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Living with Paradox

April 20, 2023

Living with Paradox

If you’ve attended one of our retreats, you’ll know we almost always begin with a Land Acknowledgement. You’ll see it on our website, too. Leslie and I reside on the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa and the Mississaugas of the Credit and the ongoing home to many First Nations, Métis and Inuit people from across Turtle Island. 

We know Land Acknowledgements stir up some conflicting or ambiguous feelings when we make them or when we hear them. There’s deep differences of opinion about how useful they are. Are they just empty words that let settlers off the hook or are they simply the respectful thing to do? 

There’s a lot to be said on both sides. 

Can they both be true?

Seems to me Land Acknowledgements plunge us into living with paradox.

Here’s another area where we find ourselves living with paradox.

Many of our retreats, right now, are online. 

And they are amazing. 

They bring together people from all over the world and allow us to hear experiences and viewpoints we would probably never hear. 

For the short time that we are together our little retreats are an extraordinary demonstration of how being together with folks who are not like us can broaden us, challenge us, comfort us and yes, transform us. 

In a fragmenting world it is a moment of connection and unity.

AND at the same time, the wires and batteries, the energy and materials that go into the devices that allow us to connect in such meaningful ways are derived from sources that are devastating the earth, poisoning the environment and exploiting fellow humans.

How the heck do we hold those two truths at the same time? 

It can be easy to slide into what Parker J. Palmer calls “corrosive cynicism” – forget those Land Acknowledgements – they’re too little, too late. 

Or in the case of technology, it can be just as easy to turn away from the harsh reality of what technology costs and focus only on the wonders it achieves.

The thing is if we only fall down on one side or the other, well not much is going to happen.

Whatever you want to call it: living with paradox, ambiguity, chaos, or the “human condition”, holding both (or maybe all) sides of an issue, helps us move toward action. 

That’s where creative tension lives. 

Know what I mean?

For example, If I believe that Land Acknowledgements are the right and respectful thing to do AND I recognize that they can be just empty words; and I really hold those two truths in tension then I consider the implications for me: what am I called to do in response? 

And what about that gap in perspectives around technology? I am sitting in that gap right now, and it sure isn’t comfortable. 

If the theme of living with paradox intrigues you, we have a really special six session, online retreat beginning next month. Leslie is leading Wildness, Enchantment & Hope: Deepening our Engagement with Nature with fellow Courage & Renewal® Facilitator, Mardi Tindal.

This retreat explores two of the most essential paradoxes of our time:

  • How do we remain joyfully engaged with nature while living with the realities of the climate crisis? 
  • How do we take stock of our roles, and see our way forward, when the actions of one person seem so small against a global task? 

It will run Wednesdays, 1:00–3:00 pm EDT May 17–June 28 (no session on June 14). You’ll find more information and registration here.

Also happening in May is another of our little micro-retreats: Reciprocity. Join us on Monday, May 8 at 7:00 pm EDT for 75 minutes of reflection, meditation and conversation about how we can live more reciprocally with each other and the earth. You can be sure you’ll find a paradox or two there. Information and registration here.

We know we’ve spent a lot of time inside and online. Stay tuned for some outside and in-person retreats. Coming soon!

Contact Us

We are settlers on Treaty 13 Land, the traditional territories of many Indigenous Nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples from across Turtle Island. We are committed to honouring the history this land bears witness to, responding to the 94 Calls to Action of the  Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and walking lightly on the Earth. A portion of proceeds from all our offerings are sent to:  The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and The Nii’kinaaganaa Foundation.

The Inside Outside Retreat Centre, Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), 720 Bathurst St., Toronto, ON, M5S2R4