April 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

In Zen we say that the soft overcomes the hard.  “Hard” conventionally connotes strength, as “soft” connotes weakness.  So how then does the hard overcome the soft?  In the physical world the effects of water provide the best example of the soft overcoming the hard, as the river carves a canyon through the rock.  But in human affairs it is also true that strength is misunderstood and the soft overcomes the hard.

A famous actor once remarked that as he prepared to play a “tough guy” he recalled some advice given to him years before.  His teacher had told him- remember, the most powerful person in a room is likely to be the one who says, and moves, the least.  Talking in a loud voice, stomping around, are often symptoms of anxiety and weakness.

Each of us has been in the presence of someone who feels like a force of nature, so powerful that his leadership emerges organically and not bureaucratically.  Such a person usually gets his way but not out of hierarchical authority, or brute intimidation, but rather out of the strong and sure sense of self that permeates him.  He is willfulness, embodied.  A person who brings this kind of strength and willfulness to the negotiating session may not get everything that he desires but he will get what there is to get.

How then do I obtain such strength?  It is simple and it is difficult.   Such strength can only come from within you, no one can give it to you.  It must be earned, moment-to-moment.  If you can be aware, alive, unflinching, and fully present in each moment, you will possess this strength.  You will be the “boss” of your space and moment.  Whatever you do from that place of centeredness will be the correct action.  This does not mean that others will simply fall into line.  Such strength, while it will influence others, is not to be measured by the response of those around you.   Possessing this posture of centeredness is strength, period.   Nothing more is needed.

Thus, strength is not what we suppose.  It is both simpler in its nature and more difficult in its maintenance than we imagine.  It has nothing to do with how loud we are or how much our voice dominates the conversation.  Yes, a strong person sometimes raises her voice and demands her way.  But she does so consciously, even calmly.  She is like a force of nature.  She is strength embodied- moment by moment.

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