Learn why is this something worth mastering. It promotes the harmonization of external and internal energies. It is the key to balancing seemingly opposite elements. See how this can benefit your life.
A Combination Worth Mastering
The practice of being both soft and strong starts with yourself. Start with being soft or kind to yourself. This means adding self-care as a part of your routine. You can not help others or succeed when you are in need yourself. Learn about and practice self-compassion. These tools will give you a foundation.
Have the courage to be strong and take the path of gentleness with yourself and others. Do not become bogged down in self-pity. Practice being strong by engaging the power of your Will. Make an honest assessment of your spiritual path and make the changes you need to make.
The realm of spiritual exploration contains many examples of being both soft and strong. For example, you must learn to be soft when we examine our own faults and strong enough to push through the negative inertia that keeps us from making the changes we want to make. It takes strength and vulnerability to examine our beliefs and face our fears.
Our inner critic often appears strong. It can be overpowering when we use the strength of our will to push against it. However, when we use the softness of self-love and self-forgiveness, the inner critical voice is silent. Thus, we find acceptance not by strength but through gentleness. Instead of condemnation and judgment, we “feel” the peace of forgiveness. In return, this strengthens us. We chose the path of gentleness and this makes us strong. This is definitely a combination worth mastering.
There are a number of things that seem opposite, but are actually complementary elements. They are often values on the same continuum. For instance, alternating moving meditation like martial arts with silent meditation. These are not opposite elements.
“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.”
— Sakyong Mipham.
In fact, many of the top athletes talk about how when they find the grove, they move effortlessly. They describe it as an inner silence or stillness. So, alternating movement and stillness is a combination worth mastering.
Learn to Be Both Soft and Strong
In the arena of internal martial arts, this is the essence of the practice. Becoming soft and also strong at the same time relates to the physical and mental aspects of the art. You seem to be soft because you become like water. You do not oppose the force of your opponent directly; you redirect their energy for your benefit. You learn to do this by controlling your nervous system.
When something is threatening our physical safety, the Sympathetic Nervous (SN) system normally takes charge. This is a default setting of the nervous system. After all, the sympathetic system activates the “fight, flight or freeze” response of our primitive monkey brain. The SN system increases blood flow to muscles by shutting down blood flow to the skin and intestines.
Unfortunately, the brain responds to the increased adrenalin and a host of other powerful enzymes by shutting off the higher thinking centers of the brain. That’s the problem. With the SN in control, you might be stronger and able to move quickly, but it’s reactionary.
Thus, with SN your in control, you experience a loss of higher thinking power needed to assess the rapidly changing combat situation. You are literally under the influence of the primitive mind centers. This is also the source of the emotions of fear and anger. However, in a combat situation, you need to move on time. This requires the higher-thinking center to process the rapidly changing situation. These higher thinking powers are the domain of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Therefore, martial artists train to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and override the automatic engagement of the sympathetic nervous system. This may seem counterintuitive. However, it is the parasympathetic nervous system rather than the sympathetic you want to dominate in this life-threating situation.
So, with the proper training, learn to be soft, and fluid. This hides your skills and inner strength. You appear as an easy opponent. By the time the opponent realizes the mistake, it is too late. They are the victim of their own faulty assessment of your true ability.With the Parasympathetic in charge, you can “move on time” and in the “right way.” This is how you defeat your attacker. Strength and speed are assets of the body, but the mind can defeat these.
“Speed is bull____. Timing is everything.” ― Guru Tua
You can move on time because you learn to be in control of your emotions. This is the essence of being both soft and strong.
Almost every form of seated meditation has a complementary moving aspect. Some ancient forms contain both silence and movement, like the Shamanic Journey, or all of the healing arts. Select two complementary spiritual tools. Make them a combination worth mastering.
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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s Book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia