It’s a beautiful, spring-like day here in the Northeast and it
feels good to be home enjoying the sun and warmth. Michael and I
returned from Paris last week after a business trip that gave us the
opportunity to visit places like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. The beauty and grandeur
of Paris is beyond words. (You can see photos and video of our trip on
my Facebook page here.)
During our vacation I was struck by a
feeling I often experience when I travel – conflict. While I enjoyed
the sights and sounds of Paris and the magical experiences we
encountered, I also missed the beauty and comfort of our home (and, of
course, our cat, Poupon). The feelings for both were equally strong.
times during the week I had to stop and re-center myself in the present
moment to take full advantage of our time in Paris. When I did, I
found myself recalling a message I heard long ago from a teacher who has
had a profound influence on my life and my work. Her name is Marion
Woodman and she used to tell us that wholeness comes from learning to
"hold the tension of the opposites."
We live in a world of
duality. There’s daylight and nighttime, summer and winter, good and
evil. It’s the nature of living as a human being on earth to deal with
the tension of opposites. And yet, navigating the complex feelings that
come from holding this tension can be stressful and challenging at
best. You interview for a new job, for example, and find yourself
anxiously waiting to hear how you did while knowing that at the same
time you need to be patient and detached from the outcome. Or, you try
to be a good parent by encouraging your son to go out into the world to
live a full, rich life, while everything inside you begs to hold tight
to keep him safe.
How do we hold the tension of the opposites and
still thrive and enjoy our lives? What can we do to make this
experience less stressful? Here are a few things that helped me:
voice to your feelings. As I grappled with mixed emotions
during the trip, I felt alone and a little crazy. After all, here I was
in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and part of me wanted
to be home. It didn’t make sense. But, once I stopped suffering in
silence and shared my thoughts with Michael, I discovered that he felt
it, too. Sharing my feelings and knowing I wasn’t alone immediately
made me feel better.
Honor the opposites. Rather
than judge one side as better or worse than the other, give both parts
of you equal consideration. I spent some time by myself writing about
the traveler in me who was thoroughly enjoying seeing new places,
meeting new people, and having new adventures. And I also wrote about
the other part that loved our home, missed Poupon, and wanted the
comfort and peace of familiar routines. What I soon discovered was that
giving time and space to both parts of me made me feel stronger and
more capable of being with the tension.
ability to hold both. Once I felt stronger, I had a glimpse of
what Marion was talking about when she said that "wholeness" comes from
holding the tension of the opposites. Rather than try to exorcise or
ignore my uncomfortable feelings, I needed to see the choice to be with
both as a kind of "inner training session." As I centered myself in the
tension, I imagined weaving parts of me together into a stronger, more
mature woman. By doing this I was developing an emotional muscle that
would ultimately allow me to bring more of who I am to the world.
hope this makes sense. As is often the case, I’m working it out as I
write. I know I’m not alone, though. We’re all faced with the task of
living with opposing feelings and experiences. It’s what we do with it
that matters most. My intention is to master the art of holding myself
in the beauty and possibility of the in-between world. And I invite you
to join me â˜º.
Take Action Challenge
This week, identify
an inner conflict that reflects two different parts of you. Then, talk
to someone about it. Share your feelings and experiences. Give time
and attention to both parts by writing about them in a journal or
notebook. Finally, find an image that reflects the strength of holding
the tension and allow this image to inspire you to stay steady and
I found this week’s video while looking up the email
address of a colleague I adore. It’s captivating and inspiring as
coach, Rich Fettke,
tells the story of what happened when he jumped out of an airplane
(with footage of the actual jump!). Thanks for taking us along with
Cheryl Richardson.© Copyright 1999-2009 Cheryl Richardson, P.O. Box
13, Newburyport, MA 01950, www.cherylrichardson.com.
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Have a question for
Cheryl? Call in during her live Internet radio show — Coach
on Call — on the Internet at www.hayhouseradio.com.
The show airs live on Mondays at 5pm ET (2pm PT) and is replayed
throughout the week.