Gospel Jn 8: 21-30. What the Father taught me is what I preach
Before the big shutdown many people were stressed by work, travel, meetings and the rush of modern life. Their personal energy was expended just surviving in the big cities that we made for our pleasure but which for many became a prison. Since the shutdown and the new waves of the virus, for many people stress has come from different sources: loneliness, financial worries, demanding childcare, lack of physical contact.  Stress results from excessive tension, sometimes leading to a nervous snap and collapse. Under such stressful pressure we understandably look to relax the tension. Some may try meditation and healthier living; but others toy with alcohol, drugs, over-eating or bingeing in other ways.
Relaxation is natural and necessary for both physical health and mental balance. Trouble begins when the ways of relaxing themselves become unnatural and excessive. We need to be relaxed when we meditate as well as meditating in order to relax. There is no realisation of the Self if we are trying too hard or if our expectation of results outstrips the need to do it just for its own sake.
If we relax naturally and healthily - and approach meditation in the same way that we care for our physical and emotional states - we will find the right degree of tension. Tension is not the enemy but the friend. Life without tension is unliveable: either collapsed or ended. Even walking naturally across the room or typing on the keyboard employs tension to the right degree.
Too much tension or too little is a problem with dire consequences. How then do we know if we are heading in the right direction? Because we and others we serve will know that we are paying attention more fully, as we give our self to people and tasks. The perfect degree of tension is pure attention.
Attention needs to be directed and then gently, steadily held. Regardless of what we are giving our attention (and self) to it then becomes the gaze of love or contemplation. Pure attention to another is attention to the Other, to God who is the ground of being in all things good and bad. In paying attention to something good this may be felt as delight or being energised. In the case of something unwelcome or hostile it is felt as forgiveness or compassion.
Because God is being paid attention to in everything and because attention is love, when we truly pay attention (however imperfectly) we feel reciprocity. The perfect degree of tension is pure attention to the other which is in continuous exchange with the attention we receive from God. As our attention turns from ourselves and moves to another, the exchange of selves goes ever deeper, from reciprocity and mutuality to unity. When it is stuck on ourselves, we feel isolated and unloved. The exchange of reciprocated and reciprocating love is creation. It is birth and death - and the resurrection that transcends both. It is stillness and the dance of Being-in-Love that we call, for convenience, ‘God’.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2021