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Letting Go of Unnecessary Tension & What No Longer Serves Us

February 27, 2009

For many years I owned, with a partner, a public relations firm that specialized in high-tech companies like Sun Microsystems, Oracle Corporation, and many other established and start-up firms. As we grew from two people to more than 40 people over an eight year or so span (until I left the company two years after we sold it to a large UK firm), and became one of the top technology agencies in the country, I experienced almost every imaginable business tension and stress possible, which, from my perspective today, contributed to some issues with my health (some immediate and some that arose later).

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1563)

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1563)

Since then, as I have learned how to relax more deeply, to “let go” of what is no longer necessary, it has become increasingly clear to me that excess tension and stress wreaks havoc not only on our health but also on our relationship with ourselves and others. Looking honestly at my myself–mind, body, and emotions–in the middle of an argument with someone or observing others as they rush away from the past or into the future, what is clear is how unnecessary tension makes it virtually impossible to experience and enjoy the present, right now, with the fullness of our being. For example, one only need to tune in to CNN and FOX and listen to politicians and so-called “experts” discussing President Obama’s proposed budget to hear and see the unnecessary tension in the voices and bodies of the speakers (do any of them ever listen?). Or, better yet, just listen to and watch your own unnecessary tension as you discuss this or other political issues with friends, family, and coworkers.

To be sure, some of us take great pride in calling our unnecessary tension “intensity,” which the Webster dictionary defines as an “extreme degree of strength, energy, or feeling,” but I know from my own life that real strength and feeling do not require unnecessary tension. Quite the contrary, they require dynamic relaxation–a harmonious interplay of our own inner energies, of yin and yang, of relaxation and tension, of exhalation and inhalation.

As I said in my audio program Natural Breathing: “There are many obvious reasons for learning how to relax unnecessary tension, but one that is often overlooked is that such relaxation frees the brain to notice and respond to a broader, more-subtle spectrum of data and impressions, of what is actually happening at any moment. It is this increase in ‘perceptual freedom’ that can be one of our major contributions to promoting vitality and good health in ourselves. Perceptual freedom allows the brain and other systems of the body to make maximum use of their powers in discerning problems and responding appropriately. The hormones, enzymes, endorphins, T-cells, and neuropeptides being produced by the brain and body change dramatically in relation to our ability to perceive in new ways. To be able to perceive in new ways means that our energies are not locked into old patterns, but are free to respond to the actual needs and possibilities of the moment.

Anyone who has studied martial arts, tai chi, dance, and so on knows that the body is capable of remarkable intelligence, sensitivity, and action when we are able to rid ourselves of unnecessary tension. It is the ability to be inwardly sensitive in the midst of action, to be relaxed and free enough to experience subtle variations in our sensations and feelings, which lies at the heart of our health and well-being.”

And further, in my essay Relaxation & Letting Go, I wrote: “The great spiritual traditions … teach that relaxation–including the special, inner action called ‘letting go’–lies at the heart of inner work and awakening. The principle is a simple one, at least on the surface: unnecessary physical or nervous tension clouds our perceptive faculties. It cuts us off from the light of consciousness and from the direct inner and outer impressions of reality it can bring. Deep, conscious relaxation is what can ‘open’ us in a harmonious way–body, mind, and feelings–to new levels and frequencies of perception. It can help us reclaim the miraculous sense of aliveness and awakeness that is our birthright.”

In the same essay, I explored the need for relaxation and “letting go” not just in the body but also in the mind and heart. The excess tension in our body often simply reflects (and supports) the deep mental and emotional conflicts that we experience. And these conflicts are often the result of our inability to “let go” of the thoughts, beliefs, assumptions and expectations that no longer serve us.

No one, for example, really knows exactly what is going to happen to our economy over the coming years–with or without Obama’s recovery legislation. Yet we live and speak and act as if we knew–and this belief that we know makes any real exchange with others mostly impossible. The fact is, we seldom listen impartially, with a genuine interest in learning, either to ourselves or others (which I discuss further in my essay The Lost Art of Listening).

If you look and listen honestly within right now you will quickly see at least one thing–perhaps an idea or assumption or expectation or belief or frown or tension–that no longer serves you, one thing that captures your attention, dulls your perception, and buffers you from the unknown. Can you let it go? Can you drop it right now? And if not now, when?

See also The Breath of Life.

Copyright 2009 by Dennis Lewis

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 8, 2012 7:04 pm

    I think quite possibly we hang on to ideas, believes, perceptions whether preconcieved or merely accepted w/ out personally accecessing are born out of a need to feel safe and secure within our realm of being able to survive or carry on. Such actions of thought provides a blanket similar to a baby hanging onto to his or hers whether clean or dirty tattered or torn w/ no further thought of it’s condition, such as a mind that cleaves to matters that no longer serve him other than to have a false sense of security which if taken away the baby is distressed and in flight,same as a mind is challanged when one chooses to hang on or let go. Hanging on keeps one bound where letting go requires preparation to some degree and most of all trust. Which leaves me to believe maybe the question of the proper time and conditions condusive to trusting determines the time or when.

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