The whole world lives on an ancient paradigm that has heaven above and earth below. The Creator above and mortals below. Success above, failure below. Good above, bad below. Our thinking, imagination and vocabulary are based upon this linear paradigm. We are always placing ourselves and others along this vertical line. Our feelings of self-worth are based upon where we find ourselves along this line. We feel good about ourselves when we see someone beneath us and envy those above.
There is nothing particularly wrong with this paradigm. It gives us goals, it gives us journeys and it gives us inspiration to follow those goals and journeys. This paradigm comes from the ego, the outwardly oriented part of us that needs to survive, thrive, earn, learn, and grow. We were born to do all of these.
So what is the problem? The problem is that we were wired to do more, to see more, to feel more, to be more. When we define ourselves only by our ego and live by its paradigm as the only truth, we sell ourselves short and that is the problem. There is another, deeper, more absolute, identity about us that works on an entirely different paradigm. And that is our soul, our spirit.
At the soul level we are a drop of universal intelligence, a part of the whole, connected to every person, and all of creation. This larger identity places us all on a paradigm that is not linear but circular. It weaves us all together by a single common thread of consciousness and connectedness. At this level we are wired for connection and a need to belong to something bigger. It is a subtle, intangible need, yet when we are out of touch with it, it tugs at our heart strings, bringing a wave of loneliness or a hunger for deep, honest connection. It is what we feel when we look into the eyes of a child or a pet or a total stranger in a grocery store and exchange a moment of knowing, of oneness, of being together in a shared experience. The Hindus had an expression for this idea in Sanskrit: “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” meaning, We are God’s family. We are all children of Life itself that seeks to unite its family by wiring our soul with a need to belong.
While the first paradigm, the paradigm of the ego, being linear, ranks the human race according to what they have, what they achieve or what they know, placing those above closer to the goal, the soul’s paradigm is a circular one that places every one along the circumference, each equally distant from the center, the heart. The goal of the first paradigm is victory for the ego. The goal of the second paradigm is oneness and the ending of separateness.
The two goals are like two viewpoints both of which are important. Just like our human vision needs both, near-sightedness and long-sightedness, a complete life needs both goals to be met. To honor the ego’s needs without honoring this need of the soul or to honor the soul without honoring the ego, is to live through a single paradigm, a single lens.
We need to develop a vision that can see both sides and a thinking that can embrace both paradigms. Simply put, we need to feel good about ourselves at the ego level by adopting a hierarchical set of goals and values and at the soul level, we need true connection with one another that can only come from seeing the other as an equal by applying the circular paradigm.
As long as we pick one over the other, we have a limited vision of the world and our blind spot is the cause of our suffering: too much giving and not enough receiving; or too much receiving and not enough giving.
Ultimately we must combine both view points. I compare this to the internal posture of a seasoned athlete. He must play his best game on the one hand, yet remain centered in the spirit of his team.
Doing both all at once is tough; which is the reason why these two differing goals have always divided people, countries and the world itself into two categories. One pursuing one goal and another pursuing the other. Capitalistic philosophies encourage the focus on the ego, the individual. Socialistic ideologies pursue the goals of the soul, the collective.
Yoga which means “to unite” is the conscious process of honoring both our needs, climbing the ladder of success on the one hand while at the same time taking down the barriers of judgment and separation from our fellow beings. This union or place of integration is not a destination but a journey of constant balancing and re-balancing throughout one’s lifetime, whether it is the life of an individual or the life of a nation.
And whether it is a personal struggle or a national struggle, the solution, I believe, is the same. To lean in the opposite direction of what one is normally inclined towards. Our blind spot is probably hidden in the very wave of resistance to another’s perspective.
Maybe the person we most disagree with is giving us an opportunity to get unstuck from our paradigm and thus see better. While an eye for an eye would make the whole world blind, uncovering the blind spots in one another would awaken the whole world!
And maybe that is what is going on around us now. In these difficult times that are tearing our “family” apart, we are being invited to make shifts in how we see this. A real opportunity to awaken and live both from the ego and from the soul, thus playing the game of life like a true sport.