The Lawyer’s Compass Series: Living Expansively in Times of Contraction

 In Living Our Best Life, Practicing Law and Life, The Lawyer's Compass, Trust, Faith and The Law

The Lawyer’s Compass is about living from our center. It’s from there that we live our maximally rewarding lives and we inspire others to do the same. I know when I see someone that I care about upping their game it inspires me.

The next layer out on The Lawyer’s Compass from our True Self are four attributes that are about us living in alignment with our core beings: Expansion, Wholeheartedness, Wellness and Compassion.

What’s ironic is that, often, the knowing is easier than the doing. It’s in the doing that we take our truths out into the world and actually live them. I don’t know about you, but I can come up with a lot reasons why I should just keep things the way they are and not rock the boat.

Living an expansive life is one of the ways that we ensure we are living out our True Self.  There are so many places within our lives to live expansively – whether it’s in our personal or professional lives or in all of our important relationships.

It’s easier to live an expansive life when everything is going well.What about those times when life is not going so well?

We all have crisis periodically in our lives, whether it is about our own life or someone who is incredibly important to us.

What does living a life expansively in a time of contraction (crisis) look like?

A number of years ago I experienced what I called PTFSD – Post Traumatic Financial Stress Disorder. I went from having great financial years at work to having two years of making less than I ever had. It threw me for a major mental loop. I went from feeling financially secure to completely insecure, from being a good attorney to questioning what I really knew.

It’s amazing how life looks different when you are seeing it from a place of contraction. It distorts reality. When I found myself questioning everything, I saw life as if I was in a tunnel or a cave. There was this shaft of light coming in that was not illuminating what was around me, it was blinding me so I could not clearly see. Have you ever experienced that?

What I once assumed would go well, I now felt doubt about. Where I took comfort and solace, I found no relief.

I was allowing financial difficulty to spill into seemingly every aspect of my life. That’s when I finally started to wake up to the idea that I had to startexpanding within my contraction. While I could not make the money issues immediately go away, I could clean up all of the spillage and start to see my life more clearly.

While having less income was the triggering mechanism, being in a mental state of contraction caused the deepest problems.

Here are the lessons I learned to help me expand in a time of contraction:

1. Trust. This means having faith that even though I don’t know exactly how I will get through this time in my life – that it will ultimately pass and all will be well. There is nothing more destabilizing than to doubt the future, which does not mean ignoring facts. The true power of faith is about seeing a future that my eyes cannot see and my rational brain cannot understand.

2. Affirmation. Hey, my brain is really good at coming up with all the reasons why something will not work out. A short simple statement about how I positively envision the outcome is me giving equal time to the thought that everything will work out. Why should the spinning monkey in my brain have the right to dominate my thought process?

3. Meditation. Finding multiple times throughout the day to take 3 deep breaths and clear my mind. It increases my awareness of what I’m actually thinking and clears my mind. It sounds so easy to do and can be so hard when I’m wound up tight from stress.

4. Confiding. Talking to someone who I trust. It’s startling how rational a thought seems that has been repeated hundreds of times a day in my head sounds like the irrational ramblings that it really is when I say it out loud to someone else.

Contractions are natural of occurrences. By recognizing when a part of our life is in a crisis we can be looking for the distortions that often accompany it.

Times of contraction are not about denying, escaping or simply fighting back. Deeper understandings are more easily found when we are not dealing with unnecessary distortions. Staying centered in the truth of a crisis is how, even in difficult times, we continue to fully live our lives.

How do you live an expansive life in times of contraction?

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  • Kimberly

    Wonderful post! Regarding the confiding: we really learn who our trusted friends and advisors are during a time of contraction. Because we often listen to burdens all day long in our work, we may choose not to confide fearing we are being a burden to someone else. But it’s essential.
    Where it gets difficult is when those we hoped would be there for us, are not. That can be a double whammy. But if we are alert and vulnerable we can recognize those who are truly there for us are there through thick and thin and re-align our inner circle as part of our growth.
    Seasons of contraction are truly “pruning” if we face them with courage!
    Thanks, Jim!

    • Jim Dwyer

      Thank you Kimberly. I often amazed how hard it can be for me to confide in someone- even a trusted and loyal friend who I know always has my back. It’s the fear of looking stupid, foolish or simply that “I should not feel this way” that stops me. It’s not them. I’m never made better by not confiding.

      You are absolutely right, having that inner circle is critical .

  • DaveH

    Great article, even for us non-lawyers. And timely!

    • Jim Dwyer

      Thank you Dave.

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