After the holidays, traveling, and getting hit with a nasty cold, I felt knocked down and even a little depressed. I could have gotten stuck in it, but luckily my years of training as a student of nature had taught me a little about cycles of expansion and contraction. We see these cycles throughout the natural world, and they’re also demonstrated perfectly for us in every breath and heartbeat. Here’s an excerpt from our new book, The Well Life, on the topic:
After an experience of expansion it’s extremely common to contract. You feel you’re making great progress, you’re in balance, you’re in love with the world, your hair looks amazing, and then . . . it seems to fall apart. Suddenly you’re strikingly unenlightened. You’re hollowing out sacred texts so you can hide candy in there. You can’t connect to the Mother Ship. You’re critical of yourself and others. The money stops coming in. Perhaps you even spiral into despair.
It’s useful to understand why this is happening. One mechanism, which we could call “small mind contraction,” occurs because your expansion feels uncomfortable or unsafe to your subconscious mind. Maybe having extra money worries you or makes you think you’re going to become shallow. Maybe being light and happy is unfamiliar. Maybe it’s scary to come into your power with others watching you.
Another mechanism, we might call “existential contraction,” happens because your ego feels its very existence is threatened as you begin to grow out of it. In an effort to assert its realness and pull you back in, it generates conflict and pain.
It’s natural to resent contraction. Things were going well and now they seem not to be. But, as in all things, hating and resisting it won’t resolve it. Here’s the approach we recommend for moving through contraction:
- Name it. It’s easier to avoid wallowing in it if you see it for what it is – a mere hiccup. This contraction is a reaction by your small, scared mind to your having made real progress.
- Stay the course. Contraction is not unlike what follows an intense workout. After stretching and working your muscles to their limit, they may stiffen up to the point of hobbling you. Even though the micro-tears you’ve made will stimulate increased growth, in the short term you may feel like you were hit by a truck. Most people know to expect this effect with exercise, so they don’t interpret it as a sign that they should stop working out. Treat your psycho-spiritual contraction the same way. Rest a little, keep stretching your mind, nourish yourself with good food and water, stick with the plan, and reassure yourself that this is natural.
- Keep powerfully choosing. You always have a choice of following your heart – i.e., Spirit, Truth, God – or your ego. Your ego is extremely limited and unable to wake up to the vastness of what you really are, but you can choose to transcend it. As often as you remember, state your choice by saying (inwardly or aloud), I choose Spirit! or I choose Love! or I choose Freedom! or I choose Truth! or whatever wording feels strongest to you.
- Turn toward the conflict. Asserting the choice of Spirit and ignoring your ego can take a lot of willpower, but there is a softer way: turn toward, rather than away from, the contraction that’s occurring. Be curious without resisting. See how your ego screams for attention? See how it generates conflict in order to reinforce a reality in which it is needed? See the silliness and confusion of what you’re mired in? See how you fall back into old habits because of fear and limiting beliefs? What else does your curiosity reveal? What happens when you say YES – Yes, I am ready for whatever comes along because I trust that I’m being guided to greater peace and fulfillment – instead of NO?
An experience of contraction does not mean your hard work was in vain. In fact, the process of navigating a period of contraction can lead to tremendous healing and increased freedom. Li Hongzhi, creator of a popular form of Qi Gong called Falun Gong, describes a similar process as one progresses in one’s practice. He explains that whenever we level up, meaning we make a significant leap in our development, we have to relearn certain things that we learned previously, because we’re operating from a somewhat different perspective. The apparent loss of these functions can feel like a major setback until we relearn them, but in actuality, it’s a good sign.
Everyone experiences contraction and expansion. If you’re in an expansive phase, make the most of it. Let yourself be fortified by it, your confidence bolstered by it, and intend to plant an anchor in your consciousness – you’ll be here again many more times. If you’re in a contractive phase, try the suggestions above. Expansion will return. And if you’re interested in learning more, please check out our book. It is chock full of love.
Dr. Peter Borten