While it's tempting to turn inward during stressful times, expansion is what helps you grow and transform. Here are 12 ways to open yourself up when it's most important.
“The basic function of each being is expanding and contracting. Expanded beings are permeative; contracted beings are dense and impermeative.” -Thaddeus Golas, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment
Life is a dynamic experience. At times it may feel like your life is static and fixed, but the bigger picture shows that you are actually in a state of perpetual flux. Bodies come and go, as do emotions, moods, perceptions, and personalities. Sometimes a situation or change helps you expand and grow, other times it might lead you to contract and withdraw.
While this expansion and contraction is a natural part of life, people tend to rely on contraction during stressful times. Contraction is like a default coping mechanism. Under the stress of change or upheaval it’s easier to fold into yourself. Despite this habitual tendency to contract, expansion holds the most promise for growth, transformation, and happiness.
Consider that an expanded being would generally be more inclusive, more encompassing and spacious, able to fill up the world with the biggest and best version of himself or herself. On the other hand, a contracted being would be tight, constricted, and compressed into a solid, dense, and immovable core. An expanded being is like a wave, spreading out across time and space. A contracted being resembles a particle—stationary and fixed in one location at a given time.
Think of this in terms of a star. A healthy star, such as the sun, shines and radiates heat and light. It sends out expansive waves of energy in all directions. No planet or interstellar object is refused the sun’s touch—it shines on everything. However, when a star nears the end of its life, it begins to run out of fuel and shrinks until it collapses in upon itself. Crushed by its own gravity, it becomes so incredibly dense and heavy that it literally snuffs out its own light. We are each like that star, either choosing to shine out expansively into the world, or shrink and contract into our own overwhelming density.
How then do you let your light shine out? How do you become more expansive? These 12 tips can help.
- Ask yourself, “Am I expanding or contracting in this situation?” Simply bringing awareness to your situation will help you become more conscious of which state you’re leaning toward at any given moment. In that awareness comes the potential for change to a more expanded state.
- Refuse to complain, gripe, gossip, or air grievances. These behaviors are heavy, sluggish, and constrictive. They lead to judgment and condemnation which further serves to isolate you and collapse your awareness into a tightly closed shell.
- Be a smile millionaire. This is a simple and enjoyable way to expand your awareness and shine happiness out into the world. The act of smiling is a physical expression of expanding as you radiate a contagious wave of joy into the world.
- Breathe and move. When you remain still for too long your physical and mental energy becomes stagnant. However, when you get up and move and breathe deeply, you expand your lungs and fill your environment. Sitting still creates inertia that makes you feel constricted, so get up and move.
- Subjugate the ego. Of all the layers of life, the ego is the most constricted. It strives to feel separate and superior to others and will preserve its sense of self-importance at all costs. Stepping out of your ego is a significantly expansive move. Take your ego by the hand, escort it to the corner and politely say, “Sit down and shut up; we’re expanding right now.” You can always come back to get it later—it will be there for you.
- See the divine in others. Recognize that all living things are an expression of the same unified field of consciousness and worthy of your respect and love. Traditionally in India this realization was expressed through the Sanskrit salutation Namaste, which means I honor the divinity in you that is the same as the divinity in me; we are one. Silently repeat Namaste whenever your eyes meet the eyes of another and remember that at the level of spirit, we are one.
- Let go of attachments and embrace the unknown. Attachment is based upon fear and insecurity, two extremely contracted emotional states. Detachment on the other hand, embraces uncertainty and leads to expansion. Step into the unknown, let go of your preconceived notions, try something new. All of these will help you grow into a bigger, more expanded, and all-embracing person.
- Consciously radiate peace and compassion into the world. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, there is a meditation practice known as Tonglen in which one visualizes absorbing the pain or suffering of another and transforms that into peace, love, and compassion that is then radiated back out into the world. You too can imagine radiating light, peace, and compassion to everyone in your immediate surroundings. Visualize peace as it glows through every inch of your environment and expands out to the furthest reaches of space.
- Ask yourself, “How can I help?” This question epitomizes the internal dialogue of the spirit. It coaxes and expands your awareness out toward the service and care of others and away from the limited and narrowly focused ego-consciousness. Recognize that part of the reason you are here is to support others.
- Appreciate everything. Gratitude is another expansive emotion that lets you welcome everything into your experience as a tool for growth or as a stepping-stone for something better. When you appreciate all that comes to you, you open yourself up from a more closed state of being.
- Try this daily mantra:I am not in my mind, my mind is in me; I am not in my body, my body is in me; I am not in the world, the world is in me. This passage can serve as your anchor and commitment to a more expanded state of being. It is a reminder of who you really are beyond the illusion of separate material existence. Repeat these words and feel yourself expanding out in all directions to infinity.
- Accept and love as much as you can—love everyone and everything. The sun doesn’t withhold its light or heat from anyone or anything within its reach. In the same way, willingly love and accept as much of what comes into your experience as you can, yourself included. The more loving and accepting you become, the more expanded you will be. Good or bad, love it all. Perhaps there are some things that you can’t imagine loving right now. Imagine what it would feel like if you could love that thing or person? With this simple exercise you can expand beyond the limits you’ve placed on your ability to love.
Whenever you feel heavy, dense, and contracted, try theses simple steps to turn outward. Hopefully, they will help you on your path to a more expanded state of being.