Again with the Tension?! (Or, It’s OK not to know)

It’s happened again. An old theme has come circling around, adding another new level of understanding.

June 2009: I wrote this post on a different blog, which I then re-posted here in July 2011. This is the gist: During a Journal Therapy training I wrote (well, it kind of wrote itself while I held the pen) an Alphapoem which included the phrase, “Resume the Stability of Tension.” Not knowing what the hell that meant, I played with it for a while using other writing exercises. Then a few weeks later I was provided with the answer while reading Christina Baldwin’s Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest:

… you need to envision a lifeline between [where you are and where you want to go]. It needs to be tense, like a tightrope, something you can walk along. The necessity for tension requires we develop a different attitude about tension: this is creative tension. Creative tension is what creates the path. When we lose tension, we wander without focus (my bolding). We have to decide over and over again to stay close to the tension, to walk the wire.

In response I wrote:

I was wandering without focus. I was trying to split myself between a job that was sucking the life out of me and the longing to pursue a writing/teacher career… [but] I choose to put my Longing back in charge. Together we will walk the high wire of creativity – up where Potential and the Higher Self lives.

And so I went on my way. Two years later, I am writing, teaching and learning amazing, life-changing things.

Today: I pick up the copy of Marion Woodman’s Leaving My Father’s House: A Journey to Conscious Femininity, and casually flip to a page. I read this:

Knowing [the eternal feminine] has nothing to do with blindly stumbling toward a fate we think we cannot avoid. It has everything to do with developing consciousness until it is strong enough to hold tension as creative energy.”

Having read a lot about the Sacred Feminine or Feminine Divine (or in pure psychological terms, the feminine aspects in both men and women, or our more Right-Brain-associated functions), it is that part of us that can deal with mystery, with the not-knowing, ambiguity, paradox, contradiction, irrationality, possibility… i.e. what creates art  – or stresses us completely out!

Personally, I don’t deal well with Not Knowing. It makes me tense, as it does many people. We like answers, truth, predictability, logic. We are, after-all, a predominantly and proudly Left-Brained culture. Woodman’s use of the word “tense” in the above quote reminded me of that kind of tension, the stress kind. The kind we are told is not good, the kind not to sweat. But here she is telling us that Not Knowing, that being tense, is a way to produce creative energy.

And doesn’t that make sense? We can only come up with new ideas, create new possibilities, think outside that proverbial box, if we don’t have an answer already, if we are not concretely certain and convinced and determined that we already have The Truth. No great change, no great art, no great invention, no discovery, no shift towards better was ever made by those who already had The Answer.

And so, two and a half years after writing that strange phrase and then having been given The Answer, I am given Another Answer, on the surface contradictory but equally good, equally empowering. The one does not exclude the other, they can live side-by-side, providing me with new possibilities of thought.

“Resume the Stability of Tension” = Only a tense rope (a focused life) will carry you forward, and it is only when letting go of what you think you know that you can move forward. It is OK –  indeed good – not to know.

Maybe next week, next year, tomorrow, I’ll be offered another equally truthful meaning of the poem that was given to me…

Prompt: “It is a contradiction, but equally true, that…

P.S. Just hours after publishing this post I picked up where I had left off in the other book I am reading, The Chalice and the Blade and read this:

tension between pairs as well as opposite is a frequent theme. The dynamism of nature and its periodic rejuvenation through the seeming opposites of death and birth… unity and the duality of life and death… motherhood and virginity… femininity and masculinity… juxtaposition and essential unity of the creative and destructive powers… this [is the] all-encompassing transformative character of the … ‘goddess of opposites.'”

