Accept where you are

Sometimes the very thoughts that inspire us also lead us to frustration when we cling to them with an all-or-nothing attitude.

Learn from your life’s patterns

Two great obsessions of my adult life have been mastering the martial art I practice and finding spiritual enlightenment. These two subjects have unfolded concurrently, with remarkably similar patterns.

I recognised it sooner in my martial art: 20 or so years of striving made harder by my determination, and my belief that mastery was always within reach yet forever elusive.

If I had found a way to relax and enjoy it, accept where I was, and just let the practice evolve, then I think the same journey would have been a pleasant one instead of an increasingly unhappy struggle.

Still, something shifted recently and I was able to stop approaching it with so much intensity and demand. I’ve found the progress I longed for, but only after I stopped needing it. I understand so much more now, but only after I stopped insisting that this understanding would change everything for me.

Accepting where I am

Spiritually, I have had the same all-or-nothing attitude. Life is nothing, enlightenment is everything; I just need to somehow get there from here. But how?

That attitude has inspired me at times and definitely kept me motivated, but it’s also blinded me and kept my journey volatile and unstable.

It doesn’t really make sense to say that life is nothing and enlightenment is everything, because life is clearly varied and slow and gradual and nuanced.

Wanting enlightenment to transform me is like wanting my practice to immediately give me mastery; but if that was how it worked, why did every master who’s ever lived spend their lifetime training?

What I’ve done is use the ideal of enlightenment to motivate, inspire, goad and cajole myself for years. But the premise was wrong. There is no “enlightenment” that will manifest like magic and transform my reality in a moment. That would be a repudiation of what reality already is, in the same way that mastering kung fu quickly and easily would deny the circumstances that made me desire it in the first place.

Accepting where I am means recognising that I’m not on the verge of “getting it”. But I am always on the verge of feeling better (or worse) than present.

If I had accepted that every training session improved me a little, that would have been enough. Instead I beat myself up thinking that every session was a chance to find “the answer”…and I hadn’t found it.

Methodological modesty

In fact it’s not possible to take what Abraham-Hicks people call a “quantum leap” from terrible circumstances or feelings to amazing ones. That’s not how life works.

To “need” a quantum leap implies desperation. And desperation cannot produce satisfying results. In fact no amount of effort can produce results because you can’t be anywhere other than where you are right now, and from where you are only two things are possible: Feeling better or feeling worse.

If I break it down, the real drivers of my experience are contrast and desire. Both arise naturally, but it’s up to me how I welcome them. Fixating on enlightenment is not a separate ingredient or game-changer. It’s gotta be either contrast or desire and my feelings about it will tell me which it is.

My problem has been taking the inspiration I feel about enlightenment and trying to make that my benchmark for life, when in reality it is a desire. With my desire so clear, I could welcome contrast for what it is: a sign of expansion and good things coming. Instead I treated contrast as a sign that I had failed to achieve enlightenment.

I don’t control desire and I don’t control contrast. Yet every moment of my existence I’m focused on one or the other, and I can focus negatively on how remote my desires seem and how unwanted contrast is, or I can focus positively on how good desires are and how contrast means more good things are coming.

Like kung fu, in the end there are no quantum leaps or sudden transformations. But if you practice you improve, and if you accept that and even welcome it, the journey can be satisfying and progress assured.

Facing tough contrast

Keep reminding yourself that contrast means good things are coming. That’s the best way to handle it. Don’t bother trying to fix it or analyse it when you’re already feeling not at your best. Just keep remembering that contrast means something good is coming. That should bring a little bit of relief, and remind you to look forward and to trust and allow good things to come to you, allowing yourself to feel better – even if the path is not immediately clear.

Close the gap…but not too much

There is always going to be a gap between your vibration and that of your inner being. When the gap is wide we feel bad. So in order to feel better we must close the gap.

That’s why we find better-feeling thoughts. Each better-feeling thought is vibrationally closer to the joy and love and appreciation our inner being (God) already enjoys.

