When people are born, they are soft and gentle.
When they die they are stiff and callous.
When myriad things, grasses, and trees, are born, they are soft and tender.
When they die, they are withered.
So stiffness and callousness are the company of death.
Softness and Suppleness are the company of Life.
The powerful army will not win.
A stiff tree will break.
So stiffness and power stay below.
Softness and suppleness stay above.
~ Tao te Ching 道德經
Recently a friend, the talented reader and astrologer Elizabeth Rose, posted this quote in her Facebook feed. It immediately struck me as the right thing for me to see at that very moment- a rare occurrence for me on social media these days, to be frank.
I’ve been using the cold, snowy days to reflect on myself, past and present, and I had noticed that, yes, I have softened my words, my thoughts, and my participation with the world. I’m surprised I’ve managed it because, historically, looking on the bright side has not always come easily for me. In reflection, I have to consider that softening is kind of a radical act these days.
Here are some examples of how I am doing things differently: When a friend shares a “bad news” story on social media, I take a pass on reading it. I send some loving thoughts to my friend instead. I might even just text them and say hello if it’s been a while. Then, if I see something that brings me joy, I share that. Yep, I am one of those.
When someone expresses themselves in a way that I take offense to, or am triggered by, I do a bit of self-talk and explore the other side of the coin. I might consider that the other person is hurting, doesn’t have the communication skills, or just hasn’t learned that life lesson yet, and it helps me let it go. When I catch myself thinking judgmental thoughts, I consider the fact that I might be projecting. After all, I cannot recognize what I don’t like about another person unless I have experience with it myself. I try to think about a time when I behaved that same way and think about how others might have reacted to me. Others have been pretty forgiving of me (thank you!) It’s worth considering that the action or trait isn’t bad on its own, that maybe it’s just calling out something I don’t like about myself. I try to show myself a little forgiveness, and soon it’s easy to forget my annoyance with the other person.
Here’s the theme: I think equal and opposite thoughts when I hit up against that crappy experience.That’s what keeps me softened. And I’m not talking about in the push-over sort of way. Anyone who knows me can tell you I am certainly not that! It’s more about being nimble, and unaffected when I’d prefer my energy and attention be tuned into something else. It’s the opposite of judgmental and crappy and hard. It’s about letting others be themselves while I get to keep feeling authentic and joyful and move on.
I don’t know about you, but I would like to continue feeling that all the way until I am a really old lady, as suggested by the prose above. I want to be a wild, sharp-witted old mystic one day, so I have to stay flexible! I can’t be that if I’m acting like a grumpy old poop.
This practice is also about love and kindness, for myself and toward others. It’s building awareness of the full dimensions of the situation and choosing my reaction. Also, btw, this is a process, so perfection has no place here. (I admit to failing at this on the regular.) It’s not easy, but even transforming one thought is an invitation to transform the next. Joy and goodwill attracts more of the same!