soft heart, strong back

Mii-amo-Medicine-Wheel-Meditation1

While we are called to show strength during times of struggle, we are also required to surrender to softness. We simply can’t only muscle through. The way through is a soft heart and a strong back, my friend Stephanee told me when I shared with her my struggles over being so sensitive and emotional so many years ago.  Soft heart, strong back, beloved author, Elizabeth Lesser, reiterated during a retreat I was on last week in Sedona.

Where there is fear, there is love and softness seeping into all corners of our lives. It pours through our windows as sunlight and shows up with friends over tea (or wine) in front of a warm, amber colored fire.

Welcoming the way of softness is an invitation to come home and rest. To come home to our hearts, to ourselves and really listen, honor, and accept what we are hearing and who we are.

We are wired for connection. We yearn for true support in our families and community. We want to help and be helped so we can all rise up together.

The way of softness is tender and big-hearted. It is brave, deeply open and spacious. It can also be extremely vulnerable and uncomfortable at times.

Softness is about taking care of ourselves by simply noticing our crazy buzzing thoughts with what Elizabeth Lesser refers to as “unconditional friendliness”. Softness is about melting into who we are and showing up with our battle wounds, scars and tears. And when they flow, not wiping them away or apologizing but letting them be seen.

Softness is learning to look at and accept the imperfect perfections we are born with. This radiant softness is brimming with limitless possibilities for hope and positive change.

I think it takes both strength and softness to look hard and honestly at our stuff and make peace with our own personal limitations. So many of us feel inadequate. Like Keven from This Is Us.

I know the people closest to me love me unconditionally but when I was little and I sucked at math, got in trouble for “issues with self control” and held a pencil wrong, I didn’t always feel all that lovable. Now I make an ugly cheese plate for company, still suck at math which is now called finances, and get really nervous before I speak. Sometimes, I still fear being unlovable. And no one can accept and love these parts of me unless I accept and love the heck out of them first.

So I’m just gonna go ahead and start claiming what I’m not good at. Let’s get that out of the way first so what we can pay attention to what we are good at. No distractions or disillusions. Let others help us in the areas where we need help. Isn’t this the sign of a good leader anyway? That they know how to pick the right people. The people who’ve got our backs and support and love us through all of it. The ones that are better and smarter then us at certain things? The ones who are willing to meet us soul to soul while putting comparison and competition to the side.

Which reminds me…

Right before I left for Christmas break, the first Christmas without my sweetest mom,

I was having a royal messy and crazy-ass moment when picking up my kids from my friend’s house after getting IV fluids to help flush out a nasty virus that was wreaking havoc on my body. As I opened my car door, plastic cows came tumbling out. My daughter was still in her pajamas. And it was late afternoon. A friend earlier had told me I looked terrible. I was bleary eyed and hungover after taking Nyquil the night before. And then my very neat, aesthetically pleasing friend whose tampons are even pretty, picked up a glass in my cup holder that contained some melted chocolate and two to three, I can’t be sure, half – eaten, glazed munchkins, and said, “Lindsay Bomstein, this is why we love you.”

I heard her say it, I really heard it and laughed. And maybe for one of the first times in my life, I didn’t feel all that embarrassed by it.

And while I was on my retreat last week, as we sat around in a circle, I sat up, spoke and once again the hot tears came spilling out. Oh jeez. Again, in front of all of these women I don’t know.

But you know what? Some of these amazing women came up to me and told me that they admired my tears. My openness. My ability to cry and be seen. Holy shit, really? Yes, really. Because that is me. And you need me to be me as much as I need you to be you. That’s all it takes. Who the hell wants to be impressed by how together we’ve got it? I want to be impressed by how together you don’t have it but that you still smile and love the heck out of life. So remember the next time you have to show up and you feel out of sorts that what you deem as your imperfections may just be the most authentic, beautiful gifts you have to offer. That and your soft heart and strong back.

And thanks to Melissa Biggs Bradley for creating opportunities for connection around the world. She mentioned the self-determination theory in an email last week from Sebastian Junger’s new book, Tribe, that really spoke to me. The theory “holds that human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others.”

And to connect to others, we’ve got to feel our strength and also soften up a bit too.

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A tribe of our own

my tribe

I recall being in a yoga class years ago listening to the visiting instructor talk about her “tribe.” She wasn’t Native American or African. I felt a little confused. Who were these people in her tribe? How did she find them? I wanted one. Shoot, I felt defeated…I came to yoga to feel stretched out and relaxed but left feeling sad about not having a tribe.

Then, last summer when I was at a retreat for school, I met with my new cohort for the first time after switching to the “creativity” specialization in my graduate program. The minute I stepped foot on the property a year before, I somehow felt like I was home, even though I was hundreds of miles away from where I live.

As I sat in an introductory circle with fellow students, some in chairs, some on the floor, I smiled as I watched one male student munch on carrots and hummus like a little woodland creature. There were musical instruments lying in a woven basket by my teacher who couldn’t find her notes but had the coolest beaded necklace on. People talked out of turn. Someone cracked a joke.

And then standing up, holding hands in a circle like the “Whos in Whoville,” we began to sing. And that is when it dawned on me, I had found my tribe. I felt like I could get up and do the “African Anteater Ritual” from my favorite 80’s movie, Can’t By Me Love, and no one would have found it odd. In fact, they most likely would have joined me.

Just before my retreat, while visiting with a dear friend in San Francisco, she too spoke of a friend of hers who had recently changed her graduate school specialization. This friend was feeling conflicted with her chosen path during a rotation in medical school. Her supervisor intervened and advised her to think about the kind of personalities she wanted to spend her long and challenging days with. Whom did she want to learn with, grow with? She suggested she, too, do some soul searching to find her tribe.

Just a few weekends ago, my family and I got to experience my mom’s tribe. We sat in the family room of a quaint cottage she rented on the beach with three of her closest girlfriends. She often talks about their time together as “therapy,” and I can see why. Laughter is true medicine for the soul. And it was so much fun to be in their presence. My seven year old son was even laughing out loud. It made me smile to see my mom with her people. She looked youthful and sun-kissed. After cocktails at lunch and listening to them discuss the men who walked into the restaurant, I realized it was actually their spring break. My husband and I started referring to them as “The Golden Girls Gone Wild.”

On the last day of their ten days together, my mom called to tell me there was a frog in their toilet. Apparently it hopped out and was jumping all over and falling off the walls. My only advice for her was not to lick it. Now that I think of it, maybe the frog thought he had found his people too and was just waiting for a smooch from his princess.

Then yesterday my brother sent me a wonderful article called, What You Learn in your 40’s by Pamela Druckerman from the New York Times. It too was about finding your people. She referenced an interview with Jerry Seinfeld. He spoke about his favorite part of the Emmy Awards being when the comedy writers went onstage to collect their prize. “You see these gnome-like cretins, just kind of all misshapen. And I go, ‘This is me. This is who I am. That’s my group.” Druckerman goes on to say that by your 40s, “you don’t want to be with the cool people; you want to be with your people.”

I wish I could reach out and tell every lonely teenager or adult for that matter, to just hang in there. We all feel misunderstood from time to time. And there may even be times like when I moved across the country my junior year of high school; I didn’t know anyone and had to rely on myself as my own tribe. But eventually the day comes for us all when we find our people, a tribe of our very own. And it is a glorious reward for hanging in there and never giving up.

Here is the link to NY Times articlehttp://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/01/opinion/sunday/what-you-learn-in-your-40s.html?_r=0