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Effortlessness is the ability to slow down and listen for the spaces between the joints … Deep within all things there is a natural rhythm, a music of opening and closing, expansion and contraction.

Wayne Muller

As the nights draw in here, it feels like a contraction is occurring but aren’t expansion and contraction part of the same continuum?

I am aware that we have just had the Autumn equinox, when day and night are of equal length and now here in the Northern hemisphere the nights are drawing in.  It’s the time to get cozy under a blanket. This weekend I made my first crumble of the season – apples from a friend’s garden with some plum and blackberries.  My daughter’s face lit up when I told her because she loves a good crumble.  I have noticed that I am more sensitive to these changes in season than I used to be. Due to the fluctuation in the weather patterns of late I now have a cold sore on my top lip!

The impact of the Autumn Equinox

On 22 September I was in bed by 9pm and woke later that evening with a headache that continued through much of Friday.  I took the whole day off because it had been a tough week emotionally and I was drained. It was a reminder to me of the importance of slowing down and being with what is and practising self-care.  I managed to book a last minute back massage and that helped to shift the stuck energy in my system for which I am truly grateful.

How does expansion & contraction work?

That whole experience got me thinking about the process of expansion and contraction. In some teachings the emphasis is placed on expansion and yet we know that the issues we face in the world today have come from pursuing relentless economic growth. I was reminded of that last night watching a documentary about a sushi chef who has three Michelin stars.  He is concerned about the over fishing of tuna which effects the overall quality available and as he reminded us it takes ten years for tuna to grow to their full size.

A sushi restauranteur offers a new perspective

Jiro offered other insights into this idea of expansion and contraction. Initially he offered appetisers then he contracted his offering so that it was sushi only. He simplified the menu to focus on what he was good at and that expanded his reputation. The other interesting fact is that his restaurant is tiny seating 10 people only.  It means that people have to book months in advance to get a table.  By keeping it small, he has increased demand and this has expanded his reputation so he is able to charge a premium for his product. 

What fascinated me about this man who is 85 is that he came from nothing and had to work for many years before tasting a degree of success. It seems that what differentiated him from his competitors was his love of sushi. He used to dream about sushi and how to serve it. 

He also perfected his craft by building trusted relationships with specific suppliers in the fish market.  One or two of them were unconventional in their approach and followed their intuition rather than the masses. What that meant is that he only uses high quality produce.

His passion for sushi has meant that he never goes on holiday unless it is a national holiday. Work is not work for him; it’s a calling. Restaurant critics who have eaten at 100s of sushi places rate Jiro’s because they have never had a disappointing meal there. You could say that signifies a contraction because his focus is so narrow.  Perhaps it’s a necessary step that leads to expansion in other ways.

Similarly as the nights draw in we are reminded of the importance of resting.  A great way to do that is through a mini break, alternatively you could take one of the last places on my October retreat. What I hope is that these thoughts have altered your view on expansion and contraction and perhaps now you see it as I do: all part of the same continuum. We cannot have one without the presence of the other.

Expansion or contraction?
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