The Polarities of Well-Being

To be at tension is attention. It is a focused awareness. If awareness is ‘light’ then focused awareness is a ‘flashlight.’ It is a beam of awareness, which is tension. Awareness is itself at ease. Tension is awareness focused. The degree of focus may have a range from the highly specific to the peripheral. Focus may be sustained for long periods of time, but not indefinitely. There must necessarily, and naturally, come a time of release, a time of ease. A time, and for a time, that the tension is relaxed.

Released focus of attention is relaxation. It is ease, and comfort. The very nature of awareness itself is ease and comfort, self sustaining and described as a ‘flame in a windless place.’ It is stable, untouched by the various objects of awareness upon which awareness will focus, upon which awareness will be at tension. One’s attention is primarily a survival skill. We are first and foremost, if even not thinking about it, aware of our surroundings. We focus on elements within those surroundings that may be in some way perceived as a threat or potential danger. When no such threat or danger exists, awareness can focus on those tasks and chores beyond basic survival.

Awareness is highly channeled towards focus and less so towards ease. The habitual tendency to be focused on something, anything, is at the root of attention deficit disorders. We are not meant to be focusing on that which is of no or little relevance to us. When forced to do so, inattention and a wandering mind, along with misbehaviors, are a natural consequence. When focused on that which has relevance and interest, there is not only no deficit of attention, it can be hard to pull attention away. It can be difficult to be at ease, to relax.

And, yet, well-being requires both time for attention, and time for relaxation, which is more than watching a television program, reading a book, cruising social media or eating potato chips, all of which require degrees of focus and attention. Relaxation is defocus in which awareness becomes amorphous and nebulous. Relaxation is less definition, less detail, less structure; it is less limitation, less restriction and less constriction, all of which suggests more liberation from the confines of the tension-based focused awareness.

This dynamic of tension and release or focus and relax is better understood in terms of ‘pneumatics.’ ‘Pressurized air’ or ‘wind’ is inserted into a vessel, which upholds that vessel. Like a balloon blown up, the shape and tension of the balloon is upheld by the ‘winds.’ Ease and relaxation is the withdrawal of those winds from the balloon, which looses it’s shape; it becomes, as it were, limp. Limp is relaxation. Focus is the tension of being blown up. To be focused is to be at tension; to be relaxed is to be at limp, at ease, not blown up.

For everyday health concerns, employing intentional alternations of focused physical tension and defocused physical llimpness promotes well-being. For example, bring your hands up to your chest, put them together palm to palm fingers facing upward, and press together, press hard, and harder, and harder and hold that for a moment and then release that tension and let your arms fall limp to your side. Lay on your back and tense your whole body, more tense, more focused tention, tighter and tigher and hold it a moment, and then release the tension and lay limp. These types of alternations are knon as ‘Isometric’ exercises. Isometric exercises are excellent ways to employ tension and ease, focus and relaxation. Some of the most effective and well known isometric exercises are yoga asanas. Numerous instructional videos are available online. Take more command of the direction your well-being takes by incorporating the polarities of well-being. At tension. At ease.

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

-Chinese Proverb


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