At the beginning of most yoga classes, the teacher asks the students to set an intention. This is supposed to be a short-term positive goal for the practice, such as “I intend to bring peace to myself” or “I will clear my mind during the next hour” or even “I hope to not fall on my face when moving into warrior 3.” A good intention doesn’t require dramatic change; it just calls for authenticity.
Today as I flowed through a yoga class in a new studio surrounded by strange faces, I pondered intention. What if instead of just one yoga class, I set a weekly intention for my life? Something simple to follow, yet challenging for my normal thought processes. As the yoga instructor told the class to soften our faces as we held warrior 2, I knew what my intention would be. Warrior 2 looks simple. You line up your legs and stretch your arms to the opposite sides of the room. As you bend one knee you look to the hand in front of you. Every muscle is in use, but when she said, “Soften your face,” I felt worry and strain leave me, even though I was in a strong pose.
What if I soften this week? What would the world look like with a soft gauzy filter, like the ones used in old movies or Instagram? What if the harsh lines blurred a little? What would happen if I judged less? Whenever things get hard could I soften my face and let go of my shitty self?
The world can be a crude place. Bitterness creeps in with every bit of news and each piece of malicious gossip. We all are judged and we then kick back with a vengeance. Everything has hard, brittle edges that leave scars. No wonder many of us struggle with anxiety and depression. It is as though we can’t catch our breath.
This intention of softness does not mean ignoring our desires or letting weakness overcome us. Softness is a conscious effort, just like the class did today while in warrior 2. We are strong, yet we forgive, we embrace, we try to understand, we love.
So my challenge this week is this: soften. When I feel myself clenching or condemning or looking at things with a sense of damnation, I will soften. When the politics of the day hurt my soul, I will soften. When worry consumes me, I will soften. It is a quiet yet powerful intention, a softening of the heart and mind. I will let you know how it goes, especially when that inevitable distracted driver swerves in front of me on the highway as she carelessly texts, sips a hot coffee, and attempts to light a cigarette at the same time. Soften.
“Softness is not weakness. It takes courage to stay delicate in a world this cruel.” - Beau Taplin