Learn to Be Both Soft and Strong

Learn to Be Both Soft and Strong

Learn to be both gentle and powerful because It promotes the harmonization of external and internal energies.  It is the key to balancing these opposing elements.  See how this can benefit your life.

A Combination Worth Mastering

Kindness is the first step towards strength with tenderness.  Showing kindness to others starts with being kind to ourselves.   So, we must add self-care to our routine.  It isn’t easy to help others when you are in need.  Learn about and practice self-compassion.  These tools will give you a foundation.

It takes courage to take the path of gentleness, and this is the Eastern quality of Yin.  The journey requires us to resist negative emotions like anger or self-pity.  To do this, you’ll need to engage the power of your Will. You’ll also need to make an honest assessment of your spiritual path and make the necessary changes.

The realm of spiritual exploration contains many examples of being both “soft and strong.” For instance, you must learn to be gentle when examining your faults. And then strong enough to push through the negative inertia 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 can overpower our thinking processes.  When we use self-love and self-forgiveness, the inner critical voice is silent.  So 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. It’s a combination worth mastering.

Learn to Be Both Soft and Strong

Several things seem opposite but are complementary elements on the same continuum.  For instance,  martial arts and silent meditation seem like opposites, but they are the same path elements.

The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness. — Sakyong Mipham

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.

In the arena of internal martial arts, this is the essence of the practice.  Becoming both soft and strong relates to the physical and mental aspects of the art.  You seem to be weak because you become like water.  You do not oppose the force of your opponent directly.  Instead, you redirect their energy for your benefit.  You learn to do this by controlling your nervous system.

Martial Arts Master Guru Syofyan Nadar Pencak Silat
Martial Arts Master Guru Syofyan Nadar Pencak Silat

When something is threatening our physical safety, the Sympathetic Nervous (SN) system takes charge. It’s the 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. It shuts off the higher thinking centers of the brain. That’s the problem. With the SN in control, you might be quicker, but it’s reactionary.  Your movement is likely wrong.

Thus, with SN 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, the source of fear and anger.  In a combat situation, you need to move on time; this requires the higher-thinking center.  These higher thinking powers are the domain of the parasympathetic nervous system.

It is why martial artists train to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. They learn to override the automatic engagement of the sympathetic nervous system.   On the surface, this seems counterintuitive.  However, we want to engage the parasympathetic nervous system to use the higher thinking capability. The ability to reason and act correctly is what you need in this life-threatening situation.

So, with the proper training, learn to be soft and fluid.  It 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 faulty assessment of your actual ability. With the Parasympathetic in charge, you can “move on time” and in the “right way.” This skill set is how you defeat an opponent who has more strength and is faster.  Strength and speed are assets of the body, but the mind can beat these.

“Speed is bull____.  Timing is everything.  But it’s correct alignment that makes moving on time possible.”  ― Guru Tua

When you learn to be in complete control of your emotions, you can access the higher-thinking center of the mind while in a physical conflict; this is the essence of being both soft and strong.

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ― Lao Tzu

In Conclusion

Almost every form of seated meditation has a reciprocal moving aspect.  Many ancient practices contain both silence and movement.  The Shamanic Journey and many of the healing arts are examples.  Select two complementary spiritual tools. Make them a combination worth mastering.

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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia

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