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.

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When opportunity knocks… and hands you a gift

credit: Joanna Tebbs Young

Yesterday I received a card through the mail. Inside was a magnet that read: “When opportunity knocks don’t be the one who says, ‘Can somebody get that?'”

This gift was from Kay Adams, founder and director of the Center for Journal Therapy, and it represents a bigger gift which she gave me when she called out of the blue two weeks ago. And, ultimately, it turned out to be a far greater gift than I could have imagined.

Gift #1: Honor and Validation

Three days before the workshop was scheduled to begin, Kay called me to ask if I could substitute for her and teach “Writing Inner Wisdom: Spiritual Growth through Journal Writing” at Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, MA. Due to a family emergency she could not attend and wondered if I could take her place. What an honor! To be asked to teach in place of this brilliant woman, an inspirational and informative teacher, successful author, and compassionate counselor and facilitator was beyond any dream I had for myself. (However, I had dreamed of teaching at Kripalu, but as a possibility many years down the road…).  What validation of my own path!

Gift #2: A visit to Kripalu

I won’t go into the wonders of Kripalu here, that deserves a post all of its own (stay tuned). But suffice it to say: What a place! If the showers were hotter I might just go live there.

Gift #3: Connection

My weekend spent with 12 beautiful women, sitting in a circle, writing, listening, sharing, crying, laughing… connecting, was the gift I did not anticipate, but by far the most precious.  The serendipities and synchronicities that bought the 13 of us together in themselves were amazing (again, you’ll have to wait for that post) and I have no doubt that this weekend was given to me as part of my own journey of healing.

Gift #4: Belief

When Kay first called me, I couldn’t breathe as I choked on the deluge of inner critics screaming, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU’RE NOT CAPABLE!” But my Authentic Self knew I could. And Intuition knew this was the opportunity I had been (unknowingly) waiting for. I do believe that the passion and underlying self-belief in the work I do and the powerful benefits of this field has opened doors I didn’t know where there. So I answered the knock. Yes, I was afraid! Afraid of so many possible unknowns. But I didn’t say, “Can somebody get that?” And that was the gift I gave to myself.

Thank you, Kay, thank you, All. For a greater gift.

Prompt: It was a gift within a gift when…

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.
Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.


Trust the process, part 4 (The Crash)

credit: Yoly Mancilla

Tweet This Blog Post!In the middle of the week of my MA residency at Goddard College I attended a workshop named “Wild Research” with Ellie Epp. The description sounded fascinating:

“Move only along the line of your love.” Stan Brakhage

Transdisciplinary work is thrilling, like travel without a map. Working across disciplinary lines also is nerve-wracking: we parachute into specialized areas sometimes without knowing the basics in those fields. This workshop describes the art of bold, creative, personal transdisciplinary research.

Ms. Epp told us how to allow our intuition to find resources for us and to trust that we know without knowing what we need to answer our questions. I could barely contain myself! If I was 7 and not 37 I probably would have been literally bouncing in my seat. She was saying the exact same thing about researching as Ira Progoff and Kay Adams and all other journaling-gurus have said about expressive writing: if you get out of your own way you will write things you didn’t know you knew.

(Wo)Man does indeed know more than (s)he rationally understands… (journaling) is a way to connect with the KNOWLEDGE BEYOND UNDERSTANDING…
Dr. Ira Progoff, founder, Intensive Journal method (At a Journal Workshop)

The idea of researching INTUITIVELY made me want to run to the library immediately and start dowsing.

But then, this Goddess of Embodiment (not going to even go into that subject right now) told us how our bodies can react under the stress of graduate school (or life). She explained how to sit with our emotions, feel where they are in the body (stomach? chest? throat?) and acknowledge them. Not to try to push them away but rather to put your hand on the site of the feeling (my fear and anxiety often manifests in my chest and stomach as physical pain) and to talk to it: “I feel you. It’s OK. You’re going to be fine.” It will pass after a while.

Wow! Acknowledge our emotions? Actually touch them and talk to them?! Aren’t we Western Academic Types supposed to be all Head, no Heart?

And then Ellie told us we were going to crash. It was not a matter of if, but when. The balloon high of residency and intellectual stimulation would pop and we would burst into a shredded mess leaving us gasping and limp on the ground. Yes, we would cry out, “I can’t do this!” “What was I thinking?!” “I’m too stupid…” She told us those messages were old; stuck on our internal recording from previous times. They were irrelevant to the here and now. And most importantly, this crash was a natural process through we must go in order to move to the other side towards success.

There is so much more I could discuss just on that piece of information. The Psychology of Positive DisIntegration (Dabrowski) alone could be a Doctoral Thesis. But the important thing to remember is, most people stop at The Crash – the “I can’t go on!” part. I have written about this before on this blog (links coming later) in terms of writing through the anxiety and my personal crashes just before something amazing happened. I now look forward to my own crashes – melt downs, I’ve always called them – because I now know that it is the storm before the calm of clarity.

And yes, I crashed about a week after returning from Goddard. I cried for two days. I was so overwhelmed by everything I was trying to take in and the realization that I had to analyze it all and make it into something cohesive and of use to others. I was afraid of the personal emotional turmoil my studies and memoir-writing would put me through.

But I held my fears, I rocked them while they cried and eventually they fell asleep. I know they will wake again at some point but I will be here to hold them and tell them everything’s going to be OK.

Prompt: I am afraid… The reality is…

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

Even Oprah is in on this serendipity thing

Once again my ol’ buddy serendipity has popped in to say hello. Not to me this time but through me (and our good friend Oprah).

I have two friends, friends from a past life, a life steeped in religious dogma. Due to a recent relationship, one of said friends is battling with an old demon (not that demon) of the who, where, what and how of religion and spirituality. She is questioning the road she has taken. The three of us have been emailing today with cyber-hugs all around.

13 years ago I left my church. Eight years ago I came to peace with myself. Three years ago I began to understand a new concept of God/Spirit/Universe. A month ago I was finally able to sit in a church and translate the minister’s words into my language.

Three years ago I made an amazing connection between journaling and spirituality; intuition, inner wisdom, and God. To sum up in as few words as possible, I believe our intuition/instinct/subconscious IS God. At that time I was attending a small Unitarian Universalist church and I was able to present my discovery to the members. I told of my journey from reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way at age 22 to my aha! moment at 30-something. (A link to this unrevised essay, “Wisdom Within” is here.) Also around this time I compiled a journal-writing workshop that looked at this concept from a non-religious – but inherently spiritual – point of view.

So, to get back to today.

I’m still sick and when I feel like crapola I justify watching TV in the middle of the day. I’d had enough of Curious George so I insisted on watching “mommy TV” for just a little while. Oprah came on talking about “The Gift of Fear:” how we should pay close attention to our instincts/intuition. Although I wasn’t really conscious of it at the time, the thought crossed my mind, “yup, there’s God again.”

When I could longer hear Oprah due to the whining of the kids begging for their show, I turned the station (besides, I didn’t really think it was appropriate for them to be hearing about women almost getting stabbed) and forgot about it . Less than an hour later I get an email from the questioning friend. She had been reading my essay while watching the very same Oprah episode. She wrote: “putting it all together now – perhaps that instinct is another way in which God dwells within us and speaks to us.”

Weird, eh?

No, serendipitous.