Grow (v.) to increase by natural development; to increase in size or substance
Expand (v.) to spread or stretch out; to express in fuller form or greater detail
Growing is a natural state of existence and living organisms are constantly doing it, assuming they are not deprived of what they need to survive. If you have soil, sunshine, water and a seed, you can grow plants, flowers, vegetables, etc. As you are reading this, your hair and nails are growing and somewhere a small child is growing out of his shoes. Our biological bodies depend on growth for survival and our conscious brains are constantly looking for information to help make surviving easier. Our brains are analyzing machines. We are continuously computing steps so we don't fall off curbs, analyzing braking distances so we don't hit the car ahead, surveying the environment so we don't get lost and judging situations to avoid danger. These things become so automatic after a while that we don't even realize we are mapping the distance the fork has to take from the plate to our mouths to make sure the food gets in as efficiently as possible. Our conscious brains are doing a fantastic job keeping us alive and growing. It learns and grows and analyzes and judges all day long and with the billions of bits it has tossed at it every second, it does a phenomenal job of keeping us alive.
Expansion is a natural capability that allows us to experience, well, more. You know the goosebumps that you get when you experience something awesome or beautiful - your son or daughter hitting a homerun or perfecting a talent to the point that you are moved to a whole new place - the warm sense that you feel when you are holding someone you truly love. Who taught you how to do that? No one. It is a naturally occurring experience. Having these moments of joy are what many parents claim make raising children all worth while. If having children was nothing more than an exercise in feeding, clothing and housing, I don't think parents would be signing up so quickly. Ask any parent about the joys of having children and they'll automatically reach for those special memories that bring them those special feelings. These expansive feelings that provide an opportunity to express and experience that greater part of ourselves is what allows us to move past just surviving and into truly enjoying our existence.
Practice Expanding Like You Practice Growing
Think of all the hours that we spend growing - memorizing new phone numbers, learning new recipes, analyzing coffee beans, balancing budgets, learning new software programs, etc. Now think about all of the hours we spend appreciating something, meditating, lying in the grass and daydreaming as the clouds roll by. In short, think about how much time we spend going, going, going in survival mode vs. how much time we spend creating a space (no thinking aloud here) for enjoyment to creep in. Imagine this. You are in a comfortable position on the beach enjoying the waves, sun and sand when you happen to notice a tiny little crab burrowing in the sand. You are captivated and completely present watching this crab. Not only has this experience allowed you to not worry about bills for 5 minutes (which in and of itself is an awesome escape from stress for a bit) you might even find yourself drifting off into a daydream where you find yourself on stage singing in a band with hundreds of fans around all the while experiencing the confidence and power of being a rockstar. This short escape moves you into expansion. Because your mind can't differentiate between what is real and what is imagined, this 5 minute little crab exercise allowed you to experience confidence, power and joy which then becomes a teeny tiny part of your character. Do this often enough and you'll start to see noticeable shifts in your disposition. And because the subconscious mind cannot discern between what is real or imagined, you can visit this beach and have the same 5 minutes with the crab in guided imagery and get the same effects.
Our conscious mind logically knows what we need to survive and survive well. Put a human being in a situation where it can either run to escape the lion or stop and smell the daisies, it will move into action to escape the lion every time. Thank goodness. If we're dead, we can't smell the daisies. That's why making choices like eating well, exercising, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep are all actions that our conscious mind can get behind as they will all assist in staying alive. Take away one of these necessities- game over.
But, as humans looking to live richer lives, surviving isn't enough, and just like the seed, it needs to be nourished. There are many theories as to why we sleep and dream, but no one can know for sure. Maybe we sleep to recharge and heal for survival and maybe we dream to rehearse these survival skills, learn to express ourselves, experience, enjoy and expand while sleeping. If that's true, it stands to reason that our subconscious mind understands that sleeping to survive isn't enough - we must dream to become more of who we are. No one can say for sure, but it's an interesting model to imitate in our waking lives. Practices like meditation, hypnosis, guided imagery and daydreaming all allow us to visit that place of expansion where we can discover more of who we are, what we're capable of, peace of mind, and intense focus. The more time we build into our routines to allow ourselves to go beyond survival will not only give us more enjoyment, it will help us to live richer lives with more purpose. I don't know a single person who would shake their heads at living a more purposeful and exiciting life.
"In the end you won't remember the number of breaths you take but the number of moments that take your breath away." - Author Unknown
Dawn Marie. © Copyright, 2014. The Zen Room