Vulnerability Check In

Vulnerability is defined as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” It’s that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control.

Brene Brown

When I began 2023 like every other year for the last nearly two decades, I chose a word as a theme or guiding direction that I wanted to bring into my life. It never fails that the word I choose for the year is perfectly suited for the path I take that year. Some years have been incredibly hard, like the year I chose the word peace. That was one of the most challenging years of my life. Go figure. I guess Spirit was asking me to find peace while enduring chaos.

For 2023, I chose the word vulnerability.

Since we are nearly 3/4 the year through this year I thought I’d spend some time this afternoon thinking about where vulnerability has showed up in my journey this year. I chose the word vulnerability because I wanted to expose myself a bit more, let go of the controlled emotions and often staying in the comfort zone of life. I have a pretty ideal career and my life feels very well rounded and balanced, so rocking the boat a bit initially felt really daunting, but I knew I needed a nudge in the direction of being a little more open. My favorite teacher Brene Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Oh boy. The big question is why if my life is going nearly perfect would I want to invite those three things in?

So far this year I have had the following experiences that required vulnerability:

  • I opted out of a needed hip replacement and had to advocate for my health despite the encouragement of doctors and family. I had to tap into my inner truth and openly admit that I was terrified and the uncertainty was too great. Admitting the emotion fear is not something I do easily or often. This was huge for me to openly expose an emotion.
  • Once the hip surgery was put on hold, I stepped into uncertainty by going forward with a knee surgery that was intended to bring some pain relief and hopefully stabilize the hip. Turns out the knee scope was brutal and required me to ask for much needed help and be willing to receive it. Not easy for me.
  • In early spring I did something wild and totally outside my comfort zone. I bought a Jeep that I had been working towards for many years. May seem like a no big deal for some , but for this frugal girl it was a huge deal.
  • The risk came when one day I emailed an agency about the adaptive yoga I have been offering in assisted living setting for years. I didn’t need the extra contract but as an entrepreneur you never become passive or assume the contracts you have will always want you. The risk turned into a surprisingly instant contract, but it meant I would give up my beloved Fridays off to add another commute day. I wrestled with it for a weekend and decided to give it a try. My mindset was if I felt overwhelmed I would simple be brave and say that it was more than I could handle. Also, something I don’t do easily. Just three weeks into the month, I got asked to add 16 more homes with this new agency, which took my monthly number up to 46 assisted living group homes a month. Gulp. I said yes.
  • With all the new contracts, I knew right away I would need to actively seek to mentor other yoga teachers. This meant stepping out of the shadows and exposing myself online as a teacher who thinks outside of the Western view of yoga and be actively open with my opinion and be a tad more outspoken than I tend to be when it comes to yoga. I created an online forum that I lead to educate other yoga teachers on the method I have carefully designed for adults with neurological conditions and other disabilities and be extremely exposed when it comes to my confidence. Hiding in the shadows of my work has been comfortable.
  • Once the knee healed and I was back to my normal activity, my body decided that my foot needed to fail me and I am now dealing with an extremely inflamed and severely arthritic foot. Again, I am faced with dealing with pain while running a business and a very full life. This means asking for help, taking life a little easier when I can and giving my body so much grace.
  • One day in July I got a hair brained idea to teach a virtual 30 days of yoga series, beginning August 1. That meant I needed to get myself on a yoga mat everyday and commit to showing up for myself and others. As August 1st approached I was feeling more and more pressure, but it has actually turned out to be amazing. The messages I receive on a daily basis from new students and long time students has been so fulfilling. Plus, getting on my yoga mat (or a chair) everyday has been so great. What I initially felt to be so much added stress has actually turned into so much goodness.

The year is not over and I hope that I continue to grow into my quest to be more vulnerable. I am open to allowing myself to feel more emotions and to living with uncertainty. I have learned that each day is a chance to be present in love, laugh a little more and appreciate the emotions that arise. There are moments every day that ask me to open myself up a tiny bit more to others and to life.

What’s your word of the year? Have you done a check in?

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Gratitude = Joy

It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.

Brené Brown

Think about that. So often we misunderstand that if we had all the things and our life is packed with goodness, we would then be grateful.

Actually it is not that way.

I have read and even taken a course with Brené Brown and yet I still continue to learn and soak in more every time I hear her speak.

Last night I was watching a talk she gave to teachers and other leaders. She was describing what happens when we think that we cannot be happy with what we have and we are constantly seeking joy through external things. We have all heard “when I take that vacation” or “if I could have that ____”, then my life would be good. This is called scarcity thinking. Scarcity thinning is when we think what we have is not enough or what we have will be taken from us.