But the gap is not a bad thing. The gap – and the contrast it brings – is why we are here. It’s only because of the gap that we can form new preferences and desires and allow expansion.

Sometimes we try too hard to close the gap or we think there shouldn’t be a gap, shouldn’t be any contrast in life. These efforts to eliminate the gap do not bring happiness, nor can they succeed.

The gap is important and necessary, it only feels bad because we are looking at it the wrong way. From God’s perspective this gap is of tremendous value. And if we can learn to appreciate it as well then it can become a source of eagerness and joy rather than fear and incompleteness.

Learning to love contrast because contrast is the foretaste of new expansion; learning to appreciate the gap because the gap is what this life is all about; this is the way to true happiness, happiness in the path and the journey, not happiness conditional on outcomes and circumstances.

Writing your life: handling contrast

I’m learning to handle contrast (unwanted experience) better, and it reminds me of my writing experiences.

In the past I didn’t handle contrast very well. I was like a writer who recoils at his own clumsy self-expression and gives up on it immediately.

I’m becoming more like an experienced writer who knows that not every idea will work, and who doesn’t expect a first draft to be perfect. A writer who doesn’t give up just because the words don’t yet flow effortlessly into their final form.

But where I’m heading is the kind of mature writer who knows that it is never going to be “complete”, because the very act of writing expands my skill, heightens my expectations and refines my judgement.

Isn’t that why early drafts look bad? By the time we’ve finished the draft we are a better writer than before, and we see more room for improvement. Our ideas are more developed and nuanced, so we find better ways to phrase it. And sometimes we’re just done with a story or idea and we want something fresh and new.

Why is there contrast?

This applies to contrast in our lives too. Contrast will always be part of life because we will never stop expanding and growing.

But it’s up to us whether we think of contrast as a catastrophe, a reflection of our failings and a reason to give up like the writer who excoriates himself for a dissatisfying first attempt.

Or if we instead start to view contrast as part of the process, and even a sign of growth, expansion and development.

Contrast is inevitable because we are always moving forward, always deepening our expectations and refining our preferences.

Must contrast be painful?

It’s our thoughts about contrast that make contrast painful. If you think unwanted feelings and experiences mean you’ve failed, you’ve f***ed up, you took a wrong turn, you don’t deserve better, you’re a bad person, then of course you will feel terrible when contrast comes.

If you are afraid of contrast, afraid of the unwanted in life, then your experience is going to be uncomfortable, like a would-be writer who doesn’t ever want to reread or edit his own work.

This all-or-nothing attitude makes contrast painful. It is itself a form of contrast, reflected in the rigidity and fear and anxiety that governs your world.

And yet it is liberating to know that contrast is not even bad. Unwanted experiences are not truly unwanted, they are part of the dynamic, how the whole of reality works.

Because you could not form new preferences without releasing old ones. You could not refine your desires without your unrefined desire being discarded. You could not expand without your prior existence seeming too small.

But that doesn’t mean you have to hate and bemoan where you are/were. Instead appreciate how it has fed and informed your expansion. And see if you can at least not freak out when contrast happens again!

The excitement of contrast

Contrast refers to anything unwanted in your experience.

According to the Abraham-Hicks teaching, contrast is an essential feature of our physical experience. We welcome it because contrast provides a basis for new desires to evolve, and desires are the essence of new creation.

But at first it’s hard to see it this way. We don’t welcome unwanted conditions, instead we long for them to vanish.

As we become more and more aligned with our own inner being, the part of us that is always united with God, we get better and better at handling contrast.

We begin to appreciate that the “fly in the ointment”, the one thing that’s ruining an otherwise perfect experience is actually the path or thread calling us on into bigger and better things.

And when we are aligned enough to see it that way, then instead of the wanted and the unwanted, life is about the wanted and “what’s next?” Satisfied with what is, and eager for what is coming.

There’s a delightful moment that keeps recurring for me, where I feel an old issue, problem or struggle coming up, but all of a sudden I realise it’s not a problem or a struggle, it’s contrast!

