Today is my birthday! As my passions are kindfulness, silence, contentment and friendship, I shall use the day to enjoy those values in a relaxed way. We also have an Awakin Circle tonight at the Museum of Happiness, so I’ll be going there too. When people come together to sit in silence, that makes me happy. Join us if you happen to be London-based - it’s offered as a gift.
As some of you may recall, I was at a retreat last week, in a special place called Plum Village. I learnt two things I'd like to share with you. The power of vulnerability and the power of suffering. Let’s start with vulnerability this week.
Sitting in a Circle with Monks
I watched the talk by Brene Brown. I've even met her. But I didn't fully realise the power of vulnerability until last week at the retreat.
I was sitting together with a group of strangers in a circle. I’ve done that many times before. The difference was, the space was held by two deeply peaceful monks. The serenity on the faces of those monks was greater than any I've seen for many years. Just looking at them, I felt a deep sense of peace and compassion. They didn’t need to say a word.
With this kind of presence in the circle, people openly shared their deepest feelings . As the week went on, I found the courage to share my vulnerabilities too.
My first realisation was that I don’t actually like sharing my difficult emotions with others at all. I prefer to work through them myself. But in this group, with all the others being so honest and sharing so authentically, I was moved to do the same. I shared my moments of sadness and loneliness. It’s much easier for me to practise being silent, or sharing what I’m grateful for.
I somehow feel ashamed for having these and other difficult feelings - which is crazy, I know. But I do. Even though mindfulness emphasises acknowledging all emotions equally, I feel bad for not having let go of feelings like sadness or jealousy, when I already have so much abundance in my life. So much to be grateful and happy for. Again I know this is ‘wrong thinking’, but that’s how I felt if I’m honest.
Having shared my challenges, I immediately felt more courageous. I was looking for the next opportunity to share more! And I was proud to see my sharing gave permission for others to share from their hearts too. Being vulnerable turned out to be a gift for others too.
I experience emotions like sadness, jealousy, envy and shame - and they are part of being human. In my desire to be good and kind and, in some ways perfect, I shy away from sharing these experiences. I want to be able to let them go in the silence of meditation. And they may well go. But there’s great value in sharing these challenges.
Why being Vulnerable is Important
Our vulnerabilities acknowledge our humanity. They remind us that no one is super human and always at peace and joyful. Everyone is imperfect - that’s a law of the universe. And it’s in that imperfection that all living beings exist. Our journey is to move towards accepting our imperfections, not in fixing and moving towards being the perfect person. To gradually learn to see the beauty of our imperfection is our path.
This blog is not about self-improvement - because you are good enough! And I am good enough. This blog is about self-acceptance, self-love and the natural transformation that comes through making peace with ourselves and others.
My journey to learn more about vulnerability continued last night. Yesterday, as part of the world’s first online Mindfulness and Compassion at Work Summit I’m organising, I was honored to interview Dr. Shauna Shapiro. I’d highly recommend her TEDx talk.
Interviewing her was like interviewing myself. She too began her journey practising mindfulness with rigidity and judgment. She too was taught by a monk of the importance of kindness, not judgment in and out of meditation. And she too more recently found in sharing her own vulnerabilities, she gives permission for others to do the same. The only difference is, I look very different to her!
Here’s some tips from my own experience that you may find helpful:
Find a friend or a circle where you feel very safe - know that your sharing will be met with care and compassion. This is the first step. You’re creating the right conditions for authentic sharing to arise.
Don’t feel you have to share your deepest challenges. Be in the moment, feel the energy of the friend or group and see what arises. When the time is right, what needs to be shared will come up.
Acknowledge the power of vulnerability. When you share your challenges, you give permission to others to do the same. You act out of courage and step into living a bigger, fuller and more authentic world.
If you’d like to learn more about my approach of combining mindfulness with kindness, consider my free 7 day course. Or my full 8 week program which is currently on sale - includes 60 mini daily videos and over 15 guided kindfulness audio meditations to try.
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