Befriending and awakening contractions: How it works

I am enjoying the befriend & awaken process these days.

It’s simple. Direct. Intimate. And supports healing, awakening, and embodiment.

I have written about this before, directly and indirectly, and thought I would revisit the topic here.

How does the befriend and awaken process work?

WHAT IS A CONTRACTION?

A contraction typically has several aspects. The mind aspect can be labeled a stressful and unexamined belief, an emotional issue, trauma, an unloved part of us, and so on. The physical component is a bodily contraction or tension. And this is reflected in blocks in our energy system as well.

BEFRIENDING A CONTRACTION

The process can be as simple or complex as I wish – depending on what seems needed.

I notice the signs of a contraction. The signs of a contraction may be stress, tension, unease, discomfort, struggle, defensiveness, reactivity, and so on.

I bring attention to the physical sensations. This helps ground the attention, and it serves as an anchor so it’s easier to notice the fearful images and words without getting caught up in them. If I notice my attention wandering, or getting caught in stressful images and words, I can bring attention back to the physical sensations of the contraction. (These may and usually will shift over time.)

I thank the contraction for protecting me. Thank you for protecting me. When I have a contraction, I may not be aware that it’s here to protect me. It was formed to protect this human self and an apparent separate self. Also, I may not be very thankful for the contraction. I may see it as a problem.

Thanking it makes me more receptive to seeing if or that it’s here to protect me. Over time, as I befriend and get to know the contraction, I may find genuine gratitude for the contraction. This easier my relationship with it. I find more peace with it. I shift out of my previous struggle with it.

Also, noticing it as a contraction, noticing the physical components of it, and thanking it, helps me see it as an object. It’s a part of my experience here and now. It’s not all of what I am. It’s an object, not a subject. This helps recognize it if or when it comes up later, and it helps release identification with it.

I keep thanking it until I notice a significant shift in how I relate to the contraction, and I can return to the thanking at any point within a session or at a later time. The more I do it, with sincerity, the more shifts tend to happen.

I allow it to get as big as it wants and stay for as long as it wants. Again, I am often in a struggle with the contraction, and this struggle can be more or less conscious. I may try to contain it. I may try to make it go away. And this struggle is part of what keeps the contraction here, and the struggle dynamic is itself uncomfortable. By intentionally allowing it to get as big as it wants and stay for as long as it wants, I go against this old pattern in me. It helps me recognize the old pattern, and that something else is possible. It also helps the contraction itself to unwind and relax.

I notice the space it’s happening within. I cannot find an end to this space. I notice the space and the contraction at the same time. (I may also notice that the contraction has space within it, and perhaps that it is space.) Noticing it as something happening within (and as) infinite space helps “giving it” more space. It helps in recognizing it as an object and disidentifying with it.

I welcome it. At any point in the process, I may intentionally welcome the contraction. Parts of me typically see the contraction as a problem, and it’s not always welcome. When I intentionally welcome it, it goes against this tendency, shows me there is another way, helps me recognize that parts of me do not welcome it, and helps the contraction itself to relax.

I say I love you to the contraction. The more I see it’s here to protect me and comes from love, the easier it is to find genuine love for it. Love is the antidote to the previous struggle with the contraction.

I explore what it wants and needs, and the lack it is coming from. What do you want and need? What sense of lack do you come from? How is it to give it what it needs and wants? How is it to give it what it perceives it lacks? Here, I may explore a few universal needs and lacks.

Typically, I may try to fulfill the needs and wants through the world – people, situations, roles, labels, and so on. That works to some extent, but it doesn’t really work. It never fills the real and deeper needs, wants, and sense of lack.

The only one who can resolve this deeply, and give the contraction what it really needs and wants, is me. I am the only one in the position to do it. I am the only one who can get intimate enough with it since it’s part of me. I am the only one who can touch it.

If external pieces fall into place, I sometimes allow myself to give to the contraction what it needs and wants. I may give it love, safety, support, and so on. This gives temporary relief, but as soon as my external situation changes my relationship to these contractions may change. I may cut off my own love, support, and so on.

So why not do it directly? Why not, as Byron Katie says, cut out the middleman? Why not give to the contraction what it needs without waiting for external situations to change?

I may notice stressful beliefs and examine them. Contractions are created from stressful and unexamined beliefs, so one remedy is to notice these stories and examine them. I may do this informally as part of this process, or I write them down and examine them more thoroughly later. (For instance, using The Work of Byron Katie.)

GENERAL ORIENTATIONS

I approach the contraction with respect. This helps me allow it as it is, welcome it, find curiosity about it, and so on.

I find curiosity about the contraction. Curiosity is part of the whole befriending and awakening process. As long as I react to or act on the contraction, there isn’t much curiosity about it. Intentionally finding curiosity about it shifts my relationship to it. It helps me recognize it as an object, and it helps me explore and get to know it.

I take my time. I stay with and rest with each of these steps. I notice shifts. I notice what else may be needed. I return to some to see what happens. I may return to the whole process at another time.

This is an antidote to the typical quickness of reacting to or acting on the contraction, and the tendency to wish to not stay with it since it may seem uncomfortable and unfamiliar.

Through this process, I may find genuine love for the contraction. I see it’s here to protect me. It comes from love. And this makes it easier for me to find genuine love for it.

I allow this process to transform me. I allow the noticing and resting in the noticing to transform whatever is naturally transformed.

NOTICING THE NATURE OF THE CONTRACTION

After this, I may explore the nature of the contraction.

First, I notice my own nature. I find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find myself as capacity for any content of experience, whether a thought may label it body, thoughts, emotions, the wider world, and so on. I notice I am what the content of my experience happens within and as. (If I need the help of some structured pointers, I can use Headless Experiments or the Big Mind process, or whatever else works.)

I notice how the contraction relates to what I am. I am capacity for it. It happens within and as what I am. I rest with this noticing.

I notice the contraction is, in a sense, capacity for itself. I invite the contraction to notice its own nature and rest in that noticing and allow whatever needs to shift to shift.

Typically, I may see the contraction as an object and a thing. This noticing process helps me recognize its nature, and it invites it to notice its own nature. It’s easier the more familiar I am with noticing my own nature, and it’s much more simple and direct than it may seem from these words.

This noticing helps shift how I relate to the contraction. I notice its nature. It’s part of the field noticing itself. (There is no I or Other inherent in any of it.)

THE BENEFITS OF NAMING IT CONTRACTION

There are several benefits to calling it a contraction rather than some of the other possible labels. (Issue, belief, trauma, etc.)

It’s simple.

It points to something immediate in our experience.

It’s free of the many associations the other labels may have for us.

It doesn’t require or rest on any particular worldview or ideology.

The process itself supports psychological healing, awakening, and living from this awakening, without needing to use any of those words.

SUPPORTS HEALING, AWAKENING, AND EMBODIMENT

This process supports and invites in healing, awakening, and living from the awakening. And it does so without us having to use any of those words or even having that intention or aim.

All that’s required is a wish to notice and befriend contractions, notice its nature, and rest in that noticing and allowing it to transform me.

Emotional issues come from a stressful belief, identification with painful and unexamined stories, unloved parts of us, and so on.

If there is no noticing of what I am, it comes from holding stories as true, which in turn creates a sense of I and Other and fundamental separation.

If I don’t live from noticing what I am, it’s because I get caught up in unresolved emotional issues, beliefs, trauma, and so on.

And this process supports healing of all of that.

SHIFT FROM SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS TO ONENESS

The essence of this process is a shift in how I relate to the contraction.

When I operate from separation consciousness, I identify with the contraction (act on it) or react to it or both, and this creates struggle.

The befriending & waking up process helps shift out of this old pattern and into one that’s more aligned with oneness. It mimicks how I would relate to the contraction from noticing oneness, and it makes it easier to notice the oneness of it all.

