Tag Archives: vulnerability

When Being Off Balance Is A Start

1 Feb

Last night while doing tree pose in yoga, the teacher suggested we toy with our balance by closing our eyes or swaying our arms. Tree pose, if you don’t know it, entails standing on one leg while the foot of the other is tucked above the standing leg’s knee, resting on the thigh. I find the pose relatively easy but as soon as I closed my eyes, it wasn’t. “They say one’s yoga practice begins the moment you feel off balance,” the teacher remarked.

I started laughing- not because the comment itself was funny but because it was so akin to what I’ve been experiencing lately. Normally, we think of being off balance as a sign of overload and stress, i.e. not good. In fact, a sense of balance is something people typically strive to create in their lives. But what if being off-balance was neither good nor bad but a sign of growth and expansion? A sign of taking on new forms and letting go of control? Obviously, we don’t want to be so off-balance that we teeter over and fall but is a little disequilibrium a thing to avoid?

Personally, I hate feeling out of control. I like structure. I like knowing what is going to happen. I like being in charge with a plan, Only life doesn’t work that way. Trying to make it so is exhausting and futile.

The teacher’s statement reminded me of my go to: “Confusion is a sign of learning.” However, for me, learning is productive so I’ll take a little confusion if I know I’m expanding my mind or learning a new skill. But do I really want to invite being off-balance for the hell of it? What “reward” will I get from being off balance? In my day-to-day life, won’t that drive me out of my mind?

Perhaps. Overload is overload and sometimes too much is too much. But I’m reminded that in acting, a similar phenomenon happens in terms of being off balance. There is often a point in rehearsal or filming when despite knowing your lines, your mind drops them. This happens when you’re so in the moment with a feeling or a connection to someone else that you get flustered. It’s a moment of being off balance; off kilter; not knowing what is going to happen that leaves you feeling completely vulnerable and like you’re falling off a cliff. Every director I’ve ever had has loved it when I drop my lines. “Keep going, keep going,” they’ll say. “What you’re doing is brilliant.” And I’ll think – actually, I’ll not think – I’ll keep going – feeling completely out of my skin in free fall and delight.

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So yes, I guess it’s okay to be off balance even if it feels completely weird and counter-intuitive. It might actually be spot on!

The tree can sway and still stay rooted. It’s a sign of being on the path.



Tolerating Pleasure

2 Oct

It always saddens me when I hear people who while eating a delicious cookie say, “I’m so bad. I shouldn’t be eating this.” I mean, if you’re going to eat a cookie, you might as well enjoy it. But what I’ve discovered is that people in general struggle with tolerating pleasure. It doesn’t matter what the gratification relates to, many of us are not comfortable with feeling good in some area of our lives.

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As I write a chapter on the subject of desire, I reflect on the underlying issues related to sustaining pleasure and happiness. I am not alone in my observations that our culture, despite all its feel good impulses, actually struggles with embodiment and contentment. In her book Daring Greatly, sociologist Brene Brown writes that through all her research she has come to believe that joy is the most difficult emotion to feel (p.118). She attributes this to the fact that over our life span we become acquainted with all the things that can go wrong, plus we live in a society that puts much focus on catastrophe. Therefore, feeling joy requires a high degree of vulnerability. She states, “Once we make the connection between vulnerability and joy, the answer is pretty straightforward: We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard, so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment” (p.121).

This profound fear of disaster can single handedly keep us from desiring anything. Why fall in love if someone can betray or reject us? Why apply for that great job when we’ll only be crushed if we don’t get the promotion? And why eat that cookie if it adds extra calories? This type of mentality can stop the momentum of joy and transformation in our lives like a train stuck in its tracks. And yet it’s tremendously common for reasons far too vast to unpack in a blog post.


I am not implying that life is one big hedonistic rush or that we can always feel good all the time. After all, too much candy can make us sick and misdirected desire can cause tremendous heartache. But believing that we are worthy of happiness and that life is good fundamentally changes the course of lives. Our heart’s yearnings can serve as a GPS system. Finding ways to fulfill these desires can help propel us through challenging times and shed light on our souls’ deeper journeys. When we experience a modicum of joy we began to transcend the profound struggle inherent in existence and the benefit of this is not simply self-serving. On the contrary, when we are tuned into desire and cultivate it in positive constructive ways, we contribute to the world through our enthusiasm and joy and access our talents and passion for the benefit of others.

