Monday, March 7, 2011 at 8:55AM
Peachy is our 3 year old white Bichon-Poo. She’s sweet, cute, and beloved. She is also a total attention hussy. Yes, it’s true—petite and innocent as she may seem, she’s cunning enough to easily manipulate all who enter our home. Within minutes, even self-proclaimed Cat People are holding her like a baby in their arms. Once there, she abandons all instincts, rolls onto her back, legs splayed, and gives is all up. Her innocence, love, and openness are infections and one can’t help but instantly adore her and give her anything she wants. I look at her and see all the positive definitions of making oneself vulnerable. She’s open, accepting, receptive, and blissfully free of defenses.
I have been thinking about vulnerability a lot lately—going so far as to look the word up in the dictionary. I was dismayed that nearly every definition had a negative association (without protection, unable to resist illness or failure, exposed to attack). No wonder none of us wants to be vulnerable! If so, we are open to harm, temptation, or warfare! So we button up our emotions, protect our vital organs, guard ourselves with an armor so we will seem less affected, more together. We put on our masks of perfection and control, our coats of “strength” and we go through our day interacting with people only so far as to infer we are managing just fine thank you very much. We observe our children, naturally vulnerable and open, and we protect them by giving them these survival skills. Don’t let them see you cry! Walk it off! Be a big boy. We spend our lives getting better and better at smoothing the cracks. And where does it get us?
For some reason, as this thought has been floating in my head for weeks, it’s made me feel sad and often well, vulnerable.
Sometimes I can see that being a more open person (and making an effort to do so, I used to be the other kind—more hard candy shell, less chocolate) puts me in a place where I don’t “protect” myself. There are moments when I can see “ooh, this is going to hurt and there’s nothing I can do about it”…if I’m being honest. Honesty makes you vulnerable, as does kindness. Am I just being truthful for the sake of it? Kind because I should? And if I let people see me sweat won’t they just think I’m weak and take advantage of their position to crush my existence? Or is there power in that kind of raw openness?
I got to thinking…thinking about Peachy and her wonderful exposed white tummy of free love and thinking too about when vulnerability is beautiful. I went to a wedding recently and there was a DJ. I am at best a self-conscious dancer, but love the energy of the dance floor. I noticed this one less-coordinated guy who made it clear early on that he just looooved to shake his groove thang. I was actually worried for him, knowing he was going to embarrass himself as he kicked arms and legs like Elaine from Seinfeld. People began moving out of the way, glancing at each other. Yet song after song, there he was, working it like a fool! I felt like I should intervene, concerned that someone would surely put this on youtube as “Crazy dude at wedding.” But then I noticed (as I carefully executed the next motion in the routine I’d been practicing from Just Dance 2) that he’s not just working it, this dude is owning it! Rocking it! His eyes are closed, his tongue is out, his shirt is now damp with sweat. He doesn’t just dance badly, he does it with style. Suddenly a crowd forms around him and everyone cheers him on, because his love for the movement is infectious and it doesn’t matter if it’s on tempo or not! His sincerity becomes something no one would want to steal from him. Everyone shouts “go dude go!” And the good dancers are now imitating his moves (think of Can’t Buy Me Love). Next thing you know every guest is on the dance floor taking their turns in a dance-off with Dancer Dude at the center of the circle, crowd cheering them on, high-fiving, smiling, laughing
And hours later, we walk away, shoes in hand, feeling amazing because this guy made us all feel less self-conscious. Once we let go of our desires to appear a certain way, we could receive that moment for all the joy and love that was in it. He gave us a gift that night! In him, we all saw our most vulnerable and true selves—the selves that had the strength to show the world Hey I’m Not Perfect, but damn I love this song. We were in the presence of the power of vulnerability, honesty, and openness.
I have been told this is what it’s like to be in the company of the Dali Lama. His nature is so free of external defenses that a light emanates from him. And out of that vulnerability is his greatest strength…no one would want to destroy something so pure and sincere.
The practice of yoga must reduce both physical and mental impurities. It must develop our capacity for self-examination and help us to understand that, in the final analysis, we are not the masters of everything we do. TKV Desikachar, The Yoga Sutras
To release the front body physically, we must go against our innate desires to protect our vital organs. As well, we have to counter the many habits of hunching caused by today’s world of driving and typing. Use this short sequence of poses to open the body. The physical work will aid in your efforts to emotionally and spiritually open yourself as well.
*(you can add this sequence after your salutations or use it as your entire practice. Build up to the suggested times and take breaks in child’s pose or modify as needed. 1 minute is approximately 5 breaths.)
Lie on back, knees up, hands at navel—breathe.
Dynamic bridge with breath
Gentle reclining twist on each side
Bridge pose 1-2 minutes
Down Dog 1 minute
Flow to plank 5 times
Mountain—dynamic breath with arms 10 rounds
Standing back bend (hands on hips—ground to floor, lift pelvic floor & open heart to sky)
Chair—hold 10 breaths (on inhale ground & lift core, on exhale open heart/arms from mid-ribs up)
Uttanasana w/ knees bent 1 minute
Down dog 1 minute
Flow to plank 5 times
Dynamic Locust 10 breaths (lift arms/legs on inhale, lower on exhale)
Dynamic Cobra 5-10 breaths (roll open on inhale, lower on exhale)
cobra 1 minute (concentrate on drawing lumbar forward, opening heart)
Up Dog 1 minute
Down Dog 2 minutes
Restorative bridge w/ large cushion along back/neck—heart is lifted, chest open, arms gently opening at sides. Feel openness behind the heart and breathe into the melting feeling of collarbones. A perfect time to meditate on your definitions of vulnerability and strength.