At the most fundamental level, great Self-Esteem is expansion and poor Self-Esteem is contraction.
I have asked thousands of clients what is happening in their bodies when they experience a ‘negative’ emotion and they all describe a contraction.
We contract against life so often that we mostly only notice it when it is severe.
Let me illustrate.
My partner Sue and got back from the most amazing holiday in Australia 10 days ago, seeing my brother and niece and nephew and sister in law and extended family for the first time in 10 years.
It was an awesome experience.
Getting back, I noticed how inspired and motivated I was feeling, anticipating the start of the working year, thinking about getting back to my desk, to get organized, to work with clients, doing what I love so much.
Beneath the inspiration, which is of course wonderful, I noticed a contraction in my body, an urgency, a pushing and clawing toward the future.
The contraction reflected a wanting to get everything perfectly settled, ordered and organized, perfectly on track.
This contraction was dragging me into stress and tension, drawing me out of the present moment.
I was jumping out of the now and into the future.
It was saying that “Where I am right now is not where I want to be.”
But I actually can’t escape what is here, now, very effectively.
I can do it ‘virtually’ in my mind, but I can’t get my body out of the now.
We can’t actually escape the now, we can only try to do so in our heads.
Which is why it’s so painful.
It’s not only painful, it drains our energy and I know a bit about energy, having wrestled with chronic fatigue for decades.
Just check for yourself. When you do this contraction into the future that hasn’t happened yet, how much it drains your energy.
The power of now, by Eckhard Tolle, is such a great title because you can only feel power in what is happening here now, you cannot exert your power over some event that hasn’t yet happened. Yes you can plan and intend strongly about it and that can be useful, but this kind of ‘intending’ is not the ruminative and desperate attempt to get the future sorted out in the present. It is creative, whereas our obsessive, desperate ruminations are destructive.
Most importantly, when we are trying to escape the now, there is no stillness or love inside of us.
I’ve never been a great fan of mindfulness training, as popular as it is.
It just never worked for me.
I have created another method.
Notice right now, how much you are drawn toward the next thing to be done. Your mind will be ruminating about your ‘to do’ list, emails, someone to call, a deadline looming.
Just feel the contraction into the future, in your body.
Really own it, open to it, welcome it, merge with this contraction.
Feel the energy of it in your body. It is in every cell of your being.
When you do so you will be connecting, very deeply, with precisely what is happening…now!
In doing so the impulse to jump into the future will dissolve spontaneously and you will be on the path to moving from contraction to expansion, stillness, power and love.
Most people do this process once or twice and think that’s enough.
Would you go to the gym once or twice and think that it would make you fit?
As you engage the process you will notice your energy start to shift. You will feel yourself dropping into stillness, becoming more energized. Now doesn’t have to be ‘good.’
In fact it might be painful.
Pleasure and pain run through this body endlessly throughout our lives.
Let’s look at this in more detail.
You are sitting having breakfast. That is what is happening in the now. Putting food in your mouth is the now, but your mind is already at your desk writing emails doing something else, talking to people, sitting in meetings and your mind is trying to get your body there, but it can’t and that is partly why the contraction is so painful.
This is how most of us live.
Just feel the contraction in your body and in your mind trying to escape the present and failing to do so, only being half here, or not here at all, just feel it and watch the contraction soften and transform into a powerful, still Presence.
You can also feel the contraction for a while and then let it go, but don’t expect it to be gone for good. Mostly we need to do it over and over and over again.
You are at your PC.
You are typing.
Feel the energy in your fingers trying to get to the next sentence, to the end of the paragraph, to the next email, to the end of all the emails in your Inbox and see if something new and different starts to happen?
What you will start to feel is that the tension in the fingers and in the mind, trying to get into the future, starts to soften. The now becomes a place of less tension and more Presence.
I remember discussing the meaning of life with a friend some years ago. He said that meaning was, “What’s the next thing to do?” He was right in that this is how we mostly live, lost in a virtual world, not in our bodies, contracted into the future, jumping out of the now.
We think our lives will be better if we can just get to the next thing.
We are kidding ourselves, lying to ourselves.
You cannot really escape the present. You can just feel awful trying to do so!
We even do this when we feel good.
In my wonderful time in Australia, as the end of the holiday approached, I didn’t want it to end. I was contracting into a future where I would have to go home.
In that moment, the joy of being there was gone!
Ironic isn’t it?
Again I say to you, at its deepest level, great Self-Esteem is expansion. Opening out into the world, into life.
