EXPANDING & CONDENSING
In TSK class we were engaged in what we call an ‘expanding’ exercise… designed to open the habitual ‘focal setting’, the default setting from which we seem to most often engage with, and view our world. It’s different for everyone based on our personal history and life experience, but we come to a familiar position, one from which we then judge how things are… how our world is. We don’t usually notice it’s a tight ‘focal setting’ or perspective that we’ve simply settled on… and that there is much more in each instant that we are NOT taking into account. You might call it a habitual… mostly shallow or flat depth-of-field view… So the ‘expanding’ exercise calls attention to our myopic perspective in order to actively demonstrate to ourselves and open it… to encompass more in our experience moment to moment.
PRACTICE – EXPANDING & CONDENSING – bring up a happy memory… notice the feeling tones…
The instructions were to bring up a pleasant memory, and I thought of one I’ve worked with before… of sitting on the beach. I recalled memory flashes of the sun’s heat on my skin, the sky so blue and open you could lose yourself, and the blue-green ocean, the crash of tumbling waves, the salt in the air, and the sounds of all the people laughing-talking all around. I recalled the pleasant feelings that I associated with that memory, and those flashing images were the whole of that memory, as if it was fixed, as if I assumed it was a snapshot, bounded by limits I was constructing in the present while in the act of re-calling sitting on the beach — frozen in time.
But as I kept returning to the memory it dawned on me more ‘stuff’ kept coming to my attention, it EXPANDED; I saw space, gaps and holes between and around the flashing images, and I realized, first… memory is not a static thing! Even though we say the past is dead and gone, in a sense it isn’t, it’s alive because I am alive. The memory is a dynamic, moving thing in time, and while I skimmed over it initially as what I chose to focus upon, it was just a ‘summary’ of a moment of experience that was NOT inherently bounded. I set the boundaries of it back then when I experienced it, and even when I recalled it as a memory.
Working with the memory, as I noticed space or darkness around the edges between flashes of images, I decided to focus on those spaces, and what surprised me was that these spaces opened up. It was as if they were little tunnels, like worm holes that opened to some subset of the memory — like a new flash of specific faces in the crowd around me of children and adults coming out of the water toweling off, and sitting on their beach chairs talking to others. Each gap I encountered led to, or opened another branch of my remembrance. (An airplane dragging a long a colorful sign, girls talking to the lifeguards, and so on.) You could say the past opened to reveal more branches, or that time unfolded what I (a consolidating self) had previously enfolded.
I found this ‘opening the past’ exercise (EXPANDING) exhilarating, how it informed my present about how I go about structuring time, processing experience by managing content, by controlling, and ordering how and what unfolds.
CONDENSING – Was kind of interesting… looking deeper into the gaps and spaces, it felt perhaps like a kind of condensing, looking ever deeper, smaller, or prior… between things, made the memory more vivid, highly colored, and true to life. It was interesting that a memory could be expanded, and then looking perhaps smaller into spaces & gaps, more memory arose, and that could be expanded, and in turn looked in too. What was at the outset available in the original experience that became a memory, was perhaps limitless, but I had my default ‘focal setting’, at that time… set for self-limiting and thus, time-limiting… a habitual summary mode… a ‘flattened’ experiential depth-of-field.