Vulnerability

March 3, 2014

vul·ner·a·ble  [vuhl-ner-uh-buhl]

adjective

1.capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body.

2. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.: an argument vulnerable to refutation; He is vulnerable to bribery.

Origin: 

1595–1605;  < Late Latin vulnerābilis,  equivalent to Latin vulnerā ( re ) to wound + -bilis -ble; see vulnerary

It seems almost every month I read an article, blog post or book that encourages me to “be a kid again” – to play, to let go of what is expected, to live from a place of what makes you truly you. Yeah. Easier said than done my friends. It isn’t that I don’t understand or even agree with that advice, I just find it incredibly hard to move back into that space of childhood. Too much has happened; good things and bad, praise and criticism all of which shape the character I feel will be most likely to be accepted – the character I am as an adult.

So you can imagine my surprise last month during a 3-week stay in India that in many ways I was thrown back into childhood almost instantly after getting off the plane. Here I was without any ability to comprehend what was being said, what I was expected to do, how to navigate, how to order food or eat it…. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do those things or figure it out, but it was this overarching sense of vulnerability as I did it. Am I doing this right? Will they understand me? Will I somehow offend someone? Even understanding how to cross a street (and survive) took both the act of watching and learning from someone with experience (an “adult” so to speak) and then the scary act of stepping out on my own and trying those first steps.

And, this is what vulnerability is, the willingness to do something first. To say I Love You. To ask for help. To stand up for someone who needs it. It is risky and scary – you could be rejected or criticized, made to feel wrong or stupid or silly but this same risky, scary stuff is what makes us beautiful. As Brene Brown says, “In order for connection to happen we have to let ourselves be seen.”

Asking questions, not being afraid to not know, allowed us to meet wonderful people, hear stories and have experiences that if we had been “pros” and pretended we knew everything there was to know about India, we would have missed out.

Vulnerability is the birth place of joy, creativity, connection, love… Vulnerability is being okay with uncertainty, being okay with the pain and the hurts that come our way because we know that if we can experience the bad we are also open to experiencing the good.

As an adult, feeling like a child is easily equated to feeling like an incompetent fool, but that isn’t what we are going for here. In India, my experience wasn’t one of feeling foolish. It was an experience of being wide-eyed. Of asking many, many questions. Of enjoying the sensation of being delighted by seeing a monkey in person. Of wearing clothes that may or may not match but made you feel beautiful. Of asking how to mail a package and then spending 3 hours with your new best friend.

Now, the question becomes, when we aren’t in a foreign land, how can we still cultivate vulnerability? How can we be wide open, joyful and a little risky even in the safe confines of our little adult worlds? I’ve just gone back at watched Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability and she gives us these 3 keys as a starting point:

  • We have to let ourselves be seen
  • We have to practice gratitude and joy
  • We have to know that we are enough.

How do you practice vulnerability?

You Are Partly Right

February 24, 2014

As often happens, certain words seem to make an appearance in my life and then continue to pop-up until I’ve taken the time to truly, madly, deeply to get to know and understand what these words have to teach me. One of these words right now is BLAME.

This word first came into my awareness with THIS RadioLab story (I have shared this before but if you haven’t listened, it is well worth listening to!).

Next, a conversation with a friend who’s work in the legal field takes her through the very gray waters of blame and fairness on a daily basis.

Then while researching another word (coming in another post soon) Brene Brown (another favorite) tells me that blame is a way to discharge pain & discomfort.

And, lastly, yesterday I stumble across this little gem in Shambhala Sun:

“Blaming is neither true nor not true. It doesn’t take me even one tiny step closer to my or anyone else’s happiness or freedom… If we know who is at fault, maybe we can make sure that they don’t do it again. But blame doesn’t work that way. Assigning and taking responsibility provides an opportunity to change. It gives us choice and power. Blame negates responsibility. It end the sentence, closing off possibility.”

This same article shared a response from Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh: “You are partly right.”

This means that yes, there is some truth to the story, but it isn’t the whole story. This week, as I find myself blaming others or equally important, accepting praise, I will say to myself, “you are partly right.” A reminder that there are many more layers than we can possibly see, that our truths are colored by the individual mini-worlds that we live in, and that reality is something we are all working to see fully but can’t just yet.

