And you find yourself in a soft place

October 26, 2011

This last weekend I attended Tara Sophia Mohr’s Fall retreat. And it was fantastic. Tara did an outstanding job of facilitating and the group of women that gathered was such a kind, safe container for the deep inner work we all did.

And I was struck by a couple of things that relate to trust.

This retreat was held at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, a Buddhist practice center nestled in the hills just north of San Francisco. I got the feeling on the winding drive that leads onto the property like I was walking a labyrinth – those maze-like symbols of pilgrimage where the “pilgrim” walks an inevitable path toward the center (God, Source, one’s own wise heart), and then back out the same path to every-dayness.

I stepped out of my shuttle that first day to the sound of wind through trees. A woman with a shaved head – a sign of her devotion – was just finishing preparing the guest house for our group. And as the sun warmed my face and shimmered off the sea in the distance, my heart said, “This. THIS.” Like all of this – the quiet, the land, the contemplative spiritual setting – was water and my heart parched beyond telling.

Tears fell from my eyes.

The next morning many of us took an early walk to the shore, winding our way silently through the Center’s many gardens – vegetables, flowers, shrubs, trees – past horses and then out to sand and sea. I felt the whole time like the land was hugging me, like it had been loved and tended well and had, because of that, so much to give back.

And it struck me as I walked and cried and received that huge hug how harsh life has felt these last months. Not mean, but requiring much. In addition to the challenges of family life, I have poured myself into my work here, saying yes a thousand times (and often late into the night) to trust and to listening more strongly to my sense of calling than to my racing heart and trembling knees. I feel silly admitting how out of my comfort zone I’ve been doing almost everything I’ve done here, since my life has prepared me well for all of it. But that’s the truth: I’ve been out of my comfort zone this year far more than in it.

So I’ve known this year has been hard work. But it wasn’t until I found myself in a soft place that the truth of it, the depth of the stress and the rigor, had freedom to surface.

And I wonder:

What if becoming (painfully, gut-wrenchingly, sometimes) aware of our fear is not always a sign that we’re far off from peace, but actually quite the opposite: a sign that we’re actually close enough to peace to start collapsing into it, to start admitting to ourselves or someone else how hard things have been? How much we need Life’s hug?

If you look at the labyrinth above, you’ll see the bulk of the last steps to the center are actually furthest away from it.

The other thought I’m left pondering is the surprise that softness was for me this weekend. The surprise of quiet and stillness in the midst of my otherwise loud, frenetic life. The surprise of land that felt so powerfully good. The surprise of Tara’s warmth and skill as a facilitator and the lovely group of women to explore with and grow alongside of.

What if it’s possible to be surprised by softness when you very least expect it? To be going along in the midst of your gut-clenching challenges – the ones you admit to yourself and the ones so hard and protracted you almost cannot – and find yourself turning a bend into kindness. Warmth. Generosity. Understanding. Love.

What if all such things could be far more close than you think?

I hope that they are. I hope you know rest and softness soon. I hope you’re surprised by a warm and healing Hug.

If you’re new here, welcome! I post articles once each week that explore trust, and how to nurture more of it. Signing up for my rss feed or free ebook are great ways to get a feel for what happens here. I used to devote each month to a different theme, so if you’re interested in seeing those themes and an annotated page of articles for each one, click here. Again, my warmest welcome!
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29 comments   |   Filed in: Meditations   |   Tags:   |  


  1. Another beautiful post, Kristin. The labyrinth maze picture reminds me of a session I went to at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference back when I was living in the UK.

    The facilitator created a labyrinth, marking it out with… I think… white rocks, and we one-by-one silently, meditatively walked into the centre then out again. It was an amazing experience, and something I’d love to do again if I have the opportunity.

    Comment by Tanja — October 26, 2011 @ 11:57 pm
  2. Tanja, yes – that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m thinking about here. Something feels so powerful and resonant about walking a labyrinth, even if there aren’t words to explain the feeling or what it shifts.

