I consider one of the greatest gifts I offer here to be consciousness-raising: about fear and what it does in us, about trust and what it changes, about the grit and the grime and the wonder and beauty of the very real (that is, un-sugar-coated) process of learning to live beyond fear.
So when Julie Daley tweeted a Rumi quote last night, it distinctly caught my attention.
“Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings.”
I’ve been off kilter these last weeks, and have been noticing myself literally contracting – wanting to pull in, go silent, sleep curled in a ball. When I feel this way, it’s easy to assume this is how I’ll feel indefinitely.
But inevitably, as happened last night, the contraction reaches an apex and then shifts. Expansion begins. Trust reaches for light and then surfaces, and I find my body uncurling, the knots in my gut loosening, my arms softening and opening to embrace life’s good things again.
For all of us, this process happens constantly:
We breathe – expanding and contracting.
We engage in social/public life – expanding and contracting.
We create and share creations with the world – expanding and contracting.
We celebrate and grieve – expanding and contracting.
We feel bold and self-assured and, in turn, just as profoundly shy and insecure – again, expanding and contracting.
Ultimately, we move through trust and fear, expanding and contracting.
We expand and contract throughout our days, weeks, and years, circling back to contractions we thought we were done with, expanding in familiar, as well as new and unexpected ways.
And the more conscious presence we can bring to these processes, the less permanent our contractions will feel while we’re in them (even when they last a long time) – the more capable we become of watching for and recognizing the “beautiful balance and coordination” of our winding paths of growth, discovery, and healing.
If you’re afraid right now, contracting around life as a whole, or a specific piece of your experience with it, with my whole heart I hope your expansion comes soon. I wish you eyes to see when it begins and a heart open enough to receive, in the meantime, the help and comfort and courage you need.
P.S. Here’s that Rumi poem in full:
Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you are bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
(from The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne)