ENHANCING OUR CONNECTION TO OURSELVES DURING TIMES OF CONTRACTION
Life, with its cyclical rhythm, naturally takes us in and out of changing seasons. While it is easy to look forward to the blossoming of spring or to endlessly long and warm summer days, our culture all too seldom points towards the necessity in the shedding that occurs in autumn or the cold bareness of winter. All of life moves through seasons of contraction, withdrawing and resting to shed what is no longer needed, and seasons of expansion where new seeds are sewn, eventually growing into a new iteration of what was there before.
These seasons of change are not only natural and unavoidable but necessary. Although Western culture tends to present life in the form of linear progression, it is in fact, like most things in nature, a cyclical ebb and flow, a process of contraction and expansion.
Contractions are those uncomfortable, often painful, yet extremely productive inward movements that facilitate the change necessary for growth. They are inextricably intertwined with expansion and cannot be separate from one another; contraction is in fact a part of expansion.
The last years have brought with them an enormous amount of contracting. Between the social, economic, and political challenges we have all endured, many of us have also had to deal with personal tragedies, postponed hopes and dreams, and the deep sense of dis-ease that comes with prolonged uncertainty.
During times of contraction that challenge our ability to cope, when the ebbing forces that act upon our lives feel heavy and unpredictable, healing can often be found by turning our focus and energy toward supporting ourselves. Contractions call upon us to turn our attention inwards.
While I do not believe that taking ownership of the many burdens that lead people into contraction should be placed solely on the shoulders of individuals, I do believe that so often, our relationship to ourselves is the relationship most within our control to shape. Pushing for social change is essential for progress and needs to be at the centre of our efforts. However, in a world that we have little control over, our inner world is something we do have the ability to practice coming into ever deeper connection with. A strong allegiance with our mind, body and spirit can go far toward helping us through the toughest times, precisely when little else is within our control. And this work is necessary for helping to create wider changes in our world.
Practices of connecting to ourselves are many and varied and what ends up feeling helpful, healing and empowering is deeply individual. From the more familiar practices such as meditation and exercise to more personal or esoteric work like journaling, mysticism or body work of any kind (such as dance, massage, or practices of grounding) what matters is building up a toolkit that feels relevant and meaningful to us personally. This involves a lot of trial and error and most of all dedication.
The aim of these practices is not to transform what is challenging into something pleasant (thought this can indeed happen too) but to move extreme feelings that overwhelm us back within our window of tolerance. Feeling difficult feelings and going through difficult experiences can be both manageable and productive when we have tools at our disposal that help us not to become consumed by challenges. Effective tools can guide us into a place of feeling comfortable enough within the challenges we face so that we can mindfully make decisions on how to move forward from a place that aligns with our values rather than from a place of pure emotional reactivity.
Exploring the many ways to nurture a sense of safety and greater ease within our own bodies and minds gives us tools that can allow the tightness of contraction to loosen slightly. This loosening creates a sense of spaciousness from which we can act, feel, and make decisions more mindfully.
Take a moment to reflect on a time when you felt connected to yourself and grounded even as you faced difficulties and challenges. This felt, embodied sense of being anchored in safety and connected to ourselves, able to think clearly and make effective decisions in spite of challenges, is the aim of practices that connect us to ourselves.
An anchored sense of safety and connection with ourselves provides us with the life energy necessary to move through our time on earth with relative pleasure and meaning even when faced with challenges. It allows us to approach the activities of daily life from a place of openness and curiosity. A feeling of being anchored rather than overwhelmed enhances our connection with ourselves, others, and the wider world around us. It is the bedrock of well-being and can guide us through even the most challenging times. Not by transforming difficulties into something pleasant but by offering us a deeply felt and embodied sense of resilience that can transform the way we view our challenges.
Resilience comes from knowing that we have the tools to help ourselves to weather the inevitable contractions that await us all in life. Repeatedly fostering embodied experiences of comfort and safety can help to move us out of a state of overwhelm and into a place of connection. It is the difference between being flooded by our emotions and feeling difficult emotions within the realm of what feels tolerable to us. Embodied resilience allows us to weather contractions from a place of rooted connection to ourselves and our values and with a feeling of flexibility that offers us a choice in how we want to proceed. And this shift can make all the difference.
When we find ways of bringing our minds and bodies back into a sense of safety and connection, we give ourselves the power to look at life through a different lens and the power to shape our stories of both present and future in new and exciting ways. When the world around us feels chaotic and unpredictable, investing in a deeply grounded bond with ourselves can be a good place to start.
Feeling safe, comfortable, and connected to a stabilising force within ourselves, we can begin to approach our challenging experiences with more openness and interest. With this internal shift our paths become filled with possibilities where previously there were only closed doors.
The natural world is a physical place beautifully suited to fostering this deep connection to ourselves. For those of us who are lucky enough to have homes that are safe and comforting places of solace, our home can aid in this practice too. Our private living spaces can provide the environment needed to create moments of reflection and connection to ourselves. They can help us to explore and weave together a unique and rich tapestry of practices and actions that foster resilience and connection to ourselves and others. Discovering which practices feel relevant and right for us is a life’s work. But with dedication, as our relationship to ourselves begins to deepen, the inevitable contractions that are a part of life begin to feel less aversive and instead draw us in through the knowledge that they are the precursors that signal expansion.
Images above show our Handwoven Organic Cotton Towels in Ecru and Handwoven Striped Organic Cotton Towels in Ecru, Brass Water Mister, and several items from our upcoming Vintage and Collected collection (we will share more about this new collection in our next blog post).