The other day when I was washing my hands (for the billionth time), I noticed something strange: I was washing my hands with crazy amounts of pressure and tension. Without trying, I was mashing my soapy hands together with the force to crush a coconut. My hands, which in the past 12 months have comforted my wife through childbirth and held my son for the first time, made countless bottles, typed thousands of emails and thanklessly written to-do lists and meeting notes, were now being mashed together as if they were out to get me. Seeing this, and relaxing the tension, led to a great realization.
Later, when I was in the workshop assembling a bookshelf, I was drilling pilot holes and I noticed the same thing. The drill bit kept slipping and at first I blamed my drill, but soon I realized again that I was muscling down on this poor 1/8th drill bit with every ounce of energy I could muster. Once I noticed that, I relaxed my grip, lowered my shoulders, and the bit cut effortlessly. The extra effort I was applying was making it that much harder to achieve what I needed.
Becoming aware of this stress and tension has now become a great tool for relaxation. In the workshop especially, I focus on moving my hands and leveraging the tools with just the right force for the job, and never more tension than needed. This is why for me, and for the C4 programs, creativity and building are such great teachers. We can observe our behavior outside of our normal tasks and learn about how we are doing internally. I
It was a revelation to me to see how I was being impatient in all sorts of things, from building the bookshelf, but also in how I was washing my hands, doing dishes, steering the car, etc. Simply noticing how much unnecessary tension I was imparting into these tasks showed me the value of taking a breath and relaxing my grip, and just how much better everything turned out once I did so.
Try this: take out a piece of paper and a pen, and write the words, “Thank you for …” and then fill-in three or four things. While you do so, pay very special attention to how much force you’re applying to the pen and really focus on deep breaths and applying only as much force as needed. You’ll probably find that filling in that gratitude list is easier and more enjoyable, and notice how the tension may even make it easier or harder to feel gratitude. Noticing the extra force and tension is often a necessary step to relaxing and returning to the present moment.
We hope that practicing these little things can help everyone stay connected, and show us how something we so often take for granted — our touch — can affect everything from the tone of our voice, the nature of our communications, and also provide us a window into immediate relaxation and connection. You’ll be surprised how much more is possible with a light touch.
Glenn R. Fox, PhD