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What can you soften?

This is a question that my yoga instructor asks frequently during our classes. We’re in a tough pose and arms are tense, muscles tight, jaw clenched and she asks: “What can you soften? What can you do to make it more comfortable and have it be a good sensation?”

And that question always makes me look really closely at all my contorted limbs and shift ever so slightly until it feels good. A shoulder moves a fraction of an inch… I loosen my jaw… or I bend my knees just a little bit. And suddenly I can just be there without discomfort. Often softening something that small makes a big difference.

I’ve also started asking myself that question during my daily life. What can I soften… I’ll be sitting in my studio chair working on a new piece and that question will float into my mind and I’ll notice that my shoulders are tight and raised up to my ears. And I drop and soften them. Or I’ll notice that I’m squinting or have my eyebrows pulled down into a scowl as I read my book. And remembering that question makes me let go of those muscles in my face.

But I am also finding that that question can be asked for more than just the physical. What can you soften in your life?

Softening for me sometimes means letting go of my rush and not being impatient with the lady who’s counting coupons in the grocery store line in front of me. How can I soften there? There are magazines to read while I wait, maybe. Or I can remember that she’s just trying to save some money… no big deal if I wait an extra 3 minutes.

Softening could also mean being kinder. Kinder to other people (not giving a dirty look to the girl with shorts that are much too short… hee) or kinder to yourself. The license plate on our car is very expired (by months) and it was giving me a headache and pissing me off every time I thought about it… all those hoops you have to jump through to get a new license plate in a new state. So I asked Colin if he could take care of that for us. And he was happy to. (Well, not *happy* to, but he wasn’t opposed to it). So maybe softening in that case meant asking for help.

This week, softening for me means taking time for myself. I’m finally going at a good pace with work (not too too much at the moment) and instead of putting pressure on myself to do something productive with my free time (like self-promo or something for Illustration Friday or preparing for my next show) I’ve been taking *me* time. A nap outside on the porch. A trip to the farmer’s market. Cake-tasting with a friend (!)… For me, that’s a huge softening, seeing as I normally kick my ass to work harder.

So anyway… my point is that there’s always something to soften. The more I think about this question, the more I love it and find more that it affects.

hmm…. my brain is going now. I think this is something so important for myself… I think I’ll bookmark this entry as a reminder to soften. soften. soften.

What can you soften?