As we get older, we tend to contract.
We get tighter in our bodies. Our muscles contract. Our minds contract too.
We tend to hold on to fixed beliefs. And if we’re not careful we reject things that are new. New ways, new ideas. Even new things. Some us shy away from the effort of change.
Contraction is sly. It creeps up on you. You don’t even notice you’ve contracted your thoughts, your body, your world.
Exercise can cause us to contract. How tight are our bodies after exercise? We push and jar our muscles and circulatory systems into stress, so that later they will cope with stress better. But the end result is that our body contracts under that stress.
When something shocking happens, we tend to contract for protection. We can very easily find ourselves espousing values and social policies that are tight, limiting, constrictive. We allow our Governments to take away our freedoms. Some us want to close our borders.
We tighten up.
When you’re under pressure or stress, your breathing becomes tight. Your breaths become short and sharp. This is your body contracting for protection.
As well, as we get older we tend to contract our circle of friends. We surround ourselves with people who reinforce our point of view. We don’t like to be challenged, most of us. This self-perpetuates our closed world view.
What we should be trying to do is expand into this big glorious world.
Instead of getting smaller and more hunched as we grow older, we should be getting taller, and straighter. Instead of shutting down we should be opening out.
The Camino is expansive.
It opens you up to new people, new thought, new ideas, new ways of looking at the world. With that more expansive thought, your physicality changes.
You feel yourself growing taller as you walk. You feel yourself becoming straighter under the weight of that pack, which grows lighter the longer you journey.
Your breathing is deep and rhythmic. The air is clean and pure. It cleanses your chakras. You glow, inside and out. You can see it in the faces of those pilgrims around you. They glow too.
If you feel that you’re suffering the symptoms of contraction, the best medicine to take is a pilgrimage walk on the Camino.
This post resonated with me–it’s true–contraction is insidious, so gently pushing oneself out of the comfort zone is beneficial. I haven’t yet walked the Camino so I don’t know to which degree that particular walk would affect me, but I do know in my daily life I strive to stay open. It gets harder as I get older, no question.
Thanks Debra –
I actually started to look at the notion of contraction while I was doing my yoga, because yoga is about stretching out of that contraction.
It’s about creating “space” – and within that space is expansion.
Boy this really makes good sense, Bill. The Camino opens us to a whole new world. Prior to the Camino I’d never stayed in an albergue, or any hostel for that matter. Now I find myself looking for communal lodging as an alternative to traditional motels and hotels. For example, I have been perusing small sailing trips offered by Inteprid Travel where one shares a 50 ft sail boat with six to eight other travelers. I would not have done this pre- Camino. The Camino has expanded my concept of travel. I am think I am seeking to find travel adventures which expand both my body and mind. I hope also to recreate the community spirit so alive on the Camino in a non- Camino setting. Not sure if that makes sense to anyone other than me. Julie
Hi Julie –
that makes a lot of sense.
I think it’s the aim of quite a few people to bring back home what they’ve learnt on the Camino.
It’s so easy for us to contract our world view as we get older. That’s why the Camino is so incredible – because it forces you to be expansive in thought and action.
Dunno about “contraction” — but last night I found my Swiss Army Knife, presumed lost since a couple of months or so, in the unlikeliest location under my bed …
One less purchase for next year … 😉
the Swiss Army knife weighs too much!! ill