Huh.

Years ago I had that mindset. Thankfully through the work I’ve done I no longer have that reaching for something. If a moment sneaks up on me and I do start to feel that what I have isn’t enough, I just have to go to my office and grab one of EIGHTEEN years worth of gratitude journals to see that my life is really quite full.

For some a gratitude journal feels daunting. That’s okay. There are countless ways to cultivate a genuine gratitude practice. Here are some great ideas:

  • pause before eating to recognize all that took place to bring you that plate of food
  • step outside and look at the sky and just breathe for two to three minutes
  • look at a stranger through the eyes of peace
  • say thank you throughout the day as doors get opened, people say hello, words are exchanged
  • smile more
  • before you begin your busy day sit for five minutes and gaze around your space and not see the tasks undone, but see instead your roof, your furniture, your safety
  • exchange gratitudes of the day with your family or friends before eating

Research shows that with a genuine gratitude practice, we can shift from scarcity thinking to joy. Imagine your life shifting from disappointment to deep appreciation. Think about how your relationships and business could flourish with an attitude of enough.

More than enough.

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Exploring the Darkness

Among all this chatter about resolutions and goals, I also find that during the depths of the long winter darkness, it is also a wonderful time for us to investigate the deep shadows within. I do believe that it is only when we see the shadow or darkness we can see the brightness of our own light.

Some people say to not waste time looking at the darkness of ourselves, instead only see the light, but the wise ones know that without the shadow you could not see the light.

I am digging into this topic this month as we look at being in alignment with not only our word of the year and intention, but also in alignment, with showing up as a person bearing the most beautiful light, and that requires us to also look at the shadow and dark corners of ourselves. You know things like fear, judgment and shame.

In my own personal life, I am looking straight into the eye of fear. Some thing that I don’t typically experience or feel much of on a day-to-day basis. But the looming of something coming very soon is bringing up in me fear. But on the other side of fear, there is always courage and faith.

Keep watching and keep waiting. More to come.

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Word 2023 — Vulnerability

If we want to reclaim the essential emotional part of our lives and reignite our passion and purpose, we have to learn how to own and engage with our vulnerability and how to feel the emotions that come with it. – Brené Brown

It is not like I didn’t know this. I mean, I took a semester long course with Brené Brown and stepped into the world of Daring Greatly and succeeded on many levels. And it’s not like I have not practiced being vulnerable—I left a toxic relationship, quit my job to pursue my passion, bought a house knowing it is all on me and more. I nailed it and became super empowered in the process.

Vulnerability seemed to be a thing I thrive at. Give me a life altering challenge and I will without a doubt do well. But is that really all vulnerability is?

According to Brené vulnerability is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

Huh.

For the last couple months I have been listening to these little soul taps to look under vulnerability. To take a closer look that isn’t about becoming a badass and destroying a challenge. There was a whispering of something softer and different.

And also incredibly scary. I denied those little whispers and wanted desperately to choose a word that was easier and likely something I am already good at.

Seems to me I am able to easily handle uncertainty and risk on some levels but emotional exposure—never.

Maybe it’s my tendency to lean towards Capricorn strength and tenacity while also being a fiery redhead that gives me an unstoppable approach to life’s challenges. I don’t think raising three kids successfully alone could have been achieved any other way, but this is deeper than action. This is way deeper.

Control has always been something that brings me safety. Controlling my environment and the people I let in. Controlling my business and finances with a sharp eye. Controlling my physical health despite lots of pain by working my body to its best health. Controlling my emotions by not putting myself into situations where I might cry (or laugh). Controlling what I need by never asking for help. Exhausting maybe?

Huh.

That all sounds like emotional exposure. Doing something anyway not knowing what the response or outcome might be. Sticking my neck out and hoping for the best.

Being seen.

This is about not just being seen for what I have overcome or what I do. It will require me to being willing to reveal parts of myself that are tucked safely deep down and to do what is uncomfortable and out of my comfort zone.

I did a little exercise in my journal over the last week and here is how I see it:

Vulnerability is—
Vulnerability feels like—
Vulnerability looks like—

Vulnerability is —failing, making a mistake, exposing myself publicly, crying, screwing up, feeling scolded, asking for help, not perfecting something, feeling needy or dependent on others, asking for what I need or want and feeling out of control.

Vulnerability feels like—crushing sensation in chest, upset stomach, short breath, panic to flee, racing heart, avoidance.

Vulnerability looks like— finishing and publishing the book that has been written, asking for help, receiving help, communicating openly with others, asking to be on more podcasts, letting go of some of my high self standards (not failing), finding resolution and peace with pain, being okay with my emotions and letting my emotions be seen.

For 2023 I give myself permission to fail or to succeed. I give myself permission to not do it all alone. I give myself permission to reveal and unfold in a way that stays in alignment with my soul but also welcomes risk. I give myself permission to be seen.

Truly seen.

Emotionally exposed with risk and uncertainty.

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Belonging

I was sipping my coffee this morning while reading Atlas of the Heart written by Brene Brown and was captured by this quote.

When I ventured out into the yoga world as a teacher I spent a few years trying to “fit in” to the culture of what I thought a yoga teacher was. I played the role and yet it never felt authentic.

As I gained confidence in myself and began to return home to my heart and found the deepest values that I hold dear to myself as a human, I stepped into my authentic self and realized belonging begins with me. I no longer strive to “fit in” or become someone I am not.

Instead, I am me. And I am outspoken and an advocate for others and I teach yoga from my heart, not from a book or a culture that promotes “perfection”.

I sat with a student yesterday who desperately wants to return home to her daughter but has no direction or plan to get there. She struggles with daily independent living and needs support to do the little things most of us overlook. The desperation in her eyes to find her purpose, to work and feel valued, and ultimately return to being a mom shook me. As I listened and reminded her that she has human rights to become her dreams and ambitions I realized that there I was living in my values. I was showing her what belonging means and in no way was I worried about what yoga is “supposed” to be.

Our yoga was pure union. Her and I were in union. I was in union with myself. And she was demonstrating grit in wanting to find her wholeness again and to find that belonging within herself.

That was my spiritual practice of belonging.

Living My Manifesto

It seems many people have opinions on other peoples business model, and the two most common statements I get as it relates to my yoga business is 1) I’d never drive that far for a class or student, and 2) I would never teach a class for that little of a rate (usually followed by a laundry list of all the trainings and education they have).

Here’s the thing. I’m not in it for the money, but the money is always there. I’m not in it for the fame although I am booked solid week after week and literally have no room in my schedule for more. I’m not in it for the ego, yet I know that I make an incredible difference in the lives of many.

Why do I drive hundreds of miles a day only to find my student still in bed because staff didn’t bother to wake him up? Because I said I would and because when he did decide to get up, together we created a beautiful session that included him doing something he hasn’t done in decades. This incredibly special student was injured at age 25 and his college roommate continues to write him a letter every single week and they are now in their mid 50’s. My student actually wrote him a letter back! Remember, yoga is defined as union and it doesn’t have to include pretzel shapes with our bodies.

I do it because it is service—which to me is defined as doing something without an attachment to personal gain. I do it because it is my gift. It is purpose. I do it because this is the manifesto my business and life is structured around.

The minute I start calculating how much money I am going to make, I have stepped out of service.

And do you want to know what? The money is always there.

I’d much rather show up within the foundation of my manifesto than seek out fame and fortune. That isn’t what I am about. I am about service and becoming the best version of myself through those I humbly serve.

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Practicing Gratitude

I think we get so caught up in life events needing to be extraordinary in order to be happy. Learning to pay attention and practicing gratitude is key for a fulfilling life.

I am with Brené Brown on this one.

Happiness is right in front of me when I am paying attention and practicing gratitude. ~Brene Brown

When I look back at my week I can say with certainty that it was a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. It was also a week of ordinary moments in everyday life that can either be celebrated or denied. I had beautiful work, a profound experience with a dying woman, a pretty disappointing doctor’s appointment, amazing workouts, playing in my garden, driving over 750 miles for work, celebrating my sweet granddaughter’s birthday, and quiet moments on the patio.

Ordinary moments of life experiences.

Yet so amazing in many ways. I am grateful for my life in all of its craziness–the observing of joy and sorrow, celebrating small successes, experiencing humanness, giving and receiving love, and being the witness to the cycles of life. All of it deeply embedded in my heart.

Hope you find a moment to pause. To breathe. And to notice all that is good in your life.

Try paying attention and feeling gratitude.

It just may surprise you how ordinarily awesome your life is.

My Lantern

Although I feel like I have spent the last ten years or so doing tons of self-work and unpeeling of the layers and layers of ‘stuff’ that has accumulated in my life, I still love that I am willing to do deep soul work.

A few years ago was a definite year of courage and the willingness to listen to my inner voice.  As the dust began to settle from the major changes in my life, I took a month or so off from the heaviness that can come when you are in the labyrinth of self-improvement.  Establishing myself into my new home space and adjusting (again) was my focus. It felt so good to pause from the rigorous self development and instead just enjoy myself.

