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After Any Expansion There Is a Very Natural Contraction

I love the ocean – just catching a glimpse seems to reorganize everything inside me that has gotten so out of place. This includes my sense of expansion and contraction. As I watch the waves go in, and out, and in, and out, all seems temporarily right with the world once more.

When I heard my yoga teacher, Adriene, say this in our class this morning, I thought, “Well, that certainly explains it!”

It was like I was hearing this for the very first time. And I can guarantee you that in 47 and nearly three-quarters years to date, this definitely isn’t the first time I’ve heard it.

But perhaps it is the first time I’ve really listened. Adriene likened this to how the whole body, lungs, ribcage, chest expands when we draw breath in, and then as naturally contracts as we let our breath go out again.

Expansion, contraction. Expansion, contraction. Expansion, contraction.

As I pondered this more, I began to suspect something in my perception is off….very off. If every expansion is naturally followed by a contraction, then every contraction should be naturally followed by an expansion. Yet it doesn’t feel like this, often or hardly ever in my life.

If I had to describe how an average day feels to me, it would go something like this:

Expansion, contraction, contraction, contraction. Expansioncontraction, contraction, contraction, contraction, contraction, contraction. Expansion, contraction. Expansioncontraction, contraction, contraction, contraction, contraction, contraction, contraction, contraction, contraction.

You get the picture.

So what’s up? Is my perception just off? Or am I the exception to natural biochemical law? Am I just doing something way bad and wrong that is causing all these extra (alleged) contractions? Do I maybe not know enough to recognize expansion in a contracting disguise, so I am mis-labeling the two? 

I really have no idea. But I suspect it is option A. I think perhaps what may be happening is that one BIG expansion equals many small contractions. And since I have a pronounced preference for expansion over contraction, each of those small contractions feels BIG to me.

Visually, I’m getting a picture of a very BIG piece of tasty cheese with a lot of very small mousies scurrying around it, nibbling, nibbling, nibbling.

It is important for me to figure this out, because I do spend so much of the average day feeling contracted. And by contracted, I mean worried, sad, scared, anxious, self-doubting, self-judging, discouraged, wiped out, just exhausted, really.

I have moments of spontaneous smiles, moments of quiet calm, moments of nothing at all really, which is usually when I’m working away on a client article and get so focused on the research and the topic that my mind forgets to give me updates on the state of my personal union, so to speak.

There is also an outside chance that it just takes that much more effort to produce expansion to where I actually notice it. Perhaps some of those small contractions are really tiny expansions that don’t have sufficient oomph behind them to register on my “expansion meter.”

I don’t know. But when I go through periods (which are sometimes more like whole years strung together) where I feel much more contracted than expanded, chomping at the bit to live a more extraordinary or meaningful or simply different life than the one I happen to be living, the moments of BIG expansion stick out like a rainbow in the midst of a hurricane.

All I know, emerging for a brief millisecond of relief from all that contraction, is that I want more. More expansion. More BIG. More breath, more adventure, more sigh of relief, more “I made it!” and less “are we there yet?”

So clearly I’m not much on the “finding joy in the journey” movement, although I aspire to be. I know that stringing together a series of destinations is not realistic. It is also not much of a way to live a life, since destinations take time, and work, and effort, and investment, and that takes journeying, and so it makes sense there will be more journeying than arriving in the average lifetime.

The only way thus far I’ve been able to connect to a sense of equality between my expansions and contractions is to focus my attention on my breath. In. Out. [Expansion: check. Contraction: check.]

So for now, it seems I must comfort myself in the reminder that sometimes the simplest explanation really is the right one.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you feel like there is equality between expansion and contraction in your life? Or do you, like me, have a perception that your life is heavily weighted towards one or the other? Why do you think that might be? I’d love to hear your insights!

After Any Expansion There Is a Very Natural Contraction

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2018). After Any Expansion There Is a Very Natural Contraction. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Sep 2018
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