To soften

Let's ask our awareness to remain present and active as we soften.

In yoga philosophy, our observable world is described as a combination of three forces: inactive, active, and balanced.

These basic states of energy describe the matter that makes up everything you see - your body, your friends, that willowy willow and whispering palm, the dog snoozing in the corner - as well as the mind matter that chatters at you.

The inactive state is heavy, slow, fixed. The active state is erratic, exuberant, diffuse. The harmonious state of balance is powerful and peaceful.

We might look at our personalities from this perspective and notice how we're all manifesting in a dynamic play of these forces. Sometimes, we're sluggish or stubborn. Sometimes, we're a bit wild and untamed. Occasionally - and isn't it sweet? - we show up calm, compassionate, peaceful.

To me, this lovely state of peace is the soft place. It's that neutral territory where the fast meets the slow, the lazy meets the frantic, and both are acknowledged with appreciation for the efforts made to arrive. We find ourselves resourceful and understanding. We might - for a moment - find ourselves witnessing the fantastic interplay of the fast and slow energies and realize that we don't always have to participate in it. We can, instead, simply watch. Softly.

In this peaceful place, we might even glimpse a moment or two of bliss.

So, how do we cultivate this soft space? First, we notice how we're doing. If we're spinning, we find ways to grow mellow. If we're lethargic, we might find ways to move. We create the neutral territory where fast can meet slow without resistance or debate. And then... we practice.

Here are three nice ways to soften up.

  1. Let the ground hold you. Lie down on your back or belly and feel the ground's support. Settle your body into the ground and notice how completely it holds you. It's okay if your body isn't totally ready. It will learn to trust the ground more as you practice. This is a particularly nice exercise when you have a blue sky and a friendly tree offering a little shade.
  2. Walk slowly. In a beautiful place or at least a place where there's no traffic or obstacles, slow down your pace and your breath. Every time you lift your foot, imagine a flower blooming from beneath your heel. Walk slowly enough that the little flower has time to rise from the ground. For those of you who are less lyrical, see if you can let every step of your left foot follow your inhale, and every step of your right will follow your exhale. It's really slow. But really a beautiful way to walk, once you settle into the rhythm.
  3. Invite softness into your body. Resting on the ground or in a chair, start a little body scan. Find your feet and make them very tense. Hold them tight for a couple seconds, then relax. Invite your feet to soften. Dothe same with your legs, hips, belly, shoulders, arms and hands, neck, face, jaw and eyes. Tense for a few seconds, then relax. Finally, invite the whole body to tense. Hold it for a moment, then rest softly. When you notice any remaining tension, see if you can meet it kindly with an invitation to let go. Notice the deepening softness you find. This is a nice practice when you're ready to leave a long day behind you.

Often, we deliberately or ignorantly feed the forces that hold us inert or send us in spirals. We may be feeling anxious and choose to move even faster to get more done. We might feel low, smoke some pot, and find ourselves even lower... stuck in the folds of the couch.

In each of the practices above, we're asking our awareness to remain present and alert as we discover the sweet soft space between heavy and light, slow and fast.

These aren't practices for getting sleepy, though that may happen. And that can be a very happy result for someone who is agitated. These are simple practices to bring our energy into the sweet balance of present awareness. We aren't distracted by our spinning mind nor our heavy thoughts. We're simply soft and alert.

The most challenging part of each practice is the choice you make to do it. And then to do it again. Remember, these are practices. We become skillful as we explore them. We grow stronger as we repeat them. We learn more as we practice.

Fortunately, once you've encountered the space of soft alertness, you'll experience the joyful peace of it. I find that I become immediately grateful in this space. I thank all of the forces for allowing me to exist with the world around me. The experience becomes an inspiration to return.

What if you imagine that inspiration is your spirit, calling you home?

Will you listen?

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