A course on courage.

Not soon after, I began an online course on Courage.  Brene Brown has been one of my favorite authors and speakers in the last few years and when the course was offered, I said a gigantic YES.  To be guided through courage, vulnerability and shame with a leading researcher and expert was an opportunity I was not going to pass on.

Knowing that I had spent the previous year in the ‘arena’, I was curious as to what I would find I would need to explore in the bravery realm, but willing I was to examine it.  Lesson one offered over one hundred values to identify just one that guides your way in life; everything from accountability to balance to faith to humility to love to optimism to spirituality to well-being.  Where do you hold your highest regard and when this value is not in place you know you are off your path? In my ego mind I wanted my chosen value to be something easy like compassion or kindness.  My soul said go deeper than that and asked what is it that I know for sure, when this is threatened, I am off my center?

Safety.

Safety?? Yea, like in the form of being judged, not being seen or understood for who I am, financial risks, being unorganized and chaotic, feeling unsure of decisions, having people in my life who are disrespectful or threatening, allowing fear to creep in, etc.

Safety.

I wear the armor to protect my safety.

So going into the ‘arena’ again, I had to be open to the rawness and vulnerability of the emotional exposure around this value of safety and to be willing to set the armor down.

The Lantern

Using the metaphor of a lantern, she explains that the flame that burns is the identified value. The glass that surrounds the flame illustrates the behaviors you display and people that you have in your life that protect that value.  The handle of the lantern symbolizes when you have set your value down and walked away allowing your ship to get off course.

My flame is safety. My glass (behaviors and people) that keep my flame protected include  boundaries, choices, self-respect, meditating, journaling, keeping a budget, being organized, people who support and honor me, a knowing and exploring of self.  When I have set this value down I am allowing fear to enter, I take risks, I allow people to speak or treat me in ways that hurt, I am not grounded and I worry irrationally.

Knowing that this value is held in such high regard to me, I can see why some life decisions I have made, and the experiences I have been offered, have caused me to feel such anguish. In addition to better understanding what it is that stokes my flame, I am way more armed with tolerance as to what makes me tick and then respond when the value is threatened.

Safety.

Indeed my highest value for my life is safety.  I know when it is threatened or I am off course because of the internal responses that I have that then lead to behaviors that diminish the flame.  It is so clear to me now.  While compassion or kindness may have been easier, I am so grateful for this new knowledge about myself and can move forward in my life with a strong flame and people and behaviors that will protect that part of me.

Personal Manifesto

Several years ago I took a course with Brenè Brown that rocked my world. Not only did it invite me to be thinking more about how I show up in my life, but I was reminded that being vulnerable and courageous, and sometimes face down in the arena’s of life, are the most powerful moments a person can experience.

Part of the course was creating a personal manifesto. Making a public statement about how I intend to live my life has been powerful and game changing.

My manifesto:

In creating a life of happiness and peace in all facets of my life, I will cultivate habits of practicing self love. Included in my self love practices will be engaging in daily activities calmly and mindfully, resting my body, eating clean, meditating, being in nature, taking time to be alone, and nourishing myself with friendships and interactions that support me. I will love myself by consistently and gratefully engaging in these practices. Doing this requires me to set boundaries with myself and others and ask for what I need. I will communicate honestly and authentically. I will hold myself and others accountable for engaging in interactions and experiences that are respectful, peaceful and without shame and blame, especially when I feel pressure or high demands. Practicing self love and cultivating a life of calm and peaceful interactions will create a life that is centered, joyful and wholehearted and one that allows me the space to continue making a difference for those in my personal life and in my work.

Boom.

In the Arena of

Brené Brown has such a way with telling it how it is. I took one of her semester long online classes called Daring Greatly and it was a game changer for me. I still pull out my workbook from time to time and get renewed by the lessons.

A couple of my biggest takeaways were learning what my deepest value is that lights my way through life. Knowing this value and being able to look back at my decisions and choices throughout my life has been incredible. I now can move through life with this awareness and know when I get that feeling of uncertainty, I check in with my value.

The second takeaway was learning to give myself permission. In the course you are asked to write down permission slips (Brené is a huge fan of sticky notes) and let yourself be vulnerable, be raw, speak your truth, ask for what you needs, etc.

When I was going through this course especially, but even now, I noticed that people would give me feedback about my dirt on my face as a result of being face down in the arena and offer tons of advice and opinions—usually while their own lives were a complete mess. Funny how people do that. ?

I say get in the arena. Do the work. Get dirty and messy. Then wipe off the dust and go on stronger than ever.