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Mindset Mondays: Strong Back, Soft Front

By: MJ Ryan

We’re doing something new at SheEO this year. Each Monday, I’ll be sharing perspectives, tools, and wisdom I’m encountering about the mindsets we can cultivate to help us through these times of great challenge and opportunity.

Recently I’ve been recalling a phrase I first heard from self-compassion researcher Kristen Neff: that as we move through the world, we need a strong back and a soft front. Today, I was gifted by a newsletter from deep ecologist Kelly Brady, director of The Ecology of Awakening. I offer part of it here, to encourage us in this stance:   

“As I continue to take in unfathomable stories of burning landscapes, unexplained assassinations, political shams and the pain of those most invisiblized…I fluctuate, like so many, between anger and despair, shock and the desire to distract. And yet…I return, over and over, to the underlying posture we are invited to adopt as we continue to show up for our world. 

“The posture is about turning in–tending to ourselves, turning towards our grief, healing our inner divisions and opening to the vulnerability that comes with uncertainty. It’s about moving from struggle and resistance to ‘opening to what is’, staying close to our hearts and each other in the process. I know for me there is a visceral shift that happens when I move from resisting the reality of these times to embracing the fact that we are not actually meant to get out of this mess. We are not meant to get back to where we were, with systems, ideologies and attitudes aimed solely at progress. Something new is being demanded. 

“We are in the midst of a collective rite of passage that, by default, means we are confronting our demise and cannot hold onto certainty (as if we ever could). As philosopher and teacher Bayo Akomolafe suggests, `Now the transience of nature is calling us into question. It’s like the red carpet is being stripped from under us and we’re being invited to fall like seed into the Earth….If we win at this, we’ve failed. The logic of mastery needs to be composted.’ We are invited to deconstruct–ourselves, our systems, our ways of being and belonging to the world–as we re-align and re-member our way forward. 

“And this, of course, takes courage, which as research professor Brené Brown reminds us, is inseparable from vulnerability. As she says, there is no act of courage that is `not completely defined by vulnerability.’ This is echoed by civil rights activist and faith leader Valarie Kaur who eloquently suggests that `revolutionary love is the call of our time.’ The greatest reforms in our history were rooted in love. `Not love as a rush of feeling, but love as sweet labor, fierce and demanding and imperfect and life-giving, love as a choice that we make over and over again.’

“When we tend to our hearts, ground in the Earth and let the tears flow, we create more space within to show up for each other and the Earth in a new way.…. May this year be the turning point we’ve been preparing for in our collective future!” 

Resources Recommended by The Ecology of Awakening newsletter

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