Integration- Balancing Opposites
As you may know, I often write about issues related to mind, emotions, and our conditioned nature, and address problems that are common to many devotees. In this issue of Illuminations, I deal with one such problem: the opposing forces that exist within us. We have Krsna conscious ideals, yet our conditioned nature often wants the opposite, resisting our deepest spiritual desires.
We need to find a middle ground – a place in which we acknowledge these competing natures and integrate them so we become balanced. In this newsletter, I discuss how to do this.
The approach I use is largely psychological. I have purposely chosen this approach in response to requests I receive to deal with issues that affect our spiritual lives from a psychological perspective.
This problem of duality within us is discussed in the Madhurya Kadambini by Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura. Of course, the solution to all problems is to advance in Krsna consciousness, because the problems we face are due to contact with the modes of nature. The approach I take, however, is also important. It will help us deal with our specific conditioning in a way that makes it easier for us to practice Krsna conscious from where we are at today.
May you always think of Krsna,
Without integrating our opposing natures, we can live like a “spiritual schizophrenic.” For example, we appreciate the value of humility and thus desire to avoid faultfinding and become more aware of our faults. We also make an effort to appreciate and humbly serve the devotees and avoid attracting attention to ourselves. Yet, we also find within us a strong tendency to fault find, and the need for recognition and appreciation. We may even become upset or dejected if we don’t get the acknowledgement or praise we believe we deserve. This negative side often causes guilt because our actions are out of alignment with our values.
Don’t Deny Your Feelings
How do we deal with this?
The worst thing we can do is deny or suppress the contradictory feelings. Don’t run away from or try to bury uncomfortable emotions. Acknowledge the saint and the sinner within without resistance. The more we connect with the uneasy feelings that accompany material tendencies, the more we will naturally integrate them through the intelligence of our emotions.
What does “intelligence of our emotions” mean? As mentioned above, guilt sends us a message that we are out of alignment. Thus, the process of integration, as I refer to here, is not a mental or intellectual exercise in which we analyze our feelings. It is allowing us to feel …to experience two opposite emotions simultaneously. In doing so, the integration (and balancing) of opposite forces begins to happen naturally.
Integration comes when the polar opposites of desiring to be a saint and desiring to be a sinner find a balance. It is balancing the desire to be advanced beyond our realization with the desire to do (or fear of doing) something wrong, sinful, or degrading. The result is we become a more unified and healthy person, someone who relates to, accepts and integrates both sides of himself. We function happily and enthusiastically without being overly influenced by the extremes of attraction or repulsion. Otherwise, our attractions and repulsions can push our life around.
I Love You – I Hate You
Let’s look at a common example. A man appreciates sexual control and detachment, yet is very attracted to women. It is common that he will either resist acknowledging this attraction or resist experiencing how this makes him feel (which can manifest as false detachment, repulsion, or even infatuation with women).
In this case, integration is the center point between excessive desire to enjoy women and excessive desire to avoid them. When a man integrates in this area, his interactions with women become healthy because there is less attraction and repulsion. He will then make a better brahmacari or better grihastha.
When we are better able to integrate extremes, we will more easily accept where we are at without being overwhelmed by the “sinner within,” or frustrated by our inability to acquire immediate fulfillment of our higher spiritual aspirations
Polar Opposites are Pulling Me
It is important to find integration within our varna and asrama; otherwise, we may end up in love/hate relationships with people, spouses, services, or occupations. For example, when not integrated, a married man who confronts constant difficulties in household life may lament that he should have remained single- or dreams of leaving his family responsibilities prematurely.
An older single man, in confronting his attraction to women, may regret not having married when he was younger (even though it is too late in his life to marry).
How does being out of balance affect work and service? I may love doing something, but then I do it 16 hours a day and either end up hating the very thing I love or love doing it so much that I neglect other important aspects of my life. Thus, what I love becomes the cause of disturbance.
Let us look at the dualities that relate to sadhana. I relish chanting, but I also procrastinate on my rounds. I like the early morning hours for sadhana, but I like to stay up late or I sleep more than I need. I relish sadhana, but am a workaholic, and thus ruin my sadhana by allowing my work to be all-consuming. I love to read and learn sastra, but also like to chill out or waste my study time in frivolous activities.
Integration is the Solution
Everything naturally aligns and flows without intense attraction or repulsion when integrated. If polar opposites are too extreme, then we tend to oscillate between them rather than become a balanced combination of both.
Until we become more advanced, these contradictions will exist within us – at least to some degree. Therefore, we need to face these dualities and deal with them well. Doing so will begin to cure our “spiritual schizophrenia.”
Think of two opposing desires you have (it can also be a desire for something and a resistance to the very thing you desire.)
Think of what you desire and allow yourself to experience the feeling this desire produces.
Next, while feeling this desire, think of the exact opposite desire (or your resistance to what you want).
Allow yourself to experience both of these polar opposites simultaneously and to their fullest.
Feel the energy of these desires within you as opposite poles coming together and beginning to integrate.
Some other examples of this are:
I want to be a more surrendered soul, but I cherish my “freedom” and “independence.”
I want to be self-disciplined, but I love to be spontaneous (or strongly resist too much discipline).
I want to live a more simple life, but love to spend, collect, and expand.
I want to start important Krsna conscious projects, but don’t want to take responsibility of getting these projects going.
I have a strong desire to be peaceful, friendly, and kind, but I easily become angry, intolerant, and nasty.
I want to be more compassionate and thus do something to help others become Krsna conscious, but I resist doing the austerity required to do this.
I want to work together with a group and be a team player, but like being a loner, controller, or dictator (or all three).