This holds the key to mental freedom

“Every human being dwells intimately close to a door of revelation they are afraid to pass through.”

- David Whyte

Our perceptions are conditioned to think in black and white

We are conditioned to split the world in two, perceiving everything as separate rather than unified. Rarely do we realize that is actually a frame—a conditioned perception—and not objective reality.

The tendency to falsely dichotomize the world can interfere with our ability to navigate effectively because we are using “either or” thinking to explore a “both and” world.

In other words, our internal maps are not matched to the territory of reality. Therefore, we become lost.

Most of us are taught to see life in terms of opposites such as mind and heart, surrender and agency, grief and joy. But what we conceptualize as opposites are inevitably inseparable parts of the same whole.

Splitting the world this way has damaging consequences to our psyches and mental health.


Perceiving the world in these binary terms causes us to pit various elements of our experience against one another, creating a warlike relationship between things that are meant to coexist rather than be at odds.

But, what if we didn’t?

Imagine a shift where mind and heart, surrender and agency, grief and joy were all welcome aspects of our experience rather than enemies at war.

This way of being opens up a connection to the rich and beautiful complexity of life. It allows us to learn to dance with life rather than engaging with it solely from the superficial level of mind.

If we want to embody the human experience to our fullest capacities, we cannot split anything from its other.

Ken Wilber says it best in his book, No Boundary:

“The simple fact is that we live in a world of conflict and opposites because we live in a world of constructed boundaries. Since every boundary line is also a battle line, here is the human predicament: the firmer one’s boundary lines, the more entrenched are one’s battles. The more I hold onto pleasure, the more I necessarily fear pain. The more I seek success, the more I must dread failure. The more I value anything, the more obsessed I become with its loss. Most of our problems, in other words, are problems of constructed boundaries and the opposites they create.”

Share this post

What's the cure?

The antidote to this way of being is to learn to hold the paradoxes and contradictions of life at once, like notes in a chord, learning from the many traditions that embrace opposites as counterparts and thus do not suffer this unnecessary internal warfare.

We can also learn to be in conversation with our seeming opposites and integrate them, rather than falling prey to the mental gymnastics that result from these psychological splits.

Being in deep study of opposites is one way we can increase our sense of vitality, peace, and wholeness. This wholeness is inherently healing and returns us to a sense of home within ourselves.

As we embrace opposites, we learn discernment: when to let go and when to hold on, when to surrender and when to exercise agency—and when to sit at the crossroads and hold the tension between them until the point when the path makes itself clear.

As we refine this dance and welcome home the split off parts of ourselves, we can step into greater acceptance, awareness, and aliveness. This is an essential part of recovering our wholeness.

That is why I’ve been inspired to curate a once-in-a-lifetime experience centered around reconnecting with the rich and beautiful complexity of life.

Reclaiming Soulful Living Retreat


Reclaiming Soulful Living:
Cultivating Awe, Beauty, and Present Moment Awareness


Tulum, Mexico - April 10-15


On this week’s episode of Waking Up with Brooke Sprowl, Nicole Buzzelli and I dive into the exploration of opposites: grief and joy, emotion and reason, and the process of discernment.

Listen by clicking the link below:

Listen to this podcast on:

