Skip to content

Creative Tension

2 min

Do you ever notice how you’re always in the middle of something?

Do you ever notice how you’re always in the middle of something?

Some gap between a future outcome or event and your current reality?

When my wife and I were preparing for the birth of our son we had the project of setting up a nursery.

We were shopping for various items and awaiting their arrival. There were many interdependencies and open loops.

How will this shelf look with that rug? Where will we put this? Will we have enough space?

When I looked at the space which would eventually be our nursery, I felt a subtle tension as I noticed feelings of incompleteness. A voice in my head reassured me that once all the pieces came together things would be okay. The tension would be resolved.

Yet I realize that my entire adult existence has consisted of one project after another. The tension doesn’t ever go away.

A teacher of mine said to me once, “Learn to enjoy the tension, it means you are alive”. That was a helpful perspective shift for me.

It seems far too easy to let weeks, months, or years of life pass waiting for the resolution that never comes.

Instead we can learn to find a sense of fullness, completion, satisfaction, etc. every day.

The alternative is reaching the end and realizing, “it was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing and to dance while the music was being played”. [1]

A surprisingly poignant illustration of this can be seen in the movie ‘Click’. In it Adam Sandler gets the ability to fast-forward through the mundane parts of his life. To his dismay, the more he uses the ability, the larger chunks of time fly by without him being present for them.

It's possible your cliche triggers have already gone off, and you are comfortably filing this away along the lines of, “oh yeah, it’s about the journey not the destination, I know that”.

If this is so, I invite you to consider that while you may know this to be true, there is a high probability that this truth has not been completely embodied and understood by you, and that after reading this your presence and attention will continue to be entangled in imagined future states of completion. This is a firmly established pattern of attention that is difficult to change.

I don’t imagine myself to be an exception here. Rather, there are many levels of understanding to anything, and that deeper understanding is always available to us.

This is primarily about the capacity to choose. It is useful to be able to participate in cycles of tension and resolution. The big project and the successful launch. The painstaking event planning and its culmination. The key is to develop the ability to move our attention at will as we are in these cycles of drama. To enjoy the creative tension, while still being able to be right here, right now, with this breath, and to find a place of rest and contentment in it.


[1] This is from a short video by the creators of South Park using an audio clip of Alan Watts. It’s worth the few minutes!

Subscribe to receive the latest posts in your inbox.