Resume the Stability of Tension

This is a post from a couple of years ago. I am re-posting it because this phrase – Resume the Stability of Tension – keeps popping back into my mind lately. Although I am in a completely different life situation now (I left my job very soon after this post and started grad school a year later), I am paying attention to it. The “naggings” of our unconscious are important to listen to, they hold messages.

~~~

[June 18, 2009] A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar by my journal-writing/therapy mentor, Kathleen Adams. At the time I was at the height of my distress over my job. The idea of a whole day writing and learning more about journal techniques from ‘the master’ had momentarily calmed and uplifted me. Then Kay asked us to finish the following statement, “Right now in my life..”

I wrote frantically for five minutes. It poured out of me. After the writing sprint we were asked to write a sentence or two of feedback to ourselves: “As I read this I notice…” This personal feedback was what we shared with the group (if we chose). I told them that although I was calm before the write I was now a nervous wreck! I had traded a relaxed attitude for hunched shoulders and a stomach of jumping beans. Kay told me I might want to explore this in an exercise we would be doing in the afternoon.

At lunch Kay and I shared a table, and the conversation – which was intended to be about my upcoming journal workshops – became a mini therapy session. I was still shaky and Kay, being the experienced therapist that she is, asked me all the right questions. The word “loyalty” came up.

That afternoon, Kay told the group about Alpha Poems. I was already familiar with them as they were a fun portion of my workshop training. I chose to do a poem based on the word Loyalty. Here’s what came out:

Limits myself, always
Open, always
Yes, never no
Attitude
Limits the way I go
Take the road to
YOU

Wanting to play some more I chose to do a poem using the entire alphabet.

Always
Bending to others
Cutting out the
Day to
Everyone but me
Favoring
Goodness
Hating
Irresponsibility
Judging myself
Knowing how
Loyalty is my
Mantra
No one is happy
Open the door
Pursue the
Quest
Resume the
Stability of
Tension
Undo the
Values
(e)Xplore
Yourself

I didn’t think about what word or phrase would come next, it just happened. I didn’t even know what word I was going to write until I began writing it. It is a magical thing!

Anyway, the phrase that immediately jumped out at me was the strange, “Resume the Stability of Tension.” Now, I am a tense person and in my experience, that is not a good thing. I have even taken drugs for it. Hubby frequently asks me in utter frustration as he runs out of door 15 minutes before he needs to, why it has to be “so tense around here in the mornings?” I couldn’t put my finger on what it meant, exactly, but I loved the sound of that phrase and had a feeling it had something important to tell me. I played with the idea in my journal, even wrote more alpha poems around it. Still not knowing how to decipher its meaning, I decided it would be my new mantra.

Then a couple of days ago, I read this in Christina Baldwin’s Life’s Companion:

… you need to envision a lifeline between [where you are and where you want to go]. It needs to be tense, like a tightrope, something you can walk along. The necessity for tension requires we develop a different attitude about tension: this is creative tension. Creative tension is what creates the path. When we lose tension, we wander without focus (my bolding). We have to decide over and over again to stay close to the tension, to walk the wire.

I was wandering without focus. I was trying to split myself between a job that was sucking the life out of me and the longing to pursue a writing/teacher career that was “dragging me about” (again, I quote Christina Baldwin; she *is* me). I needed to Resume the Tension (Focus) to gain Stability.

I put loyalty to my boss and my job aside and I chose to put my longing back in charge. Together we will walk the high wire of creativity – up where Potential and the Higher Self lives.

Quoting Christina: We write.

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What I think we are up to, we throngs of journal-writing pilgrims, is reclamation. We are searching for ways to reclaim a sense of place, a sense of empowerment, a sense of healthy relationship between our lives and our times. We look for whatever can help us make sense of the moment. We Write. (Christina Baldwin, Life’s Companion)

Dear Ms. Baldwin (may I call you Christina? I feel we are already friends):

Reading this quote today, I choked up. I’ve read it before and jotted it down for future reference but today it hit me, right in the chest. You see, Christina, I have gotten myself all in a tizzy.

I am working very hard to establish myself in this world. A very new world. A world of self-employment, in a unstable economy, in an unusual but emerging field: Transformational Language Arts. Most days I feel I am just shouting at the sky, HEY! People! I think you might want to listen to what I have to say! I can help you. Won’t you let me help you? I realize it will take time for society to see the value in the work I and my expressive writing colleagues are doing. But I network, I email, I provide free services, I blog, I Twitter, I Facebook, and still I see so little response. Many times I wonder why I keep doing it.

Despite this, on most days I still feel positive because I know in my heart that I am doing the right thing. I believe in what I teach and I know I can help people. I also know that those who need me the most will find me.

But the truth is, Christina, I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed by this monster I have birthed. I can’t just walk away from the little corner of the internet I now call my own. But it is pulling me under. My children, writing, time, energy, fun… these things are left floating above me while I drown in a social-media flood of my own making. I need to get back to the surface, catch a breath, gain balance and hold on tight to what I value and love – because ultimately it is these things that will get me back to shore.

But there is one thing I have not lost or neglected in this vortex: my journal. Each night and morning I fall on its pages as one falls into bed, exhausted and in need of rejuvenation. In particularly difficult moments I physically crave the respite I find there. My anxiety is high until I can sit with my journal on my lap and pour out my petty fears.

Because – yes! Christina – I am searching to reclaim. I need to reclaim my peace of mind, my self-confidence, my sense of who I am in this world when everything has become a little bit crazy. I am trying to re-find the “why” when I have gotten lost in the “how” and “when.”  Looking for the path of Purpose and Meaning again when I have veered off into the jungle of Productivity and Profit.

I write. And I reclaim myself. And when I reclaim myself I also know I am meant to write. My authentic self is a writer. And so, Christina, I chose to write to you today to thank you for your meaningful, powerful words, but also for the pure pleasure of stringing words together – an act that both calms and re-energizes me. And when I place the final period I will know I am doing the right thing. To be given the privilege to teach others the incredible power of writing is worth every effort to be able to do so.

Thank you,

joanna

 

Jour du Journal:Envisioning the Future

So, what did you think of Alpha Poems? I think they are a fun and unexpected way to access your inner wisdom while also discovering the creative genius hidden deep within. Please feel free to leave a comment telling about your experience (or share your poem, if you like).

Now, back to manifesting your future.

In order to create a path towards what you desire you have to first envision what that is.

In the process of making a commitment to discover our purpose, we need to dream. We need to make images, try on various fantasies, explore… Vision starts with a vague sense of something desired, something missing, a hole we want to fill…
Christina Baldwin

So, let’s start dreaming.

There is a path(s) before me. On my travel along it/them, I see…

Jour du Journal: Envisioning

Welcome to the first Journal-Write Wednesday!

If you have read any of my blog, j. lucy muses you will know that I am all about dreaming and envisioning what you want out of your life – manifesting your future.

Christina Baldwin writes in Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest,

Before we can do something significant with our lives, we have to do three things: imagine it clearly so we know what we want; be willing to want it very, very much; and take action that moves us to attainment… focused vision, focused longing, and focused action.

To begin this process you must first know where you are now, here in the present. With this in mind, here is your first writing prompt:

“Where I am now in my life is….”

And to quote Natalie Goldberg, Ten Minutes. Write. Go!