Black and white models

The epic play of opposites – playing out in your life

In Insight and Experience by Michael SternfeldLeave a Comment

The punch line for life is ready to be revealed: Evolution proceeds through a play of opposites. It is not a ‘problem’ to be rid of. It is simply one value emerging. Then it’s opposite value appears… and then transcendence.


Life and all sacred stories seem to be filled with a play of opposites. The patterns of life display a never-ending rhythmic dance of light and dark, peace and agitation, love and fear, coherence and chaos.

Even though everybody acknowledges this ebb and flow of life, we try to suppress the shadow side—that which we do not want. We imagine that if we are disciplined enough or use all ‘The Secret’ manifestation techniques, we can somehow get rid of the ‘negative’ side of the equation. But the more we try to hold onto the ‘good’, the more the dragon wags its tail.

How does this translate into everyday life? We may meet someone that we love deeply, but as the intimacy grows, so may some deep resistance and fear of surrender. We then may swing towards the opposite – If we could only love more deeply, that would ‘solve the problem,’ but, so, too, the resistance may increase. Or on a more practical level, we may be manifesting great enthusiasm in living our purpose, but are pulled from it by our equal commitment to our family. The heart is deeply connected to family, but our vision wants to stretch out to fulfil our destiny that, for example, may require extensive travel.

This dynamic is the play of opposites. When most people experience the conflicts of this play (or ‘lila’ in Sanskrit), they try to minimise the inner conflict by decreasing the polarity. We soften our grip on one end of our desire, often relinquishing some deep longing, such as fulfilling our vision or purpose.

Maybe there is another way. There can be great power in holding the dynamic tension of this play of opposites. Hold it long enough until it resolves in a new, third field of life, that somehow embraces both opposites.

This is not some new, modern-age dilemma. It is as old as the sun. All the great heroes who have gone before us have encountered the challenges of the play of opposites. Whether it is Odysseus, longing to return home, but pulled in the opposite direction by the call of adventure and obstacles…or Frodo, longing for the simplicity of the Shire, but compelled to go on the most dangerous of missions by carrying the One Ring of Power…all those on great quests find themselves trying to ground their truth amidst life’s exalted pulls. Great epic myths take us into this sacred world of archetypal depth where all these values are magnified in the extreme. By following these heroes’ footsteps, we gain their knowledge, transformations and victories, even though it may be played out on the smaller scale of our personal lives.

One of my favourite heroes’ journeys that illustrates this theme is known as the Ramayana. The Ramayana – considered to chronicle events that really happened – is also a classic of world literature, and one of the most well-known sacred stories of India and Southeast Asia. Over 3,000 years old, the Ramayana is the most ancient epic myth – the first ‘heroic quest’ – and has provided source material for many Western myths and fairy tales. The Ramayana is the story of a divine being or avatar, who comes to earth as a man – Rama – to purify the world of the dark forces of ignorance. Along the way, Rama encounters an extraordinary ‘lila’ of opposing forces – apparently excruciatingly irreconcilable opposites – until his ultimate victory.

Let’s see what we can learn from following Rama on his journey. Imagine you are Rama’s father, King Dasharatha, who is torn between the love of his son and his duty to uphold his word. He wishes to crown his beloved son as the prince regent, but in the past he has promised Rama’s stepmother Kaikeyi two boons. Cunningly, she now calls upon those boons – demanding that her own son be crowned and that Rama be exiled to the forest for 14 years.

Or imagine yourself as Rama, who has just fought the greatest of battles to reunite with his beloved wife, Sita, who had been abducted by the King of demons, Ravanna. Even though he knows in his heart that Sita is pure, he must banish his precious wife from the kingdom to satisfy the doubts of the people from the impression that the king has reunited with a woman who may have been corrupted by living in a demon’s household for almost one year. In this situation, we feel the tremendous pull of emotion of the tug between heart and mind. How could Rama do this? But so many of life’s challenges come down to this theme — the never-ending pull between our heart and mind.

Herein lies the secret of the Ramayana. This story is so vast, profound, and multi-layered that it contains virtually every level of relationship and the unfolding dynamic between heart and mind. As we follow its epic journey, we explore every swing of emotion – from the depths of despair to supreme ecstasy and everything in between. Again and again we encounter its apparently irreconcilable values, and we shake until we must transcend to a deeper level of synthesis which embraces the opposites in a new way. Our consciousness expands exponentially in the process.

The punch line for life is ready to be revealed: Evolution proceeds through this play of opposites. It is not a ‘problem’ to be rid of. It is simply one value emerging. Then its opposite value appears… and then transcendence. These are the actual mechanics by which we grow in life. That is why the heroic quests such as the Ramayana are such profound teaching vehicles for life. By following this lila on the magnified, mythic level of Ramayana, we train our consciousness to embrace, rather than resist, this exquisite play within our own life.

We are also Rama, who, after banishing Sita, grieves deeply at his loss. His grief climaxes after Sita asks Divine Mother to allow her to return home and she is swallowed up by the earth. Rama is only consoled when the Grandsire of the universe himself (Brahma) arrives on the scene to remind Rama of his divine origins. Brahma is able to shift Rama’s whole perception by reminding him that his separation from Sita is only a flicker in eternity. Rama transcends and realises that he will be ‘momentarily’ re-united with Sita when he returns to heaven. Are we not all like Rama, forgetting our divine nature and grieving over our ‘momentary losses’?

Remember to be steady in your Self the next time you are confronted by the challenging illusion of opposing forces. Breathe into the ‘fullness’ of the opposition. By embracing this, you will transcend into a deeper fullness that encompasses both. Inside That we find the truth of who we really are!


Michael Sternfeld is a body-centered therapist, who has combined his professional  dance background, with bodywork training, and an MA in Vedic Psychology, to create an integrated embodiment approach called, Body Presence. He is also a world-class producer of epic events, featuring some of the biggest names in the entertainment world, especially during a 5-year stint as the event producer for the David Lynch Foundation. One of his most epic was the first complete audio production of the Ramayana, which, at 75 hours, is the world’s longest audio book.

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