Welcome spring!  With this season of awakening and new beginnings, let’s find ways of softening. One of my favorite offerings in class is to say, “where can you soften?”. There are many things that can harden us, harden our responses and our hearts. What if spring is an invitation to do the opposite; to soften? With this season of new beginnings, why not try to find ways of softening? There are many things that can harden us, harden our responses and our hearts.

While on a recent retreat, I heard the phrase “work softer” and it gave me pause. What? I thought we were supposed to work harder? Clearly, there are plenty of things that harden me personally and that harden us as humans. There are the big global things like the ongoing pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the cultural norm of working harder. And what about the other small moments that harden us without our awareness? My long list of hardening moments begins with tension in my jaw, a tightness in my shoulders, and a holding of various muscles throughout the body. Sometimes I notice that I’m holding my breath. Awareness of the body’s responses invites curiosity. Where does your body harden or hold when challenging situations arise? Do certain people or situations cause clenching in your body? We often feel the immediate benefits of yoga as we tend to lighten our physical holding during practice.

“The glassblower knows: while in the heat of beginning, any shape is possible. Once hardened, the only way to change is to break.” ~ Mark Nepo

Moving deeper inside from the physical hardening to the emotional hardening is the next step in softening. Acknowledging our fears, insecurities, and destructive behavior patterns is the key to unclenching. Many of us have retreated from feeling and instead go into protection mode; resting beneath an armor of hardness. Maybe we let ourselves be vulnerable and soft some of the protective barriers we have hidden behind since childhood will loosen.

Eckhart Tolle teaches that awareness is the greatest agent for change. Perhaps we begin by noticing when our energy shifts and tension arises. We are all a work in progress! In trying to “work softer” since that retreat in January, I have identified many things that have hardened my heart. I have recognized the pain in disappointing others, being unappreciated, and retelling myself the ever nagging “not enough” story. Only if we let the hardness and heaviness of fear, hurt, pain, and disappointment drain out of our body, we create the space for something new. This might happen with a slow drop by drop draining or a big whoosh.

Don’t use your energy to worry. Use your energy to believe, create, trust, glow, grow, manifest, and heal.” ~ Roland Merullo American Savior

We can all start with some practice in letting go. First the physical (annamaya kosha), then the breath (pranamyakosha) and eventually the thinking mind (manomaya kosha), higher level thinking (vijnanamaya kosha) and at last the blissful awareness (anandamaya kosha). For an experience in progressive muscle relaxation, check out this 15 minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86HUcX8ZtAk.

I offer you this spring self-inquiry… can you work softer? What would that look like? feel like? How might this open your experience of awakening?