sounds extreme, doesn’t it? And yet, in the vast majority of instances, dualistic thinking appears to us not as extreme, but as totally ordinary — even common.

Take, for instance, the following set of statements.

Duality is like hard shadows on the ground.

“I keep trying to enjoy myself, but yoga is really challenging.”

“I’m a total beginner in this. You can’t rely on me to teach you anything.”

“I felt really relaxed just now, in the hot room. Now it’s back to real life. See you next week!”

In each of these instances, a subtle opposition is at work. We believe that we cannot have one thing (say, enjoyment) while simultaneously having another (say, pain). This is not reality; this is a picture of reality. It is just a belief.

Duality begins to melt.

Here is a list of dualities that could be common in any yoga studio. Ask yourself: do I consider these opposites, or can I embody them at the same time?

‘Effort’ v.s. ‘Relaxation’

‘Mastery’ v.s. ‘Failure’

‘Balance’ v.s. ‘Imbalance’

‘Beginner’ v.s. ‘Expert’

‘Motion’ v.s. ‘Stillness’

‘Strong’ v.s. ‘Soft’

‘Teacher’ v.s. ‘Student’

‘Yoga class’ v.s. ‘Real life’

‘Spiritual’ v.s. ‘Everyday’

‘Divine’ v.s. ‘Ordinary’

What do you think the world would look like, if these weren’t opposites? If you could be challenged, but still keep a sense of ease? If you could go to yoga class and expect to give as much as you receive? If your every breath could be both ordinary and as spiritual as a prayer?

Would that world be very different from this one? Or maybe, just maybe — would it feel just like this world we already live in?

Duality disappears when the light of awareness enters.

Luckily for us, yoga offers us a safe realm where we can begin to challenge our dualistic thinking. Where we can learn — not just theoretically, but experientially — what it means to be relaxed in the midst of effort, to have a sense of humour while in an intense stretch. As we work our way down the list, we may even begin to find that the ordinary events of our lives — washing the dishes, taking the kids home from school — begin to take on a divine radiance.

But don’t just take my word for it.


M. C. J.

[ Images from Flickr: I, II, III and IV ]

Leave a Reply