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!

Count Your Blessings Day 5

It’s actually brilliant…

Counting my blessings is doing something to me that is both cool and amusing.

I’m beginning to take for granted that each day is full of blessings.

I’m even getting a bit impatient about writing them out.

And I’m definitely feeling eager for more. Not necessarily more of the same, but more variety, more richness, more surprise, more satisfaction.

Today was spent mostly at home, and I really appreciated it. I didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything.

Well, I drove my wife and son to a meet up with friends and picked them up later, but most of the day was spent relaxing.

In the past I would avoid all kinds of events and activities, but I didn’t really relax. I just wanted to avoid the extra stress because, truth be told, I was still stressed at home.

I carried my stress around with me. Keeping it alive and feeding it frequently.

But today felt like genuine relief, because I felt real appreciation for the down-time after so many days of uncharacteristic activity.

There were lots of beautiful moments today. Watching my wife and the kids dance to some YouTube videos.

Enjoying the delicious meal my wife cooked, while I was blissfully unaware she was even doing it.

Sitting with a coffee on the front porch in the cold autumn air.

Playing Minecraft with my son.

And little things like aches and pains that would have ruined my day were just…things I noticed, I guess?

So I’m wanting more now, and I’m getting a clearer picture of the kind of feel I’m after.

The process of counting my blessings has focused and tuned me in super quickly to what a blessing is, what it feels like, and what more I can look forward to.

I have a sense that it is never going to stop being this process of discovery and expansion.

Redirect your attention

Each day take attention away from thoughts and things that feel bad and give attention to thoughts and things that feel good.

In time you will no longer have any bad feeling thoughts in your mind or things in your life.

In time the redirection of your attention won’t be from bad to good, but from good to better.

Always finding better feeling thoughts no matter what the circumstances or conditions around you, even the most unpleasant thought can be soothed and even the happiest thought can expand further.

In time your whole existence will be one of joyfully keeping up with the expanding happiness within you and around you.