Softness over tension
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Hi and Happy Chinese New Year!
We took the two kids to Bali earlier this month. Its nice to have a holiday again, though its never going to be the same as travelling before kids.
I’m thoroughly exhausted from caring for my two little ones, but it was also worth the effort as I think they both enjoyed themselves very much. I’ve told a few people that it’s probably fun in the same way that going to climb a mountain is fun for some.
Right now though, I feel like I’ve barely recovered from this holiday and I have exhausted myself all over again in the Chinese New Year activities.
Here’s some of our few family photos from the trip. We had our hands full so barely had a chance to take a group photo.
We also travelled with two car seats for the kids. While it seems like an added logistics challenge, I want to share that it is very doable, and definitely worth it for the added safety. I’d be happy to talk to anyone about our set up and why we decided to go through the extra trouble.
Softness over tension
Wing Chun is a “soft” martial art. Rather than stop incoming force directly, we learn to relax, absorb, redirect, and borrow energy.
This year, I've been working on applying a similar approach of softness to my everyday life.
Softness is the opposite of tension. Tension happens when I try too hard to force my will onto others, or to the universe. I enter a state of tension when I fixate on making things go exactly to plan, get upset because someone disagrees with me, or when I worry too much about how things might go wrong.
Choosing to approach life with softness is to let things happen, rather than try and force my will. It is not getting upset when the outcomes I expect don’t materialise. It is staying calm and acknowledging that plans have to change. It is recognising that I cannot control if others have a different opinion.
It might appear like giving up or giving in too easily, but it is actually redirecting focus to myself. From trying to resist and deny problems, to responding to the things that matter and which I can control. A soft response to a spilt drink would be cleaning up the mess, while a tense response would be defensive and finding someone to blame.
Softness is also learning to let go of things that haven’t happened. To stop stressing and worrying about things that might go wrong, or go differently from what I expect. Taking an approach of softness saves valuable attention away from what is outside of my control.
Finally, softness is about being willing to change. To let go of my plans and expectations so that I can adapt to problems, take advantage of new opportunities, or simply ride the momentum of the universe. Rather than spend energy fighting the impossible, put that energy toward more of life.
In contrast, tension wastes energy. It’s like trying to drive fast in a traffic jam. It only feels like I am doing something about it. I don’t have absolute control whether or not the job offer I am waiting for will come in, if my kids will have a meltdown, or if everything in a holiday will go smoothly. Trying to force these is likely to backfire. Either I fail to make it happen, spend so much energy to try until I am worse off, or both.
I used to seek balance. To put all my different aspects - friends, family, hobbies, health, work and so on - into a healthy state of equilibrium. But I ended up trying to force a see saw into a static state: impossible, and boring. Each time I focused on any aspect, I would feel like I was slipping on the others. I’m learning now to relax that tension, and go with whatever is most opportune at the moment.
I try to check myself constantly, especially when I am feeling upset or negative, to see if I am being tense, and to shift to a softer lens instead. So far its helped me feel clearer and respond better to things. I invite you to try and embrace softness in life, and let me know if it works for you too.
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If you would be interested in having a short, targeted chat about anything, drop a reply and i’d be most happy to schedule a coffee or a video call. Perhaps there was a post that resonated which you want to unpack, a problem you want to talk through, or just want someone to listen to whatever is on your mind.
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I came across this article about how black jello farming in Vietnam was uplifting a community and realised after awhile they are talking about chin chow!
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thank you for sharing this!! it was a lovely read. enjoy your Wing Chun sessions, James ❤️❤️