The Creative Life Pulse: Understanding Expansion and Contraction During COVID-19

By, Christina Ducharme LAc., MAOM, BHSP, Graduate of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing

What is the Creative Life Pulse?

The creative life pulse helps us integrate and assimilate the energy of our lives, which can be felt both at the microcosmic and macrocosmic levels. The life pulse is present in each breath we take as we inhale and expand, pause, exhale and contract, pause, inhale and expand again. The cyclical nature of the seasons (in the Northern hemisphere) is felt as another pulse. The expansion of the Yang energy of summer peaks with the summer solstice, energy is high, there is an abundance of daylight, heat, growing things, and activity. Then as the days begin to shorten and cooler temperatures become the norm, the energy contracts, leaves fall off of trees and we go inside literally and figuratively. As fall turns into winter, the green things go dormant, some animals hibernate, and many birds have flown south. The energy continues to contract until the winter solstice when the Yin energy is strongest, and we pause before the return of the light, and the expansion of the Yang within the Yin.

In our lives we can experience this expansion and contraction throughout the small moments with our breath, our heart beat, in the daily circadian rhythm, and with our creative projects. Our energy fields experience this expansion and contraction, and when we learn to identify and work with these energies we can have healthy expansions and contractions. When we begin to expand, our core essence, or spark of life, that joy we bring to our projects and creations actually expands within our energy field bringing that creation from the area of conceptualization and vision into physical reality. We can feel amazing after such an experience, bright and shiny. Think about a time where you did something that made you feel great, glowing, and expanded. This is expansion in the life pulse. For some this might be the completion of a painting, when you stop and stand back admiring the essence of what you created. Then comes the pause as we take in the experience. In order for the energy of the experience to be integrated we naturally enter a contraction phase. Contraction is the way we integrate the experience by bringing the experience back through our energy fields and assimilating the knowledge and energy of the situation. At the end of contraction we pause gathering the creative energy for another creation.

Yin and Yang Energy of the Creative Life Pulse

A cyclical look at the creative life pulse within the Yin and Yang energies of the seasons can help us understand the concepts of expansion and contraction. Yin and Yang are interchangeable energies that make up our universe, and can be found in nature and within ourselves. They have a complex relationship with one another and can be in opposition (fire and water), interdependent (structure and function), mutual consuming (when the weather is hot we sweat),

inter-transformation (night becomes day and day becomes night), and they have infinite divisibility (cold is yin, but moderately cold is more yang than icy cold which is more yin).

Table 1.1 Comparison of Yin and Yang

YangYin
DayNight
SummerWinter
HotCold
FireWater
LightDark
ExpansionContraction
GrowthStasis
MovementStillness
TimeSpace
ImmaterialMaterial
EnergyMatter
ExteriorInterior

As we move through the day and through the seasons of the Northern Hemisphere we can feel and notice the subtle energies of expansion and contraction, yin and yang. In the morning the yang energy starts to rise and following the circadian rhythm, we wake with the dawn. This is the yang energy rising within the yin time of night. As the day approaches noon the yang energy has reached its peak and there’s a natural stasis as we pause for our mid-day break and lunch. As the sun starts its decent in the sky we are entering the yin within the yang stage of the day and some cultures take a nap, other people wish they could, and other’s have a lot of yang energy that sustains them through the day. In the evening as the sun is setting we start to slow down, to pull together our day, and go within with quiet reflection. Many people journal, read, or sit still taking in the days events and preparing for sleep. This is the yin within the yin as we approach midnight the most yin time of the day, a time for pause and integration as we sleep.

The flow of energy in the seasons is quite similar as the flow in our daily lives. At the winter solstice the yin within the yin is very strong. It is the shortest day, and therefore most yin time of the year. It is a time of deep reflection, going inside, pausing before the sunlight returns. During

this time the weather may get very cold (yin), it is dark (yin), and we are reflecting on the past year. This is a time of stasis, where we have contracted in from the adventures of the growing season, the harvest of the fall, and are integrating and pausing, restoring our bodies and soul for the next years growth, expansion and movement.

After the winter solstice the light begins to return and we enter the yang within the yin time of year. This is a time where although the weather is still cold (yin) the days become longer (yang). We become more adventurous, start to think about the growing season, visioning our summer adventures, summer gardens, parties, adventures, the time where we are most active. We feel the growing yang within the winter yin.

