Perspectives Issue 5: Softening Into Change

Issue 5: January, 2012



That silence,
built of flake and flake and flake,

can make your heart believe, for this moment
that it is possible to heal all wounds, soften all jagged edges,
make anywhere home.

~ Tasha Harmon

I wrote that poem in November of 2003, in Syracuse NY, where I was teaching at a national conference. It was a time in my life when I didn’t feel very at home anywhere; my first marriage had ended traumatically three years earlier, the same year I’d left my job as a nonprofit executive director, and discovered that the health problems I’d thought would go away once I could rest were instead continuing to evolve in a multi-layered complexity that baffled me and many health care practitioners.

The night I wrote that poem, I’d been in the basement of the convention center all day, surrounded by noise, people, and fluorescent lights. There were no windows. I’d had no idea it was snowing until I emerged at dusk to walk back to my hotel. The section of town we were in was ugly — full of concrete and cars. But the snow, falling in big, fat flakes, transformed it, softening the edges, gracefully outlining the bare, spindly trees and the dead flowers in pots, and brightening the air itself. And it did the same for me, opening my heart to grace and brightness, softness and transformation.

I was still grieving, shell-shocked, lonely, and very unsure what my new life was going to look like, but I was starting to feel my way into the possibilities, beginning to find small ways to be joyful again, beginning to suspect that I could, maybe, create a life I would feel at home in.

The snow showers of the last few days have pulled me back into that experience. Just a few minutes of watching the snow come down invites my heart to open again to that softness, and to the possibility that transformation can simply come, as a gift.

But wait, aren’t we supposed to have to work hard to change?

For those of us with strong internal “doers,” and strong perfectionist tendencies, the message that change can be about softening, rather than doing hard work to “make it happen,” can seem alien — wrong even. I know. I believe in hard work, I mostly trust it to be useful, to make good stuff happen in the world. And often it does.

But right now I’m relearning the lesson that it is me that is most in the way when I want to change. (This is a lesson I seem to need to relearn regularly.) I’m noticing, again, that when I try to create internal change by using my habitual approach to doing something that feels “hard” — an approach that involves identifying that something is wrong/needs to be fixed or accomplished, making a plan, and then “girding my loins” and diving into the hard work of implementing the plan — I… hit my own resistance. And I’m a powerful opponent. I know all my own weak spots, all the ways to push my own buttons. It’s exhausting to try to fight my way through all my own fear and resistance to change.

But, as children of the universe, change is actually our natural state. It’s not hard to create change; it’s hard to keep things the same. It’s just that we are afraid of change, and so we’ve gotten good at resisting it; we’ve built up powerful muscles to help us avoid “losing” what “we’ve got” — what’s familiar and therefore feels predictable and “safe.”

Softening Into Change

Normally, this is the spot in the article where I’d offer you a tool you can use to support the changes you want to be making, based on the reflections in the article. This time, I want to offer you instead a resource I found. I’ve been exploring a free eBook by Eric Klein called 50 Ways to Leave Your Karma, and while I have some resistance to the notion of Karma, and find seated meditation practice challenging, I am finding that Eric’s framing of the challenges we have in our lives, and his invitations to soften into change are a huge gift to me. So I invite you to download the eBook and see if it resonates for you too. The chapters are short, rich, and full of useful ways to practice.

And because I can’t leave you without an invitation to experience something about this softening into change, here is my paraphrasing of one of my favorite chapters from Eric’s book: Be Still

Stillness helps to center us, ground us, give us the space to reflect and choose what we want rather than just reacting. But it’s hard to be still; it becomes one more “thing” we are supposed to “do.” We feel like we can’t take the time, and even when we do, thoughts chase each other around in our heads and make stillness feel unattainable. But Eric says:

“The stillness is truly ever-present. It’s your attunement that wanders. And your openness that contracts. Fortunately, you don’t have to rush to catch the stillness train. Stillness is here, now, surrounding and interpenetrating every level of your being, right now, as you read these words.”

“Feel the stillness even as you read. Notice what it’s like to read and simultaneously connect to that deep stillness.”

You can touch into that stillness anywhere, any time, let it ground you, let it give you the space in which to choose how you want to be in whatever is happening, and what action you want to take next.


[There was more to this newsletter — workshop announcements, etc. — but I’ve omitted them since they are no longer timely.]

© Tasha Harmon, January 2012. All rights reserved. You are invited to share this article with friends and colleagues as long as it stays intact, with all acknowledgements and contact information in place. If you’d like permission to reprint this or others of my articles, written permission is required. Please do contact me about this if you are interested. Thank you.

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