[Music] hello this is on living with Brooke
Sproul I’m Brooke Sproul and this is my lovely friend and collaborator Nicole bicelli she is a poet author and energy
healer a very powerful woman with a long history in the educational system doing
some very cool work and Nicole and I have really incredible conversations so
we decided to just get online and see what emerges in the spirit of emergence
Theory so what have you been pondering lately Nicole I feel like I’m in a fall
of sorts I know we’re kind of going into fall um yeah I feel like I’m in a season of like
I’ve got a lot of leaves that are coming off hmm yeah I got lots of things coming
off studying things is super uncomfortable it’s interesting this morning I was I’m doing I’m finishing my certification and
Peak Performance and flow Neuroscience training and they were talking today about
um you know authentic growth being not so much adding anything but actually
removing um what’s untrue what’s what’s in the
way and that really squares with you yeah as a therapist because so much of my training is in unconscious uh defense
mechanism recognition and compassionate defense Interruption and kind of Excavating the authentic soul of the
person because for me personally I would show up in the world and you know before
I had done substantial personal work and of course we all still do and I still do show up in this way at times
um and sure and probably in all the time in ways that I’m not still aware of but to a greater extent and more often I
would show up in the world in ways in which um I was using defense mechanisms and
relationships and yeah I feel like then you get negative feedback from others
and you internalize that as something is wrong with me and it’s like no actually it’s not you that is wrong or that’s
getting this negative feedback it’s your defenses but you come away with the message that it’s you and then you end
up doubling down and creating more defense mechanisms yeah because it
promotes a sense of insecurity and self-distrust and so part of the trick
is recognizing no it’s not me that’s being rejected hurt you know Etc it’s
it’s these things that are in the way of me showing the real me yeah and yeah I know that’s exactly what
it is I feel like it’s a that’s exactly what it is it’s getting enough distance from something to see it
as something that’s actually separate from you um
you know I’ve all you know for me it’s like my emotional landscape like I’ll get in
these emotions insecurity Etc fill in the blank right all these things and I’ll be unconsciously inside
of it so I’m like becoming that thing right and so then the trick
the past couple weeks it’s like I keep catching myself I’m like oh shoot I’m in it I’m like in the thing I’m becoming
the thing and the trick then is to like find some sort of neutrality enough not
even like a full like I don’t even need to be fully neutral I just need to be neutral enough to get like enough
distance from it to like see it as something that’s separate from me right like the moment that I feel like it’s
something I can look at I can observe it is when I stop identify I stop being it
right I stop becoming it it’s like that distance and there’s so many different ways to frame that experience like in
cognitive science or Neuroscience we might talk about it as metacognition in like Psychotherapy we talk about it as
the observing ego um as you know in meditation traditions we talk about it as maybe the higher
self or you know there’s all these different ways of framing this experience that you’re having of
stepping outside of yourself being able to disidentify I guess that would be more of the framing yeah
is you know um not identifying with thought or not identifying with the self is probably a
more accurate way of um affirming that but yeah it’s so interesting how so many different
Traditions kind of are pointing to the same things which is different language and yeah um it’s so it’s so important to
you know and this is actually kind of the latest iteration of emergence theory is
um you know one of the dialectics that I’m exploring is between metacognition and intuition so it’s like the ability
to step outside of ourselves and reflect on our behaviors and kind of you know
harness our cognitive and intellectual capacity to understand ourselves but then not without ignoring not not by
ignoring the body you know not by ignoring our Sensations like kind of what is the optimal balance between this
men met a cognitive skill and this bodily kind of awareness
sensation wisdom and talents that we have and yeah I notice that people tend
to kind of Veer towards like they have to choose one yeah and like like this
one’s better this one’s wrapping this one’s better this one’s more spiritual and more grounded and more present it’s like no there’s actually a dynamic
tension between the two and they’re incomplete without one another they’re counterparts
yeah no exactly I find it also kind of feeds the other because
I mean I’ll even kind I’ll put it in this term you know so I’ve been doing
lots of meditation I’ll catch myself I’ll catch myself in a feeling
um and then I’ll sit and I’ll meditate with it try to get that distance get that separation
and lately I’ve been noticing there’s a limit with that I need the body so yesterday I went to
the beach did some stuff there kind of bounced around today I went on a hike
I actually feel like I can’t do one fully without integrating the other one
I can’t just sit in meditation and see something from an awareness I have to
catch myself being the feeling in the body in the moment I am I have to be able to recognize when I’m in something
by the sensation of it oh now I’m feeling this I know how to discern what that is now and then I can go back and
reinforce things in meditation but then I need to go reforce what I’m doing in meditation with what I’m doing
in the body it ha they have to feed each other it can’t be yeah I’ve been thinking one of the
others a lot because there’s such an emphasis um right now and a trend in mindfulness and I love mindfulness I
love meditation and I I use these practices but I notice sometimes in certain mindfulness Traditions there’s
this like over emphasis on the present almost demonizing any other state and I
think a really robust experience of the present moment requires us to engage
with all our past and future in meaningful ways so like you know I have to be in right relationship with my past
to be able to experience a present moment otherwise I have also cognitive interference and anxiety that’s really
preventing my ability to be fully present similarly you know having access or you know quite often I mean
motivationally our goal states are tied to our well-being in the present moment so knowing where we’re aiming having a
higher purpose you know being aligned with a vision for our lives is a part of an optimal experience of the presence so
I’ve just been realizing um on our trip in Italy David White use the term deracinated present and I
thought that was so like that was exactly the thing that I was trying to kind of work out about what it is that
feels incomplete in some approaches to meditation and I think people would argue that no you’re being present to
all of that but in practice that’s not exactly what it how it seems to play out
it seems like it’s like you know there’s a disowning of past and future yeah in a
way that feels potentially uh compartmentalized or
um yeah like I think there’s a much richer way of accessing the present by synthesizing the past and future and
present rather than by simply kind of setting the other two aside even though there’s maybe a time to practice that as
well but I don’t think it’s like the you know the end-all be-all the way that it’s often taught
