How to Get Out of a Hole

After the holidays, traveling, and getting hit with a nasty cold, I felt knocked down and even a little depressed. I could have gotten stuck in it, but luckily my years of training as a student of nature had taught me a little about cycles of expansion and contraction. We see these cycles throughout the natural world, and they’re also demonstrated perfectly for us in every breath and heartbeat. Here’s an excerpt from our new book, The Well Life, on the topic:


After an experience of expansion it’s extremely common to contract. You feel you’re making great progress, you’re in balance, you’re in love with the world, your hair looks amazing, and then . . . it seems to fall apart. Suddenly you’re strikingly unenlightened. You’re hollowing out sacred texts so you can hide candy in there. You can’t connect to the Mother Ship. You’re critical of yourself and others. The money stops coming in. Perhaps you even spiral into despair.

It’s useful to understand why this is happening. One mechanism, which we could call “small mind contraction,” occurs because your expansion feels uncomfortable or unsafe to your subconscious mind. Maybe having extra money worries you or makes you think you’re going to become shallow. Maybe being light and happy is unfamiliar. Maybe it’s scary to come into your power with others watching you.

Another mechanism, we might call “existential contraction,” happens because your ego feels its very existence is threatened as you begin to grow out of it. In an effort to assert its realness and pull you back in, it generates conflict and pain.

It’s natural to resent contraction. Things were going well and now they seem not to be. But, as in all things, hating and resisting it won’t resolve it. Here’s the approach we recommend for moving through contraction:

  1. Name it. It’s easier to avoid wallowing in it if you see it for what it is – a mere hiccup. This contraction is a reaction by your small, scared mind to your having made real progress.
  2. Stay the course. Contraction is not unlike what follows an intense workout. After stretching and working your muscles to their limit, they may stiffen up to the point of hobbling you. Even though the micro-tears you’ve made will stimulate increased growth, in the short term you may feel like you were hit by a truck. Most people know to expect this effect with exercise, so they don’t interpret it as a sign that they should stop working out. Treat your psycho-spiritual contraction the same way. Rest a little, keep stretching your mind, nourish yourself with good food and water, stick with the plan, and reassure yourself that this is natural.
  3. Keep powerfully choosing. You always have a choice of following your heart – i.e., Spirit, Truth, God – or your ego. Your ego is extremely limited and unable to wake up to the vastness of what you really are, but you can choose to transcend it. As often as you remember, state your choice by saying (inwardly or aloud), I choose Spirit! or I choose Love! or I choose Freedom! or I choose Truth! or whatever wording feels strongest to you.
  4. Turn toward the conflict. Asserting the choice of Spirit and ignoring your ego can take a lot of willpower, but there is a softer way: turn toward, rather than away from, the contraction that’s occurring. Be curious without resisting. See how your ego screams for attention? See how it generates conflict in order to reinforce a reality in which it is needed? See the silliness and confusion of what you’re mired in? See how you fall back into old habits because of fear and limiting beliefs? What else does your curiosity reveal? What happens when you say YES – Yes, I am ready for whatever comes along because I trust that I’m being guided to greater peace and fulfillment – instead of NO?

An experience of contraction does not mean your hard work was in vain. In fact, the process of navigating a period of contraction can lead to tremendous healing and increased freedom. Li Hongzhi, creator of a popular form of Qi Gong called Falun Gong, describes a similar process as one progresses in one’s practice. He explains that whenever we level up, meaning we make a significant leap in our development, we have to relearn certain things that we learned previously, because we’re operating from a somewhat different perspective. The apparent loss of these functions can feel like a major setback until we relearn them, but in actuality, it’s a good sign.


Everyone experiences contraction and expansion. If you’re in an expansive phase, make the most of it. Let yourself be fortified by it, your confidence bolstered by it, and intend to plant an anchor in your consciousness – you’ll be here again many more times. If you’re in a contractive phase, try the suggestions above. Expansion will return. And if you’re interested in learning more, please check out our book. It is chock full of love.

Be well,

Dr. Peter Borten


39 thoughts on “How to Get Out of a Hole

  1. Thank you for sharing. 🙏🏼❤️

    1. Beautifully written and explained!

    2. You’re welcome!

    3. I needed that. Always wondered why everything can be going along great then a shift happens and It stops. Now I know what I can apply to work thru

  2. Perfect timing for this for me. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome. I think a lot of us are in something of a contractive phase. Here’s to grace and expansion!

  3. What a lovely way of looking at allowing expansion or healing to ebb and flow as it always does. Choosing to lean into it gently so that you can move forward is great advise. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome. It’s definitely not our usual response to lean into something that’s uncomfortable, but that’s how we stop resisting and move through it!

  4. Thank you so much. I’m starting my own business and have, several times, become so frustrated because I make progress and then it seems like I take 3 steps back. This new approach is a relief and will help me make faster progress. I will not fall back into the same mindset, but remember this “teaching” to help me continue to move forward.