At the Spring equinox the day and night are equal, yin and yang are balanced. This is the time where the winter yin energy changes to spring yang, and we enter the time of yang within the yang and the most expansion. In the spring we plant seeds both literals and figuratively. We decide what we want to create and have energy to move projects. We do “spring cleaning” to get out the detritus of our homes and our inner selves. It is time to watch the migrating birds return, build nests, and hatch their eggs. Baby animals are born, spring ephemerals rise triumphantly from the recently frozen earth and we feel alive again. The yang energy is palpable as animals mate, trees blossom, and flowers emerge from the snow. The energy continues to expand and grow as we approach the summer solstice.

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the most yang time of the year, and is yang (longest day) within the yang (summer). At the height of this yang expansion we pause, integrate our creations and get ready for the harvest and the coming winter, while still enjoying the hot summer weather, gardens and adventures.

As the planet continues its orbit around the sun the Northern Hemisphere tilts away from the sun we enter the yin within the yang and the Autumnal Equinox. This is Yin within the Yang. We start to harvest and store our crops. The days are shorter and the nights are longer. The contraction phase of the annual cycle has begun and we prepare to go inside at the time of the solstice to take in and assimilate everything we’ve done for the year.


Table 1.2 Yin and Yang Throughout the Seasons

Yin and Yang ContinuumAnnual CalendarTime of DayExpansion/ Contraction/Pause
Yin within YinWinter SolsticeMidnightPause
Yang within YinSpring EquinoxEarly MorningExpansion
Yang within YangSummer SolsticeNoonPause
Yin within YangAutumn EquinoxEveningContraction

Healthy Contractions

This expansion and contraction cycle is found in the macrocosmic and microcosmic level. We can experience it with each inhale and exhalation, with our individual projects and creative expressions, with the seasons, and on a larger scale within our society.

In our society we have a tendency to want expansion and deny the contraction phase of our cycles. Productivity, energy, and being busy is looked at with approval whereas those who slow down are frowned upon. Do you need a cup of coffee or other stimulant in the morning to start your day? Are you too busy for meditation or just sitting still? A society that is built on expansion alone without the time to have a healthy contraction is built to fail and burn out. In Chinese medicine this would create an excess of yang and a deficiency of yin which would create disease.

A healthy contraction occurs when we allow ourselves to slow down, to take in the expanded creative energies, to process what has occurred, and to integrate the experience. This could look like sitting still, reading a book, taking a bath, sitting in nature and just being, spending time alone, and ignoring social media, news, and the phone. Many times after an expansive experience we don’t want to contract. We want to continue feeling great and expansive, full of energy, and being able to get through a busy day with effortless ease. A person trying to fight a contraction phase may drink a lot of caffeine, exercise more, have more sex, and ignore their bodies demands to slow down. Then this person may feel more exhausted and less capable to function at their normal levels. If this continues burnout can occur, they stop being as creative, and fall into a tedium of exhaustion and depression. When we can take care of ourselves by honoring the need to slow down, sit in stillness, and integrate our experiences we are allowing ourselves to have a healthy contraction, and are preparing ourselves for another expansion. This balance between expansion and contraction, the interplay of yin and yang, needs to be honored for personal health, community health, and global well-being.

An analogy can be made with the dandelion. In the spring the stored energy in the seed bursts into a sprout, and grows from the stasis of being a seed into the expansive yang energy. The roots grow down before the shoot breaks the earth and leaves unfurl. The dandelion flowers at its height of creative expansion. As the dandelion bloom becomes seed heads the contraction has already begun with the transformation from flower to seed. As the summer turns to fall the dandelion energy continues to contract until all of the energy is stored in the root and the plant becomes dormant for the winter. This stored energy in the root allows the plant to take in its essence and prepare for the next growing season. As the next growing season approaches the energy/essence of the dandelion surges forth and expands as the plant begins to grow again.
This is why the root of the dandelion is most potent for medicinal purposes if harvested in the early growing season, or in the fall. That is when most of the nutrients, and the plants essence is the strongest in its root. Think of this metaphorically: when you take in your creative energy, your core essence, at the end of the expansion you are nourishing the roots of your inner self. Sometimes contraction can feel difficult and unwelcome, because as we connect with the Yin energy of drawing in we may be faced with some aspects of ourselves that are uncomfortable.

Self-reflection can be uncomfortable, as can awareness of patterns of growth within our own lives that are unsustainable or unfulfilling.