I know how to deal with contrast!

Deal with it by looking for the wanted, the desire that springs from it. Follow the thread of the joy latent in sorrow, the ease called forth by struggle, and the hope implicit in despair.

Ask yourself “since I know very clearly that I don’t want this, what is it that I do want?” and then start focusing in that direction.

Then you will find that the experience of contrast is truly exciting and thrilling, because an encounter with the unwanted is the doorway to all we desire.

Feel good all day 8

Contrast never goes away.

There will always be unwanted aspects in our experience, but that’s how we expand and grow.

We can’t rid ourselves of contrast, but we can change how we relate to it.

With practice we can even welcome it, knowing that contrast is the first sign of new creation and evolution.

We never stop honing our craft. Never stop refining our desires. Never stop growing in our capacity for joy and appreciation.

That’s why the saints came to love suffering. Not as masochists or some weird emotional inversion but because the unwanted is the launching point for new desire, the movement of the spirit and the coming into being of a new creation. At every unwanted moment they look with anticipation for God’s response.

If you practice feeling better and soothing painful thoughts you’ll naturally apply these skills to contrast that arises in your life. And if you find the contrast too difficult or too tumultuous, focus on feeling ease and relief instead.

You don’t need to create drama or exacerbate contrast. Life can be easy, if you allow it to be.

Happiness Day 30

For thirty days I’ve been focusing on happiness, wanting good feelings to be the norm and bad feelings the rare exception.

So how did it go?

It went really really well 😄

Right from the beginning it reframed my inner landscape. The intention to feel good got me to look up instead of down, and start appreciating how often I felt good already.

Abraham teaches that our reality is created primarily by our inner being (God) who is pure positive energy. The role of our physical self and our worldly focusing mind is significant, but in terms of negativity it can only really create friction, it can’t halt the power of our inner being.

That’s why it is always possible to feel better, whether better be less bad or genuinely good.

In other words things are always better than they seem. Happiness is attainable, it just takes practice to retrain our focus.

What is life like now?

Life is really good now.

I’m laughing and smiling a lot more. I’m finding deeper appreciation of the many good things in my life.

I’m handling the contrast so much better! I can soothe bad feelings much more easily, and I even appreciate contrast because I can see how it’s helping me to focus in certain directions.

I’ve had insights just come to me on subjects dear to my heart. By day 30 I found myself musing on inspiration and the question I’ve long deferred: what do I really want to be doing in my life?

I no longer feel like I need to explain, justify, or apologise for my mood and lack of energy, because I’ve shown myself for thirty days that it’s entirely up to me how much energy I have, since I can decide what to focus on and how I focus!

Satisfied and eager for more

Last night my 1yo daughter slept through the night in her cot. That is a genuine miracle! I never even thought it would happen, and yet it all happened so suddenly and so easily.

And I allowed it to happen. My focus on being happy weakened my resistance and my negativity, and opened the tiniest crack in my old story, and circumstances that seemed unwanted opened the path for this new sleeping routine.

Many other things have shifted, small but meaningful and sometimes enormous in their significance to me. Things that were difficult have gotten easier. Things that felt hopeless feel easy. And things I already enjoyed and appreciated have become even more satisfying and wonderful.

What next?

This challenge has only whetted my appetite for more.

I can feel so much potential to feel better and refine my processes. There are many things I would like to allow into my experience, and now I know how to do it.

And without planning it, blogging has become a new experience for me and a wonderful discipline and tool for helping me train my focus.

Being able to write here fulfils an old desire that my writing become more like my private journaling in terms of ease and content.

I’ve written 55 posts in this thirty days. To put that in perspective, the previous 55 posts took about six months to write.

Blogging each day not only kept me focused, it also helped me develop my thoughts and deepen my understanding of this path I’m on.

I don’t yet know what form the next segment will take, but I want blogging to be part of it, and I want it to take my new habits even further.

Thank you for following, reading, and liking my posts! Having you reading my posts has helped keep me honest and on-track!

