“Structural tension is formed by two major components: 1. A vision of the result you want to create, and 2. A clear view of the reality you now have.” – Robert Fritz
The mindfulness commands to Choose, Respond, and Change can simplify your actions, enabling you to be more fully present. Whatever you want to create with your energies – from a mindful place – it will be a more complete representation of what you intend.
I have not talked very much about objective representations. That is, the creation of products that are intended to represent you. Think: wood craftsman, cabinet-maker, instrument maker, seamstress, painter, designer. All of these people generate objective representations — of themselves — through their work. There is a deep connection between the values, beliefs and integrity they hold and the finished products that spring from their labors.
In my choice of examples above, I am focusing more the creative arts, but all types of work – anything that results in a finished end-product – has the same framework as creative artistry. The defining quality, here, is an ability to sustain creative tension. That is, the ability to mentally hold an accurate representation of current reality and an equally accurate representation of some future reality which you want to see. Creative tension requires that you mentally occupy two places at the same time (now and the future) and that you use the tension between those two points – productively – by appreciating more completely the disparity between them.
Too often people become excited about a project and can only envision the end-stage of completion. They do not know how to look for the intervening steps along the way. Current reality provides cues, but the essential “vision” around the intervening steps feels muddy and unclear. The mental work of dreaming up the end-product takes us out of the here-and-now and places us in the future (as it should); however, the future requires an in-the-moment holding that allows us to see the very next step that needs to be taken.
Let’s look again at the mindfulness commands:
The “choose” command goes back to memory and imagination. With the choose command we put our focus on the image of what we are trying to create. Memory engages us in “Calling up and Selecting” while imagination engages us with “Hold and Contain.” Of course, we do both simultaneously. That’s how memory and imagination work (see …memory or imagination (part 2)…).
The “respond” command calls up our self-awareness. Self-awareness insures that our uniqueness is included in the world around us. When we respond, we fit the awareness that we brought up from “choosing” into what we know about the world by identifying “game-we-are-in” right now. Making the decision to be more self-awareness allows us to be more flexible with our response. It allows us to be more effective in tailoring our behavior to the situation; with “respond” we do not operate by default.
Lastly, the command “to change,” is a measure of how comfortably we can stand within the unknown. When we are willing to change, we can stay curious and open, we engage ourselves in the situation before pigeonholing our trust. If we are too narrow with our trust, we opt out of change; preferring instead to stay with our earlier awareness – the one that comes from what ever memory and imagination bring us.
And it’s not just that the mindfulness commands to Choose, Respond, and Change can simplify your actions enabling you to be more fully present. The real benefit is that creative tension, itself, becomes easier to sustain. Your awareness can be more fully guided by the current reality that stands before you, allowing you to see the very next step that needs to be taken toward your goal.
Robert Fritz talks about “structural tension.” And that tension is very difficult to sustain without mindfulness and simplicity. Moving from what is to what is desired requires a mindful awareness of how simple things can be when we stay present and in the moment.
Thanks for listening!