COVID-19 – A Contraction and a Pause

During this springtime of COVID-19 in the Northern Hemisphere in 2020 we are in a global contraction phase, while also being in a seasonal yang or expansive phase. These conflicting energies are both antagonistic and supportive of each other. Consider the cyclical nature of yin and yang during the day, during the calendar year, and on a larger cycle. It is possible to be in all simultaneously while honoring each individual cycle.

The global pandemic is literally asking us all to stop our busy yang lifestyles of working, driving, and doing and go inside. Literally! We are asked to stop being so yang and to become more yin. The non-essential workers are home, with family, not traveling, not shopping, just being. The struggle for many is the sudden shift from the overly yang and unsustainable lifestyle to a yin way of being. We are being asked to stay in this yin energy for longer than is comfortable. For many the contraction phase from the busy lifestyle into the yin lifestyle is very challenging. For others it is a breath of relief, and some don’t want to go back to the old lifestyle. Energetically we are being asked to pause, to integrate and ask ourselves “what kind of world do I want to create? What kind of lifestyle do I want to create? What type of society do I want to live in?” These days are highlighting for us the great disparates and disharmonies on a global and local level. We know that the levels of pollution and consumption of resources is unsustainable, but stuck in our overly yang lifestyles, we have a hard time slowing down and changing our ways to a more yin and yang balanced way of life. Looking at our essential workers we can see the excess of yang energy that is burning out our food service and health care personnel.

Before we begin to expand out, into the yang phase of going back to work, or a semblance of the old normalcy, we need to pause. Pausing allows us to be in stasis before we start the next wave of expansion and creation. Think about your breath. After each inhale and expansion, there is a pause before the exhalation. Then we pause again before the next inhalation. The pattern of inhalation and exhalation follows the pattern of expansion and contraction, the pattern of yang transforming into yin transforming into yang. What do you want to create? What do you want to take into the next level of expansion, the next wave of creation in your personal life, your work life, our local community, and on the global level?

How to Use the Life Pulse to Consciously Create Your Life with Intentionality

  1. Track yourself. Where are you on the life pulse, and remember you can be at different places on the life pulse at different levels. For example: you could be in the contraction phase of being at home practicing social distancing during COVID-19, and going inside yourself to tap your creativity and plant a garden (expansion).
  2. How do you handle contraction? What you can do to make it easier: Take time to slow down and nourish yourself. This might include journaling, meditation, walks in nature, swimming,

taking a bath, or sitting in silence. If the contraction phase is bringing up discomfort, anger, sadness and fear ask yourself what need is not being met. How can you meet this need? Let your loved ones know you need some time by yourself to integrate the emotions that are coming up, or reach out to a loved one for contact and to share.

3. In the pause before expansion, we can connect with the energy of our next project, our next creative endeavor. This energy is the spark of creation that through intention can come into being and made manifest in the physical world. For example I might dream of strawberries in June, and decide it’s time to garden. I set aside the time and gather my tools, transplanting the strawberry runners into a new bed. My vision is still growing and expanding as I find the spinach seeds to sow within them. At its completion the new bed has strawberries, spinach, and nasturtiums. I followed the wave of creation, and pause to take in the beauty of the dark soil, the green leaves and the texture of the new garden bed. As I contract I eat a good meal, and feel the peace that comes with knowing I’m providing food for the future, beauty and texture in the garden, and my longing to eat a fresh sun ripened strawberry off the vine is honored.

I may have a longing to create a new community program that continues to deliver grocery items to elders and others in my town after COVID-19 is over. The expansion comes as I start to plan how to create this program, to solicit volunteers and identify the community needs. This project is much more long term than a garden bed, and within the growing program there will be moments of contraction and expansion until the creation has reached its completion and the program is up and running. In this scenario the contraction phase includes witnessing the launch of the program and any pit-falls that may come up. The pause will be integrating the information from the contraction before expanding into any changes that are needed. In this way we continue to hold our vision, and integrate new information, while riding the life pulse of expansion and contraction.

Next Steps

It is possible that our society will experience multiple waves of COVID-19 in the coming months. This could mean that we begin to expand and go back to our once ‘normal’ lives in a new way only to be asked to stay at home again. With each contraction and expansion we will have time to pause, to reflect, to decide “how do I want to live my life on the personal, community, and global level?” We as a global and local community will have the opportunity to decide what works and what does not. What is in the highest good for our planet, for ourselves, for our communities and to act for change on the local levels. This virus is giving us the opportunity to decide how we want to change our lives for the better for all, not just a few. What are you called to create? What are you called to change?

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