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.

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 8

My little girl has now soothed herself to sleep three nights in a row plus two day time naps!

I cannot fully express how much relief this brings me!

Never again will I have to rock and bounce her til she falls asleep!

Never again will I fight exhaustion to get her to stop crying!

This is so amazing. This is a miracle! And I owe it all to changing my focus from the burden of “getting her to sleep” to the love and appreciation of “helping her self-soothe to sleep”.

This is life-changing. When I look back on this Happiness series, I look forward to appreciating all over again how a year of sleep-deprivation and struggle so easily gave way to our 1yo learning to fall asleep all by herself.

And all it took was for me to be so exhausted I had no choice but to allow things to improve.

Yep. It was my own resistance. I was so set on being diligent and “in control”. I wanted it to be easy, but found it easier to put in effort than to actually focus on feeling better.

This is profound.

Rocking her to sleep I felt good that I could make things easier. But it was the relief of managing an unwanted situation, not the relief of moving towards a wanted one.

The truth is that I spent a lot of my past focusing on the unwanted and trying to escape it. I didn’t put much effort into defining what I did want.

The positive aspect is that I had great faith everything would work out. I would find the one answer that would fix everything.

But I kept fixating on the problems rather than the solutions. I kept picking at the question and all the evidence of unwanted things in my life. I kept reminding myself of why I wanted to escape, rather than looking at where I was escaping to.

In other words I was trying to manage all the unwanted things in life rather than moving toward the wanted.

Managing the unwanted implies acceptance of it, keeping it alive even while trying not to suffer from it.

Focusing on the wanted is like entering a totally different reality. Changing “I don’t want to go!” into “I want to go there.”

It’s a melancholic thing to not really know what you want. But it just takes us a little longer to make our minds up, work out what is possible, and finally resolve to push beyond that!

Our feelings don’t recognise limitations or impossibilities. It just takes us a little while to accept the truth and power of those feelings!