Count Your Blessings Day 9

Welcoming contrast.

Today’s blessing is that I’m finding myself facing contrast, and welcoming it.

Contrast is sort of like unwanted experience.

But at a certain point it’s not right to call it unwanted as though that’s a bad thing. Because contrast helps us to hone and refine and reach for what we do want.

It’s a bit like writing a draft. Is a draft a failure because it’s not as good as the revision? Of course not.

I remember someone saying that a first draft is really your first best try. It’s creating our first best try that gives rise to our desire for something more perfect, more a match for our desire and intention.

So I’m facing some contrast in life around the subject of money, and it’s actually very welcome because without this contrast I don’t think I could yet have focused as clearly as I’d like to on that subject.

Or better yet…

It’s because I’m ready and in a good place to focus on the subject of money that I’m now receiving some contrast to help me refine my desires and shift my thinking about it!

So the contrast itself is truly welcome, while I appreciate all that has transpired to make me better able to handle it.

Count Your Blessings Day 6

Yesterday brought me some good contrast in the form of physical pain and sheer exhaustion.

But those feelings helped me to let go of my resistance and the end result was that our 1yo soothed herself to sleep for the first time!

And let’s be honest, the resistance to that happening was all mine. I’m the one who’s talked so much about sleep being a problem. I’m the one who built it up in my mind until only sheer debilitating light-headed exhaustion could change my approach.

The experience of contrast has reminded me that I want to feel really good. With all the progress I’ve been making I nonetheless want to keep building momentum.

And to that end I feel for the first time that reaching for really wonderful feelings is unnecessary and kind of a strain.

From where I am right now it’s counterproductive to try to feel exhilaration and joy. It’s actually far more comfortable just to feel satisfied and content.

Abraham has reiterated many times that the best place to be is “satisfied with what is and eager for more” so I’m pleased that this is now making sense to me.

I’m guessing that satisfaction is a more stable and balanced and consistent place to be. In fact I’ve heard that the higher feelings can suggest we are reaching for thoughts that are a bit beyond us.

After all, having a new car or a new house might feel exhilarating at first, but we should soon catch up to it and just feel satisfied or appreciation. There’s something a little unbalanced about being exhilarated all the time.

Happiness Day 17

When s*** hits the fan.

I focus on feeling good. I make headway, my mood rises, I appreciate subtle and obvious changes around me.

And then something unwanted shows up. A bad mood hits me from “out of nowhere”, or an issue arises that sparks bad feelings and inner turmoil.

But over time I adapt and adjust and the conflict is resolved and…looking back, I’m changed by it.

I’m growing by facing these unwanted things and allowing the wanted instead.

And though at first it was dire and stomach-churning and dramatic and full of fear, over time and with practice the process has gotten easier.

Abraham describes it as “learning to handle contrast better”.

Not only can we learn to allow better-feeling thoughts on contrast-rich subjects, but we can also allow greater ease and comfort in the process.

We can even get to the point of appreciating contrast because it inspires the expansion and growth that is the whole point of our life here.

Let it be easy!

At first I wanted to make rapid, powerful changes to my mood and my life.

But people who have done this advise against it. Don’t be in a hurry, take it easy.

The whole point of life is to enjoy the journey. And while we might tell ourselves we are ready to go straight from utterly depressed to profoundly joyful in an instant, there’s actually a desperation and a denial of enjoyment in that pledge.

The harder you push, the more it hurts, not least because you’re used to feeling bad and so your efforts to “try harder” tend to be instinctively geared to more pain and struggle.

“Feel good” really is too easy an answer for most of us. It takes time to accept that there’s no benefit to pushing and no merit to hurting along the way.

So let it be easy! Don’t worry! The path of greatest ease is the path of least resistance and of most allowing.

There’s no rush. Don’t make it an uphill climb; the point after all is to learn how to feel better, and you can’t struggle to make that happen, earn it through suffering, or make it come faster by gritting your teeth in bitterness.