Expansion: making room for your feelings
Updated: Jan 8, 2021
Converse to popular belief, uncomfortable feelings are more likely to pass when we pay them some attention, but your Thinking mind may well try to distract you with more thoughts and judgements, and even tell you not to let the feeling in at all! Just notice that happening and allow the thoughts to pass, as though you (the Observer) are sitting on a river bank and the thoughts are flowing past, downriver. Once you have allowed the feeling from the Observer state you can use the 4 steps of Expansion to work with it:
Step 1: Observe the sensations in your body: Scan yourself from head to toe. Can you find a location for the feeling in your body and then focus your attention on that place. Observe it with curiosity. What shape does it have? What colour could it be? Where is it most intense? Where is it weakest? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? Warm or cool? Get to know it in this moment.
Step 2: Breathe into and around the feeling: Begin with a few slow and deep breaths, fully emptying your lungs as you breathe out. As you breathe in imagine your breath flowing into the feeling and all around it.
Step 3: Create space around the sensation: Expanding the space around the sensations, give it plenty of room to move - imagine breathing into that space, letting your breath fill the space like a balloon fills with air, expanding and growing it, opening it up like a bloom.
Step 4: Allow the feeling to be there: However uncomfortable the feeling might be, just let it be there in this expanded space. If you’re Thinking mind starts commentating on what’s happening, notice those thoughts and then return to observing with the Observer mind that noticed the thoughts. If its uncomfortable and you want to push the feeling away, notice that urge, then bring your attention back to the feeling itself.
We are not trying to get rid of the sensation or alter it, that is not the goal. The goal is to make peace with it, to let it be even if you don’t like it or want it. The magic is that this acceptance tends to dissolve things so that the feeling no longer overpowers you int he way it once did: it may arise still, but it no longer has the same hold over you.
You can end this practise at any time, in any way you like. It may be helpful to acknowledge to yourself the courage it took to sit with the feeling, or offer gratitude in some way that feels comfortable to you for all of the conditions that came together that made it possible for you to do this exercise today. What a gift you gave yourself in taking the time to sit with the discomfort.
If you wish, you can scan your body again for another feeling that you want to work with, or repeat the steps with the same feeling and observe how it is different this time. Over time you will likely notice a sense of peace and acceptance of the feeling that you have worked with. I wonder what it would be like to try it with a warm, comfortable and affirming feeling too - could you expand feelings of joy and delight in the same way?