Meditation For Balancing Expansion And Contraction (And Why Spiritual Practice Is Not A Race)


The key to spiritual discernment is knowing when to favor contraction over expansion. It’s sometimes necessary to set boundaries, to protect ourselves, to slow the pace of our forward spiritual motion. Our higher intuition always knows when we’ve had enough expansion for one day…we just have to listen.

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We spiritual types love expansion.

Higher-frequency vibration, faster ascension, more complete extension into transpersonal being…all these states are viewed as being more valuable and desired than their “lower” counterparts.

But for better or worse, this way of thinking kind of misses the point.

You could argue that our evolutionary process has an end goal: to reassemble and reunite with the Source of All, having passed through the full exfoliation and unfolding of all forms of existence.

Just because our end goal is perfect and total expansion, though, we shouldn’t assume that accomplishing that task more quickly is better.

Remember: outside of linear time, we’ve already completed our evolution and involution an infinite number of times. We simply need to reawaken to the awareness of all that has already happened.

Rushing toward some perceived goal is not the way to attain the peace, bliss, clarity, and freedom that a meditative mind engenders.

The point is to live and experience fully, to learn, and to be wildly and wonderfully aware of all that is being learned. Without this momentary presence, the attainment of higher Self-Awareness is impossible.

The Great Breath involves both expansion and contraction

Spiritual awakening into perfect right relation is all about timing. What is beneficial for one seeker may be detrimental to another if practiced during the wrong point on the Path.

This truth is a reminder to guard against all criticism and judgment. There is no diet, ritual, or daily practice that is universally right for everyone at all times…each one of us must discern when an action is proper to take for him or her.

The key to this process of discernment is knowing when to favor contraction over expansion. It’s sometimes necessary to set boundaries, to protect ourselves, to slow the pace of our forward spiritual motion. Our higher intuition always knows when we’ve had enough expansion for one day…we just have to listen.

I’ll discuss a meditation for tuning into that intuition in just a bit. First, let’s dive a little deeper into the dance of expansion and contraction.

An inhalation is pointless (and rather uncomfortable) without an exhalation. The same logic follows for all other dualities, including expansion and contraction.

Contraction is the fructifying and crystallizing principle. It is the agent of order and structure, the teacher of discipline and worldly wisdom. Whoever underestimates the importance of order and groundedness does so at their peril. Though we may be spiritual beings passing through an earthly existence momentarily, we still are here for a reason. If we wish to open ourselves to the Earth’s lessons, we must live with discipline, ordered vision, and focused intention.

Expansion can then serve as a principle that simply frees us from attachment to phenomenal things and desires, rather than one which disconnects or ungrounds us from the world itself.

This is the balance that we should seek: to live as one fully and completely grounded in this world of material form (contraction), without becoming attached to it or losing our remembrance of the Greater Whole (expansion).

Easier said than done, though.

Upon being asked what was necessary to achieve enlightenment, Yogi Bhajan replied: “Only one thought…but it may take many lifetimes of practice to find what that thought is.”

A meditation to help you on your way

The following meditation will serve as a very brief foray into the world of esoteric nervous system control. It will help you develop energetic sensitivity by acquainting you with the qualities of expansion and contraction.

Quick primer: every point in the body is a unique convergence of highly ordered energy. The pads of the fingertips are strongly charged, both literally and symbolically. Each of the fingers is correlated with a different archetypal energy.

By forming a mudra with the fingers (which is done by touching the thumb to one of the other fingertips), you can create specific closed circuits to channel the energy associated with each archetype.

For the purposes of this meditation, we’re going to focus on the thumb (which represents the ego), the pointer finger (which represents Jupiter energy), and the middle finger (which represents Saturn energy). Jupiter is the archetype of expansion, and Saturn is the archetype of contraction (though the full story is obviously quite a bit more complicated).

Let’s get started…

Center yourself. Though the effects of mudras can be utilized in any situation, there are most easily felt when resting in the intrinsic awareness of meditation. Sit cross-legged on the floor if possible, and ground yourself by connecting to the Earth’s magnetic field.

Create alignment. Straighten the elbows and rest the hands on the knees, palms facing upwards. Touch the thumbs to the tips of the pointer fingers. This is called gyan mudra. It tunes the ego (the thumb) into the Jupiterian frequency of expansion (the pointer finger). Feel the geometric integrity of your body’s alignment. Feel your Divine Template.

Charge the mudra. Inhale deeply, expanding the diaphragm. Allow your breath to fill the mudra with prana, enlivening and enlarging it. Exhale deeply, and feel your etheric body expand and awaken. Continue this practice for at least a few minutes.

Change your alignment. Now connect your ego to the Saturnian archetype of contraction by touching your thumb to your middle finger. This is called shuni mudra. Once again, charge the mudra with your breath, inhaling and exhaling deeply and completely. Feel your physical body becoming disciplined, protected, and wise. Continue this practice for at least a few minutes.  

Practice meditating with each mudra. At first, don’t try to feel anything in particular. Instead, just see if you can feel the differences between gyan mudra (expansion) and shuni mudra (contraction).

Use creative visualization if necessary (e.g. picturing an energetic balloon around your body that inflates and deflates, according to which mudra you apply).

Eventually, though, you should move on to letting the impressions flow into you (rather than creating them within the mind’s eye). Doing so will give you a much richer, more meaningful experience of what expansion and contraction truly mean for you.

Once you’ve begun to develop sensitivity to the energy that each mudra engenders, try combining the two mudras into one meditation. As you expand the lungs and diaphragm during inhalation, apply gyan mudra; as you contract the lungs and diaphragm during exhalation, apply shuni mudra.

Building your spiritual toolkit

The more energetically sensitive you become, the more you’ll be able to leverage this kind of practice for your growth and benefit.

Once you know exactly what feelings a certain meditation or mudra will produce for you, it will become easier to apply that practice to specific situations in your life.

Just remember: there’s no “one size fits all” characterization of spiritual practices. A meditation geared toward expansion could be immensely calming to one person and anxiety-producing for another (and this affect may even vary according to the time of day, week, or month). This is what’s so beautiful about building your own practice…you get to calibrate your toolkit to match your unique frequency.

When beginning a new practice (like the meditation above), always remain aware of what you’re feeling, without becoming attached to those feelings.

It may even be helpful to describe your sensations in writing after your meditation session. Be as specific as possible (e.g. “It feels like there’s a thick, viscous fluid (like warm honey) filling my upper torso and arms” is better than “I feel warm.”)

And if the sensations you experience aren’t overly detailed or textured at first, don’t worry…regular practice will most certainly initiate you into worlds of experience beyond normal comprehension.

How does this meditation feel for you? Are there other meditations that you enjoy practicing on a regular basis? Do you feel more at home in a state of expansion or contraction? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned bodhisattva, I’d love to hear about how your journey is going.


Ryan Greendyk

Ryan Greendyk is a conscious internet entrepreneur, writer, kundalini yoga teacher, psychonaut, and sacred space creator. He's pretty fond of tea ceremonies, entheogens, bass-beat wizardry and techno-shamanism, superfoods, gifting, fire spinning, alternative healing modalities, spontaneous outbursts of love, and spending quality time with God and friends. In a nutshell, he's dedicated to delivering others to their highest selves through the creation and promotion of communities, cultures, products, and programs built upon creativity, intentional play, and spiritual self-mastery. He is the Founder of Lightlab and the Producer of Lightlab Events.

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