Do you ever feel contracted – perhaps uninspired, or annoyed, or hopeless, or even, mean-spirited? When that happens, what is the story you tell yourself about what’s happening? Is there any tinge of self recrimination? Or a snarling internal decree, “it’s always like this for me”?
A skillful way of working with contraction involves three things:
Knowing it will pass.
Not identifying with it (i.e. when you catch yourself thinking, “I am annoyed,” or “I am mean-spirited,” you can reframe to something like “ah…. annoyance is passing through,” or “oh… now mean-spiritedness is passing through,” just as a cloud passes through the sky, but isn’t the sky.)
Bringing yourself fully into the present moment. (Mindfulness practice)
To these ends, it can be helpful to wrap our understanding around contraction a bit, since this awareness can help us back off from holding the contraction as a problem.
Take the physical processes surrounding both birth and death. These processes involve a kind of “pulsing” motion – both of the physical body as well as of the soul. There are an organic set of movements as the soul incarnates into, or excarnates from, the body. The pulsing movements can be seen as a process of digestion, and transition. They involve a pulsing outward, then a pause, allowing the soul/ body connection to either take form or to un-form, pulsing inward, gathering energy for the next movement, and then a new pulsing outward again, until the process completes.
We can see the role of this pulsing action even in the minute-by-minute functions of our bodies – how the heart pumps blood through expanding and contracting, for instance.
Similarly, contraction is an integral movement of evolution. None of us are in expansion 24/7. Becoming aware of contraction is useful in that it allows us to contrast what is, with what we’re telling ourselves about what is. Contraction is part of a necessary “digestion” process that can’t be skipped. As we notice what’s arising, we can pause, gather our energy for the next movement, and then pulse into expansion again.
The advantage of practicing mindfulness during contraction is that becoming present allows us to identify the current incarnated reality. As what is arising in the current landscape is lovingly held, (just as the sky holds a cloud,) the direction of expansion becomes clear. It becomes obvious. It’s like a built-in compass. Without contraction and the navigational information it gives us, unfettered expansion can deplete our soul’s vital energy – with no digestion of experience, we become bloated, and we come to an evolutionary stand-still.
So the next time you find yourself contracted, be glad! Trust that everything is going brilliantly according to plan. Pause, become present, notice the specific nature of the contraction that has paid you a visit, notice any story you’re telling yourself about it, release the story, gather your energy, and then open and allow the movement of expansion that will inevitably follow.