When people speak of life imitating art they usually mean that something that happened in a story occurs in real life. An actor who plays the husband in a bitter divorce, for example, then experiences an equally bitter divorce of his own with weirdly similar details.
My discovery that life imitates art has less to do with the players and more to do with the principles. I've learned that the rules that make good art also can make lives worth living.
When I was a beginning painter, one of the first concepts I began to learn had to do with values. The term has nothing to do with either morality or the prices of things. Value refers to the relative lightness or darkness of an element in a painting and can be one of the most important aspects of a well-designed and powerful painting.
Patterns of light and dark give a painting or drawing its design, that which holds it together as a visual image. An arrangement of light flowers is much more dramatic if either a shadow falls on some of them, or if they are arranged against a dark background, or contrasted with dark stems and leaves. An ocean scene is far more vivid when whitecaps contrast with the dark-hued water. The contrast of light and shadow also gives a three-dimensional appearance to a two-dimensional medium.
Every painting needs to have light and dark. So does every life.
In life, we appreciate some forms of contrast. We may like to eat different kinds of food, to change our hairstyles and manner of dress, to read a variety of genres in books or view different kinds of movies. We wouldn't want all of our friends to be identical. Variety is a key ingredient in saving us from boredom.
What we eat or wear, however, aren't major forces that shape our lives and give them their patterns and designs. The biggest contrast in most of our lives relates to what we have versus what we don't have and want, between our positive and our negative emotions, between the light and dark.
We don't see interesting or artistic patterns in these contrasts. It's more likely that we see fair and unfair, deserving and undeserving. We run away from the negative, from the dark.
Some of us become very nervous about our negative thoughts when we begin to learn the power of deliberate positive thought. We can also be influenced by the language of some New Age thought. We're told how important it is to be "in the Light." We are urged to reach for higher, lighter vibrations. We are asked to be light workers.
That seems to make sense. High, light vibrations feel much better than dark, dense ones. In addition, as we learn about crystals, essences, and other vibrational forces, we discover that thoughts have vibrations. Positive thoughts attract positive vibrations, feelings, and eventually physical manifestations. Negative thoughts attract the stuff we don't want.
So all we have to do is get rid of the negative thoughts. Darkness may be important in a painting, but we often believe it has no place in our lives.
This kind of thinking can get people off track. I remember a young woman who had come to me for a flower essence consultation. Many things were going very well in her life, but there were some areas that, no matter how much she worked on them, weren't fulfilling her.
"I know it's because I can't stop myself from thinking negative thoughts," she said earnestly. "I try and try to prevent them, but they keep on coming into my mind."
They do. And the more we resist them, the more they keep coming, because by giving attention to them, we give them energy and attract them to us.
We can change our response to negativity when we understand the valuable role it plays in our lives.
One of the principles of vibrational healing is that our bodies give us warning signals when we're out of balance. The more attuned we are to these messages, the more easily we can do what's needed to rebalance and prevent the onset of illness.
Negative thoughts and emotions provide even earlier warning signals, alerting us that we're blocking the healing and balancing flow of what in Reiki is called "universal life force energy." When this energy is flowing smoothly, we feel vibrant, optimistic, and all other feelings we describe as good. When it's blocked, we feel negative. This negative feeling is our warning that we aren't psychically refueling our system.
In this context paying attention to negativity is like stopping for a red light or filling a car with gas when the gauge shows that the tank is empty. Too often, though, we've become so accustomed to the idea that negative emotion is a bad thing that instead of responding to correct the situation, we attack the symptom instead of reaching for a cure.
Then, because the negativity is still trying to warn us, we continue to feel it. Because we focus on it energetically, it grows. The blockage of life force energy becomes more pronounced, and we feel worse.
The same scenario--with even more concentration of negativity--plays out when we don't get what we want, especially when) we've wanted it for a long time.
It all begins with a desire. You feel a lack of fulfillment, and it feels negative. Again the negative feeling is intended to guide you. If, however, you focus on the feeling and say to yourself, "My life is unfulfilling; I feel depressed. I feel hopeless," you create a blockage.
If, instead, you ask yourself what's missing, you realize that a particular area is unsatisfying, for example, work. You ask yourself what you'd like to do instead of your current career and discover you'd like singing, which has been a part-time activity, to become a primary career focus.
At this point, many people, even though they've identified both the problem and the solution, continue to focus on the lack, thinking, "Oh, I could never do that; it would be too risky. There's no money, no future in this." These thoughts make them depressed, which attracts even more negativity, until the river of desire slows down to a trickle. The problem, however, isn't the initial negative reaction, but how one reacts to it.
Meister Eckhardt, the medieval Christian mystic said: "Truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us."
We can begin to view the dark feelings in our lives as a form of guidance that, by defining what's missing, tells us what we want. Instead of resisting the shadows, we can accept and even welcome them, thus reducing their negative charge.
Then we can see how a balance of dark and light turn our lives into dynamic works of art. As the dark areas of a painting point out the passages of light, so our feeling of darkness calls forth our desires, our longings, and our prayers, which in turn draws to us the light of fulfillment and joy.
Walk in the light. Be guided by the shadows.
This month I'm doing something I'd do more often if I were better organized. I'm exploring a common theme in both newsletters. This month's issue of Living with Crystals will further explore the qualities of light and dark with a particular emphasis on crystals and flower essences that can help us to balance these elements.
I'm only going to briefly describe relevant crystals and flower essences in this newsletter.
No stone characterizes the quality of darkness better than obsidian. It tells us the truth about ourselves--our truth, not the world's.
Sodalite and malachite, as balancing crystals, can help to blend the energies of the right and left sides of the brain, which often correspond to the energies of dark and light. A double-terminated crystal can have a similar effect.
Danburite helps us to understand that there's a purpose and benefit for everything that occurs in our lives. All of the calcites help us to remove ourselves from what appears to be life's battleground to view the events from a more detached and appreciative perspective.
Scleranthus (Bach) is the classic remedy for reconciling and blending opposites.
Owl and Bat Wild Earth Animal Essences contain the energies of these creatures of the night. Owl sees through all attempts at deception, including self-deception; while Bat symbolizes transformation.