Softness and Strength, In the Soul and On the Job

Hanging up the phone, I stretched and sighed and immediately got up to fill the office teapot. I had to get back into my body and find peace in my rapidly beating heart. It had been a success – I had just convinced a vendor whose faulty service had disturbed the smooth flow of a conference I had organized to cut our bill in half. Mixing firmness with resignation, verbal gymnastics with pregnant pauses, I had gotten my way and saved some of the grant money that I badly needed to apply to other causes.

This is one of the things I am good at – making the person on the other end of the phone realize that he is dealing with a redhead who knows what she wants and what her organization needs and refuses be denied. It is a valuable skill in my professional life and was essential when we bought our house, but sometimes I wonder if it is a liability as I search for a deeper connection with my soul.

Swagger and confidence are treasured commodities in so much of the world, and I know that I have cultivated more than my share. These qualities have been a fine shield that have insulated me from that dreaded vulnerability. Thing is, such a shield blocks a lot more than just a few guys who seek to swindle a poor defenseless maiden. Walking around with an acquired tough girl attitude has made too many people believe in my callousness and irreverence. It is awfully hard to convince someone that you are a healer interested in affairs of the spirit when you just threatened (oh-so-hollowly) to make somebody come to the library to fix the leaking pipes.

At the same time, there are rings in this steely suit of chain mail that have their own spiritual purposes. Schools of thought in the world of energy healing differ about whether or not the healer can take on her client’s negative energy, but regardless, it is necessary to establish boundaries between practitioner and recipient. I know that I have an ability to say “no, I am sorry, but that is not acceptable” when I am staring down a contractor, and I can do the same if something comes up when I have someone on my table.

In the same vein, it requires a great deal of strength to be the firm hand that guides people through the places within that scare them. A healer encounters a great deal of resistance when she tries to help someone break their deepest patterns.  Even as she listens to the needs of the client, she must have the confidence to take a stand in the battle against a person’s well constructed – but essentially harmful – defenses.

I fear the extremes – weakness on one side, stridency on the other. If I become a completely spiritual being, will I lose that edge that can be so useful in the world? If I indulge the parts of me that dare someone to mess with me, am I making this endeavor for wisdom nothing more than empty rhetoric?

There has to be a way to marry these aspects of myself, to cultivate supple strength and mighty tenderness. It is a vital sort of balance, one that permits me to revel in my humanity and yet still linger with the Divine. Dancing, always dancing, with these seemingly opposite drives…

2 thoughts on “Softness and Strength, In the Soul and On the Job

  1. ecoyogi November 19, 2008 / 12:33 am

    I love how you are living the questions, ala Rilke, in these last two posts. Such lovely, soulful, thought-provoking, clear, conscious writing!

    Thank you

  2. Quiet November 19, 2008 / 2:51 pm

    Ah, this was so relevant to what I am experiencing in my work life at present.

    There is someone there who presents an outward image of being warm, caring and intelligent but who also has a hidden toughness, almost ruthlessness, when threatened. There is a suspicion for me of some ‘dishonesty’ as well but this could be my own judgement and incorrect. Dishonesty has to be intentional. I think She has climbed her way up the tree in this way but hasn’t hurt anyone until recently. The hurt was potentially serious but this woman was also battling for her own survival.

    I have been trying to soften my emotional reactions to her and feel that I’m being successful. It seems that we all have these ambiguities and corners in our personalities. The challenge for me is to negotiate hers and mine without conflict. A certain detachment and some reflection on the primary purpose of our work is helpful.

    The professional world is a hard place at times and we have to use different tactics to find our way through it.

    Your question about the balance between your spiritual self and your worldly self is a challenging one. At least you are aware of the tensions.

    Hey, the life of Teresa of Avila is a good read around all this! She was both mystic and practical reformer and seem to manage the polarities of these roles with balance and humour :).

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