"What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful"
- Brene Brown
A child in an unsafe home, an elderly person living alone, someone at risk of hurting themselves, a patient taken advantage of by their carer ... all examples of what are commonly deemed 'vulnerable' people.
In our society, the word 'vulnerable' is often used to describe people who are at risk. It's interesting to consider how this has affected our view of vulnerability. Ask someone what the word means and they will often cite things such as 'weakness', 'neediness' and 'insecurity'. A quick google search gives the definition as "a person who is easily hurt or attacked"
In yoga we are constantly encouraging our students to surrender, to be vulnerable and open to the practice. We talk about 'trusting in the process' and approaching our yoga without expectations. So how can vulnerability serve us? And how can we cultivate it?
In her incredible TED talk, Brene Brown says "In order to experience a connection (with others), we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen". It is only by knowing our insecurities, and the things that frighten us that we can truly know empathy. Until we understand the things that make us feel vulnerable, we cannot have compassion for others. Until we have touched the centre of our own vulnerability we invariably remain closed through fear.
I find it amazing that vulnerability is often seen as a sign of weakness when it takes an incredible amount of strength to bare our souls. To be vulnerable is to give ourselves wholeheartedly without the promise of guarantees, to trust in the path, to go forth even when we are afraid, to open ourselves to the possibility of failure, and a life without perfection. How incredibly brave it is to face our fears of rejection, to strip down our protective barriers and lay it all out there.
Speaking personally, allowing myself to be vulnerable is something that has always been incredibly hard for me. I've always been the strong one, the independent one, the organiser and largely the 'trouser-wearer' meaning I've had a tendency to put on a tough exterior. I see it manifest in my yoga practice. Back-bending has always been hard for me (more on that later) ... the vulnerability of exposing the heart, the unfurling of the protective armour of the spine and rib cage. It comes from a place of fear... fear of the unknown, fear of being judged.
The process of travelling continues to be instrumental in my quest for vulnerability. Over the last three years I have surrendered myself to a life without guarantees - a fixed home, stable income and a consistent community are things I have learned to live without. I am increasingly allowing myself to stop trying to control and predict the future, to be willing to invest wholeheartedly in relationships, to commit myself to this process even though there are no guarantees, to say 'I love you' and 'I'm sorry', ' and sometimes 'no, today I'm not ok'. To equate vulnerability with openness, not weakness. To embrace being fully present and receptive to the world without numbing myself through fear.
So let's begin to cultivate the strength to be vulnerable ...
Surrender to your yoga practice, let go of your expectations.
Say 'I love you first'
'Feel' without censorship. Cry, laugh with abandon, feel joyous, feel shitty - it's all part of the human experience.
Commit yourself to the things you love without attaching to the outcome
And above all ... understand that you are always enough xxx