Soften to strengthen

I think sometimes we believe that in order to be strong we have to be rigid; that in order to be fierce and determined we must be steadfast and unwavering. Sometimes, more times than not, maybe the opposite is in order.

I was listening to one of my yoga teachers, Elsie Escobar who said in one of her yoga podcasts that in order to make our hearts become stronger, physically, we must soften our thoughts and our breath. When we soften we allow the blood vessels to open and that in turn helps our hearts beat more regularly and more openly. Stress and tension cause the blood vessels to constrict and make our heartbeat irregular and make our hearts work harder. To strengthen our hearts, we must soften our minds.

It seems a little illogical. We admire those who are "strong", "tough-minded", "take-no-prisoners" and yet those people may be the least healthy. I am not saying you should give in or not stand up for yourself or your beliefs, but what I am saying is that maybe the way we have gone about showing our strength is not necessarily the first path we should take.

If we allow and accept that things are the way they are and that all we can change is our mindset, then maybe we won't be so determined to yell and push and cry about how we wish things could be different. Maybe we can embrace the challenges we have today by facing them with interest and acceptance and wonder. Rather than sit and stew and mutter and bemoan our fate, maybe we can instead look to the future with light and optimism. Maybe if we soften our hearts to what today has to offer, we can come upon tomorrow with a new-found softer determination in our hearts.

It is certainly easy to write that we should accept what our life is and try to move on from there- it is not as easy to live those words. I always wonder why it is that my wonderful friends haven't found love, why my relatives have sickness in their lives, why my life has brought me so many challenges. It drives me crazy to think that others have their lives "handed" to them... but then I meet those people and I realize that they have struggles too- the facade of perfection is just an image and not reality. I realize that we all face our demons each day, but if we focus on that, then we are moving nowhere. If we focus on what we lack we will not move toward fulfilment. I write the words to "soften" and "accept" more as a reminder to myself than anything else. I write these words hoping that if you experience what I do, that maybe they will give you some comfort for your life, for your reality, and most of all, for your tomorrow.

This is the life.
- a


  1. Softening, instead of becoming more rigid and obstinate, in the face of adversity is one of the counterintuitive Buddhist insights of my new favorite Tibetan Buddhist nun, currently of Nova Scotia, ex-Boulder and ex-Manhattan, Pema Chodron. If you want to dig deeper on the topic, you might want to check out her Start Where You Are text, or When Things Fall Apart.

  2. Allison! Lovely :)
    I know that when I first started to really step into softening to strengthening it took a lot out of me ;) Who knew softening would take so much energy? I was fearful because, like you said my focus was on that which I lacked, and I was afraid that if I allowed myself to soften people would "find out" and it wouldn't be enough. What I realized as I stepped inside my heart was that I had a lot more in there than I ever gave myself credit for.

    The inner body is truly powerful both as an individual expression and also as that which keeps you connected to the Universal, or to that which connects us all :)

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Beautifully written and a very powerful thing to keep in mind as I go about my day. Thank you for sharing!


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