Extremes of the Self: A Case for Receptivity & Groundedness

The function of contrast in life is fascinating. And beautiful. And very telling if you have the attention to note its subtleties and the patience to find meaning in its chaos.

Life is all about contrast. Light against dark, hot against cold, a constant battle between over or under-stimulation. Falling in and out of homeostasis — only recognizing our physical, emotional, and psychological drunken sidesteps when we are acutely pinged by the unfamiliarity of the contrast, the uncharted territory, we have stumbled into.

Like many of us, I have a love-hate relationship with contrast. As humans, we succumb to the fresh-cut scent of greener grass on the other side of the fence. We want to become what we are not, and what are are, we wish we weren’t. We are intrigued and frustrated by the limitations of our time and energy, and can derive both pain and pleasure by trying on as many hats we can. We do this with the sincere hope that we will one day find the magic wand whose fit in our grip is so seamless that it chooses us more than we choose it — but until then, we keep on playing in, dabbling with, and curiously wading into the extremes of our potential selves.

“We meet ourselves time and time again in a thousand disguises on the path of life.” Carl Jung

This makes resolution-setting a fascinating personal endeavor…

When meditating on my one word, my mantra, for 2015, I sensed a shift away from my resolution of 2014. In true Jessica form, I was seeking a tip of the scales, a swing to another end of the spectrum. I guess I like to shake it up. Or off. Or something. 

But before the grand reveal, some background on contrast:

Perhaps the lightest example I can offer is my perpetual existential fashion crisis. I will purchase a seasons-worth of clothing, absolutely convinced that my current style is the ultimate manifestation of my personality, a style which will never fade. Alas, I line my closets with the flavor of the month, only to recognize a few weeks later that black city chic isn’t my style — so it must be cowgirl boots and denim. Or I no longer feel at home in flowing beach dresses — so it must be structured cocktail skirts instead.

I do the same thing with food, having tested the culinary gamut from near-vegan to paleo. Same with how I spend my leisure time, focusing one week on reading and meditation and the next on restaurant openings and birthday parties. None of these playful experimentations are pathological in their curiosity, but certainly no one could claim I’m not open to new experiences.

For those who can relate, this cognitive flexibility is a good thing. While there are many things I do with unswerving consistency and loyalty — love in my relationships, dedication to my yoga practice, and intense focus on my work — it’s healthy to test out different versions of yourself. You’ll never regret trying on too many pairs of shoes, but you may regret not trying on enough. 

My theme for 2014 was receptivity. Last year, I was the Yes Lady. I said yes to changes, big and small. I discovered myself again and again and again. I threw a lifetime of caution and deliberate focus to the wind, and started fresh. For background on the incredible, terrifying, inspired, and clumsy happenings of the past year, dust off and take a peek at some of my older articles.

Coming off a year of incredible change and blessed instability, my mantra for 2015 is groundedness. Inherent in this groundedness are qualities of patience, mindfulness, and peace on your current path. Ride the wave instead of controlling it, be content with the process and not preoccupied with the outcome. Slow down, breathe deep, sink into experience.

While receptivity and groundedness aren’t, by definition, contrasting states, they can sit like oil and water. Being receptive will invite a fair bit of disruption and turbulence, no matter how necessary and useful that shaking up might be. While receptivity will make you bold, hungry, and allow the discovery of crevices within yourself that have never seen the light of day, it will also make you feel unsettled, uncomfortable, seeking, and vulnerable to the shifting winds of change and indecision.

Enter, groundedness. Feeling secure on the earth, firmly rooted in experience. Not seeking, but content. Not displaced, but at home. Once again moving slowly and mindfully through sensation and perception, savoring, a form of self-seduction. If receptivity is the tango, groundedness is the sensual slow dance.

Perhaps though, receptivity and groundedness are complements more than contrasts. How terribly exciting it is to feel grounded in experience following all of 2014’s change and novelty! Without that receptivity, the groundedness might feel stale, dull. Combined, the complement of receptivity and groundedness allows me to detect the other with a heightened sense of appreciation. I have invited so much in, and now I get to experience the joy of just sitting with it.

As you settle into the New Year with your resolution, prayer, mantra, word, new ‘tude, what have you, perhaps examine why this intention is speaking to you now. How does it play with your past, and how can it complement or contrast (or perhaps both) your future. Resolution season is a liberating time to challenge and unearth the million yous inside yourself, and sometimes all you need is a little contrast to see them.

Cheers to 2015 brilliant versions of yourself.

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