“I”, “me”, “mine”.
These are some of the very first words that we learn. From our first years on Earth, we learn to define ourselves by separation.
You are you, and I am me.
We visibly see differences everywhere we look. No wonder then, that duality reigns. But this duality not only exists out in the world around us but also within ourselves.
Human beings and life, in general, are full of contradictions and paradoxes that confusingly co-exist together.
In this article, we’ll dive into transcending duality.
What does it mean to have duality?
To delve into what duality means, we need to delve into how we perceive reality.
When we think about duality, we usually think about opposites like light and dark, hot and cold, day and night, etc.
But when we really dig deep, we find that all opposites exist simultaneously. They are just different aspects of the same thing. All opposites are in a way complementary.
So if we were to take away the opposites, we would be left with nothing. Therefore, all opposites exist simultaneously because they are part of the same thing.
Duality is something we create through our perception. The word itself describes a state of being. It’s something that is experienced rather than simply observed. Duality only exists because we perceive it that way.
But even though we experience duality in life, many of us are simultaneously aware that there is more to reality than meets the eye. Everything is connected and interdependent. The whole is greater than its parts.
This is when duality also takes on a spiritual significance. Duality is what creates the illusion of separation. The dualistic mind through focusing on reason finds itself cut off from the universal.
The dangers of duality
The belief that we are all separate individuals has led to countless conflicts (both big and small) throughout the history of man.
Wars are fought, blame is projected, hatred is cast.
We fear what we see as “other” and vilify it. This can cause destructive social problems such as racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and homophobia.
When we believe that we are separate entities, we continue to fight over who owns what, who loves whom, who should rule over whom, etc.
As long as we believe that there is a ‘them’ and ‘us’, it is harder to unite. And so we remain divided.
It’s not only our treatment of one another that suffers from the rigid grasping at duality. It has also significantly impacted our planet.
A failure to truly appreciate the interconnectedness of life has led humanity to plunder natural resources and pollute the planet.
We use and abuse the animals, birds, plant life, and diverse array of biodiversity that shares our home.
Research has even suggested that one of the biggest obstacles to tackling global warming is that human beings are too selfish to endure present pain to avert future climate change.
It’s a damning conclusion, but one that points to the underlying problem of separation. Our insistence on focusing on the individual over the whole could be to blame.
If we can transcend duality, we surely can live in better harmony with others and within the world we inhabit.
The paradox of duality
So duality is a bad thing then, right?
Well, here’s where it can really start to mess with your mind. It is important for us to understand that it is not duality itself that is bad or good. It is simply a way of perceiving reality.
As Shakespeare’s Hamlet profoundly reflects: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.
Duality is to a certain extent essential. Without contrast, arguably nothing exists.
The paradox of duality is that without difference, without an opposite as a point of reference, our mind wouldn’t be able to process the world.
We need duality in order to experience anything.
Without down how can there be an up? Without pain, there is no pleasure. Without you, how can I experience myself as me?
Duality is how we orientate the world.
If you do believe that we are fundamentally one Universal energy or God that is manifested into physical form, then we still need separation in order to create that physical reality.
We cannot then ignore or dispose of duality.
The paradox is that duality on a Universal or spiritual level may not exist, but without it, neither would the world as we know it.
As Einstein famously professed: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
It persists because, without it, we cannot experience life as we know it. Is life a duality? Yes because life needs to be made up of opposing and competing forces.
As we’ve seen, living solely within the delusion of duality can also be incredibly harmful. But duality only is problematic when it creates conflict — within or without.
The key is to embrace and balance those dualities so that they can complement one another, rather than fight one another.
Perhaps the solution is to simultaneously accept the paradox of duality, and integrate its separate elements in order to reflect it as the Universal whole that it is.
What is duality of human nature?
We’ve touched upon how duality exists outside of ourselves to shape the world we see and know.
But arguably all duality starts within us. It is after all us that perceives duality to make it real. It’s no surprise then that duality exists not just in the world around us, but within.
We’ve all experienced internal conflict. It can feel like there are two people living inside our heads.
You want to be one version of yourself, but another keeps showing up no matter how much you try to push it down.
We often end up repressing the parts of ourselves that we do not like and that make us feel uncomfortable. Leading to the creation of what psychologist Carl Jung called the “shadow” self.
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And so you end up making parts of yourself wrong or bad and carrying the shame of that around. This only serves to make us feel even more isolated.
Unconscious behaviors then arise from the repression of what you don’t like within, as you seek to suppress legitimate parts of yourself.
