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.

“Being both soft and strong is a combination very few have mastered.” —  Yasmin Mogahed

Degrees of Mastery

You may never totally master anything, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little closer.  It’s about being better today than yesterday.  It also means being kind to yourself because perpetual improvement is not a reality.  We all have good days and not-so-good days.

Think of yourself as a master of some degree.  You may never reach the top in a field, but you can learn to be a master of yourself.  It is the small victories that edge us closer to our personal goals.  There are levels of mastery.

    • The Junior Master or Novice
    • The Journeyman Master, the steady and competent
    • Guru Muda, the experienced teacher and heir apparent
    • Guru Tuhan Master near Deity

“The path of mastering something is the combination of not only doing the best you can do at it but also doing it the best it can be done.” — Gary W. Keller

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” — Vince Lombardi

Some people are naturally better at being strong, and some are better at being soft—work at being well-rounded.  Challenge yourself, but above all, be patient with yourself.  You can find a combination with mastering at the opposite ends of a continuum.

Learn to Be Patient

To become a master of any skill requires patience.  Our modern world is focused on immediate gratification.

The patience of someone waiting for a webpage to load is measured in milliseconds.  You’ll need to remember the day when a dial-up modem took several minutes.  We were happy if it worked at all.  We invented many new cuss word combinations during those good old days.  But, that’s the kind of patience you need today when dealing with navigating automated phone systems.

“A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.” – George Savile

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.

Most of all, you’ll need patience.  So, learn to cultivate the ability to tolerate the tests and trials to make progress.  Here are some ways to cultivate this commodity.

Learn to be present so that you’ll spot the emotions sooner when you become frustrated and angry.  When you acknowledge your feelings, you have the power to change them.  The first thing most people notice is that it feels terrible.  So why do we stay frustrated for so long?  Because we don’t realize we have the power to stop it.

We recommend a simple emotional check-in process that will help you regain emotional equilibrium.   Focusing on breathing and a comfortable posture takes the force away from frustration.  Here’s a sort version with an acronym to help you remember, STOP.

S— Stop and remember you have the power to control things.

T— Take a deep breath and focus on sitting straight but comfortable.

O— Observe how your frustration and anger make you feel.

P—  P is for practice placing your awareness on breathing and body awareness.  When your mind tries to bring up the source of the frustration, bring your mind back to the practice.

Spiritual Applications of Strength and Softness

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.

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 top athletes talk about how they “move effortlessly” when they find the grove.  They describe it as an inner silence or stillness.  So, alternating movement and stillness is a combination worth mastering.

Yin and Yang in Martial Arts

Martial Arts Master Guru Syofyan Nadar Pencak Silat

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.

The Sympathetic Nervous (SN) system takes charge when something threatens our physical safety.  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; this increases adrenalin and several other powerful enzymes.

SN helps us react quickly have less response to pain, but it also creates a problem.  These chemicals are damaging to the higher thinking centers.  So, the brain shuts off blood flow to these centers of the brain.  So, we are fast but only at a primitive level of intelligence.  Sometimes, I think a lot of people get stuck here, but that’s a different topic.

The fight and flight response helps us move faster, but without the guidance of the higher thinking centers needed to process information in a rapidly changing situation like combat.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.  Then, like a rat, they stop in fear and freeze.” — Mike Tyson

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.

Now they can make split-second decisions that were impossible with SN in control.  Being soft and pliable makes it possible to overcome the stronger opponent.

So, with the proper training, you can be 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 the right way at the right time.

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

Gentle and Balanced Beats Brute Force

a combination worth mastering

The gentle approach cultivates trust and thus is a strength.  When you cultivate gentleness, you are also promoting kindness.  If you do this, it will become a part of your character.  It doesn’t mean you’ll always have a sunny disposition, but it will make you more approachable.  

The brutal approach is stereotypical drill Sargent or pro-football coach.  The need for immediate performance is short-lived.  The coaches with the most winning careers are those perceived as inspirational, like Tom Landry and Vince Lombardy.

In learning, the idea behind gentle learning is to build trusting relationships.  People learn more quickly when they feel it is safe to make mistakes rather than being punished.

In management, being approachable is one of the cornerstones of being a leader.   Cultivating a soft heart means caring for people, not just what they can produce.  People notice the difference between those who are genuine and those who are not.

Alternating Silence or Softness with Action and Strength

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.  Here are some examples:

    • Pranayama (breathing exercises) followed by meditation
    • Meditate for 20 minutes, then light stretch and Yoga for 20 minutes
    • 20 minutes of Yoga followed by 20 minutes of journaling
    • Practice 20 minutes of moving meditation like Tai Chi followed by 20 minutes of meditation

Conclusions on Being Both Soft and Strong

It is all about practice and patience, and it’s definitely a combination worth mastering.  Pick something in your life you want to be more balanced, and chances are it will require mastering.

If you have comments, questions, or a different opinion, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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