In our lives, we experience a pulsation between different poles or pairs of opposites. In Ayurveda, we call this pulsation ‘spanda’ and we experience it every day, every hour, every minute in both our inner and outer environments.
One such pulsation that has been popping up on my personal and professional radar most recently is that between contraction and expansion. All of our experiences in pulsation serve a purpose and all are needed, but sometimes, we get stuck on one end of the spectrum and that’s when problems arise.
Contraction is a tightening, a clamping down, a holding on, and this can occur for us both physically and mentally. In the extreme, contraction is the opposite of growth and it is all of the ways that we attempt to control, close ourselves off, stay stagnant, and brace ourselves for ‘what might happen’. Contraction can be a form of not trusting, not allowing, and defintely not going with the flow.
Expansion is a relaxing, an opening, a letting go. Expansion is allowing things to happen and trusting that the universe knows what it is doing. Expansion is opening our minds and our hearts to new opportunities, new ideas, and new ways of functioning. In the nervous system, expansion is experiencing rest and digest rather than fight or flight. Expansion brings ease.
There are so many ways that we contract on a daily basis and many of those contractions come out of fear. When we refuse to see a different perspective, when we get angry because things didn’t go the way we had planned, when we hold on to resentments and blame, when we choose not to ask for help when we need it… these are all examples of contraction that can keep us stuck and work against growth.
Take a moment to breathe. Notice the natural expansion of the body with the in-breath; the space that is created within and the room that the body expands into as we draw in a full, deep breath. And then, notice the gentle contraction of the body with the out-breath; fully expelling all of the air, narrowing down, emptying in order to allow for the next breath. The contraction of exhalation is necessary for the expansion of inhalation to be possible.
We pulsate between the two and after contraction comes expansion. However, we can get stuck in one or the other and more frequently, it’s contraction, which causes a multitude of problems. When trauma occurs, our normal pulsation and flow of life stops. The nervous system can get stuck in a stimulated state and we experience fear, tension in the body, abrasiveness in our relationships, inability to relax, etc. This same thing can happen from chronic stress and many people are living in a state of contraction these days and then wondering why they are frequently ill, unhappy, and feeling stuck.
Begin to observe your own tendencies and notice when you are in contraction more than expansion. Over time, contraction will physically cause wear and tear, illness, and can eventually lead to disease. Emotionally, contraction can cause issues in our relationships, limit our ability to cope, and hinder our ability to feel positive emotions, leaving us depressed, anxious, and angry.
So, where do we start? First, we must become aware of when we are stuck in contraction. Next, we must take the one small step of letting go in some way. Perhaps that means taking a few slow, deep breaths or taking a break from the stressor for a bit or just talking to someone. But, if we are not aware of it, we can’t change it, so just noticing what is happening is always a great place to start.
Take some time this week and observe where you are contracting. It can become a habit to contract reactively, so we must practice becoming aware without judging ourselves. Then, we can start to open to other possibilities. Reach out if you don’t know what to do next. We can chat about it.
I am here, trying right along next to you. I’d be happy to help.
Chat again soon,