Bev Janisch

Strong Back, Soft Front: A Guided Meditation Inspired By Joan Halifax

Strong Back, Soft Front: A Guided Meditation Inspired By Joan Halifax

Strong Back, Soft Front: A Guided Meditation Inspired By Joan Halifax

Cultivating the ability to stay grounded, open and compassionate during challenging times is a gift we can give ourselves.

I came across a tremendously helpful meditation practice, especially during difficult times when we struggle to maintain a balanced and compassionate stance.

It’s a practice inspired by Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D., a Buddhist teacher and founder of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

One of the core messages of her teachings is the value of cultivating a strong back and a soft front.

Sit for a moment and let the feeling of a strong back and soft front sink into your being. What does it mean to you to have a strong back and a soft front?

It can mean many different things- depending on what’s going on in our lives.

When I think about a strong back, I often think about having a “backbone” and being able to set healthy boundaries. Boundaries enable us to keep our hearts open because we find a balance between caring for ourselves and caring for others.

Without that balance and a strong back, we can tend to close our hearts and harden our soft front.

Through her research, Brené Brown has found that the most compassionate people are also not afraid to set healthy boundaries.

Kristin Neff, well-known for her research and work on self-compassion, has more recently introduced the concept of fierce self-compassion. The idea is that being compassionate with ourselves and others doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when we must be powerful and set boundaries. It’s about finding the balance and the understanding that it’s not an either/or.

In addition to the balance between compassion and fierce self-compassion (boundaries), the soft front and strong back concept is also helpful when we think of going through challenging times.

Joan Halifax explains that having a strong back and soft front “is about the relationship between equanimity and compassion.”

Strong Back, Soft Front: A Guided Meditation Inspired By Joan Halifax

A strong back is about stability and our capacity to uphold ourselves, especially during difficult times.

It means we are cultivating an ability to maintain a calm mind with emotional and mental stability. It enables us to be grounded, rooted, and strong while remaining flexible, adaptable, and open to change.

The soft front is about opening to things as they are. It’s about accepting life as it is rather than longing or worrying about the future and wishing things were different. Cultivating this quality within ourselves enables us to remain open to life without shutting down or collapsing.

When we cultivate a strong back and soft front within ourselves, we can weather the storms of life with strength, wisdom, grace, and an open heart. We develop the ability to grow as a result of the challenges.

We unite the qualities traditionally associated with the feminine way of being—gentleness, empathy, receptivity, and sensitivity—with those usually associated with the masculine form of being—courage, independence, and assertiveness.

I’ve noticed in my life and work with others that we tend to have it reversed. It’s common for us to have a weak back that results in us crumbling during difficult times. As a result, we have a hard front. We close our hearts and resist life as it is.

I invite you to spend 10 minutes listening to the Strong Back; Soft Front guided meditation. You can incorporate this practice into your existing meditation practice or use it like a mantra throughout your day- reminding yourself to meet life with a strong back and a soft front.

10-Minute Strong Back, Soft Front Guided Meditation:

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2 Responses

  1. I really enjoyed this practice. I connected with wanting to have an open heart but without losing myself – in comes the boundaries with the strong back!!
    So powerful. Thank you 🙏🏻

    1. Hi Lizzie,
      I’m so grateful that this practice resonated with you. A deep bow to you for setting the intention to have an open heart and a strong back! So very powerful! Thanks for sharing with us here!

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About Bev

Nice to meet you!

Bev Janisch is a former nurse turned certified meditation teacher and mindfulness coach. In 2014, she founded The Compassionate Mind and has taught hundreds of people how to establish simple yet transformative practices. Bev is the author of Awakening a Woman’s Soul: The Power of Meditation and Mindfulness To Transform Your Life. Bev is passionate about empowering people with the tools and knowledge to live with less stress and greater ease.