You might say that we try to deal with mankind’s natural duality by hiding our darkness, rather than casting the light onto it.
How do I get beyond duality?
Perhaps an even better question to ask might be, how do I embrace my duality? Because that is the best place to start if you want to transcend duality.
It’s about learning to let go of black and white thinking, whilst simultaneously accepting the paradox of coexisting with contrast. In this way, we can try to live in the gray. The space where the two meet.
Instead of seeing everything through the lens of opposites, you begin to understand both sides of every issue.
Rather than being defined by your differences, you learn to appreciate them. You realize that each side of a coin contains something valuable.
So instead of trying to change the other person, you learn to love them unconditionally. Rather than feeling threatened by their differentness, you become fascinated by it. And you learn to share in it.
This may be the way to live harmoniously with others. But it all starts within.
To enjoy life fully, you need to stop fighting against your own nature. You must first learn to accept your own duality.
If you truly wish to overcome duality, you have to let go of your fear of losing control. You have to allow yourself to surrender to the truth of who you really are.
You cannot force yourself to be someone else. You cannot pretend to be someone else. You simply choose to either hide it or express it. So you either deny it or embrace it.
When you’re able to let go of your fears, you’ll find that you more naturally flow into harmony with yourself and the world around you.
When you finally surrender to the truth of your existence, you will discover that you are already perfect. And by perfect I simply mean whole.
3 tips to transcend duality
1) Do not deny the darkness
There’s a potentially dangerous side to the self-help world.
It can promote positivity to the extent that we deny parts of ourselves that we deem “negative”. Life will always contain dark and light, ups and downs, sadness and joy.
Transcending duality isn’t about casting out the darker side of yourself. You can’t. Instead, it is about integrating both sides to see the whole.
The perfect example is the Yin and the Yang from ancient Chinese philosophy. Together they create a perfect balance that completes the circle.
That doesn’t mean giving yourself permission to be a jerk because you are simply expressing part of yourself.
But it becomes toxic positivity or spiritual whitewashing when we try to ignore or cast out the naturally occurring opposites in life.
It’s really easy to do. We have the very best intentions. We want to grow into the best version of ourselves. But we can end up picking up all kinds of harmful habits like this.
Maybe you have recognized some within yourself?
Perhaps it is the need to be positive all the time? Or is it a sense of superiority over those who lack spiritual awareness?
Even well-meaning gurus and experts can get it wrong.
The result is that you end up achieving the opposite of what you’re searching for. You do more to harm yourself than to heal.
You may even hurt those around you.
In this eye-opening video, the shaman Rudá Iandé explains how so many of us fall into the toxic spirituality trap. He himself went through a similar experience at the start of his journey.
As he mentions in the video, spirituality should be about empowering yourself. Not suppressing emotions, not judging others, but forming a pure connection with who you are at your core.
If this is what you’d like to achieve, click here to watch the free video.
Even if you’re well into your spiritual journey, it’s never too late to unlearn the myths you’ve bought for truth.
2) Avoid over-identification
“Transcendence means going beyond duality. Attachment means remaining within duality.” — Osho
The issue isn’t the existence of contrast in life, it is the attachments we create around those dualities.
We tend to identify with certain aspects of ourselves and the world and become attached to them. This is what leads to illusion and even delusion.
We develop beliefs about who we are. This creates a sense of separation.
We get so attached to our opinions, thoughts, and beliefs because we use them to define ourselves.
It leads us to become defensive, retreat, or attack when we feel like this dearly held framework is being threatened by another.
So, instead of trying to attach to one opposite, maybe we can learn to just observe the contrasts without judgment? That way we won’t get caught up in it.
This is where meditation and mindfulness come in handy. They are great tools to help you detach from your ego and its opinions.
This allows you to find some stillness to observe the mind, rather than being entangled in its thoughts.
3) Accept yourself with compassion
I firmly believe that all journeys of self-exploration need to be undertaken with an incredible amount of self-compassion, love, and acceptance.
After all, the outer world is always a reflection of our inner world. It mirrors how we treat ourselves. When we can show kindness towards ourselves, it is far easier to show it to others.
We can nourish this inner world through acts of gratitude, generosity, and forgiveness.
You can explore your relationship with yourself in plenty of practical ways through tools like journaling, reflection, meditation, taking courses, having therapy, or even just reading books on psychology and spirituality.
All of which can help you to better understand, accept and appreciate yourself. The closer you get to yourself the closer you simultaneously become to the whole.