By default, call it instinct if you may, we humans avoid tension. We shy away from it instinctively, because it creates a level of discomfort. Often, it can hurt. Yet we are perversely and ironically attracted to it as well.
And then, there are those of us, call it the 1% or 5%, who show that you can use tension to create a level of mastery. The internal process is hidden, like a powerful secret, but all boiled down, it is their ability to weave tension, rather than let tension get the better of them.
Weaving tension is using tension to create an outcome.
Tension is inherent. It is a part of life and being alive on this planet. Your relationship and how you deal with tension is a choice, whether we are aware of it or not.
As described in The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz, a rubber band is a great demonstration of tension. If you pull the rubber band enough, you experience this tension, and if you let it go then it will naturally resolve itself back to having no tension. This is what it can feel like.
The art of keeping this tension alive throughout your creative process is a powerful skill to master. Its about mastering just the right amount of tension – maintaining that sweet spot throughout the whole process of creating. Not resolving tension until the vision or end result has been manifested.
Too little and the rubber band deflates. Too much and it warps & breaks. Maintaining the right amount of tension requires a good dose of self-awareness and will - action helps too.
Now, I’m getting more to my point. I don’t know if anyone has ever talked about an awareness of applying tension to create transformations on the physical plane. People either have figured this out, or not.
But first a little side story.
If you know me, you would know a recent passion in my life is Capoeira (a Brazillian martial art that is played like a dance, with amazing acrobatic flourish). It has been almost 2 years that I have been learning – and in the last 6 months I’ve felt pretty stagnant on my journey. In other words, I’m not improving past the level that I’m at – and there are plenty of things to learn.
I’ve also watched others in my class with their journeys. This is what I’ve noticed.
Think Goldilocks and the 3 bears. There are those that push themselves too far, and those who don’t push themselves enough. Then, there are those that push themselves just right (the sweet spot). One thing is very apparent in a sport like Capoeira. The people who clearly grow are those that apply themselves consistently. When in class, they try –when out of class, there is a lot of behind the scenes application. But they don't overdo it.
Those that don’t push themselves enough stay where they are with what they’ve already learnt. Enough said. Those that push themselves too far might find some initial improvement, but it’s pretty inevitable that motivation wanes, or they injure themselves (things get torn, old injuries are reinjured, etc). They stretch themselves too far that they break, physically or psychologically.
Those that grow at their own pace– they work with tension. They may realise it or not, but they accept pain as an inherent part of the journey to their vision. Some moves require a long period of attempting again and again – and failing miserably. Think face plants in the sand. No certainty of when the body will pick it up into muscle memory. Days when you can barely walk while your muscles are recovering. But they work with it – pushing themselves just enough but allowing break times and recuperation periods.
So... I had been feeling stagnant in my growth journey as a Capoeirista. Obviously, I had stopped pushing myself – and allowed tension to resolve into a comfortable routine. Which is fine if that was where I wanted to be, but deep down it wasn’t. When I finally tuned in intuitively, it was clear to step up the tension again via a 120 Day Do What You Love Challenge.
If you have never heard of the 120d DWYL Challenge – go here to find out more. If you want to learn about mastering tension in application, this is a great way to start with any challenge you choose. I assure you that tension will enthusiastically introduce itself to you very early on.
So... My first part of the challenge – being able to do Queda de Rins (literally: falling on the kidneys) in its most basic challenge. I never really tried before – any attempt over the past 1.5 years have been half-hearted and ‘proof’ that my body was not as strong as others. Once I decided, I tried it again and again – and it hurt. I’d take a break. Then I’d try it again. The whole process was highly uncomfortable.
The process is the same with any move. Pushing my body just enough, even when it feels uncoordinated and when it hurts & shakes, having a rest – and then applying myself all over again. Until it becomes natural.
Weaving tension is a universal principle. It applies on the physical, but can also apply on the mental, emotional and energetic planes with just the same (but different) integrity.
Solving a problem, learning a language, memorising vast amounts of information – all require the ability to weave tension on the mental plane. If you think about it too hard, you don’t retain much of anything – and if you don’t do anything about trying to learn, then nothing changes. All requires pushing yourself just beyond what you think your limit is, then having a rest before reapplying. Often your brain feels like noodles – and can hurt physically in the brain. Those that can weave tension on the mental plane know that they need to go through this to achieve their goal.
Emotions have a similar underlying principle. Emotions are about expression of self (and behaviour) and also affect our relationships with others. Our society is largely stuck in the level of emotional intelligence of adolescent teenagers. A large portion of our society is hyper-reactive to emotional charges (which you witness during periods of disaster and the media representation). Just as large is the use of drugs to suppress emotional behaviour – such as for depression and bipolar. But emotional suppression occurs even without drugs. Stress caused by highly charged emotions and suppressed emotions can both be a root cause to ill-health.
We, as a society, have yet to learn the ability to pass through the tension of the emotions, which can reveal layers deep within yourself. Those that can weave tension on this plane holds a deep connection to self and functional expression. Anger, sadness, shame, fear – all have a place within us and if expressed functionally, play a fundamental part in the expression of ourselves within the world.
Although our Westernised society is not very equipped with emotion, as it is with the physical or mental plane, we are still better at understanding emotion than our ability to understand the energetic plane. When I talk about this, I am referring more to the etheric plane, which is the seat of desires, motivations and energy levels. In most Asian countries, it’s an inherent part of the language – whole healing modalities such as acupuncture & chi gung have been formed to manipulate/cultivate energies on this plane alone (to affect other planes such as the physical & emotional).
There is no morality on this plane, just energy. You are either over-energised or under-energised – and experience positive and negative effects of these states. You can have too much desire (which overrides common sense and wisdom) or no desire (becoming generally an empty shell and subject to whims of your surroundings). I even liken Chronic Fatigue and depression to being greatly influenced by state on this etheric plane. The medical system has yet to underpin root causes of these ‘dis-eases’ and many others of the nervous system as well – because they have yet to acknowledge the existence of the etheric plane.
Cultivating chi like the chi gung masters takes time and overcoming the tension of your own resistance or lack of desire. Having a healthy desire and energy for life requires working with the tension generated by your unconscious structures that create otherwise in your energy body.
Feeling and working with tension is uncomfortable – anyone who is honest and self-aware will openly tell you that. Nobody goes through transformation without some form of discomfort and associated fear and self-resistance. The difference is that they weave tension regardless of that.
Being able to weave tension, recognise it and transform it to work in your favour, is a gift that all can learn. It gives you the ability to create things that really matter to you, rather than creating an illusion that you can’t. It allows you to have your heart.
And also just as importantly, it allows you to live life on a level of mastery – where the physical, energetic, emotional and mental planes are not mastering you. Instead, you master them.