Have you ever flown out of the cold to head somewhere warm on vacation?
Every time I do this, I have this moment of awe when I think to myself (some version of…) “I can’t believe just a few hours ago, I was trekking through snow up to my knees and now I am in shorts!”
Or perhaps you have had the experience of feeling completely joyful and excited about something and then receiving some very difficult news. In an instant, your mood and everything about the state of your world changes. Are you happy or sad?
These are experiences of ‘contrast’ – the state in which one thing is strikingly different from something else in juxtaposition or close association. Contrast arises most notably for many of us during this time of year when, for many of us, the days are shorter and people hang lights outside making it literally one of the darkest times of the year and brightest times of the year at the same time (at least in the northern hemisphere!). This is not only true in the physical sense of ‘light’ but in the emotional state as well. Many people feel sadder or a bit lower in energy with all the darkness and yet we are gifted with one of the richest periods of joyous holidays as well.
- How does it feel?
- How does it activate our awareness?
- What can it teach us?
I often talk to my clients about the fact that humans are the only species that has the capacity to hold two contrasting emotions at the same time. We can feel both joyful at the birth of a new baby and sad at the loss of a dear friend at the same time. Both are legitimate. Both are human. We do not have to choose.
As we enter December, a month often filled with lots of expectations, I invite you to reduce your experience of things as ‘good or bad’ or ‘right or wrong,’ and instead, stay present to the contrast. A holiday gathering, for instance, may have some moments that feel loving and sweet and others that feel frustrating or annoying. There is no need to classify the gathering as ‘good or bad.’ Instead, how might it feel to describe the gathering as an experience of contrast. How might this alter how we view and review our experiences? How might it ultimately shape our experience in the world?