On Tension

When discomfort comes, relief is the only thing on my mind. I want to run away, to feel better, to avoid the tension.

But tension is neutral. It exists in our world like storms, swimming pools, and doctor visits. We may fear them, but fearing them gives them power and makes us avoidant to the steps we can take to strip their influence.

I want to embrace tension more, to live in it. It feels unpleasant, but there’s such a relief in inviting discomfort to dinner and making room for it to stay the night. There’s strength in knowing that my fear of the tension is far worse than the tension itself.

Tension is holding an uncomfortable yoga pose. Grimacing, clenching, and cursing through it doesn’t help the experience. But feeling without judgment how uncomfortable it is makes the release that follows restorative and relieving.

I listened to a talk recently by Tara Brach, who described her four-step mindfulness tool called RAIN. Recognize what is happening; Allow the experience to be there, just as it is; Investigate with interest and care; Nurture with self-compassion.

My impulse is to relieve tension immediately; problem solve to feel better.

But it never solves anything. Any relief is temporary. Instead, I hope to recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture. Not change.

I want to invite tension in as part of the beauty of our lives.

Music in all major chords would be boring. We have minor and diminished chords to create a tension that can be relieved in the major chords to follow. Without the tension, there’s no soar to our music; there’s no emotion; there’s no soul.

So tension, I welcome you. Come sit down for a while.

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