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    Zen Continuum

           Polarization: a very western concept. Eastern cultures don’t dichotomize with the concepts of Either/Or, and Black/White, like westerners do. Instead, the Zen of Both/And is rooted into the philosophy of Buddhism and other eastern religions. The Yin and Yang concept from Chinese philosophy describes how seemingly opposite, contrary, or polarized forces are interconnected and interdependent. What we westerners see as dichotomized, or opposing forces, eastern cultures see as complimentary elements interacting to create something far greater than either separate part. Shadow can not exist without light.
           I continue to examined my own internal struggle with polarization. Like many of us, I tend to polarize what appear to be opposing forces. When I do that to elements of my own personality, my own behavior, my own self, I can get into big trouble; I can lose myself. If I see parts of myself as opposite, and I create the Either/Or paradigm, then I create a reality where I can’t be both. But I am both. So who the hell am I? Because I make it an Either/Or, I doom myself to internal strife, no matter what.
           More than one person has described me as a contradiction. And at times, I do indeed experience myself as a contradiction. So f I am polarizing myself, I’m going to project that. Which is not to say that even if I don’t polarize myself, I won’t still be seen as a dichotomy to some. If people are not conscious of their own need to polarize, it doesn’t matter how I show up. They are not going to know who I am, for they are going to see me as a contradiction, regardless of what I’m projecting. I have no control over that. All I can do is resolve myself to myself. If I show up more whole, I’ve done my job. I can’t do theirs.
           As far back as high school, I’ve been aware of elements of my personality that may come off as opposites, or contradictory. I’ve bumped up against that my whole adult life. But every time I hit that wall, I come away with a clarity that I previously missed.
           Frame behavior and emotions on a continuum, like this:

           To keep it simple for demonstration sake, let’s say at one end, there is the capacity to experience pain. On the other end, there is the capacity for joy, love, excitement. The circles at the ends represent the very edges of our own individual capacity. And let’s say most people’s capacity is represented by the length of the line above. Most of us never push the edges of that, so we actually live in place represented by the two vertical lines. That is where we spend most of time, emotionally and behaviorally.  
           My objective, with myself and with people I work with in MuscleHeart, is to not only expand the overall length of that continuum, so that our capacity for feelings and behaviors are greater, but to move the vertical limiters out further as well, so that we push our own envelopes more often. We can be in that space of greater feeling, more vibrant self expression, and freer behavior, more of the time.
           Visually, it would look like this:  

           Essential in this new paradigm is that we don’t polarize the ends. The visual above is imperfect because it appears that whatever is at one end is opposite of what’s on the other end. But that’s only if we polarize. If we take a more Zen approach to the whole diagram, then we see the ends as complimentary, not opposites.
           Our capacity for incredible freedom of behavior, love, joy, excitement, can only exist if we also have that same capacity to feel pain. That doesn’t mean we have to spend the same amount of time in pain as we do in joy to “balance it out”. But it does mean we have the capacity to feel that much pain. And that when we do, we feel it all the way. We don’t shut it off or shut it down in order to not feel as much.
           The truth is, if we limit our capacity to feel intense pain, we limit our capacity to feel intense joy and love. The same goes for our behavior. We increase our capacities for all types of behavior, across the entire continuum. What we actually do, how we behave, is another step. We get to choose our behavior, based on many factors. What we open up is our capacity for different behavior. We vastly expand our choices.
           Love and sex are great arenas to demonstrate this. How far are you willing to push your own envelope, in loving another and being loved? How willing are you to push your own envelope in the bedroom? Are you willing to tap into deep desires and passions and act on them? Are you willing to dig deep, explore, and expand?
           It’s worth it. Trust me.

    ©2013 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.

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