    Comment by Kristin — October 27, 2011 @ 12:15 am
  3. ah, thank you K! Once again so spot on! Tomorrow I so deeply choose to be surprised by softness, kindness and warmth. TRUST TAKEOVER- it doesn’t have to be hell!

    Comment by Jule — October 27, 2011 @ 12:39 am
  4. I hope it’s a great day, Jule! Watching for softness and kindness seems to raise the odds of finding them immensely!! :)

    Comment by Kristin — October 27, 2011 @ 5:00 am
  5. me too… :)
    thanks, kristin, needed this one… vicki

    Comment by vicki — October 27, 2011 @ 5:59 am
  6. My pleasure, Vicki.

    Comment by Kristin — October 27, 2011 @ 7:30 am
  7. Way up in Northern Canada, where the wind is howling….you have warmed the day!

    Comment by Barbara — October 27, 2011 @ 8:23 am
  8. Barbara, I’m so glad! :)

    Comment by Kristin — October 27, 2011 @ 9:00 am
  9. Oh, I know I hope they are. Fiercely, I hope that. Thank you for these beautiful words, as always. xox

    Comment by Lindsey — October 27, 2011 @ 10:04 am
  10. So glad for your company, Lindsey. I’ll consider these our prayers.

    Comment by Kristin — October 27, 2011 @ 10:56 am
  11. The universe was so kind to have you post this today, exactly the time that I needed to read these words. Life has been unusually painful and gut-clenching here these days, and yet I was blessed with a “soft place” and a warm and healing metaphorical hug by someone just this evening. I was also reminded to “trust the chaos, trust the mess” of life. . . which seems to fit with your post too. Thank you, Kristin. Thank you universe.

    P.S. I’ve been singing your song to myself these days. “May your fears find rest, may your body know peace. . ..” I might actually teach it to a group in a couple of weeks, is that okay with you? I will give you credit of course.

    Comment by Ellen — October 27, 2011 @ 4:15 pm
  12. Your words bring me so much hope, Ellen. I’m so buoyed by the idea of soft places being sprinkled right in the midst of turmoil. So glad to hear you had a “hug”.

    And I’d be honored if you’d want to share that song. Feel freedom to do it!

    (If you’re curious, Ellen is referring to this song.)

    Comment by Kristin — October 27, 2011 @ 4:51 pm
  13. Thank you for this gentle reminder to relax into whatever comes up for us. Peace is always just a (deep) breath away.


    Comment by pamela — October 28, 2011 @ 7:46 am
  14. [...] Kristin Noelle -And you find yourself in a strong place What if it’s possible to be surprised by softness when you very least expect it? To be going [...]

    Pingback by xiane dot org » take a break on october 28th : — October 28, 2011 @ 6:50 pm
  15. Pamela, yes. And isn’t it so true that the capacity to take that breath can seem infinitely far from us sometimes?

