Last weekend, I went to the Texas Dance Improvisation Festival and I took a workshop with an amazing dancer and teacher, Kirstie Simson. In the two hours with her, we dancers went from grounding and connecting with the earth to flying in the sky (with the help of someone’s shoulder). She is such a skillful teacher. She created an atmosphere in which her students could be vulnerable with each other and with themselves in order to work together creatively and to learn. I was very aware of my willingness to feel vulnerable in that moment. I am not the most experienced or skilled dancer, but I am eager to learn and interact. At the workshop, there was no way to get around my need to practice. Generally, I like to look like I know what I’m doing (insecurity kicks in when I don’t), but I just don’t do all that much lifting and flying in my daily life so there was no getting around my “beginner” status. My partner was still willing to work with me and I was willing to learn from her (vulnerability) and we had enough time with the practice to get through that awkwardness of figuring out if we could trust each other in that context. I left the workshop overflowing with gratitude. Not only did I learn how to do something fun and cool, but I got the chance to watch my insecurities about being the least experienced dancer in the bunch transform into an uncomfortable but exciting vulnerability. I got to feel that willingness to be and accept where I was in the practice.
It seems like the qualities of insecurity and vulnerability have an inverse relationship – they can, of course, be operating at the same time, but whenever insecurity levels are high, the vulnerability that is an essential part of creativity, self-expression and connection to other people is really difficult to access. Insecurity generally shuts us down and vulnerability opens us up. Insecurity is all tied up with judgment. We judge ourselves. We compare ourselves to other people and then we imagine, correctly or incorrectly, that other people are judging us. It shuts down self-expression. It kills creativity. Insecurity makes us want to conform. It seems like insecurity and vulnerability can be confused for one another because both states can be really uncomfortable, but vulnerability lets us be deeply in touch with who we are and we ask or let someone we trust see us in that most human and exposed place. So that’s why it is so special to be given the opportunity and the space to be vulnerable and to follow creative ideas or to feel the freedom to move in a way that is different from the crowd. It can be uncomfortable and discomfort is usually something we avoid, but with this, the discomfort is a growing-pain. We tolerate it or even seek out opportunities to be with our vulnerability in order to grow and to become more self-aware. Finding the people and places with whom we can open to vulnerability is deeply valuable.
I want more of that and I want to teach a yoga class that lets students have the space to practice listening to interests and checking them out. If a yoga class lets us have more practice at being vulnerable, creative and connected and also teaches us to notice discomfort without trying desperately to squelch it, then it’s a good class. When we can take that practice into our relationships, work, parenting and play then yoga is helping us to live more fully. The discomfort of vulnerability does not need to STOP us from doing what we are here to do (be ourselves…), and maybe it is a really important part of the creative, self-expressive process.