I returned from my three week trip to India on Sunday. I find India an incredible place; challenging, contradictory, chaotic, full of paradox.

The experience of being there I feel is exercise to strengthening a way of being in the world that Joan Halifax (a Buddhist teacher) has described as “strong back, soft front”. She says “it takes tremendous strength of the back to uphold yourself in the midst of conditions” (India offers up really challenging things such as witnessing extreme poverty, disparity of living conditions, unkind actions, being in uncertainty all the time, having expectations not be met), it also takes a soft front which she describes as “the capacity to really be open to the world as it is, to have an undefended heart”.

The astounding beauty and intensely impactful positive experiences may come along with really deeply challenging and confronting experiences.

India challenges my living with an undefended open heart, tests it… can you stay open with this … and this … and this … That is where the strong back comes in.

Back of the body in Yoga is the universal, Sally Kempton calls it the ‘great heart’, she says we can be with and welcome ANY experience from that place. Front body in Yoga is the individual. So, we can soften the individual and strengthen connection to the universal.

Strong Back, Soft Front