yeah and I actually think I just see it as kind of like these
lines that we have and whenever I see lines in anything I always I’m like let’s investigate
why we’re drawing these lines between past present and future
they probably all exist at a Crossroads somewhere and are not separate and even
if we can’t maybe always conceptualize it in my
experience of anything that we’re drawing lines in between is that when you start to investigate it the lines
are quite blurred it’s never quite that nothing is separate right and all of the
lines are just where we draw them and you can you can change where you draw them it’s interesting um have you read
the book no boundaries by Ken Wilbur it’s very much in line with what you’re talking about I wish I had it fresh
enough in my mind to articulate it properly but essentially like there’s all these different ways that we can
draw different Lines within and without and when you really kind of look at it you recognize there are no real no
actual lines um yeah I wish it was fresh enough in my mind to be able to like give specifications get the good thing
yeah I it’s actually been um I haven’t really thought of it this
way but I’ve gotten a healing um on my
relationship with time lately I gotta I got a healing on it once I was able to kind of
take that line out between my present and my future I was one of I had this
tendency to always um have this anxiety around making choices
right and I know that this is not unique to me because I’ve had a lot of conversations with this about people recently but this anxiety around making
the wrong choice making the right choice if I choose this one what if I’m not going in the direction
that I’m supposed to be going in or that my higher self wants me to be what if I
miss the sign what if I go left and my sign is over there in the right you know what if I what if what if
and um I had this have you seen did you watch Harry Potter I am the only person in the
world who has neither read nor seen any of like no interest no interest
yeah I started reading like a little bit of it so I kind of know some things but
Muggles you don’t need to talk about Muggles they strike again you’re not supposed to
say Voldemort or something is that the one I can’t I can’t I also can’t discern the difference between the Lord of The
reigns people that start with a V and the ball it’s like they’re it’s all the same okay they’re all the same people
they’re all the same people well so there’s this scene and I guess it doesn’t really matter but it was
it was kind of what I had in my head and this has been in a couple different movies but there’s the scene where Harry
the main character or the other Brooks out there you have no idea I think I got
that part and this girl is talking about so there’s Harry and he is waiting
he’s waiting for someone to save him from the scenario
that he’s in and you know no spoilers in case Brooke wants to watch it later
um he’s waiting for someone and he finally somebody shows up on the other
side of the lake somebody shows up and does the thing that saves him right and later he goes you know the
future he travels he’s you know time goes on later he gets a Time Turner he goes back
in time to that moment and he’s sitting where the person who he saw from the
other side of the lake came to come save him and he’s waiting for that person to show up and they’re not showing up and
he’s like no I know that they’re going to show up because I already experienced this this moment and I know someone
shows up but no one shows up and so in the end he goes and he does the thing and he showed
up for himself it was him you know big reveal with him saving himself and two things I think number one one of the
big things that I’ve been shedding one of the big leaves that I’ve been shedding is the same quality that I
have around waiting I’m waiting I’m always waiting for the sign I’m waiting for something to save
me I’m waiting um and I’ve had so many iterations of this in the past but there’s definitely
this quality of um you know when I was a kid I used to like hang out under doorways
because they’re a good vantage point I could like I could see into multiple rooms at
once and so I would sit there like with my back up against the door frame and I would read or write or just sit and I would just be scanning my environment
waiting for something to happen waiting for a PIN to drop waiting for
X Y and Z right and I think there’s a little Nicole there’s
a part of me that’s still waiting in doorways all the time for things to show up
um and so that’s one of the things that I’ve been kind of looking at trying to get separate from
but the other thing was this you know I uh I’m waiting for something to happen
and I keep getting scared if I get up and go into this room what if something happens in that room that I need to be
there for if I get in this room but if something happens in that room that I need to get there for and so I’m living my life sitting underneath a doorway
and I had this thought one day what if I just assume
that this moment has already happened there’s a place in the universe where the future
has already happened and I’ve already taken care of it and I’ve already made the right Perfect Choice
um and then I don’t have to wait for anything to show up because I know whatever it is that I do it’s already
been done if that makes sense whatever choice I choose is already been made and so it’s this weird like I’m almost using
predetermination as a way to Aid My Free Will if that makes sense
as a way to make choices I love this so much because interestingly so you know
obviously I have emergence Theory and someone sent me a video that some physicists are working on by the name of
emergence Theory it’s fascinating I’ll share it with you but it talks about how from a temporal perspective everything
has already happened and that actually there is a way in which we can access and sort of interface with all time
um energetically spiritually or whatever which is interesting because it’s this like actual it’s not like a new age like
oh physics it’s like an actual research Collective a physicists who are
seriously studying these things and um I think that’s fascinating so I’ll have to send that to you please send
that to me I also need to have them as like my next podcast yes I need to like talk to them but the other piece that
was interesting to me is one that I’ve sort of kind of
gradually begun to embody more of an attitude of what you describe which I
would call Faith really because Faith because I’m I’m now old enough as we
were talking about earlier I’m now old enough to where there are enough times in my life where I’m like oh that thing
went so wrong and I’m devastated and then I look back and I see how it was all orchestrated and the more I
Surrender and accept and allow and trust that everything is a part of a bigger
plan the more that in a way I don’t know if it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy
or if I just see it more clearly or I just have access to that State of Consciousness but my sense is that what
you’re talking about is really a version of faith and I think we you know I think
that we can we access faith in the experience of what it’s like to live
life and character and integrity because the only way that you can have in my opinion or at least in my personal
experience I don’t think that you can have faith if your character isn’t refined properly because because you
can’t trust that you are going to make the correct kind of adjustments and
iterations that are going to ultimately Reveal Your higher self and needs so if
you’re going to just bury your head in the sand then you can’t have faith if that’s your character is to run and avoid and look away then there&#