Two strangers- Jane, and John. An airport waiting area. Jane sees John. Jane sits near John. Jane looks at John with an unwavering gaze- out of some mix of curiosity, intrigue and a desire to connect. John catches Jane looking and decides to meet her gaze with a steady eye contact, interested in both her motives and her as a human being. Jane realizes John is now watching her observe him. She sees that John sees her, seeing him. John is under the microscope of harmless observation. Jane is also being observed by John. Yet, there’s another aspect to Jane’s experience. Her desire to look at John and her willingness to be seen in her need call for quite a bit of courage and, a whole lot of vulnerability.
These two would have never seen one another at all because their heads would have been down, scrolling through instagram.
The big question:
What would it be like to keep our heads up from time to time, allowing for such vulnerable opportunities?
In Indian and Yogic Philosophy, the term Maya is associated with how we see things. Through our senses, we each, individually, have a unique experience of other people, places and events. Maya is our perceived experience, turned into reality by our psyches. Yet in this philosophy, Maya is often referred to as illusion. In other words, how we see it is just how we see it, but perhaps- not the truth. Our history of experience in our bodies, subtly alive in our cells and subconscious, is always shading what we see; affecting what we do. Samskaras, another Sanskrit term, are thought to be the mental pathways that are ingrained in us after we go through something. So, even though you’re no longer thinking about that time little Suzy pushed you down and smushed your cake at your 7th birthday party, subconsciously- every year when you blow out the candles, you’re ready to throw an elbow. And of course from there, all the deep disappointments and real traumas in our lives have the potential to inform our decisions and color our current world in a way that keeps us on guard and persuades us to avoid vulnerability.
But think about it-
How amazing would it be to make one choice a day that really required us to put ourselves out there, in spite of our wounds, fears and cynicism? Through a research survey I conducted on vulnerability, I learned that a lot of us feel the same exact way about showing up with our mask off. Folks agreed it feels scary to be totally honest and unguarded. One person wrote, ‘Vulnerability is showing up as you are, not how you want to be’. I found that profound. Because without an agenda or an instagram tint, it’s just us. And when we show up emotionally naked, so to speak, the subject of vulnerability really turns into a question of, ‘am I enough?’.
My two cents?
We’re talking chicken and egg stuff here. When we feel insecure, we tend to build up the facade. Yet, the inauthenticity of the mask, on an energetic level, will always get to us. So we end up feeling worse off than when we started. Jane must have felt some level of insecurity within the vulnerability of seeing and being seen, and letting John know she wanted to view him. But she stuck with it. She decided her interest in John and her need for connection were more powerful and more important than the mask. Ralph Blum states it best in his translation of the Nordic Rune Eihwaz: ‘..even more than we are doers, we are deciders. Once the decision is clear, the doing becomes effortless, for then the universe supports and empowers our action…through inconvenience and discomfort, growth is promoted.’
The take away:
It pays to be a little uncomfortable. It’s a beautiful part of life to have to go through the squirmy, awkward, red faced moments with one another. The situations that require us to leap empty handed into the void with nothing but a deep breath and some courage on our side, are gifts. We can, I think, trust that when we make brave decisions within these vulnerable scenarios, there will always be something learned; something grown. Something new.
In one of my favorite plays, The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard, the character Henry has an unforgettable monologue about ‘knowing and being known’. First given to me by the late and great acting teacher Sam Christensen, the monologue and Sam’s teachings inspired me to begin to approach acting and, my life, in such a way that bore real truth. It’s my hope for us all that, with compassion for ourselves as a vehicle for moving forward, we can embrace our wounds and fears and dive deep into what can be none other than the absolutely fulfilling world of deep and real; authentic and true connection.*
“It’s to do with knowing and being known. I remember how it stopped seeming odd that in biblical Greek, knowing was used for making love. Whosit knew so-and-so. Carnal knowledge. It’s what lovers trust each other with. Knowledge of each other, not of the flesh but through the flesh, knowledge of self, the real him, the real her, in extremis, the mask slipped from the face. Every other version of oneself is on offer to the public. We share our vivacity, grief, sulks, anger, joy . . . we hand it out to anybody who happens to be standing around, to friends and family with a momentary sense of indecency perhaps, to strangers without hesitation. Our lovers share us with the passing trade. But in pairs we insist that we give ourselves to each other. What selves? What’s left? What else is there that hasn’t been dealt out like a deck of cards? Carnal knowledge. Personal, final, uncompromised. Knowing, being known. I revere that. Having that is being rich, you can be generous about what’s shared – she walks, she talks, she laughs, she lends a sympathetic ear, she kicks off her shoes and dances on the tables, she’s everybody’s and it don’t mean a thing, let them eat cake; knowledge is something else, the undealt card, and while it’s held it makes you free-and-easy and nice to know, and when it’s gone everything is pain.” -The Real Thing
–Jessica Cadden Osborne is an NYC based actress, writer, teacher and filmmaker with a sincere desire to spread the Truth.
Vulnerability in intimate relationships is no easy road. Get a taste of that hilariously painful and utterly sweet predicament here: