Today in my Bhagavad Gita lesson, the teacher was explaining a certain chapter and he told a story from Confucius that truly resonated with me. It is said that when Confucius was laying on his death bed, surrounded by his disciples, they requested one final lesson from him. Apparently, he simply opened his mouth very wide — he was very old he had no teeth — and apparently what he meant by that last gesture was to encourage them to “be soft”. To soften their actions, words, their perspective of the world, and especially to soften their hearts.
We need softness in today’s world
Being an adult in this “modern world” can have an effect of toughening us up. There is so much that we feel we have to deal with: being a good parent — not only through our own eyes, but through the eyes of others, developing a “successful” career, keeping ourselves in good shape — mentally, emotionally and physically, and at every step of the way, proving to the world that we are fine and we are doing good. We live in a very demanding bubble that our society has both created and promoted, and this has contributed to us building hard shells around ourselves, hard to break and hard to live with.
Living and working with three surfers, people always ask me if I surf too. My answer is always the same: I am a consistent and disciplined beginner! I enjoy having my hubby teach me to surf, it’s almost like a date. But when he is teaching me he always says that I need to relax more, to soften up and let go. It turns out that I have noticed that sometimes my yoga practice gets a bit rigid too. Maybe what I am doing on the yoga mat and on the surfboard is a mirror of something that I need to work on within myself; to soften up, to let go, and to allow life to flow a little bit more.
Softening the heart
At this point in my life I am especially eager to soften my heart. Sometimes the hardest thing is to be soft with the people closest to you, the people that you love, trust, and care about the most. Our families, children, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Sometime our toughness, our shell, makes us want to control, demand, judge, and try to change or “fix” each other.
This trip has been an inner journey for me. Sometimes you need to take a step out in order to see the whole picture. That’s one of the things I love the most about travel; other than having unique experiences, it allows you time and space to do more introspection, especially if you are traveling solo.
This has been an intense year for me and the people that surround me, lots of new challenges and stressful situations. I have noticed when the mountain gets hard to climb we tend to lose our softness, just when it is most needed. We allow ourselves to be driven by our immediate and intense emotions: anger, disappointment, sadness, etc. And from there, we waste our time arguing, demanding, trying to control, forcing situations that we have no control over.
Do we want to spend our lives doing that? Or do we want to enjoy them and accept that life has challenges (and always will); there will be ups and downs, but at the end everything will pass.
How yoga helps teach us to be soft
Softening up is one of the principle ideas of the practice of yoga, and to maintain serenity in every situation. I have noticed that this is a process, and for some us, can actually be a very long term goal! That’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to my mat everyday, to release what needs to be released in order to live with my heart more open — or so I try!
As I write this in my little apartment here in Mysore, India, I am starting to feel nostalgic. And how could I not be? I live in paradise! As I write, my mind brings me to a memory back home and I picture our family visits to the beach during sunset. My daughter playing and running, our dogs — Coco & Kali — happily jumping around, being free, my husband doing what he loves the most — surfing — and the whole scene, which combines crystal water, sand under the toes, lush green mountain behind, the sun coming down just ahead: that golden moment really makes my heart soften, it brings me to a state of joy and reminds me that in the end, life is a playground that can be easily enjoyed when we live in a space of love — every moment, every experience, every place, every opportunity.
Therefore, dear heart: Please be soft!