Softening Up

When I’m struggling with a problem or issue, my natural tendency is to muscle through it. If a little bit of force won’t do, then a lot will, right?  Whether it’s due to my Napoleon complex or my freakishly strong upper body, it’s my nature and it’s a tough habit to break.  But I’m making progress.

Picture Courtesy of The Bindu

The first principle of Anusara yoga is, “Open to Grace.”  It’s hard to open to grace when you’re grinding your teeth trying to force open a bottle of almond butter.  It’s also hard to open to grace when your monkey mind is full throttle.  On the other hand, we can’t be so open that we never try anything challenging, or fail to stand up for ourselves or others.

So it becomes a balance; a balance that enables us to remain open while forging ahead with fortitude and dedication.

In our practice on the mat, we often talk in terms of “softening” and lately, I’ve really been focusing on that – a lot.  And you know what? I actually works!

Have you ever seen anyone smile really hard? It’s kinda scary.  In the last few months, I’ve found myself in front of the camera more than I’d like.  But instead of trying hard to smile, I just smiled and then backed off. The resulting pictures look more like me and I don’t look like I’m headed for a root canal.

But softening has much more important benefits.  Last week, as the trial, tribulations and stress of another school year took our house by storm, I found myself eager to try to dictate how our daughter should handle certain challenges.  But then, I thought, “How can I soften this up a bit so my blood pressure doesn’t rise and she is more receptive?”  I took a deep breath and conjured up one of my favorites from my dad; “You may want to consider . . . .” I heard myself say.  I stated my opinion in a direct but gentle way. We all stayed calm and miraculously, we all got what we wanted.

I’ve also been doing some voice over work and have submitted lots of auditions recently without stellar results.  As I listened to the demos over and over again, I realized that I was actually forcing my voice.  There was no softness or gentleness.  So, I changed my strategy.  For my next audition, I took a deep breath, softened my jaw and face and spoke. The result was markedly different. And while I didn’t get the part yet, they haven’t said, “No,” either.  Clearly the key is to remain strong in voice, but gentle in delivery.

I may not always succeed, but I’m trying really, really hard.  No, wait!  I need to try gently, right??? 🙂

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