Stay Loose and Open Up

I had the huge privilege of attending Pema Chodron’s retreat and teachings at Omega Institute on “The Marks of Our Existence” recently.  The workshop centered on what she called the 4 Facts of Life:  impermanence, egolessness, suffering, and peace.   It wasOpen and Expand a weekend of profound depth coupled with practical simplicity (and a few side-splitting laughs) offered up by one of Buddhism’s most recognizable and venerated teachers.

There is so much I am taking away from this experience. One gift in particular revolves around the concept of constriction. Pema taught that whenever we might feel fear, judgment, displeasure, anger, hatred, or some other “negative” emotion about something we constrict.  Not only are our minds constricted and fixated on our opinion of a situation, but our bodies follow suit.  We experience tightness in our muscles, our chest, our stomachs, our breathing shortens, we work up a sweat, and so forth.  We clench our jaws, our fists, and occasionally lash out verbally or physically in our frustration or pain; the intensity of which is determined by the situation and how tightly we hold our views.

  • Don’t just take my word for this, test it out for yourself.  Bring to mind something or someone that is irritating you right now and notice what happens in your body and mind.
  • Do you feel constriction in your thoughts? Your body?
  • Does the world and its possibilities seem smaller?  (Something like:  “You’re wrong, I’m right, things shouldn’t be this way”?)

In times like these, Pema taught us a simple (not necessarily easy!) and very practical approach to navigating these murky waters.  That is, when you feel constricted, tight, and fixated on something, open up and expand.

In my translation, that means you ask yourself:

  • “How can I stay loose in this situation?
  • How can I stay loose with these feelings or sensations I am having?”

From here you can open up or expand into more possibility, greater peace of mind, and equanimity.

Some ways you can do this practice in the heat of the moment are to:

  • physically move
  • open your stance
  • spread your arms wide
  • go for a walk
  • smile
  • breathe more deeply
  • gaze at an image that expands your view (nature, spiritual icon, a beautiful object, flowing water, etc.).
  • anything else that makes you open wide …

From this space you can stay loose in your experience thereby opening your possibilities, your heart, your ability to respond to what lies before you.

Again, don’t take my word for it… try it.  The next time something or someone irritates you, no matter how small, try one of these techniques. Then notice:

How does the quality of experience shift?

How empowered do you feel to be creative or respond to the challenge.

How is this different than when you were all clenched up inside and out?

I have found that when I stay open even in the midst of great challenge or pain, possibilities and peace find me.  My relationships deepen.  Money flows with ease.

I would love to hear how this teaching affects you. As you beta-test these ideas and take this new found awareness of constriction vs. expansion into your life and business and combine it with the practical tips to open in the moment – What happens?  How does the way you navigate the here and now change? What opportunities present themselves?

Would love to hear from you…share in the comments or contact me.

Need help getting untwisted from the challenges that are keeping you stuck and over-stressed?  Contact me for an Intuitive Intelligence® Activation session to explore how working together will help you make a habit of staying loose in the game of business and life.

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Google+ Comments


  1. thanks for sharing this… I have learnt to stay centered at all times. When we have emotional highs or low, we filter out many things so we can continue to stay in that emotion…. change in physiology is the best.
    Trevi Lim
    Founder of Business Rescue

  2. Great summary of Pema's very practical advice. I was delighted to be there "with" you.
    My recent post Open Wide and Say “Aaahhhhh”

How to Prioritize When Everything is a Priority

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