“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about being vulnerable.
The idea of it, the word itself, the sound of the word after I have said it so many times that it sounds wrong, like a not-real-word word. The hard “V” and then the falling of it all, just before it picks back up in a hopefulness that can only be described as relentless.
I went to a party a couple weeks ago. A big, fancy party that costs $500 a ticket. You know, the kind of parties I always never frequent. It was a fundraiser for InsightLa. As described on the website: InsightLA is dedicated to bringing the deep joy and peace of mindfulness and compassion to people everywhere. Our commitment is to provide a warm, supportive learning environment, fostering mindfulness and compassion in all our relationships—with ourselves, with others, and with our world.
Jack Kornfield was to speak, and I had really wanted to attend, so when my yoga client bought me a ticket as an early birthday gift, I was over the moon.
I went alone. (He said my husband could come but would have to buy a ticket.)
That. Was. Not. Going. To. Happen.
Confession: I felt nervous. I rarely never go to parties alone where I don’t know anyone.
I knew I had to go. Jack Kornfield was going to be speaking!
Who is Jack Kornfield, you ask?
Maybe you don’t ask, but I’d like to tell you who he is.
Jack Kornfield is one of the leading Buddhist teachers in America. A practitioner for over forty years, he is one of the key teachers to introduce mindfulness and vipassana meditation to the West.
So yes, I went alone.
I walked in, and my client’s home has been transformed into some fairytale palace with lights hanging everywhere and people with vague smiles milling about. (People who look like they meditate.) And countless servers running around with fancy trays of food of little Chinese take-out containers with soba noodles and chopsticks stuck on top and kale salad and delicate raviolis with spinach inside served with little bitty baby forks. And very few people drinking wine. It was that kind of crowd.
Naturally, I went to the bar and got a glass of cab. (Or two.)
I sat down on a white ottoman on the grass and pretended to check emails on my phone, with my glass of wine in hand. Because, well, because I felt self-conscious.
I was alone. Just sitting there. Alone.
Who cares? I hear you saying. Or maybe that is me saying that.
Regardless, I was acting busy because I felt somehow obvious and exposed being there alone.
Does thing ring a bell? Has anyone ever felt this way?
Two gorgeous women looked like they were talking to me, or about me, (with my hearing loss I can never tell). I smiled at them (pretending I could hear). They mumbled something, so I got up and went over (because I couldn’t hear said mumble).
Ah! They were saying: We love your red jacket with the leopard print inside!
I proceeded to tell them that I was there alone and that I felt awkward. They told me to sit with them.
And that was that.
And that was that.
We talked all night, and I am having lunch with one of them next week.
Really strong, beautiful women too.
As I was sharing the story with my husband about how I made two new friends, I realized that I could have just thanked them for the compliment and sat back down. But I chose to be vulnerable, and, because of that, I made a connection.
They got it. They’re human. They had been there before. They recognized my fear or pain or whatever it was and that the connection we made was all it took for it to go away. For me to feel at ease.
Connection: It’s Everything.
They knew what it felt like to be at a party and have no one to give a knowing glance to, to get a glass of wine for, to whisper Let’s go, I’m bored, or This is better than I thought it would be.
I was telling my husband, and I realized that a man alone at a party might not (probably wouldn’t) have gone to another man and said he felt like a dork for being alone.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he would have.
All I know is that because I chose to be vulnerable and express myself, I met some amazing women who are exactly the type of women I want to be meeting. If I chose differently, I might have had a good time still, but I wouldn’t have made the connection.
Look. Parties are weird. And awkward. Especially when you go alone. At least for me.
I am okay with being vulnerable and admitting that “party fact.” That, in fact, I hate parties. Period. Even when I do know people.
I wonder how many moments of our lives are missed because we buck it up or stuff it down or make it go away or pretend it isn’t so?
I don’t know. I do know that I am happy I made two new friends. I am proud of myself for going to a party alone (and leaving with two new friends) and for finally hearing Jack Kornfield speak.
I am tired of pretending.
It feels good to own up to stuff.
To admit I am human.
And a work in progress.
And a beautiful mess.
If you think that’s a cliché, come over.
No, really. Come over. Come see just how messy I really am. How imperfect and full of holes and papers I am. And how the piles of clothes and books and receipts keep climbing the walls of my house. It’s pretty incredible.
It’s my mess.
I am cleaning it up myself.
And when it gets to be too much, I ask for help. That is also me being vulnerable.
The thing that’s true for me, and for you too, is that I have to do most of the work myself. You can’t do it for me (as much as I want you to. And sometimes, I do!)
At the fundraiser, a woman was imitating her Zen master/teacher. The teacher had said that when it came to doing the work, to meditating: No one can pee for you. You have to do it yourself.
So, I guess what I am saying is this: Be authentic. Be vulnerable. Clean up your crap as best as you can on your own and pee for yourself, because no one can do it for you. But if you ask for help, you may make some connections along the way. You will, however, still have to pee on your own.
I would really love to hear where you could be more vulnerable in your life. Where could you stop pretending? Where could you ask for help? Maybe, just simply, what does being vulnerable mean to you? I can’t wait to read your words.
Jennifer Pastiloff was recently featured on Good Morning America. She is a yoga teacher, writer, and advocate for children with special needs based in L.A. She is also the creator of Manifestation Yoga® and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. Jennifer is currently writing a book and has a popular daily blog called Manifestation Station. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and take one of her yoga classes online at Yogis Anonymous.
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Yoga® weekend retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires, Massachusetts Feb 1-3, 2013.
*Photo by Jenni Young of SimpleReminders.com.