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Embracing complexity, opening to mystery

This reflection was inspired by a wonderful conversation I had with a local shop keyworker – I definitely came away with some food for thought that day!

I’ve embraced alot of simplicity in recent years: less busyness, less achievement-chasing, less stress, less stuff, less plastic, less time online. In all these areas, I’ve found that simplifying helps me to find the ‘just enough’ that feels good.

But some things can’t be made simple.

Some things in life are complex, and when we try to simplify them, we end up with polarity and divisiveness.

As we move towards a ‘newmality’ following lockdown – in which we may not all make the same choices on the same timeframe – I’m as keen as ever to avoid locking myself into a polarised view that opposes someone else’s.

This is what polarity feels like to me: it’s when I feel I have to choose a position on an issue, and then defend it (whether that’s about lifestyle choices or climate change). What I notice then is that my energy can get judgemental or resentful. In those moments, I might be making things simple, but I’m not making things harmonious!

There’s an image that I heard Renee Baribeau share in her wisdom teachings, to describe how important it is not to get too rigid, to be more like a boat that is anchored, but still moves around a little with the surface currents.

It seems to me that this flexibility is needed for us to live wisely in a complex world, to not shut down the parts of the whole that don’t fit with our simplified ‘right answer’ to everything.

The indigenous writer Tyson Yunkaporta warns of the dangers of ‘a relatively recent demand that simplicity and order be imposed upon the complexity of creation’.

The times we live in are inviting us to balance simplicity with complexity. We know that complexity is key for healthy natural habitats that support wildlife and biodiversity – so why not for us too?

In relationships with other beings, my own attempts to simplify can reduce my perception to the narrowness of my own personal point of view. Alternatively, when I practice embracing complexity, there’s a quality of expansiveness that helps me to avoid the trap of reactivity.

When I shift from resisting the complicated to embracing complexity, there’s a gift that becomes available: I can see that certain things aren’t all bad, that people aren’t two-dimensional extras in my personal drama, that there may be something positive that I’ve missed because it’s hidden by my view of a situation or an opinion as ‘wrong’.

And I also wonder… if we’re always seeking to simplify, then how can we open up to mystery?

I can’t help feeling that a life without mystery would be lacking in something that feeds our wholeness as human beings.

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