A Sense of Softness

Midweek Devotion #9

Sept 2, 2015

When we have a feeling that life is worthwhile and we are worthwhile, from that, a sense of softness or gentleness begins to develop. —Chogyam Trungpa

One of the hardest things for me is to recognize when I am not being soft or gentle.

Ironically my stepson has been the one to show me this most glaringly. He does not respond to stern parenting, strictness, or firm commands very well. He is, in a sense, fragile. The more I pay attention to him, the more I realize this comes from a sense of unworthiness. Being stern and hard only increases his sense of unworthiness in that case.

I’ve learned how to be very soft and empathetic, especially in counseling and teaching situations. But when I am caught off guard, when I am tired, stressed, overtaxed in some way, I become brittle. Recently I reacted with anger when my partner woke me when she was cursing at the air conditioner, trying to adjust it because the room was too cold. It was after I had gone to sleep, and she couldn’t see the buttons very well.

May I Come In? (Detail), William Merritt Chase, 1883, pastel

May I Come In? (Detail), William Merritt Chase, 1883, pastel

I realized later, the reason I was reacting with anger is that I felt like I had to protect myself, that my ability to get rest was somehow threatening to my livelihood. This was such a deeply felt need, and it happened before I could consciously control it. That was when I realized I needed to clear out some old emotional baggage, probably from childhood, relating to my own fears of not receiving enough love and attention and care.

I love the way Chogyam Trungpa compares softness to a seed, absorbing moisture and warmth. As it does so, it finds nourishment and grows. When we have a sense that we are worthwhile, that we are enough, and that we have enough, we don’t feel the need to protect ourselves or project an angry presence.

We must learn to receive, and give, a sense of worthiness to each other. When I step into this way of being, I am able to water the sometimes fragile plants of my closest relationships, with a sense of softness.

Take A GoodMinute

When do I get brittle, strict, unempathetic, and not soft?

Are there emotional patterns for me indicating fear of loss, of being neglected, or unloved?

How can I increase my emotional availability to my children, my partner, my loved ones?

What makes me soften?


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