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Working with Contraction, Expansion and What Doesn't Move

Updated: Mar 13

This post is excerpted from Leilani's email newsletter to the community. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter to hear from us in your inbox twice a month. We share current reflections, fun and intriguing things we've come across recently, announce events and courses, and talk integration, harm reduction, healing, growth, and spiritual development.


Sylas and I met studying Chinese Medicine and martial arts. That mental and physical immersion in the study of yin and yang still shows up now, in the way we talk about the transformational journey in terms of expansion and contraction.


I’ve been back in these familiar - yet ever fresh - studies this month, thanks to the obligation to complete continuing education credits for my acupuncture license. I’d like to share something that resonated with me, in case it strikes something in you.




This image shows yin and yang in their "Post-Heaven" relationship. This is the relationship they have on Earth, where yang descends and yin rises, which allows for life.


The study of Chinese Medicine begins with the study of yin and yang. We learn that everything is expanding and contracting - our breath, the seasons, the cycle of birth-growth-maturation-decline-death. We learn to see the human body in terms of up and down, inside and outside, hot and cold, dry and damp, and a thousand other contrasting pairs and their infinite combinations. We learn that almost everything can be understood through the transformations of yin and yang.


Almost.


In the Chinese Medicine classic called the Nei Jing, we also read that there is something that “cannot be fathomed in the movements of yin and yang.”


This is called "Shen."


"Shen" is sometimes translated as "spirit" - but now, I’m enjoying the idea that ‘Shen’ and ‘spirit’ are both well-translated as, ‘that which cannot be fathomed in the movements of yin and yang.’


The Nei Jing continues: “The Shen that is without a particular direction in time space is called Sacred.”


When my teacher read this line, I felt that kind of resonance that can’t be put into words.


Perhaps you have had the experience, the feeling, the scent, the glimpse of something that doesn’t move. Something that is steady, in all directions, and no direction. Something that you would call sacred.


Perhaps you would like to contemplate those lines from the Nei Jing with me.


My most vivid feeling of contraction these days is the ache I feel in response to the extreme violence taking place in multiple places in our world. Talk about unfathomable - the suffering is beyond my capacity to imagine. I offer my attention, my witness, my presence and my breath, my prayer. I make calls, write letters, fundraise, have conversations, and listen deeply, to the capacity that I have.


I try not to personalize my grief, anger, fear, and numbness around these things too much. As Joanna Macy teaches us, we are cells in a larger body, and the pain we feel for our world is a reflection of our interconnection. In the same way, the urge we feel to relieve suffering, to prevent harm, to participate in peace, also arises from our interconnection. It is our impulse to participate in the self-healing of our living world, of which we are a part.


Still, the pain is real. The pain is a contraction.


I feel the way it contracts my body. Being present with the feeling, and being in community with my response, are the two most helpful ways I know to be with this in a way that’s healthy for me, and, I hope, helpful beyond myself. If your heart has at times been feeling heavy with the pain of our world, I hear you and I’m with you. We'll be tending to all this in our Work That Reconnects - Community Circles.


Oh - and laughter has been getting me through, too. Laughing is crucial. Grateful for our kids. Grateful for the comedians and technology that brought us a binge-able bounty of Ted Lasso episodes this month.


Thanks for reading! Ready to connect?




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