Twenty-some years ago I learned about ” strong back and soft front” and Zen Buddhist Roshi Joan Halifax in a yoga studio while partaking in a retreat. Later I would come to know and read Brene Brown and Tara Brach writers who have been influenced by Roshi Joan Halifax each adding their own take. We all read and learn from each other and eventually, the student becomes the teacher at some point in their journey when we accept the lessons and the gifts.
The core concepts of transformation and healing need integration. We need to put this into practice in our own lives.
Everything is easy in theory. This is because a theory is a start. Practice moves us into action and changes how we move and show up in the world.
Yoga was the first meditative practice that helped me find stillness and softness while accepting my own trauma. Tai chi would come next and this is evolving. Sadly, I have lost some teachers along the way and this has been interwoven in my own grief.
What happens when our teacher dies?
Well, there is a legacy and that legacy is the integration of theory and practice.
Having a strong back and soft front is the most challenging and rewarding skill that I have learned, which I am still practicing.
If you have experienced trauma you likely have some defence mechanisms and ” invisible armour”. This armour creates a fortress and pain. A strong back is the opposite of this. The spine is our strength and allows us to move and heal. Having a soft front allows us to be open to life, experiences and others. This softness allows compassion for ourselves and humanity. The softness is our very own vulnerable self.
These are lessons often taught in Buddhism, Yoga and other eastern arts.
It is critical that we learn by either reading or experiencing and then integrate these lessons moving beyond theory and integrating into our life. This is the hard part. Life and life’s challenges offer us plenty of practice. We can learn that we can be soft and strong as well as compassionate and firm in our boundaries.
It does take courage to practice this way of living. I personally have learned how I can put down my armour in small doses. If I am honest I still have a full breastplate and front wire gate that most people are not able to pass. If you try to hug I will offer a hand and a smile. It takes some time to put that shield down with people and that is okay.
The greatest gain of practicing this skill is my softness with myself. Instead of beating myself up, I have become my best ally. I know who I am and the woman I want to become. We are all work in progress and when we accept that we can be both student and teacher on the path we can gain incredible grace and insight.
The universe is filled with ” works in progress” and darling so are you!
Wherever you are reading this take a pause and come back to your body. Let these words settle and resonate. If you feel the pressures and failures are heavy let them go for this moment. Create some softness in the area that gives you life and breathe in. Fill your lungs and become empty and fill up again. Stand or sit with intention. Notice the air in your nostrils and the blood circulating in your body.
You are alive. Regardless if you are feeling fearful or bold take courage here in the soft space with your breath and heart. With a hand on your soul say ” I am home and this home is mine to experience”.
This world, this life is our playground to learn and grow.