Welcome to Day 18 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”
I will try to keep these posts to less than 500 words once we start the quote.
Here is the quote:
February 15 — The more difficult a thing is, the more it requires softness. When we encounter a difficult person, situation or asana (pose), we often respond with hardness. In your practice (or life) today, choose a difficult pose (or situation) and approach it with both mental and physical softness. Become like the water the flows around a rough boulder, gently washing against it edges.
When I first started therapy, I was acerbic, tough, sarcastic, biting, unforgiving and HILARIOUS. I was like Don Rickles with a uterus. I was all kinds of fun to be around, as long as you weren’t in my crosshairs. All of that was a huge projection of myself and my inadequacies. Of course I didn’t know that at the time. I just thought I was being funny.
Then my therapist went on vacation.
Before he left, he gave me homework. He was always subtle. Never demanding; he never said, “DO THIS.” or “READ CHAPTER 1,973 of ____” it was always a proposal, the jerk. (I heart him.)
He said, “I wonder what it would be like for you to be soft and vulnerable.” (I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before.) AND IT SUCKED. He had me by the shorthairs and he knew it. I actually held back vomit. I actually lost my footing. I actually felt like I was going to pass out. It was as though he’d take a bat and swung it within an inch of my solar plexus.
WELL I DON’T WONDER, YOU JERK. I DON’T WONDER AT ALL. Is what I wanted to say, with a bat.
But he was right. My life was hard. My life was rough. My outlook on life was equally those things. I had been given a lifetime pass to the bottomless buffet of steaming plates of whatthefuck all my childhood and then I got married and had kids.
So, natch, I had to do the homework, because I was a Type-A person. Of course I would do it.
And it was hard. He came back from vacation and I said to him, “It’s hard to be soft,” and we both laughed at the childlike simplicity, candor and truth of it all. But it was the beginning of my rebirth and embracing pink and girlhood, not just femininity.
It was also the beginning of my allowing myself to be imperfect and a buffoon and not such a blowhard. I became less like my father and more like my mother, including her really wonderful and softer and more flirtatious side. I like to think of myself as suede or as gossamer now. Weathered, resilient, soft and reliable. And super funny.
I think of this phrase as it applied to when our son was bullied. We knew this other family was reactive. We knew we had to treat this situation as we would a minefield. So we did. We were as delicate about it as much as possible: we were firm and upfront but also not at all confrontational. It was a difficult situation and had all the etchings of potential disaster on its very thin veneer. When it all did go pear-shaped, I was deeply hurt, but I also knew that I’d done all I could to be soft and strong in it all. The shrapnel was not from any bomb of mine; it was all theirs.
So yeah, being soft in difficult situations is always going to be challenging. Think of moderating your voice instead of yelling, or of whispering, even. Be that water washing against the boulder. Think of a slow and mindful descend to the floor into your grasshopper pose or a push-up instead of a plop; or a five-second count into your downward facing dog as you lengthen the spine disc by disc or work and sink into your warrior 2; it will always make you stronger.