The Dance of Expansion and Contraction

flamenco dancer
Image by katmary

Initially, creating growth and change can be like stepping out onto a dance floor. We haven’t really started to dance yet, but we’re open to the opportunity and willing to consider trying. Then, as we start to move around, we can be faced with a variety of experiences: joy, happiness, fun, anxiety, fear, and stress. Comfort can turn to discomfort as we attempt to figure out the steps, surrender to the flow, and integrate the experience. Change – even when it’s something we desire, enjoy, and fully embrace – usually brings stress (a lovely form of dukkha) along as a dance partner.

Currently, I am in the midst of change. My dream is to effortlessly integrate change. Yeah, right, good luck with that one. I am a creature that is overly attached to comfort for sure! Even as I write this I am fending off a mosquito and creating stress and tension due to the impact of being bit. Now, I’m distracted wondering if I should move in an effort to be more “comfortable.” But, it’s too late anyway as I think I already got bit. And so it goes: A microcosm of the issue at hand as I dance between the joy of expanding and constricting due to discomfort.

As I attempt to integrate change, I have been noticing this dance as an ongoing performance. It can feel like swinging back and forth. What I think I want is to find balance and a middle way. This causes me to wonder: Is there really a balanced way to change? Or, is it more likely that – at least initially – the process of integrating change involves a dance between the old and the new? Especially, when it seems like the old and the new are discordant with one another.

Yep, there it is a nice big itchy welt. The irritant left, but the discomfort remains. Another reminder of how even when different states of being present to our awareness that seem conflicting, they can easily coexist.

It’s amusing to me. The process that I am going through while trying to write this is completely mirroring the dance that I’ve been doing. My attachment to comfort speaks out with doubts such as: How are you going to pull this off (whatever “this” is)? What makes you think that you can balance healthy life affirming choices with avoiding and distracting choices? Is there really a middle way?

In spite of all the confusion and bouncing around, I do get the point. As I move towards change, growth, and expanding my life and awareness, there is also an aspect of myself that seeks the comfort of the familiar. This can create a dance routine that bounces back and forth from one extreme to the other. However, I think that is being a bit heavy and overly dramatic. It can be too easy to frame things in black and white when we doubt our choices and coping mechanisms. In other words, when we judge ourselves and deem something as unhealthy that we “need” or “should” change.

In reality, my “extremes” aren’t really that excessive. I am trying to create balance with boundaries and not having to dive into the deep end and stay there. I can gently expand my world. I can allow for periods of adjustment and try to stay open to what is unfolding. Maybe that will mean less variance between expanding and constricting, but I doubt it. Because, I also know that underneath my attempts to seek comfort is an avoidance of discomfort. Ultimately, the goal is the same. I will continue to uproot my sources of discomfort as I feed and nurture my soul awareness.

© 2012 Sallie Odenthal

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