I Dwell In Possibility…

16 Jul

The other day a dear friend was showing me the upstairs rooms in her new home. As we discussed her plans for decorating the guest room we both noticed the stuffed animals on the closet floor. The room had initially been intended as a nursery. It took only a thirty second glance at those furry friends for me to feel the pain of her infertility. We moved on to view her husband’s music room.


How many of us have put away the toys of our beloved dreams or not even begun collecting them? I know I have never set aside baby paraphernalia, nor have I purchased a house in which there could be a guest room. Do we have a right to our dreams or is it too painful to petition the Lord and the Universe with our prayers? What role do we play in manifesting our destiny and what baggage gets in the way from our creating it? Is the world our oyster or does shit just happen?


I think of all the women in the bible who so desperately wanted a child – Sarah, Rachel, Hannah… And how they waited on the Lord. But what if that process turns into a production of “Waiting for Godot?” What happens when there is no resolution? There is no silver lining?

God is not Santa Claus. If even Jesus petitions the Lord, asking for his cup to be removed, we must conclude that life isn’t about our will and what we want. But how are we to know what is His will for us and does not the Lord want our lives also to be filled with blessings?

The other day a woman asked me, “Do you want to have a baby?” I looked at her and felt the rationalizations spinning in my head. “I’m forty-four, I’m single, I’m celibate, I don’t want to raise a child alone if I were to adopt, the cost of living in San Diego is very high, children irrevocably change one’s life, how would I do it with no one to help me? I think children need a mom and a dad….”


“Do you want to have a child?” She asked me again. “That’s the question. Not how you would do it or if you will do it. Simply, do you want to have a baby?”

It’s a possibility too scary to even consider. People who are married make plans for this. People who fall accidentally pregnant jump on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and figure it out. But does a single person have a right to this lifestyle? Or do you say, “Sing yea barren woman…” and tell yourself that you bear fruit in other ways.

What does it mean to look to the future and think about buying a house on one’s own and possibly adopting a child? This sure isn’t how the childhood fairy tale played out but does that mean there is no happy ending?

Emily Dickinson once wrote:

I dwell in Possibility,
A fairer house than Prose,
More numerous of windows,
Superior for doors.

With chambers, as the cedars,
Impregnable of eye,
And for an everlasting roof,
The gables of the sky.

Of visitors – the fairest –
For occupation – this:
The spreading wide my eager hands
To gather Paradise.

Do we dwell in possibility and can we gather Paradise? Is it safe to reach up one’s hand towards the sky?


The Risk of Love

20 Jun

I once heard a lecture where the speaker said the most tragic aspect of child abuse was not that the child suffers abuse. Although this outcome is horrifying, the speaker identified the child’s precious and innate gift of love being rejected by the parent as even more catastrophic than the abuse itself. I found this quite a provocative statement. The more I thought about it, I imagined a young child innocent and exuberant running towards an adult for contact only to be met with violence or neglect. I pictured that child’s life force gushing forward and then shunned and I wondered where the love goes if it is not welcomed and acknowledged.

Hugging For Peace

When you think about it, young children are bursting with love. They smile and wave at strangers, nestle into their caretakers’ bosom and hug their dolls and teddy bears. They are like walking vessels of love until they start to experience hurt, rejection and the implementation of boundaries. Then with time they start to taper their responses giving affection when they feel it is safe and appropriate.

To love is a risk. Author C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” And indeed any time we love someone, even an animal, we set ourselves up for loss because at some point we will lose the other either to death, separation or betrayal. Given this, it can be terrifying to love. When we’ve suffered extreme loss, the heart naturally wants to protect itself for who wants to feel all the pain involved in being human? The problem though is that if we do not keep risking love and vulnerability, we risk our very humanity. When we stop allowing vulnerability, we slowly put nails in our coffin. When we numb our feelings, we die a little each day.

We all know the cliché, “it is better to have loved and to have lost than to never have loved at all.” And indeed, each time we contemplate love, we weigh our options and whether the gain is worth the potential pain. If only we realized that the more we trust love the more rich our lives become. When we love, we draw closer to God for according to scripture, “God is love.”