Bass Coast was my first music festival and the possibilities were exhilarating. The venue was spectacular (imagine: campsites nestled in the Squamish mountains at the foot of a sweeping, glacier-fed river), the stages were stunning, lineups were killer, and the festival folk were both open-heartedly friendly and wildly costumed.
We danced, we frolicked, and we stayed up much too late under a banquet of stars. It was glorious.
But the bubble of possibility cannot expand infinitely. As the vendors packed up and the stages were dismantled, everyone slowly realized that their three-day adventure was over. Reluctantly and painfully, the starry-eyed (now bleary-eyed) hippie ravers began to pack up their camps and stagger home. In the light of the third day, everyone was haggard, dusty, and wrung out.
What ensued: exhaustion, depression, deflation.
The highs must lead to the lows. Expansion always leads to contraction.
Spanda is the essential and divine vibration of the Universe. What expands, must contract. Which then expands again. This ongoing vibration is intrinsic to everything we experience: the turning of the globe, the seasons, the tides, your breath, your heartbeat. Big Bang. String Theory.
I love hanging out in expansion. After all, expansion seems to be where the party is: it embodies possibility, limitless potential, and creative expression. When the circle starts to collapse in, I want to avoid the discomfort and sadness of reality and resist “coming back to earth” or “getting real.” Some part of me is afraid that if I go to that smaller place, I will be stuck there forever. Oh no! But it is precisely this capacity for coming back to the center that allows for a fresh rebound into possibility.
Filling our cup
Rather than run from this discomfort, can we accept that contraction – in whatever form it may take (disappointment, rebound, loss, sorrow, envy, sadness) – is the fuel for the expansion trampoline?
While we have a natural tendency to prefer life’s sweeter pleasures, being human means having the opportunity to experience the entire spectrum of sensation, emotion, and psychology. When we acknowledge that life’s darker tones are just as intrinsic to fully lived experience, the texture of contraction becomes as potent, rich, and satisfying as the exultation of expansion.
Relationships and Spanda
Dating (even more than music festivals) is a virtuosic yoyo of spanda experience. Through its heady up’s and down’s, we constantly vibrate betwixt the polarities of possibility and disappointment:
- The anticipation of the first date! And…we’re splitting the bill?
- His linked in profile looks awesome! Oh my GOD, he can totally see that I just checked him out.
- He texted!! Wait…now he’s not texting.
- The amazing first sleep over! Then, not being called the next day…or the next…or the next…..
These bounces tend to be pretty frenetic in the early dating days, as our ego relentlessly tries to stay on top of the up’s and down’s of our hormonally charged emotional roller coaster. But relationship spanda remains potent as the partnership continues:
- A glorious three-month anniversary! Then having the first real fight. Seeing something ugly.
- The intensity and comfort of earned intimacy. Using that intimacy to push each others’ buttons.
- Seeing the darkness in our beloved. Cherishing them anyway.
Relationships are constantly changing. Rather than resisting the difficult moments, accepting these challenges is an opportunity to stay present honestly and with integrity. Like the seasons, relationships bud, blossom, wither, transform. Accepting that death is a part of the cycle allows us to resolutely (and finally, please!) dismiss the common fantasy that relationships should be conflict-free, challenge-free, and easy and instead lets us open to the dance that unfolds when intimacy occurs.
How do we keep our cool on spanda’s trampoline?
In the space between expansion and contraction, there is a stillness.
- Find a comfortable seat.
- Bring your attention to your breath.
- Settle in the pause between the inhalation and the exhalation, and rest there briefly.
- Do this for 5 breath cycles.
Did you experience the quiet moment of the in-between? Did you find yourself wanting to rush into the next breath or quitting early (are you a spanda-junkie?) When we rest in this stillness, we practice rooting ourselves down into the quieter layer of our being beneath the heady waves of spanda. Imagine the ocean: even as the boat bobs on the surface, the hefty drag of the anchor in the deep water keeps the boat stable.
When we can tether part of our consciousness to this stillness, then we can surf the waves of expansion and contraction with more perspective and freedom. We can relish the high of the music festival or the “honeymoon” phase of our relationship – even while knowing that they will end. In fact, we will enjoy them more. And we can dare to fully experience the darker shades of sorrow, disappointment, and emptiness – because we can trust that these colors will eventually shift.
- What change are you now resisting?
- What are you holding now that you need to let go of?
- What keeps you steady and “in yourself” when you’re at the edge of your experience?
- Can you enjoy all the sensations of this moment right now? And now? And now?
On Joy and Sorrow
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.