“Everything just fell apart.”
My client, whom I’ll call Fran, spoke quietly. She was describing a recent slowing down – it seemed like more of an unraveling – that was occurring in the fledgling business she’d started about 18 months ago. She wasn’t sure what to do and, even if she had been sure, she didn’t have the energy to move forward.
She felt lost. She felt exhausted.
But everything was not falling apart.
It was readying itself for the next wave of expansion. It was evolving.
Life in this endlessly creative, energy-based Universe is all about growth, change and evolution. Life is a creative process. Although we often impose linear, goal-oriented processes and timelines on our human endeavors, Life itself is circular, cyclical and organic. Growth occurs in phases that are governed by the way energy operates, which is in waves or pulses.
This creative Life pulse has four distinct, recurring phases: stasis, expansion, stasis, contraction. This is reflected in the rhythm of our breath, the ebb and flow of the ocean and the changing seasons of nature. It can also be recognized in the experience of a creative project, which originates in the stillness as an idea (stasis), moves outward through action (expansion), pauses at completion for acknowledgment and celebration (stasis), then is followed by a period of reflection on, and integration of, all that was learned in the expansion phase (contraction). Before the next creative wave begins, there is a new period of stasis during which we connect deeply with ourselves in order to rest, to honor what we’ve learned, and to listen inward for the whispers of the next round of expansion.
Or at least, that’s how it goes when we move with the pulse of Life. When we don’t – when the Life pulse is not recognized or understood – we expect things to progress in a predictable, linear way, and we get frustrated when they don’t. We criticize ourselves when we aren’t being “productive.” We worry that things aren’t moving forward according to plan.
As we introduce fear and judgment into the creative process – for example, fear of not finishing soon enough or judgment that we’re not moving quickly enough – the natural cycle is distorted. We push ourselves into new phases of expansion before allowing time for rest, then we exhaust ourselves and collapse directly into stasis rather than enjoying the fertile contraction time of integration and reflection.
What could be an experience of being in the flow is, instead, an experience of struggle and frustration. It’s like the difference between breathing easily and effortlessly when you’re relaxed, and gasping for air when you’ve pushed your body too hard while working out.
One feels natural. The other feels as if you’re dying.
Learning to recognize and honor the pulse of Life gets you back in the flow. It’s partnering with Life rather than pushing against it. It teaches you to value all phases of the creative process, without the diminishing effects of self-judgment, and in doing so it allows you to experience the fullness of your own creativity. You begin to experience greater ease and less struggle.
In Fran’s case, the first expansion cycle of her new venture was a big one. The business ramped up quickly, which suited her high-energy, action-oriented personality perfectly. As with any entrepreneur, she was learning a lot of new things all at once, in diverse areas. She learned everything from how to assemble and lead a Board of Directors to how to get marketing support at an affordable price to how to ensure new team members got the training they needed. And much, much more.
She enjoyed an early string of successes before the unraveling began. Key employees, in essential roles, turned out not to be a good fit. Hoped-for investors fell through. Friction with the landlord became evident.
From the standpoint of expecting things to keep moving forward at a rapid pace, with continual improvements in results, it appeared everything was falling apart.
From the perspective of the creative Life pulse, she was entering her first contraction phase. It was time to slow down and review all that occurred with the intention of acknowledging how much had been learned. It was time to let go of what wasn’t working and ask new questions about how things might be done differently. It was time to get clear on needs and priorities.
It was also time to rest and replenish, in readiness for the next phase of expansion.
That’s what Fran is doing now. She’s focusing on essential priorities only and giving herself time to reflect and renew. She’s taking some much-needed time off for a real vacation. She’s giving herself, and her business, the space it needs to prepare for the next creative wave. She’s moving with the Life pulse rather than pushing against it.
Like Fran, many of us have been conditioned to value only the expansion phase of the Life pulse, which means we deprive ourselves of the immense benefits of the other phases. In the contraction phase we review and reflect and integrate. In the stasis phase following a contraction, we rest and reconnect with our deepest knowing about what’s ready to emerge next.
Before fully understanding the various phases of the Life pulse, Fran had even deprived herself of the stasis phase following the initial expansion. That phase is all about pausing to acknowledge and celebrate, to fully enjoy the fruits of our labors. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time, but it needs our conscious acknowledgment and participation in order to serve the next phase of the cycle. Fully relishing our successes helps us enormously in the contraction phase, when we’re identifying what’s working well and what isn’t.
Once you have an understanding of the Life pulse, you realize that it doesn’t apply only to businesses and projects. Every aspect of your life is ebbing and flowing with the pulse of Life, including your health, your career, your spirituality and your relationships. Just as the various aspects of your physical being have their own rhythm – your breath, your heartrate, your cycle of sleeping and waking – each aspect of your life has its own rhythm. You might be in an expansion phase in your career while being in stasis or contraction with respect to a relationship.
Being willing to view things from this perspective can help you relax and feel more at ease in your life. Rather than assuming that things are going “wrong” when they’re not proceeding according to your expectations or plan, you can ask yourself which phase of the Life pulse you’re in, and choose to follow its lead.
If you feel frustrated by a seeming lack of progress or fulfillment, you may be resisting the natural contraction phase of the Life pulse. Take time to review and reflect, to consider what you might need to let go of and what you might want to do differently.
If you feel bored or restless, you may be getting ready for a new phase of expansion. (Or, if you’re an introvert like I am, you may be actively resisting it.) Pause to go deeply within, to honor yourself for wherever you are, and to ask for guidance about what is ready now to emerge.
And if you’ve just reached a beautiful milestone or accomplished something you feel good about, please take the time to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate that! Don’t just keep marching toward the next task. Allow the rhythm of the Life pulse to move you into the rhythm of your life.
You’ll like the way it feels.
Does this post resonate with you? We welcome your comments!