The Path to Inner Peace: Soften That Which Is Hard


Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. Elevate, people. I’m talking about how to handle situations when you are stressed, angry or in a battle of wills.

The idea of “soften that which is hard” is to take a moment and identify where in your body that “hard” feeling is originating. Then take a deep breath and, like you’re melting butter, soften that part of your body, that emotion, that idea, that willful position.

The softening may not eradicate the underlying pain or issue, but it can help to create space and a new, more peaceful way of dealing in real time. And it can help to NOT make matters worse.

I’ll share a recent example. Here’s the set up:

  • I am on my way to a doctor’s office for a routine visit
  • Traffic was heavier than anticipated; I’m running 5 minutes behind
  • I remember parking is cash only upon entry; I don’t have cash
  • I find a Citibank and get cash
  • While pulling out of the Citibank lot, another driver honks at me and rudely motions for me to get out of her way – although I had the right of way

I’d been holding it together fairly well. But now I’m pissed. I pull out of the lot and proceed to curse a blue streak about that woman and her car and the town that we’re in and then back to the woman and her face. (To myself in the privacy of my Mini Cooper.)

This is me taking life way too seriously.

My family has a history of taking life too seriously…and of having heart disease early in life.

“Soften that which is hard, Laura.”

I pulled over and took a deep breath, smoothing out “that which is hard.” It’s remarkably easy to do. The hardness inside of me – in the center of my chest – was about EXPECTATIONS. I expected things to go differently and when they didn’t I got pissed off. Mad at myself and the world. Pissed off enough to shoot my cortisol levels through the roof. I expected myself to be more put together. To get to the doctor’s office with ample time, with cash flowing out of my pocket. I expected the traffic on the 405 to part for me like the Red Sea. For that woman to yield happily to me.

But that didn’t happen. And that’s called “life.”

So, I breathed. And softened that feeling in my chest. And then I started to laugh. At myself and at life. And at the fact that I was rushing to an appointment where I routinely sit for 35 minutes in the waiting room then another 20 minutes in the ice cold examination room.

Nothing good comes of rock hard butter. Soften it up.

I want to attribute the quote “soften that which is hard” to the beloved Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, as it was shared with me by a very energetic yoga instructor. But I cannot find this quote in references online. I’ll keep trying.

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