10 Minute Strong Back, Soft Front Guided Meditation:
What inner resources do you draw on during difficult or challenging times in your life? Where do you find comfort and shelter from the storms that occur in all of our lives?
What I’ve found in both my own life and from the people I work with, is that most of us have no idea how to be resilient and deal with or our emotions when life gets tough.
It was this realization in my own life that created a willingness for me to explore a variety of meditation and mindfulness practices. I was hungry to learn how to comfort myself, deal with my emotions and tap into my own inner wisdom in order to make decisions that were based on my own core values and not others.
The mindfulness-based program that I created called “Inner Thrive” grew out of that exploration. My core question was: How can we thrive physically, emotionally and spiritually in our lives. What are the inner tools that we need to not only survive but thrive and enable us to have vibrant health, meaningful relationships, and purposeful work?
In this post, I share one such practice that you can carry with you in your toolkit of life.
This meditation was inspired by Roshi Joan Halifax Ph.D., a Buddhist teacher and founder of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One of the core messages of her teaching is the value of cultivating a strong back and a soft front. Joan Halifax introduced this practice in relation to being with the dying, but it’s an invaluable practice for all of us.
Just sit for a moment and let the concept of a strong back, soft front really sink into your being. What does it mean to you to have a strong back and soft front?
Joan Halifax explains that having a strong back and soft front “is about the relationship between equanimity and compassion”. A strong back is about equanimity and our capacity to uphold ourselves, especially during difficult times. It means we are cultivating an ability to maintain a calm mind with emotional and mental stability. It enables us to be grounded, rooted and strong while remaining flexible, adaptable and open to change.
Soft front is about opening to things as they are. It’s about accepting life as it is rather than longing or worrying about things being different. Cultivating this quality within ourselves enables us to remain open to life without shutting down or closing our hearts.
When we cultivate a strong back and soft front within ourselves, we can weather the storms of life with strength, wisdom, grace and an open heart. We unite the qualities traditionally associated with the feminine way of being—gentleness, empathy, receptivity, and sensitivity—with those traditionally associated with the masculine way of being—courage, independence, and assertiveness.
What I’ve noticed in my own life and in the work that I do with others is that we tend to have it reversed. It’s common for us to have a weak back that results in us crumbling during difficult times and then, as a result, we have a hard front. We don’t maintain the strength to uphold ourselves and then we develop anger and resentment towards ourselves or others. We close our hearts and resist life as it is.
I invite you to spend 10 minutes listening to the audio. You can incorporate this practice into your existing meditation practice, or you can use it as a mantra throughout your day. It’s about frequently and consistently reminding yourself to meet your life with a strong back and a soft front.
Leave a comment below about what it feels like to cultivate a strong back and a soft front.