At least, I think this is partly right…

Playing With Patience

February 19, 2014

How do you play with patience?

These are the words I wrote in my journal Monday night after a particularly frustrating day. And who hasn’t been in need of a little more patience? The things we want most to come to fruition always seem to take so much longer than we expect. Patience. Patience. So easy to say and SO HARD to actually live with.

So, I practiced. I wrote. And then I succumbed to my Monday night guilty pleasure of watching some kind of girly movie my husband would rarely agree to watch (since he has class on Monday nights…). This week it was Reality Bites (so excited for this bit of 90s reminiscing!). Remember this?

So, somewhere about halfway through, Ethan Hawke dropped this little gem in my lap…

I take pleasure in the little things. A quarter pounder with cheese… The sky 10 minutes before it rains… Your laughter as it becomes a cackle…”

And suddenly, I felt I had my answer.

How do you play with patience? You take pleasure in the little things.

What is making me happy in this second? As I type this, sitting in the Whole Foods on Ponce, I am delighted by the soda I just discovered called Wild Poppy. What a great name.

Many moons ago, on another frustrating day, I made a list of little things that I love. Here is my list:

my husband, yoga, green juice, homemade marshmallows, flannel sheets, magazines, bad TV movies, deviled egg plates, foreign languages, chai, farmers markets, my family, early morning walks, mountains, creative ideas, surprises, silence, cookbooks, GPS, 80s music, Sharpie pens, homemade gifts, beautiful writing, changing seasons…

Will share your list with me? Hit me on Facebook and let me know what you are enjoying right now.

A Love Story

February 13, 2014

This writing original appeared on Sacred Thread Yoga’s Blog: Sacred Threads.  Read more of STY’s teachers’ musings on love this month here.

Writing about love is a lot easier said than done. When Annelise, the new owner of Sacred Thread, asked me to write a blog post about Love for the studio’s theme of the month, I think I responded by saying, “no problem.” Really? No problem writing about love? I thought… I brainstormed… I pulled out my favorite authors to read their quotes on love… but, in the end I kept coming back to something much more personal. Sharing a personal journey of love feels terrifying, but also completely right because what is love if not a personal story? I can’t tell you what to feel or how to experience, but I can tell you how I feel and how I experience.

IMG_2280

Six months ago, I was pregnant. Unplanned and unexpected but pregnant. Shocked and scared but also, even more shockingly, immediately in love with this little baby. It didn’t even take 24 hours, I don’t know if it took 24 minutes. I was just in love. And, then I miscarried. Unexpected, shocked and scared all over again. And, this time, heartbroken. And lonely.

It took me months to feel even close to whole again. But somehow, in the devastating chaos of that time, I discovered that this heartbreak was also showing me my ability to love. And it had grown exponentially through this process. It brought me closer to my husband as I learned to ask for the support that I needed. I love other women so much more now. Those that have lost a baby, or had a baby or don’t want a baby. I feel their experiences just as I felt my own and I love them for it. Most crucially, I somehow discovered that I already love myself in all the ways I’ve always tried and failed – experiencing my body, my feelings and my thoughts with so much less judgement.

So my understanding of love comes from loss. It is a practice in full on truth-telling, in asking for the support you need, in acceptance of the ugliest bits of you, and complete and utter vulnerability. It is the experience you didn’t know you were scared to have and then the bizarre realization that the silver lining was totally worth that god-awful experience.

In this month of “love” being everywhere – forget the chocolates and flowers and romance. Instead spend sometime with yourself being truthful. Your greatest experience of love won’t come from someone else. It comes from your ability to be with yourself just as you are.

Turn down the lights and turn on some music. Rub oils all over your gorgeous body. Eat something that makes you feel good. Grab a pen and paper and write down exactly how you feel. Without justification or explanation. Love yourself. All those thoughts and emotions and rolls. So many incredible, magical things had to happen for you to be where you are today, and that is worthy of a love that never ends.

