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We reach to expand and then something happens next.

“You expand and then you meet your own resistance. In the human body and experience, as in nature, there is a continuous play between these forces. We reach to expand and are held back by constriction.”

—Betsy Polatin, Humanual, from Chapter One, (c) 2020

Of the various things I’ve read over the last while, this quote is one that has stayed with me. We reach to expand and then something happens next. What happens? Sometimes there is expansion. Sometimes the expansion stays for a while—maybe a long, long time—or maybe it’s briefer. And then something next happens. What happens next?

Sometimes there is constriction, resistance, something holding or pulling us back. There are reasons this happens, things perhaps to notice, be curious about, work with, explore.

Perhaps sometimes there is an oscillation—expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction. That oscillation is a rhythm that sustains life actually, at least some of the time. The way our lungs expand and contract is an example.

As September approaches—and the feeling that we are entering a transition time, moving toward the last weeks of one season and the first weeks of a next—I am wondering, curious, in the words of poet, David Whyte: “What shape waits in the seed of you to grow its branches against a future sky?” In what way(s) are you (and I and everyone) reaching to expand (or wanting to) and what is happening next?

If there is resistance, constriction, I might invite you to see if it feels helpful to remember the living lungs. They expand, meet restriction, and contract, and then they expand again. They take a deep, life-giving breath.

In what way(s) are you wanting to expand? What happens next?

And next?

And next?

Photo by Tracy Riley, 2020.


Reference Notes

I was reading Humanual as an e-book and am not sure at the time of writing this how to give the quote’s page number properly given the page numbers can vary depending on text size, page size etc.

The David Whyte quote is from his poem, “What to Remember When Waking”.