This week, my yoga teacher asked an interesting question. “When you hear the word vulnerability, do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?”.
Before I go on, let me say it was one of those times when I knew the dharma talk I’d hear that morning would align with why I started the Yoga Circles project. I even told my husband as much before I left for class.
So, back to the question. The first thing I thought of when I heard the word vulnerability was opportunity. One of my classmates immediately said, “It’s a bad thing.”
“It’s a trick question,” I said. I’m not sure why I didn’t just say it’s good!
“That’s because you’re a writer,” my teacher responded.
Maybe. It’s true that because I do creative work I know vulnerability is necessary. It’s an opportunity to grow, expand, and create. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy being vulnerable!
The Research on Vulnerability and Connection
What’s interesting is that someone spent years researching why we shouldn’t run from vulnerability! That someone is Brené Brown. If you’re an “organize the messiness of life” kind of person (like me), you’ll love this research. You can hear Brené talk about it here.
According to the research, the difference between folks who feel connected and those who don’t is that folks who feel connected believe they are worthy of love and connection.
When I heard that quote, I thought about it for a bit. It sounded right, but still, something seemed to be missing.
You see, while I do believe I’m worthy of love and connection (thank you, yoga), I often feel disconnected. And now I think I know why.
Vulnerability and The Yoga Community
As our yoga class continued, my teacher mentioned a comment someone she knew had made about self-absorbed people. If you know self-absorbed people, you know how difficult it is to connect with them.
I’m not talking about self-esteem or self-love. We all need to pay attention to ourselves — or our Selves, as I prefer to see it — but self-absorption is a corruption of healthy self-love. It’s an “all about me” way of being in the world that probably stems from an insatiable need for attention. (And yes, it’s another form of hiding from vulnerability.)
Interestingly, rather than agree with the observation, my teacher said, “I don’t really know a lot of self-absorbed people. I’m part of the yoga community.”
I had an aha moment when I thought about this later. This is exactly why I started the Yoga Circles project when I did!
Why Community Is Important
Community, at least the way I’m thinking of it, is not the same thing as a social circle. Socializing is not synonymous with connecting. In other words, even if there are lots of people around you — even if you’re having fun — you can still be disconnected.
As I see it, once you do the work of learning you are worthy of love and connection — the reason we’re here, Brown says (I agree) — you need to be with others who believe it too. Sometimes that means finding a new tribe. It’s likely you had to do all that work learning to believe you’re worthy because the people you’ve spent most of your time with are doing their own form of hiding.
The Power of Vulnerability
To create and connect, we need to be among others who have the courage to be vulnerable without making it all about their own pain and issues. And we need to be among others who won’t shame us for what makes us vulnerable. And it must all be authentic.
That’s the yoga community I love (at least it is most days).
Of course, not all yoga communities are ideal, and healthy vulnerability combined with love and connection is not exclusive to good yoga communities. I was fortunate to find connection among fellow yogis when I needed it most more than a decade ago.
Creating communities of vulnerable, creative yogis is the best way I can think of to thank the Universe for the gift of yoga! I know it won’t be easy — true connection is rare — but it starts with the willingness to step out there and be vulnerable.
Will you join us?
Would you like to explore more yoga topics in depth—perhaps with a group of yoga friends? Get your copy of Yoga Circles, A Guide to Creating Community off the Mat. You’ll find lots of topics and activities for living the yoga lifestyle and enjoying time with like-minded yogis! Click here to order!
Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!