Why is it so exciting to show ourselves? The whole package, for real, without making it any prettier than it is? And when we do, why does it so often feel like we’re ‘revealing’ ourselves? And why the hell should we do it anyway? Seriously, there’s no fun in walking away from that wonderful castle called ‘image’, is there? Well, actually, there is. At least, that’s what I’ve come to learn.
We humans tend to set standards for the persons we should be. So-called positive benchmarks like fearless, abundant, happy and grateful. We oppose them with so-called opposites like fear, jealousy, anger and disappointment. We label those opposites (pussy, egotist, out-of-control-freak and whino), after which we turn them into outcasts, not to be seen or touched or felt. And the best news is: most of this happens unconsciously and automatically. Which is great: we don’t have to ‘do’ anything for it!
The thing is, we never measure up. We can’t. For one, standards - by definition - contain judgment. So even when we meet our own standards (we rarely meet our own standards), almost immediately our inner critic brings in one of our outcasts, to remind us that - really - “you’re no good mate!” Or if we are, we won’t be for long: “Oh yeah? