This post was originally published on the New Day Herald website in March of 2010.
Question: How can I move out of contraction and into joy?
John Morton: Let’s look at the idea of contraction, which some call “taking,” versus the idea of expansion, which some call “giving.” There are certain things that involve both expanding and contracting, such as breathing and heart beats, both of which are essential to life. However, sometimes we put a negative interpretation on the idea of contracting or taking, instead of understanding that contraction is a natural part of life.
When we understand that contracting is natural, we have the opportunity to cooperate and find out how we work with it so that when we have to contract, we really do that. Those of you who have been through childbirth know all about that way of contracting. There’s a point at which you must contract even if it hurts, because there’s a purpose in the contraction. And since it’s going to hurt anyway, you might as well cooperate with the process. While we go through a painful contraction, we have the opportunity to learn greater patience and endurance.
When we cooperate, we may still experience hurt because that’s a natural process in this world. Although there are ways we can manage to spare ourself hurt at times, it’s not likely we’ll never be hurt again. So I embrace hurt as an idea, similar to contraction, where I know it doesn’t feel good but I accept it as a natural part of life.
In trying to avoid hurt, some people move into a default position and say, “Well, I’ll just do nothing. I’ll avoid the pain. I won’t participate. I’ll just take my marbles and sit at home.” But the reality is that life moves. So we really don’t have an option to not be involved in the movement of life. We all will participate. So how are you going to participate?
If you want to participate by kicking and screaming, fighting, cussing, moaning, groaning, those are options for you. I find that sometimes I can’t help doing that. It’s as if there’s a moan inside that I didn’t consciously know I had. Then something comes along that I don’t like, and the moan gets expressed. It’s important to find usefulness in the way we respond, even if it is a moan. Sometimes that means something needed to be cleared or cleansed. So I look to the blessing in that expression.
A good way to approach things is to come into enjoyment with whatever is, even if it’s a concentration camp. There were a few people—and it only takes one—who demonstrated you can actually thrive in a concentration camp and come out of it with an amazing life. Some people experience life as if they are in a concentration camp now. They feel imprisoned and controlled by outside forces that don’t really have their best interests in mind. I suggest they approach their life with gratitude for what they do have, that right now they’re not in a concentration camp.
There’s a Gary Larson cartoon that’s one of my all-time favorites. The scene is “hell,” and there are characters with pitchforks, tails with arrows on the end of them, and horns. Two “devils” are looking down at people going every which way, pushing heavy-laden, burdensome wheelbarrows. Everybody’s got a dour look on their face except one guy who is whistling to himself. So one devil says to the other devil, “That guy’s just not getting it.”
What if you’ve lost your enthusiasm and don’t feel like “whistling in hell”? I learned a method from Ms Leigh that works really well. When Leigh runs into something like this, she’ll say to herself with an inner smile and a playfully sad, pathetic tone, “Poor Leigh, poor Leigh,” and something just shifts inside for her. Her acknowledgment of that experience sets that energy free.
I’m sometimes amazed how just some acknowledgment can really work to lift and be available for better experiences, even when the acknowledgement is towards the negative. By acknowledging it, something happens that turns around the energy. It’s in the MSIA teachings that acknowledgment is our friend. So don’t avoid acknowledging how you feel. Don’t move into denial or shoulds. Don’t say to yourself, “I shouldn’t be feeling like this” when you are. If you’re saying, “I feel so lousy or I feel like it’s no use”. That doesn’t help. Start looking towards what would help.
Remember, out of God comes all things. So if God permits it, at some level it is part of perfection even if it’s perfect learning. And sometimes we may not consciously “get it” that it’s perfect. Those guys who are standing there with horns and tails and looking at the guy whistling also don’t consciously get it. They think there’s something wrong with the guy whistling. So if something is bothering you, take a look at it. Maybe it’s an attitude shift and just saying, “Oh, poor me,” can help move you such that energy is released and you move into more joy and peace.
For example, at a memorial service where everybody is sobbing and weeping and sad and missing their dearly departed, you might choose to dance. You might celebrate rather than be morbid. Just because some people might think it’s disrespectful, we can still choose to have a relationship with our dearly departed through appreciation of their life. We can see their being more with God is cause for celebration.
You can always redirect yourself to the joy, no matter what’s going on in your life. You might say, “Hey, I just got a raise. I’m dancing.” You could also say, “Hey, I just got fired. I’m dancing.”
Why not? Why make getting fired mean that you have to have a contraction or a conniption fit? Why assume that your life has to convulse and shut down such that you mourn for the next six months? Who assigned that to you?
If you assign to yourself that you’re going to be happy and joyful, then take advantage of those moments that say, “Let’s dance!” It might be, “Well, the only place I’m getting that message is from inside myself. There’s no music out here. People are sobbing and weeping, but my inner conductor is saying, ‘Let’s dance.’”
Stay on track with your joy. When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself, “What’s on my dance card today?” When you identify with the I Am — with God as your source — you are dancing in jubilation and Light.