When you experience unpleasant feelings, what happens? You tend to tense up, contract, push them away, or struggle. Stress too is a tightening, pressured, or contracting experience. No wonder we want to avoid unpleasant feelings, they don’t feel good, but then neither does the struggle to avoid them. Kind of a catch-22- damned if you do, damned if you don’t. What is the alternative?
Being willing to sit with the discomfort, allowing the unpleasant feelings to be, even possibly learning from them, odd as it sounds is one. This allows expansion, opening up to our feelings, making room for them, easing the pressure. Expansion is an opening up, a release of pressure and contraction, it makes room for feelings to move on through. Our beliefs can cause us to contract sometimes, and we don’t even realize it, so expansion can be very useful there as well.
What does this look like in real life? Having been experimenting with this for a while, I can try and explain. We all have live in our own paradigm, made up of our beliefs, knowledge, perceptions and experience. In essence, we all create our own realities, and then try to interact with someone else in theirs. We all know the problems this causes, they play out in our lives daily – misunderstandings, conflicts, fights. It’s often hard to get along with other people because they are just too different.
So what happens if you meet someone from another country, that speaks very little English? Do you try a bit harder to understand them, and give them a break? Do you try to put yourself in their shoes and do what you can to communicate and help? Most people would try harder to communicate and help, because they can see the obvious need. We can expand our experience to reach out to others, in many situations, when we try. In everyday life, with the people we interact with, we sometimes miss that we are dealing with much the same problem – even though we may speak the same language, we don’t really speak it from the same place. We are very different people, trying hard mostly, failing often, to communicate our needs to each other.
I have been practicing lately trying to step out of my paradigm, to loosen my long held beliefs about things, and open up to different ways of being. This is very hard, you’d be surprised just how many ideas, beliefs, judgements about things one person can have. Think about how you think things should be done, how people should act, what is proper and what is not – tons of beliefs. The practice of suspending them and being open to new ones is harder than it sounds, at least for me.
Why do it then? It opens you to new people and experiences, it creates more room for growth. As long as it feels right to you, in line with your values, it can be a very positive experience. It’s kind of like stretching, it allows you to do more, to be more, if that’s what you choose. It takes the pressure off, most of it self-imposed, which feels very good. The way things have always been done isn’t necessarily the only way, it just may be the most familiar and comfortable.
Trying to cling to the familiar and comfortable, when faced with a situation ripe with opportunities for growth and expansion, can cause stress and contraction, closing off. When we are closed off, we can’t see the possibilities, or the doors that are opening for us, if only we could walk through them.
I’ll be continuing to experiment with this, although it is getting a bit easier, I’m having to really watch my thoughts and question them. I have been very surprised at how many things I believe, just because that’s the way I thought it was supposed to be, never questioning them. Practicing expansion is very interesting, and sometimes very surprising. May as well embrace change, it’s not going to stop!