I took a training a while back for workshop leaders to improve the workshops and retreats I’m leading, and during the intensive weekend, when we were talking about marketing, he asked what people get from my workshop, and I shared in front of the group that it was about intimacy, and he said vehemently that NOBODY WANTS THAT.
I couldn’t believe my ears. Doesn’t everyone want intimacy? Yes, of course they do, on the inside, but most people associate intimacy and vulnerability with pain, so it doesn’t create good marketing materials.
I thought about it for a while – what’s painful about vulnerability and intimacy? I wrote an earlier blog* about how vulnerability = strength, addressing how vulnerability is misassociated with weakness, but in my world I hadn’t associated it with pain.
Then I got it.
When we feel safe enough to let our defenses down and offer someone our unguarded heart – if they don’t return the gesture, we ache. If they do return the gesture, we make available the contact between two tender places, and this connection feels SO BLISSFULLY GOOD while it lasts, that the experience we have when it ends feels like pain. The same way that leaving a sauna and going into a perfectly warm room can leave us feeling cold.
It is easy to blame that pain on the vulnerability. We should never have let them in, right?
But it wasn’t the vulnerability itself that hurt. Vulnerability is the context in which intimacy can occur. When two hearts are open, beautiful things can happen. Some of the greatest pleasures known to us as humans are sometimes referred to as intimacy.
It’s not the vulnerability or the intimacy that hurts, it’s the rejection or the withdrawl of the pleasure that hurts. The vulnerability itself makes possible the greatest pleasures and the greatest pains.
It seems sad to me that so many people close their hearts, forget the bliss that emotional intimacy offers, and only associate vulnerability and intimacy with the pain at the end.
In that previous blog I talked about the draw bridge of a castle. When the draw bridge is up, you are safe, no one can get in, no one can get out. When it is down, people can get in and out. You may be attacked, but you can also let your armies out, and be open to trade and visitors.
I imagine that those with subtle intimacy fears closed their drawbridge in a time of war and forgot to open them in a time of peace…
On an airplane years ago, I took my 4yo daughter to the bathroom, and the light in the airplane bathroom only switches on once the latch is closed. Like most four year olds, she got scared when the door closed and the light didn’t go on, and felt relieved when the latch closed and the light came on. When we left, I unlatched the door and paused before opening it, leaving us temporarily in the dark.
“I’m scared” she said.
“This is what it feels like to be scared when you’re actually safe” I said.
I unlatched the door, and we left.
I invite you, dear yogis, to notice when you’re unnecessarily guarded. In your hearts, in your relationships, in your hamstrings…. Notice how much tension we create to avoid things that aren’t happening, that aren’t even about to happen. Pay attention to how much tension you create in an effort to prevent something that already happened years ago, and is no longer preventable.
By virtue of the fact that you are alive and reading this right now, ultimately, you have been safe every moment of your life. Moments may have presented potential danger, may have left all sorts of physical and emotional scars, but have left you alive, and safe sitting here reading in total safety right now.
In your current reality, in the privacy and safety afforded by sitting and reading to yourself, let the part of you that has been guarded against potential attacks relax just for the briefest of moments and notice if the act of letting down of your defenses, the act of making yourself vulnerable, was itself pleasurable or painful.
Please write to me to share your experiences and whether I’ve hit or missed on this.
Then, continue to the other blog I keep pointing to: http://yogilifecoach.com/vulnerability-strength/