Radical Vulnerability

by Jill Nielsen-Farrell

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.
-- Muriel Rukeyser

Recently, my 14-year old son and I were talking about a challenge he was facing. During the conversation it was apparent that he clearly prides himself on his ability to not “whine or complain.”

As he was talking, a part of me thought, “This is good, right? Who wants to raise a whiner and a complainer? Not me! I’m happy I’m raising a kid who is strong and un-whiny!”

Almost immediately, however, I realized, “Oh my. I can’t help him unless he’s totally honest with me…and, more importantly, he can’t help himself either.”

After awhile, I said, “Babe, you are already strong and capable. You got that down. What you need to do now is learn how to be real and vulnerable.”

He turned to me and said, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about. What does that even mean?”

That question set me on my heels.  Ummmmm……

Thought #1: I haven’t taught my son, a BOY, about vulnerability; bad feminist mom.

Thought # 2 (i.e., the real problem):  I’m not sure I even know what it means. Not in an intellectual way, but in a ‘practice what you preach’ kind of way.

Of course, I gave him a good, solid answer about vulnerability. And, the power of vulnerability. I had recently watched the Brene Brown video, after all.  But inside myself, I knew the whole conversation was like talking to a mirror; I was creating my outer circumstances, in fact, to teach myself.

Did I know – truly know – how to be vulnerable with another person?

For most of my adult life, I have prided myself on the fact that I operate as someone who is somewhat invincible. Strong, confident, put together. I’m a Buffy fan. I admire and try to emulate people who kick-ass. Insecurities? Bah! Fear? Bah!

And, when I’m practicing yoga – on and off my mat – this is the lens through which I’ve viewed my “self;” I am a powerful yogini.  During the public shit storms of my life (the list is long), I’m pretty sure I’ve earned a blue ribbon in this department.

But really, what does this even mean when the result is that I tell very few people about what the real deal is for me? When I hide? Hibernate? Avoid? Repress? Tell half-truths?

Is this what a yogini does on the path of Union with the Divine?

To be seen – fully seen – I must have a witness – to be in union with another. It takes TWO to be vulnerable. I can’t practice vulnerability by myself. If I’m not TELLING people – my partner, my friend, my family, my whoever –  about the raw reality of what’s going on (read: letting it all hang out), how can I evolve as a soul?

I don’t believe I can anymore.

So, recently I created a long list of my most intimate and terrifying insecurities and fears. I wrote and wrote and wrote until I had nothing left to say. And then, in a brash act of radical vulnerability, I emailed the list to three of my friends.

I never felt so light and free in my life. Or so uncomfortable. Yikes.

I should say that the one caveat here is that if you’re gonna get down and dirty with airing your innermost shit, you better be doing it with someone worthy and capable of being a container for all of it. I knew who those people were for me. You know who those people are too. And, if you don’t have those people in your life, find them. It’s absolutely essential for the exploration of your own consciousness. And, a good place to look for these spirits is where you practice yoga.

I now see this conversation with my son and the creation and sharing of my list as the last links in a long chain of events. Events that ultimately triggered a deep realization; I had not practiced vulnerability and, therefore, had missed out on its cathartic beauty and power.

This catharsis leads to the breaking free from an unconscious creation of recurring life patterns that are based on unexpressed fears and insecurities. Patterns that leave us to experience the same issues over and over under slightly different circumstances. It’s the Universe’s attempt to teach us how to unearth and deal with the underground aspects of ourselves. It’s one of the ways we are called to evolve, to be free.

But only if we’re willing to be radically vulnerable.

I’m beginning to accept that the most important contribution I can ever make to this world is to be myself. My “perfect/imperfect self” as one of my best friends calls it. Fully, authentically me—living in all my glorious imperfection – and boldly sharing that humanness with my tribe. It is an expression of my ineffable power to evolve my own consciousness through this radical vulnerability.

Shed the shit, people. And do it with each other, in love and in compassion. Be fearless, be real, be you.

“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.”
-- Pema Chodron

I would like to thank my Goddess Tribe for walking this journey with me. They know who they are.
-- Wahe Guru

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One Response to Radical Vulnerability
  1. Beth Moses

    Jill. Best rendition of the evolutionary journey I have seen! You nailed it. Why am i not surprised!? Love you.
    Beth (in btown!! )