Contractions and Expansions

Jan 21, 2019 by

     It is the nature of many things to contract and expand.  Your breath is an expansion and a contraction.  Emotions in your body might feel like they are pushing or pulling.  Certain emotions create a contraction and others create an expansion.  There is a lot of talk these days about positive psychology and how to cultivate positive emotions.  Gratitude, altruism, loving-kindness and compassion are expansive emotions.  Anger, resentment, frustration, hatred, embarrassment, guilt, shame – these emotions cause a contraction.  Trauma, death, taking things personally, making assumptions, failing, and other “bad” experiences are contractive.  Accomplishment, infatuation, fun, serenity and awe are examples of expansive experiences.

     Life has its ups and downs and pain, loss and suffering cannot be avoided.  But we can combat the negative by cultivating positive emotions, physical wellbeing, willpower, and healthy relationships.  We can cultivate compassion, empathy, kindness and connection with others through awareness of what kind of energy we are creating, sowing, harboring and putting out into the world.

There is always a way to find meaning and value in our suffering.  Finding this is expansive.  Complaining, ruminating and worrying are contractive.   Finding meaning in our lives and in the world is how we create wisdom.  It is how we grow and accept change.

If you expand your awareness of your body and your emotions, you will be able easily notice if you are in a contracted or expansive state of being. This means you must practice focusing your attention on your body and regulating your emotions.  This also means that you must be aware of your thoughts and beliefs that might be keeping you stuck or contracted.  You must be open to changing these thoughts, or narratives, and your beliefs in light of a new understanding.  Some people find this difficult.  The fact is that there are infinite possibilities for what might happen and there are infinite ways of looking at reality.  It is this fact that gives you the ability to recognize that you are swimming upstream and the freedom to change. This is an enormous waste of energy and time.  This is why it is always best, if possible, to relax and go with the flow of life and time.

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