soft, creamy center
soft, creamy center

I’ve been hearing the phrase “lean in” a lot lately. Sheryl Sandberg popularized the term in her book of the same name but it’s been used by other people too. It can mean a lot of things from simply getting more involved to not running the opposite direction from what scares you. It can mean not sabotaging yourself by being afraid to experience happiness (what Brené Brown calls “foreboding joy”) or it can mean figuring out the ways that you might be unintentionally planning to not succeed.

The act of leaning in is a good thing. I just don’t like the phrase.

When I think of leaning into something, I picture physically moving into a hard object. It feels like it’s going to hurt. What works better for me is softening. If I soften my heart and mind, I offer less resistance. Softening isn’t as scary. I become more flexible and open to new ideas and suggestions. I feel less defensive and needing to be right. I’m more in the moment instead of planning for probabilities that don’t need my energy right now.

I soften myself whenever I want to pull back and resist. When I’m driving behind the slowest driver in human creation, I soften myself to him. When my kids are fighting over which Ninja Turtle is the coolest, I soften into the sound. When someone has an opinion that I don’t agree with, I soften my mind to appreciate the exchange of ideas. When my feelings are hurt, I soften my heart to let in love. When I really, really don’t want to feel an emotion, I soften to yield to it. To yield to the lesson, to surrender the control, to open myself up to God and accept help.

I’m like a gummy bear. I’m still a bear so I could eat you if I wanted to but I’m also flexible. 🙂

Here are two blog posts that spoke to me recently:

photo credit: iStock

21 thoughts on “Softening

  1. I’ve actually never heard of ‘leaning in’, but fully agree with you. ‘Softening’ is far, far better. Even surrendering.


  2. Karen, I thought I commented on this already! Maybe I did in my head?!!! When I read this post, it reminded of me of all the posts that I’ve written on softening. I looked up on the “search” part of my blog, and found like TEN posts! Soften was one of my words back in 2011. It still swims in me — it’s something I say to myself as a little whisper and reminder every day. Tara Brach has used the term, “lean in”. It’s another word/phrase for something similar. But I have “issues” with the exact wording – so it’s not something that resonates with me. But I do get the vibe. I’ll notice over the next few days what are the other words I whisper to myself that have that same invitation of “lean in.” And I’ll share. Language sure is powerful!! Love, Lisa


    1. Maybe it’s just semantics but softening just feels better to me than leaning in. You’re right about language! I find that when I choose the right word for something, the lesson reaches me at a deeper level. I’ll have to look up your posts. 🙂 Thanks Lisa!


    1. Oh Brenda, that’s right!!! Yes, your post on “what if I softened” is lovely. It’s one of those to bring back again and again — like I was telling Karen with her post on the yelling challenge. Karen, I echo Brenda — I appreciate you sharing your beautiful heart! It is reflected in your writing — beneath the words, between the words. Lovely, Karen. Love – LISA


  3. This is lovely, and I love the links too…..
    I first heard the phrase lean in from Pema Chodron, a personal hero of mine….her site recently posted this:


    “The next time you lose heart and you can’t bear to experience what you’re feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in. Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves. This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering – yours, mine, and that of all living beings.”

    Excerpted from “Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears”, page 55
    Heart Advice weekly quotes from Pema Chodron, courtesy of Shambhala Publications


  4. Karen, I have never heard the phrase “Lean In” but now it will be forever in my mind. The word Softening does sound so much more easier and more welcoming. Maybe I will try it on some of my sobriety sisters and get back to you. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.


  5. Karen,
    I like softening too. It sounds much more gentle that lean in. Softening, for me, is surrendering. Surrender isn’t something that always comes easily. Most times, I fight to let go of things, clawing and scratching to hold on to them, even though I know there will be relief when I am able to let go. Thanks for giving me a new word to try out, and thanks for posting my link! 🙂


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