    Comment by Kristin — October 28, 2011 @ 8:03 pm
  16. KRISTIN,
    I have let your blog post soak in and this morning I have two thoughts. The first came when I was reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. I quote,” The one who lives her life in circles, discovering, entering into, forgetting and loving, finding her way round again, living her life in layers- deeper, round, further in.” This reminded me of the labyrinth you talked about, where you walk towards the center of the circle and then come out. As I journey in and come out: I have a deeper part of myself exposed, hopefully to help me move through the challenges and closer to my true self. It takes some trust to begin the walk in? Take a deep breathe: will I leave my cares inside, walk out with new perspectives of my life, no expectations, etc. Just the feel of the moment as I heal and take one step at a time. The soft spot for me is those aha moments that take me beyond the everyday challenges and say wow, this is my growth moment and it is good.
    The second is the tree. I take my dog for a walk and see a tree I walk by every day. Today I stopped and really SAW the tree. It is a leaf bare poplar tree, with long thick branches and skinny branches. One branch was bending nicely up-most of them bend up, stop, then bend out, stop then bend up. ALL GROWING UP TOWARDS THE LIGHT. I was thinking of this post, your video and your previous posts and compare the tree growth similarly with my growth. Harsh wind vs. gentle waves of wind, gentle rain vs. harshness of dryness, hot sun vs. gentle rays of sun, ugliness of bare winter branches vs. the beauty of autumn leaves, lightening breaking its branch vs. growth. Like the tree I grow, stop and my bend goes into fear, loser, hardness, harshness, etc., then I grow out into trust, winner, softness, kindness etc.. A continuous pattern. All the while I am, hopefully, GROWING UP TOWARDS THE LIGHT. When I think of my life all my challenges are really wrapped up in the softness, kindness, warmth, understanding, generosity, and love. They are that close and sometimes in me all at once, alot of times I miss the softness or they feel so far away. It is the bend of growth where I wrap myself in the gentleness of my self-talk thoughts or in the path of the labyrinth where I release myself to discover the soft part of me to bring back into the everyday challenging world.
    It makes me smile to know you had time to revitalize, relax, feel emotions get into your deepest self and discover the hugs and love in you and around you. Thank you for you. Smiles.

    Comment by Shandeen — October 28, 2011 @ 9:30 pm
  17. Shandeen, that image of the poplar tree is so, so beautiful. YES. All of it, every twist and turn, can be seen, with a bit of distance, as leading us toward light…as somehow held in softness. Thank you so much for sharing all of this.

    Comment by Kristin — October 28, 2011 @ 10:40 pm
  18. I am so glad to have found your site and your gentle, inspiring words. Like most people, I’m going through a rough time right now and need encouragement that things will be alright. Reading your posts have brought me some peace…thank you.

    Comment by Sheila Bergquist — October 26, 2013 @ 10:38 pm
  19. Shaved head, it looks good on some women. The woman whom have fought with brain cancer or gone through brain surgery have gone through this. Doctor’s use their knife’s to cut off the hair. I don’t know if it’s safe or not. Does anybody know anything ?

    - Richard Maxton

    Comment by Learn more — November 5, 2013 @ 11:46 pm
  20. Nice share Kristin … Really admire your writing ! Appreciate your efforts in presenting this article here!

    Comment by Ping Pong Table Dimensions — November 15, 2013 @ 9:04 am
  21. A retreat from the daily chaos we call our life is so good. Everytime I go hiking into the woods I feel the same way and become more introspective and then feel at peace. And I love the maze concept before entering the retreat.

    Comment by Jeff — November 23, 2013 @ 6:45 pm
  22. great post kristin, thank for sharing, i wait your next beautiful post

    Comment by ushaver — January 18, 2014 @ 12:00 am
  23. Great post, really enjoyed the read. Thank you for sharing this thought provoking post with us :)

    Comment by Will Blears — May 8, 2014 @ 4:28 am
  24. Thanks for great post kristin I appreciated.

    Comment by Berat badan — May 23, 2014 @ 12:00 pm
  25. A profound experience there Kirstin. It always is beautiful to move away from daily chaos into peace and tranquil retreats. Thanks for sharing

    Comment by JP — June 17, 2014 @ 2:51 pm
  26. Really feeling happy to get the opportunity to read such an amazing post. Thanks Kristin.

    Comment by getarazor — September 13, 2014 @ 5:48 am
  27. Really really amazing post and tremendously nice to read, thanks for sharing Kirstin

    Comment by Sudoku Solver — October 2, 2014 @ 3:35 pm
  28. I really learn some deep knowledge from your written post. Thanks for sharing Kirstin and keep posting such wonderful articles.

    Comment by Ping pong table dimensions — October 18, 2014 @ 7:16 am
  29. I read most of your posts, very long details, thanks

    Comment by Jeffrey — January 6, 2016 @ 11:46 pm

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