I have fallen in love with softening. Maybe not with my belly, but in my schedule, in conversation, with my goals, with my self-talk.
Softening into the essence of the moment or the desire opens us to clarity on the heart of the dynamic, and to tune out the distracting noise that might cause us to stiffen with annoyance or resistance.
It’s also a key channel to aligning to our flow with an ease that is blocked when we feel confined by stress & anxiety. But how do we soften when we are triggered by stressors to feel tightly coiled?
Let’s take a peek at softening & how it can be our superpower.
The Spiral of Striving/Forcing
As with dogs—they are a great example of universal animal behavior, including human animals, because they are transparent in their reactions—forcing a behavior usually meets with RESISTANCE. If a dog is anxious and wants to avoid something that worries them, attempting to force them closer to that trigger causes them to dig in and plant in place or try to get away.
Long-term, FORCING can create a RESISTANCE REFLEX or, in humans, resentment. Neither leaves much room for a positive experience or outcome.
Resistance puts us in a closed mindset and rigid physical state (with mind+body connection, our thoughts create physical states in our bodies). There is no opening for seeing or experiencing a situation differently or with new eyes, if we SHUT DOWN when we are triggered.
The energy of striving is very similar. Word choice is a powerful cue to our minds + bodies. When we STRIVE, TRY, WORK HARD to achieve, to accomplish, to summit our goals and dreams (or even the minutiae of our days) we TELL OURSELVES in the words we use that we are girding for effort, for fatigue, for going against the flow.
Wouldn’t we all FLOW more naturally + powerfully if we moved in EASE + ALIGNMENT with our dreams, intentions, aspirations?
Tightness begets tightness
When we notice that we are physically or mentally feeling a tightness, a rigidity, it tends to build on itself unless we consciously shift our energy to softening. But softening when you’re stressed can seem as impossible as shifting an incoming tide instead to an outgoing tide.
SOFTENING is our SUPERPPOWER
In portrait photography we notice areas of rigidity in bodies: limbs, fingers, jaws. Where we clench or hold ourselves tightly are flags of tension. Usually, tension points indicate our person is in their head with inner-gremlin thoughts of self-doubt about how they appear on camera. Softening those allows us to FEEL how our body is happiest holding itself, to MOVE into an ease + natural stance.
As a portrait photographer, it is my work to help open channels for people who are nervous and listening their inner self-critique. We find ways together to be less in our thoughts and more in our soul + body.
Behind the lens, we ALWAYS see our people transform into their power when they FIND THEIR GROUNDEDNESS. In that ease of stance, in that liberty of movement, which is not prescriptive but organic, we see them step into their YES, their FLOW in the way they carry themselves physically and energetically. And we see it in their eyes, radiating.
SOFTENING = EMPOWERING
So what is softening and how do we get there?
- First, softening is not a weakness. It is not going limp and becoming a doormat.
- Softening is an unblocking, a conscious letting go of areas we clench. When we bring awareness to physical tightness and mental rigidity, we literally open the gates to flow—both to cleansing blood and hormones in our bodies, and to creating new connections between ideas and imaginings, which is the recipe for FLOW + CREATIVITY.
- Softening OPENS us to novelty, we see with a fresh lens that the scary thing isn’t planning to hurt us. Or the camera lens is really seeing our inner beauty.
HOW to SOFTEN AMIDST the SWIRL of our LIFE PACE?
Slow down. Literally. Do one thing at a time. Bring your full focus to what is right in front of you. Multi-tasking is proven to cause mistakes in actions & absorbing/retaining only partial information, thereby leading to poorly-informed choices + decisions.
BREATHE. Deeply. We so often are inhaling only shallow breaths. Literally our LIFE BREATH and we don’t often mindfully engage in deep cleansing breathing that clears out gaseous toxins from our lungs and slows our body pace down to help us center & find presence in this moment.
QUIET. No phone pinging with alerts, no media in the background, no clients/colleagues/family or friends clamoring for our attention. SPACE and QUIET to let our minds wander and defragment from the overstimulation in our digitally frenetic worlds.
NAP. Napping is well-documented to increase our productivity, creativity and learning retention. Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Leonardo da Vinci, John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein… steadfast midday nappers.
Befriend the tightness. That ouch in your hip? Your body’s friendly way of saying “HEY, I need your attention before I go ape on you & put you in traction!” Ask what it needs. Partner with your body (you two are together for LIFE). What movement feels good? Find it. Open that muscle, that joint to find its ease of motion. Perhaps more sleep. Better hydration. Always dark chocolate.
Love our wounds. Tightness in our outlook or perception? Go deeper. Where does that stem from? Is there a relationship that went sour that now colors our perception of an experience we associate with that part of our history? Where is the tightness coming from? Ask yourself. Let your mind brew on it while you putter. While you sleep. Journal about it. Get to the root. And then, this is the kicker + the treasure: LOVE THE WOUND YOU FEEL. In having compassion for the pain, we can find a comfortable distance from it so we can see it with new eyes. See the possibilities if we take one step towards healing. We are who and where we are because of all our wounds and joys. Let them be our teachers, healers, partners in continuing to grow into our best selves.
Micro-move Up the Mountain. Goals that seem Everest-like in stature? And already clenching before we strap on our crampons? ONE BABY STEP, ONE TIPTOE at a time. We do ourselves a disservice when once we start moving we play the entire litany of steps up the mountain in our mind. Our body tires before we begin. One teeny step forward, with our FULL ATTENTION & ENERGY devoted to that step. We do everything one step at a time. Over 60% of the time, once we make one micro-move, we find a momentum to carry us farther. YAY US!
We are pretty amazing.
And often maxed.
When you find yourself clenching or shutting down, SOFTEN.
It’s our SUPERPOWER.
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