Poor Self-Esteem is a contraction away from life, into anxiety and depression and avoidance of the pain and challenges of life.
This is a method for embracing life.
We all have a tendency to run from pain. One of the easiest ways to do this is to go into our heads – to dissociate – and jump into a future, to a time where the pain is gone.
My dear friend Barbara Kuppers who trained me in TRE (The stress and trauma release process) showed me that dissociation isn’t only something that we do when we are traumatized. It is a daily occurrence to escape what is happening right here, right now. We all do it.
Most of us long for wholeness, oneness, which is one of the reasons why we want a deeply fulfilling intimate relationship. What we don’t notice is how the resistance to the contractions in our body are creating division within!
So, I invite you to stay with the pain and the contraction into a future where it is all sorted out!
It is really important to note that all of our ruminative thoughts are a contraction into the future and the past because thought is not an experience. It’s a commentary on the now, once removed from it. This is one of the reasons why I think mindfulness training doesn’t work for many people. It is using the mind to bring you into the now.
The mind cannot ‘do’ the now.
Excitement is an addiction in Western culture. People get really upset if I say I am not excited about some wonderful upcoming event. I still do get excited at times, I haven’t evolved beyond it yet, but I’m working on it.
Excitement is escaping the now into someplace in the future that feels wonderful but in the long term it is deeply distressing because you are simply training yourself to keep looking forward to something that is better than where you are now.
It is deepening your resistance to the now and that is suffering – although in the short term it feels great…which is why we keep doing it.
Pain In The Past And The Present
This process is not only usable around the future.
Our past is alive, not only in the virtual world of thought, but in our bodies. We experience guilt and shame and pain and hurt and trauma from the past.
The mind thinks about it and the body contracts around it.
Sometimes the body just contracts without us even having to think anything. The contraction is living, ongoing in the body.
You can just feel the contraction in the body around a past issue and keep feeling it and you can then also begin to let it go. But mostly you have to do it over and over again, unless it’s a specific trauma and then you can do a level 1 BWRT (Brainworking Recursive Therapy) process on it, which can often completely release it.
You can also use this process in the present. Someone threatens or hurts or irritates you. Just feel the contraction in the same way. You might be surprised at what you do and say differently that comes out of this space.
Boredom is very painful and we try to escape the thing making us feel bored, which means we are contracting against the contraction of boredom.
Just dive down, deeply into the experience of being bored and let go of trying to fix it, just for now, just for 10 minutes.
Merge with it.
Be one with it.
Feel it in your gut and watch the stillness emerge.
Every single moment of contraction is available to be healed into expansion and stillness.
Someone irritates you. Your focus is on changing them. Turn it around and transform the contraction in you.
Do the same when they hurt you, disrespect you, ignore you, lie to you, try to manipulate and control you.
Any time of the day, just sitting waiting for the next thing, notice the contraction in your body and merge with it.
When the war and disease and famine and violence in the world upset you, heal the contraction in your body about all of this. Most of us want peace on the planet, but if you can’t find it on the inside, what hope is there in finding it on the outside?
I would venture to say that until a significant number of people, maybe 100 million or more – who knows – can find it on the inside, I don’t think too much will change on the outside. Maybe we need just 10 or 15 great world leaders to help get us there.
Why This Works
It is really interesting to ask the question, “Why does merging with the contraction lead to expansion and stillness?”
When you cut your finger chopping vegetables, maybe you put some antiseptic on it and a plaster and then you forget about it. You trust that your immune system knows how to heal your body.
You don’t go around all day, saying, “Immune system, kill the bacteria, create a scab, heal this wound, heal the skin!!!”
In a similar way I have noticed that if we set up the right conditions, our emotional wounds can heal in the same way. I call this the Psyche’s Immune System.
Merging with the contraction spontaneously enables a healing expansion to happen.
When I do this with clients they are often amazed at how simple the process is. Of course they don’t want to keep working at it, but that’s just a fantasy around instant healing.
You’ve contracted a gazillion times, maybe doing this a few thousand times is what is required for deep healing.
I’m totally committed to that.
There is another, rather counter-intuitive and paradoxical way of looking at this issue.
Everyone wants to feel better, happier. Trying to do so often leads to a contraction in the body, which we then resist because it’s painful, which makes us feel worse.
Wanting happiness can create pain.
I suggest that just for now, let go of wanting to feel better by embracing the contracted pain, to discover that happiness reveals itself to you.
Don’t expect it to work every time.
Nothing works every time.
If you want a face to face or Skype session about any of this, drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org