#THOUGHTSONLOVE #LOVEINOUROWNWORDS #SACREDTHREADYOGA

Re-Entering Life

February 3, 2014

Well, I’ve officially been back in Atlanta for one week, and as I’ve slowly re-entered my life I’ve been making notes of things I newly appreciate, have noticed or learned since my journey through India. This trip was so incredible and filled with such intense learnings that I’m certain it will take me months to digest it. I’m already seeing little ways it has influenced my personal practice, and I can’t wait to see how that trickles into my teaching. To start us off, let’s do a Top 10 List…

Top 10 Things I Appreciate Upon My Return (in no particular order):

10. The freedom to get in your car and go anywhere you want, whenever you want

9. The intense and profound gratitude to come from a culture and socioeconomic class that allows me access to any food I want, to marry whomever I want, and to chose a profession that lights me up. Not things to take for granted. Ever.

8. On this same vein, I can not believe how much STUFF I own. I hope that I can remember to bring a much more discriminating eye and appreciation for each purchase moving forward. Seriously, $100 at Target. Not happening again.

7. Even the worst rush hour on 75/85 is better than trying to navigate a traffic circle in India. (I wrote this BEFORE snowpocalypse and it is no longer true unfortunately) I am amending this to say: There may be bad drivers on the road, but I still appreciate our beautifully organized red/green lights, stop signs and clearly marked lanes. Sure they could be better, but they could also be non-existent.

6. Our culture is incredibly good at hiding the ugly: garbage, poverty, death… It is not a bad thing to see these issues directly and understand that you live among them. I appreciate this awareness.

5. I may not have rhythm or be able to carry a decent tune but music, whether mantra or classic rock, stirs my soul like nothing else. I will turn it up loud way more often.

4. On this same note, I will stop feeling guilty about playing music I love in classes. It may not be “traditional” but if it moves me, chances are it moves some of you too. And, hell, a real-life-Swami told us that music helps students to access their souls. He probably didn’t mean Bruce Springsteen but then again, he didn’t specify…

3. Leaving your significant other for a month is hard and scary and tearful, but it is worth every second with what you learn about your relationship.

2. To be invited into a stranger’s home for chai is one of the most meaningful experiences I had. I will extend this invitation to others now. Why do we have to go out for coffee?

1. In India, anything you wanted to do took at least half a day. Going to the Post Office was quite literally a 3 hour experience. If you plan your days with this mindset then you never end up feeling rushed and defeated. Today, I will go to the Post Office. Tomorrow, I will teach my first class of the year. Once you accomplish your one goal for the day everything else is gravy. 2014 will be my year of no more than 1 plan for each day.

2014: Play & Rest

January 2, 2014

For the last couple years, I have chosen a Word to be my intention of the year. A word that I could repeat daily, weekly, monthly as a reminder; something to explore & cultivate as a touchstone in my life. My first Word was Truth. Last year’s Word was Surrender. And, this year, in a go-big-or-go-home kind of way, I have chosen two Words.

These two words come directly from Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, which I have written about several times. This book has given me many powerful concepts to explore in my own life, but one in particular seems to be in need of a whole year of exploration…

PLAY & REST

Play is not something I do well. I plan, I accomplish and I cross off goals. I don’t do “nothing” or “silly”. And I think that is a huge shame and a loss of joy. In the words of Brown, I am hoping to “let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.” Play is unplanned & even purposeless. We do it because it is fun and because we want to.

The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression ~Dr. Stuart Brown

So where does “Rest” come into play (hehe, forgive the word play, HA!)? Because we are too busy to “waste time” or “fool around”. Because in an effort to accomplish, it would be too easy to schedule and plan my Play, and that defeats the whole point.

This year I want to leave myself time to do nothing, to allow the space for spontaneity and to have a whole lot of fun doing it. This means I will say “no” a lot in 2014 ( which feels scary even as I write this), but I believe I am going to find that saying no often feels like saying “yes” to the things I really want: time to read the paper, to hike more, to travel more, to spend more time with family.

So, I start my year with a grand adventure & the scariest NO of all: one month of NO to work/email/pay checks and a huge yes to TRAVEL. And I am leaving without too much baggage: no planned outcomes or expectations, no lofty goals of growth or accomplishment. Simply travel for the experience itself. And for the fun.

Have you thought of an intention or word for your year? I’d love to hear it! Share it with me on Facebook (disclaimer: I might not respond until February but I’d still love to hear from you!) 🙂

Peace,
MA

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my camp site & favorite spot to do nothing

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