“Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s the greatest measure of courage.”
~ Brené Brown
In my former life, I was a stay-at-home mom. It was unfashionable in the 1980s. Working outside the home was easier to wrap your head around than someone who stayed at home all day with the kids. “What do you do all day?” I heard that a lot. But I loved the fact that I was able to be home with my kids, clean, cook, bake, garden, and do laundry. I could take the kids to the park and swim lessons and soccer games with less time constraints than my careered peers. I was the oddball but I loved it. It was also a privilege that I appreciated.
The downside to being a stay-at-home mom was that I missed out on some quality adult time. I spent more time running interference on toddler squabbles than I did discussing the State of the Union. I could recite “The Cat in The Hat” verbatim but only skimmed the local paper; and while I readily volunteered in our local school, I knew little about how it operated. So, when a member of the Board of Education asked me to consider a run for a seat in the approaching election, I was flummoxed. I am totally unqualified, I thought. No chance.
Then a second Board member approached me, and I decided they must be desperate. I would love to help out, but what a big step outside the confines of my comfort zone it would be. I would have to announce my candidacy, and then people would vote and the results would be reported in the newspaper and on the radio and when I lose it will be humiliating, and if I won, I would have to make decisions that affected everybody’s kids, not just my own. I’d have to educate myself in order to make informed decisions that would affect other people’s tax obligations. I would have to take criticism, publicly and privately from citizens of my community that didn’t agree with something I said or how I voted. The whole idea was not just ridiculous, it was daunting. So, I did it.
That decision, to run for the Board, was just the beginning of many opportunities for me to be vulnerable. I received one of the best educations of my life in the nine years I served. I was required to voice my opinion on controversial topics, negotiate salaries, ask questions when I didn’t understand, and vote my conscience, all under the scrutiny of the public eye. The scope of that job was so far outside my comfort zone it recreated the boundaries, but I am forever grateful to the people who encouraged me to do it, and the experiences it gave me.
Taking the first step forward when we fear being wrong, shamed, humiliated, or hurt takes courage. It was only recently that I realized that vulnerability plays an important role in yoga. The classes that we hold on the beach are open to everyone and before each class I remind my students to “take your yoga to the level of your own ability, on this day; in this moment.” Sounds welcoming and fair, or so I thought, but what if I’m the only person in Downward Facing Dog who has bent knees? Or what if everyone else has divine balance in Tree Pose and I’m hopping on one foot trying to right myself? It takes courage to be different; to look different from others when practicing yoga. But then again that’s the whole point of doing it. I’m not going to feel the same or look the same as the person on the mat next to me. I might not look the same or feel the same as I did yesterday, doing the exact same poses. And in yoga, that is exactly as it should be. We practice humility and kindness. We shake judgement and ego off the mat, and spend our time discovering the depth of our breath, and the mobility of our spine. We might get more intimate with the structure of our own bodies and less attached to the thoughts in our head. Thoughts that make us vulnerable because we fear that we’re not good enough, flexible enough, strong enough or fit enough to occupy space on the yoga mat.
Vulnerability is not a fracture in your spirit. To be vulnerable means to try something new without a guarantee you will succeed. It means being the first to say, “I love you” or “I’m sorry,” without knowing if those words will be returned to you. Vulnerability is adventure and discovery; it’s bravery and risk.
The inventors, explorers, heroes and world leaders who shape history and change the trajectory of civilization are not stronger, smarter or luckier than you and I. They are simply unafraid to step beyond the border of vulnerability and stand in their bravery.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.