Brave and Soft

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Today, I am with the sea. I arrived yesterday to the Pacific Ocean. I have not been blessed by the ocean in many months, years. I drove up and through beautiful California country and could feel as I crested the hill that there on the other side would be the vast and ancient song of the depths. And there she was all shimmering with glitter and sparkle.

I pulled over and walked out to the cliff edge. The wind was lifting up and wrapping round me as I watched the water swell and embrace the great pinnacles of rock standing strong in the water and the waves came crashing into shore.

My throat caught my heart as I momentarily resisted the wilderness and movement all around me. And then taking a step back from the cliff edge I found my courage to stand there.  To be open and present to all of this, to the endless solitude, the constant motion, the power of the rock and the wave and the wind, to my own fear—open to my own fear which really isn’t mine alone—but just one more way the elements manifest.

The cliffs and rocks have been shaped by their relationship with the waves and wind, the whole environment they exist in, just as we are shaped and wounded and strengthened and given our forms by how our history, family, place, work on us. And so it is we are a part of something.

I drove along the coast to Point Reyes, where I stayed last night at the hostel (I recommend it: clean, friendly, beautiful, cheap.) After settling in I drove down to the beach just as the sun had set.  The orange embers where still in the west casting streams of pink and lavender across the sky and filling the sea with every shade of the softest yellow, orange, blue, purple, green.

The beach extended out as far as I could see. I walked toward the east so that as I returned I might still have the very last of the light in front of me.  Here the sand and frothy waves were all gentleness. My whole body, tense from travel and new surroundings, began to melt in the presence of the great soft mother. Oh, how she caresses the shore, one wave upon the next forever and ever.

I could feel anxiety and sadness arising in me—I could sense how tense my body is compared to this great body. And so it was, the gentleness in all its gentleness working on me, sinking into my tissue, making room for everything to be as it is.


You don’t need the ocean to experience and cultivate courage and gentleness, although it is an incredible resource for this. We have our own ocean to draw from. You simply need to find yourself in the moment where challenge or fear arises and see if you can stay with it, take a step back if necessary to where you can open to this, allow your body to feel whatever it is. Notice the smaller challenges first, the very moment where you begin to constrict in your skin—it may be a phone call you need to make, something you need to say to someone, a hill you have to climb.

This isn’t about making the phone call or not making it, it is about the willingness to notice our resistance and fears and be with them. This is courage. And this is gentleness as well, when we aren’t pushing for one outcome or another, or insisting on our way, but instead noticing where we are soft inside, noticing what is soft around us, and hanging out with all of this. There is no race. There is no right answer.  There is only this—the vast ocean. A book I’m reading says of the sea, “mother, source of all minerals.” This is what our own soil needs—it needs the minerals of courage and the mother love of gentleness. With this, all that needs to grow, will grow.

What is your experience?

I wrote this post over a month ago when I was on the west coast. It is part of the series, Cultivating the Seeds of Listening, which also includes the post, Strong and Kind.

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