Finding peace within the expansion and contraction

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” ~ Rumi

Embracing all the colours, all the flavours, all the delicious variety of life means also recognising that both expansion AND contraction are important and healthy parts of being human.

I spent the most incredible weekend guiding a group of women on a 3 day Cacao Yin retreat. Together we journeyed into what it felt like to come home to ourselves, to feel safe and connected, to show up in our truth and share with each other. It was powerful, deep, joyful at times and incredibly touching to watch these beautiful women dare to bump up against their edges, gently, with compassion, with love for themselves and each other and to soften into the tender places in their wombs and hearts.

After a weekend like this, immersed in nature and flying high with the sweetness of ceremonial cacao I should feel amazing yes? Well actually when I arrived home I was tired and tender. In amongst the sweetness, the resting and the nurturing a lot of energy moved, a lot of tender places were touched, a lot of edges massaged and a lot of wounds given space to heal. It’s not so crazy then to understand space around this process might be needed to allow full integration.

We all process and integrate differently and some need more time for the body to catch up. I’m one of these people. After periods of real transformation I really value a little bit of time alone to let the wisdom of the experience anchor into my body and beliefs.

For me this is when the real work begins…we all love to have the big bang, high of a retreat experience (it was wisely pointed out to me last year that I’d become a bit of an experience junkie so trust me I do know how great these highs are). But after the retreat finishes what happens now? After the expansion – what then?

Can I integrate the insights and wisdom that come through during retreat?

Can I rest in this new moment where nothing is happening and not start grasping for the next step?

Can I trust the things that fall away, fall away for a reason?

And what happens when the next contraction comes?

Can I accept not only the expansive high joyful part of me but also the parts I deem to be slightly less than shiny – the contracted, tired, tender and a little raw?

Hence the purpose of this blog post 🙂 For me retreats are an opportunity to let the daily routines fall away and offer a little space for the magic, the mystical and the intuitive to be deeply felt and embodied. It’s an invitation to peel back another layer of an old outdated mask and when we no longer have the mask to hide behind it can feel vulnerable. Without vulnerability true intimacy is never possible and without intimacy there is no real connection so vulnerability for me is a sign I’m growing and living life fully.

There’s no magic pill, no one path suits all solution to unravelling years (or lifetimes) of tension, over-thinking, self judgement, low self worth or whatever it is that you’ve been holding against yourself. But for me the real magic seems to unveil when I can let feelings just be feelings. To watch them as sensations in the body moving through. They come they go, expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction – just like the breath, let them come, let them go. Can we drop the judgement, drop the expectation, drop the labelling of right and wrong and let the feelings just be feeling.

Tiredness is just tiredness, grief is just grief, tenderness is just tenderness – they’re not a sign I’ve done something wrong. They’re not a sign that you’ve done something wrong. Can you receive their gifts as readily as you receive laughter and joy? How can we exercise this muscle of expansion (physically, mentally, emotionally and in consciousness) if there were no contraction to begin with?

Could it really be as simple as Being gentle. Being kind. Just BEing.

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