ESSENTIAL AND INTIMATE PROCESS

For me, this is a very intimate process, and it goes to essence a wide range of spiritual practices.

When I look at the essence of other spiritual or healing practices, I find it’s typically something included in this befriending & waking up process.

It’s often about finding love for our experience. Examine stressful beliefs. Welcome what’s here. Notice what we are and the nature of our experiences. And so on.

And that’s what this process does in a simple, direct, and intimate way.

It doesn’t mean the other practices are not helpful. It just means that I have a simple and direct way of exploring it, and I can supplement it with any number of other practices.

Note: As I have mentioned in other posts, I have relatively strong brain fog these days (CFS) so these articles are often not as clear or well organized as I would have liked. A part of me wants to rewrite this to make it more clear and to the point, and another part of me knows that’s likely not to happen. So I decided to publish this version instead, with all its warts and imperfections. As someone said, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Or, in this case, the good-enough.

OUTLINE – a better outline (!)

  • befriend & awaken: how it works
    • brief intro
      • befriend whatevere is here in content of experience + notice its nature
      • can make it broader, include the whole world as it appears to me
        • tonglen, ho’o, metta, prayer
        • how it appears in the sense fields
      • a simple approach, focus on contractions, body energies
        • a shortcut, may be easier, more grounded, anchor attention in sensations
    • energies vs contraction
      • energies – more broad, includes physical pain, hunger, thirst, sexual urges etc.
      • contraction – belief, identification, unloved, unexamined component
      • the two may be mixed
    • the steps
      • physical sensations
      • welcome, allow
      • need/want, lack
      • notice nature, invite to notice own nature
    • the orientations
      • welcome, allow, thank,
      • respect, patience
      • love
    • the benefits of calling it contraction
      • simple
      • less baggage, associations
      • more direct, can find here now in body
      • avoids a lot of philosophizing
    • supports healing, awakening, embodiment
      • healing
        • contractions = emotional issues, painful beliefs, trauma etc.
        • when soften, release, open, then invite in healing, part of the healing process
      • awakening
        • unawake = identified with viewpoint of thought, belief, etc.
        • contraction = same
        • so befriend etc. = inviting in awakening, makes it easier to notice what we are, makes it easier to notice the nature of any content of experience
      • living from awakening
        • when don’t, bc caught up in identifications, beliefs, wounds, issues, trauma etc.
        • healing = easier to live from the awakening in more situations + areas of life
    • ….

INITIAL DRAFT FRAGMENT

I explore what it wants and needs, and the lack it is coming from. What do you want and need? What sense of lack do you come from? How is it to give it what it needs and wants? How is it to give it what it perceives it lacks? Here, I may explore a few universal needs and lacks.

Typically, I may try to fulfill the needs and wants through the world – people, situations, roles, labels, and so on. That works to some extent, but it doesn’t really work. It never fills the real and deeper needs, wants, and sense of lack.

The only one who can resolve this deeply, and give the contraction what it really needs and wants, is me. I am the only one in the position to do it. I am the only one who can get intimate enough with it since it’s part of me. I am the only one who can touch it.

If external pieces fall into place, I sometimes allow myself to give to these parts what they need and want, and that gives temporary relief. I may give them love, safety, support, and so on. So why not do it directly? Why not, as Byron Katie says, cut out the middleman?

A FEW MORE WORDS ABOUT CONTRACTIONS

A contraction happens when we hold a thought as true. We identify with the viewpoint of the thought, this creates a sense of I and Other, and this – in itself – creates a contraction. It creates a sense of separate self that needs to be upheld, protected, defended, enrichened, and so on.

When we explore it through the sense fields, we may see that our mind creates a contraction through associating certain thoughts (mental images, words) with certain physical sensations. The physical sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts. And the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

It seems that the mind will create physical contractions to provide a reliable source of sensations to give a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts.

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