Last week I listened to a podcast, where the person being interviewed expressed that the words of her yoga teacher were still rattling around in her mind:
“How tender do you want to get? How soft do you want to become?”
Those words made me stop.
I want to be a person who can receive. Someone who can be present, accepting the simple moments as they come and go. I want to be able to be still myself, so I realize what I need and want, and not be so terrified of my fatigue.
I want others to know that they are so important, that I’m willing to get close enough so that they change me.
And yet I’ve lived enough to know that this vulnerability is costly. My generation values authenticity and vulnerability and yet it’s hard to be the first person to speak, the person to say, “I’m not okay.”
These months have been ones of seeing myself more honestly, seeing my protective walls, and knowing that they don’t just come crashing down in a moment. It’s more like a slow melting away.
Receptiveness doesn’t mean being a push-over, just as sacrifice means that one must first recognize that there is a self to sacrifice. Without a discerning eye, receptiveness could look like people pleasing and helping could be avoidance.
So I keep returning to stillness, to myself and the Divine, to see how much my ego actually is at work and to see my own goodness and worth more clearly.
Sometimes receptiveness looks like receiving love, being affirmed, being reminded of how valuable I am just for being me. It could mean a hug, a compliment, being still enough to receive this moment, and the unknown that comes with it.
In order to be soft, I want to live into my body, knowing its joys and its pains. I want to feel what I’m actually feeling, when my jaw tenses up, when my shoulders scrunch to my ears, or when I can actually touch my toes! I want to know when my breath is shallow and when its full. I want to listen to the emotions that rise up in me.
As I daily pay attention to myself, I will be more attune to others, having extra capacity for laughter and tears.
For in times of vulnerability, there is a shared tenderness, and we both could become softer as a result. Of course, the choice is ours. We have to be willing to sit “on the mourner’s bench” as Nicholas Wolterstorff likes to say.
The one who is tender speaks bravely, inviting everyone else in the room into a softer, gentler place.
Into a more expansive view of the world. Into a new emotion, understanding, or empathy.
But there is no force. She could be met with unhelpful silence, misunderstanding, pet answers.
But she also could be met with love and acceptance. There is great risk in seeking to be tender.
Yet there’s also an invitation to everyone else in the room.
Do you want to be tender and soft too? Will you join me on this journey of honesty, risk, and feeling deeply?