    1. You’re welcome, Elle. Right, it’s natural to not always be moving forward, not always be growing and building – just as the world around us goes through periods of decay and dormancy followed by new growth. Be well.

  5. Very well said. Thank you. A reminder that I don’t always have to be amazing and totally energetic. just like God created the earth , the seasons, the phases of the moon and stars, so does my life moods and emotions be snd flo. Don’t fight it. Go with it.

    1. Yes, Hollie. I think “go with the flow” is a pretty profound lesson (and the essence of Daoism). Wishing you smooth flow.

  6. You are an inspiration to me each day. No love reading your posts and realizing how it touches my life, my heart and my soul.

    1. Thanks, Penny! I’m glad these words are finding receptive hearts and minds. Be well.

  7. Book has changed my outlook and has initiated change from deep within. Great companion to the Dream Book. I’m coming to the spa in August when I’m traveling to Oregon. Full circle moment coming my way.

    1. I’m so happy to hear it, Kristin! Keep up the good work! Hope you enjoy Oregon and the spa.

  8. Wow, this was right on time! Thanks for posting this.

    1. You’re welcome, CJ!

  9. As you are aware, this is spot-on for me. What a relief to be in a community of appreciative, creative, open thinkers and sharing the timing to be presently intune. As your words emphasize to truly trust our journeys. I am suspicious and critique myself.when I am not productive. Although presently, I do not even have the energy to be judgemental, I am trusting that it will all be okay. Even when I am not “in control”. Either I am printing this is large font to read each morning, or it is time to purchase your book. Your insightful teaching of how to create an acknowledgement, go towards it, follow – we do not always have to lead. We are in this together. I can not tell you how much I appreciate this Community, never believing I find myself here, receiving warmth and encouragement and promoting growth. My outside circle is not flowing with the idea of stepping back to reflect, rest, while I explore my emotions. Out of no where came the desire to choose my own pathway. After years of climbing, I am demanding a rest in the hammock to prepare for whatever is coming. The fear fades when I read your words, thank you.

    1. Thanks, Carrielee! I’m so glad these teachings and this community have been supportive to you. I’m honestly amazed at how quickly the community has grown and what enthusiastic and loving participation people have brought to the table.
      Sometimes you have to take a different path than those around you, and they may feel confused or even betrayed by your choice, but I hope you can remain clear in the Truth of it for you.
      Be well.

  10. Grateful for you. Was reading ” Peace in Every Step” – Thich Nhar Hanh and practicing mindfulness …right on time

    1. Thanks, Phyllis. I love TNH also.

  11. Thank you. I will now look at contraction as a positive instead of a negative. It has a value aI had not considered before.

    1. You’re welcome, Jan. I think the more you can see that contraction as a reflection of how the natural world works – the world that birthed us, after all – the easier it is to recognize that there’s nothing “wrong” about it. Be well.

  12. Exactly what I needed RIGHT NOW! Gratitude <3

    1. Glad to hear it, Faradae. You’re so welcome.

  13. Yaassss! What everyone else said… Thank you! Thanks everyone!

    1. You’re welcome! And, yes, I’m often so glad for the wonderful insights our community adds to the discussion!

  14. Thanks to everyone for your comments. I honor your/our willingness to share & to do the work to heal, evolve, and awaken together. Thank you also for supporting our work and spreading the word!
    Much love,

  15. Friday the 13th brings me to this lovely writing that is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. Serendipity. My stomach has been churning and my sleep was not good last night so it was an amazing thing to remember that we are always cycling after I read this. Thank you so much for helping me find my reset button. So good to start out mindfully again. Warmest regards!

    1. You’re welcome, Teresa

  16. OK that’s a little spooky, she said with a grin. One of my favorite quote is, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”. I have been hit very hard by my lessons recently and this text reminds me to turn in and to quit running. Your message is just one more example of how I need this book, planner, ritual….Message.

    Thank you,

    1. You’re welcome, Lee.

  17. Thank you for this article!!! Its helps me sift thought what I am going through now – depression & anxiety. I was not able to explain why I was feeling this way, because everything is going along great and even growing as a mother, wife and human being. This explains a lot! 🙂

    1. You’re welcome, Margaret. I’m glad you were able to change perspective.

  18. This is so amazing and rings true! have your book The Well Life – will be reading soon… : ))

    1. Thank you, Claudia. I hope you’ve been enjoying the book.

  19. This is it! We forget the ebb and flow of life because something negative stops us in our tracks. I love reminding myself that “I choose peace” or “love” or what ever is appropriate in the moment, bringing myself back to knowing. When you think about it and are mindful of the process, it does make it easy to continue. Thanks!

  20. You’re welcome, Kate. Thanks for remembering & sharing.

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