These two words – expansion and contraction, have given me a lot of insight into the connection between the body and emotions. When I began exploring energy medicine and my spiritual beliefs, I began the path to learning how to integrate my mind, body and soul so that healing can occur on a deeper level.
When we are experiencing a ‘negative’ emotion, we typically get into our heads and have many thoughts which can feed the emotion. We might be feeling angry at our partner for something they did and then continue justifying/fueling our anger by thinking about what they did, and other things in the past that were similar and how they ‘always do that thing’ etc. In doing this we are intensifying our emotion while actually distancing from our true selves. If instead, we can recognize that we are angry and become aware of our thoughts and then intentionally drop down into our body, then we can shift things in a powerful way.
When I say ‘drop down into your body’, that just means take a moment to be quiet and see where you are experiencing the emotion in your body – we may feel anger in the form of tension in our head or anxiety in our belly or sadness and despair in our heart center/chest. Everyone experiences emotions differently but being in our body with it is so essential to healing and something most of us are not accustomed to tuning in to.
When we feel emotion in our physical being, we begin to see the pattern that ‘negative’ emotions, ie- sadness, anger, jealousy, and fear are held in the body in a contracted way. And ‘positive ‘ emotions, ie- joy, excitement, love and gratitude are held in the body as expansion. We can all relate to the tension that accumulates in the head when we are worried – just picture a worried expression with brows furrowed …and the tension in our shoulders when we are stressed…. The more we get used to tuning in, the more we can immediately recognize expansion or contraction in the body and we can more quickly take a moment to breathe into the contracted space to bring some expansion there.
We also can recognize that when we are contracted, our energy in directed inward, we may stand with our arms crossed and be focused internally, yet contradictorily not be connected with ourselves at all really. When we are expanded, our energy is directed outward, we are open to the world around us yet can be very connected with our true selves in the process.
In an expanded state we can take in and appreciate the beauty of our natural environment
I often do a visualization with patients to work on this skill….Imagine light coming in thru the crown of your head and traveling down into your brain, down to your heart center and from your heart imagine the heart pumping light into every cell of your body. Imagine that light going into that contracted space (belly, heart, head). With the in breath, bring in more light and with the out breath the light travels through the body. With each breath, the darkness and density of that space, along with all the rest of the body, becomes less tense, more open, and lighter. It slowly allows the energy to dissipate as the light replaces the darkness.
Though it is a simple practice, it takes time and effort to become conscious of what we are feeling, to actually remember to call on this in the moments we need it, and to be compassionate with ourselves when it takes a bit longer to work through something (believe me, I am still working on all of those things!). Depending on the intensity of the feeling and the situation that is upsetting us, we will have different levels of shifting that occur. Sometimes we can shift a whole experience and other times we may feel a lessening in intensity of the emotion, but may need more time and a few repetitions of this practice to work through something. Obviously something like a divorce, death of someone close, or significant trauma, is not going to be the same as being frustrated with your child for not being ready for school on time (again!) or feeling annoyed because your partner forgetting to bring home the milk you asked them to pick up. Ultimately in those lighter situations we can catch ourselves feeling the small annoyances or irritations of every day life and just take one deep breathe to bring in the expansion and release the negativity. And in the heavier times, we can have some acceptance of the pain, gentle practice of the awareness of the body and visualization, and compassion with the time it takes to heal.
Breathing in and creating more expansion in our Being is definitely a way to feed the love.