What does strength mean to you?
When my health journey first began, the goal was all about mental wellness. I learned to feel strong in my mind, through my practices of living yoga. A daily asana (physical poses) practice, with meditation, mantra and pranayama (breathing tools) changed my life. As time went on, I found myself immersed in a yogic way of life, building my strength as a result.
Now most people in my life are in the wellness world, and cocktail dates with friends have evolved into catch-ups over green juice. I love spending time in quiet, enjoying my thoughts, and cannot get enough of journaling. Yoga is more than making pretzel shapes with our bodies, and over the last couple of years I have been captivated by the shifts that this beautiful tradition has had on my entire life and attitude.
I have found strength – physical, mental, emotional and all of the rest – but this strength has not come from having defined muscles or a disciplined mind. I found this strength through surrender.
Strength, for me, has come through softness. Compassion. Gentle wisdom.
True strength is not brittle
I see that strength, in some forms, can be breakable. Like discipline without joy, it is not long-lasting and burns out. In sword making, carbon steel is added to give the metal enough hardness, more strength. Add too much carbon and the blade flexibility will decrease, making it brittle and more likely to break.
I believe that strength needs to be derived from softness. Like water, fluidity can help us to bend so that we don’t break (excuse the cliche!) . If we try to control every aspect of our life, we become brittle. Change is inevitable, and we must learn to flow with it.
How do we become softer?
In current society, we live in a world where success is defined by our busy-ness and ambitions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being busy or ambitious. However, I do see that we live in a culture where we avoid slowing down. Case in point; you don’t exactly feel socially acceptable by answering the good old ‘what did you do at the weekend?’ with ‘nothing’.
Yet busy-ness, living life at 100mph and filling your life to excess does have an expiry date. Burn out, stress, anxiety etc are all epidemics of modern Western culture. Maybe we can cultivate more Yin energy, more softness, to balance out the crazy ‘go-go-go’ Yang nature.
It doesn’t have to be a case of ‘either or’. We don’t have to sacrifice our career ambitions or fast-paced travel plans in order to feel more peaceful. Rather, it’s about scheduling in time to slow down. Time to be quiet and to enjoy the silence. When we regularly take time out like this, we are allowing ourselves to fill our well and build our resilience through softness.
If we prioritised our down time as religiously as we do our meetings and cocktail (
green juice?) dates, we would all feel stronger. This softer style of strength would give us the chance to be flexible in our thinking; to not breakdown when sh*t hits the fan. We would be able to enjoy the present moment without constantly ruminating over the past or worrying about the future.
How could you let go of a little rigidity? How could you commit to spending a few moments every day doing absolutely nothing? Let me know your thoughts, I would love to hear!