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The Tension Between What Is and what you Want

Dear Integral Meditators,

How do you deal with the gap between what you want in your life and the reality of what you actually find? The article below considers how to work with this ongoing tension in a positive way…

In the spirit of the journey,



The Tension Between What Is and what you Want

‘I wanted the meet with my date to go this way, but it didn’t’
‘I thought I’d get this work project done quickly and easily, but I’m still stuck working the details out.’
‘I want to know that I’ll have enough money to afford the things I need by the end of the month, but I have no way of knowing for sure’

In our life there is almost always a tension between the way we want our life to be, and the way it actually IS. How you experience this tension on any given day or in any given moment is a big part of whether you feel happy or sad, negatively or positively stressed, calm or frazzled.

The extreme of passivity
It’s all very well for me as a meditation and mindfulness coach to say to you ‘you have to accept what is, and be more in the moment’, but sometimes accepting what is can make us too passive; sometimes we need to try and assert ourselves in the situation and act to move things toward where we want to be. Being overly accepting can lead to the extreme of passivity.

The extreme of control
On the other hand we are all familiar with the ‘control freak’ in us; the one who wants it all to be worked out, certain, guaranteed, no risk. The problem is we are never 100% in control, life never turn out exactly the way we think it will or should. Sometimes is all seems to be fine and then disaster strikes, sometimes it seems like a disaster and then turns out unexpectedly well. Trying to make everything certain, and bend the world to our will is the extreme of control.

The middle way of acceptance and responsibility
So the middle way between passivity and control is to:

  • Accept fully what is, and where we find ourself AND
  • Take responsibility for trying to move things in the direction that we want, recognizing that this will never give us 100% control, but nevertheless we have to call ourselves to action based upon what we understand.

It is about holding the tension, not solving it or getting rid of it
I think about the tension between what is and what I want not as being something that I am trying to solve, or get rid of, but rather I am trying to learn how to hold well, to hold  mindfully and intelligently; I am not in total control of my life (or the world), but I am responsible for it. I have to accept the reality of where I am without fighting the facts, but I need to avoid over-passivity, fatalism or despondency.

Working mindfully with this tension in our daily life
Where is the tension between what is and what you want in your body, mind and heart right now? Are you holding it well? How can you hold it better?

© Toby Ouvry 2015, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Integral Meditation Asia