Cultivate Softness

Published: Sep 20, 2022  |  

Actor-writer-producer and author

I had this theory when I was younger that when something got “hardcore,” it went too far. Hardcore porn, hardcore drugs, any variety of hardcore music…to me, at the time, when something passed into the demarcation of hardcore, it went beyond the realm of pleasure and into dangerous territory.

Now, as you might have guessed, I was on some pretty hardcore drugs when I formulated this theory, but it came to mind the other day and I thought there might be something to it. I was reminded of it while in my favorite yoga class. I’d just returned from vacation, so my focus was way off, and I found myself analyzing my neighbor (terrible, I know, but there was a lesson here.)

Before we started, one of her friends in class was telling her that she was nervous about a medical procedure. This neighbor started vehemently spouting affirmations at this friend. The friend tried to speak more, but couldn’t get a word in through the hail of relentless positivity. I then noted this neighbor during her practice. It was masterful and strong, but it struck me as having no joy, no flow, no…softness. I correlated this with her pre-practice conversation. This woman was doing all the right things technically, but was not allowing for the intrusion of life’s omnipresent imperfection. She was being—well—too hardcore.

It made me realize, in my jet-lagged haze, how much I have been striving to embrace ease. To cultivate softness. I feel like the best example we can all relate to is driving. I’ve always felt that—if you are given to road rage—it is not the road you are rageful about. Isolated and insulated in your car, it feels like a relatively safe place to vent your spleen about the jerk that cut you off, and in doing so expel all the angst you contain. We know it’s not safe, though. People literally get murdered over road rage incidents with some frequency. Beyond that possibility though, you are also unnecessarily spewing more bile into the world and your life.

People do dumb things on the road all the time—you probably do too. So, next time someone doesn’t let you merge, give a sad trombone noise. If someone gives you the finger, give them a smile. After years of railing at my fellow traveling transgressors, I adopted this approach, and it gets easier. Eventually, you feel sorry for—rather than furious with—the guy who’s screaming at you because you discovered too late that you were about to miss your exit. Let people merge. There’s no need to race to another red light.

This attitude can be applied on and off the road. Most metaphorical roadblocks are not helped by meeting them with anger and frustration. Sure, that might be your first reaction, but if you start with a deep breath instead of an expletive, you’re in a much better place to handle the perturbing party. I realized that day in yoga class, that—in judging my fellow yogi—I was not cultivating softness. Softness is acceptance. Softness is love. And, as I watched her overrun her concerned friend with platitudes, I realized softness is listening. Softness is empathy. I figured my little bout of judgment was fair if it brought me to this understanding.

It comes back to the idea that even a good thing can go too far. This woman’s yoga practice and her practice of affirmations is positive, on the face of it. It’s wonderful to be super into something. But, are you too “hardcore” about it? This can be ultimately isolating. Are you using this passion to distract from some other lack in your life? To push your views or feel superior to others? If you can sit back a bit and let life wash over you rather than try to control every aspect of it, you’ll be on your way to cultivating softness. Because, of course, trying to control life is a fruitless ambition, and one which will only lead to frustration. You’d do just as well trying to control that stinker who won’t let you merge.

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