Stepping into the Present: Thoughts on Resolving Tension and Healing Polarity


Hermann Hesse believed that “our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.”

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Hermann Hesse believed that “our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.”[1]

Judging by the outcome of our society’s current paradigm, it certainly seems like we could use some new insights.

How, then, might polarity be healed?

Embracing an ancient practice

Many spiritual traditions espouse that the best way to move beyond “pairs of opposites” is to integrate the two poles into one happy union.

The ancient alchemists called this process sacred marriage (or hieros gamos), and saw it as the doorway to higher awareness. The Chaldeans, Hindus, and eastern mystics generated a mind-bogglingly voluminous body of work that details all sorts of ways to understand and overcome duality. Even the early Christians viewed gnosis as the result of alchemically dissolving the “dividing line” between humanity and divinity.

Carl Jung also introduced the concept into academic discourse by claiming that “wholeness is achieved…by the integration of contraries.”[2]

All these spiritual and psychological doctrines aside, though, there’s one truth that makes this esoteric-sounding work worthy of our attention: tension between polarities is the underlying cause of nearly every form of anxiety and discontent that individually and collectively afflicts us.

It’s only natural that we often find ourselves drawn into the drama of opposing forces, though.

After all, the physical body and nervous system—through which we experience the world—is the product of dichotomous design, the fructified principle of spirit finding expression through matter.

But we don’t have to be weighed down by this drama of opposites. As the yogis like to say: even if you can’t control the things that happen to you, you can control how you react to them.

And if you can learn this kind of self-mastery, you can learn to resolve your tensions and anxieties by finding the calm at the center of the storm.

Integration starts with your own experience

The Great Work of hieros gamos is a sacred and powerful body of transformative practices that has been nurtured and passed down through meticulously maintained initiatory lineages for eons.

If you spend any time looking into these lines of thought and praxis, you’ll find that they abound in higher-order archetypal concepts, complex symbolism, and a preoccupation with occult laboratory practices.

But here’s the simple secret of the alchemists buried beneath all the fancy talk: you are the crucible within which all transformation takes place.

All the mystical grandeur of polarity integration can (and must) be commenced through the portal of your internal landscape.

The key is to develop sensitivity to higher impression, and to be guided by this impression to the point of balance between each pair of opposites,

If you can achieve this balance, something quite miraculous and unexpected occurs: you realize that this fulcrum point actually contains both sides of the dichotomy. The polarity is eclipsed by the immediate and all-encompassing principle of unification.

If this sounds like magicthat’s because it is.

Let’s look more deeply at this idea from the perspective of everyday experience.

It’s all a matter of time

And no, I don’t mean that everything will resolve itself if we just wait long enough (though that may be true on a cosmic time scale).

I mean that our tendency to dichotomize the world (as well as the promise of integration) is intimately tied into the way that we experience time.

Because time presents itself to us as a moving process, we’re inevitably led to break down our perception of it into a pair of opposites: what already happened (the past) and what’s going to happen (the future).

Though this division seems logical and innocuous enough, the tension between these two time measurements can cause quite a ruckus in our individual lives.

As a species transitioning from individual to planetary consciousness, we are poised between nostalgia for the archaic and anticipation for the world to come.

Our nostalgia breeds attachment to the unreality of the past, and our anticipation is too often the kind of impatient and ineffectual longing that prevents real action.

We’re locked in oscillation between these two extremes, ever in need of a restful point of equilibrium.

You probably already see where my logic is leading.

Sacred marriage happens now

So what’s the unification point that lies balanced between the dichotomy of past and future?

You guessed it…the present.

“Living in the moment” is lauded by spiritual teachers of every ilk…and it deserves every bit of praise that it receives.

The present is an opening into infinity, a reminder that our three-dimensional existence is a temporal island in an eternal and timeless Universe.

In the words of Søren Kierkegaard, “the eternal is a going forth that nevertheless does not get off the spot…because it is the…infinitely contentful present.”[3]

Thus, there is a wholeness in the immediate present, a coherent fullness that provides access to meaning and mystery that is utterly indecipherable to the mind.

The present reveals to us that the time-segments created by the intellect are an illusion. They are “only moments—which [we] isolate artificially…as though [we] were cutting sections at different heights in a jet of water, iridescent but seemingly without flow or motion—in a single, undeviating, irresistible outpouring of all the forces of life.”[4]

If you can rest in the stillness of the true, unmediated present, you will find wholeness. From this unified and liberated vantage point, you can share in the remembrance of things past without attachment, and envision the future into being without losing your center.

And through this intrinsic awareness—the dwelling place of your core intentionality—you will see the way forward.

You will know all that is necessary to evolve your emotional understanding, to remain content in the face of all possible vicissitudes, and to heal the world’s polarities.

[1] Hermann Hesse, “Inside and Outside,” in Stories of Five Decades (Toronto: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

[2] Wesley Wyatt, The Alchemy of Dreams, Vol. 2 (Minneapolis: Mill City Press, 2014).

[3] Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 86.

[4] Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past (New York: Random House, 1981) p. 94.


Ryan Greendyk

Ryan Greendyk is a conscious internet entrepreneur, writer, kundalini yoga teacher, psychonaut, and sacred space creator. He's pretty fond of tea ceremonies, entheogens, bass-beat wizardry and techno-shamanism, superfoods, gifting, fire spinning, alternative healing modalities, spontaneous outbursts of love, and spending quality time with God and friends. In a nutshell, he's dedicated to delivering others to their highest selves through the creation and promotion of communities, cultures, products, and programs built upon creativity, intentional play, and spiritual self-mastery. He is the Founder of Lightlab and the Producer of Lightlab Events.

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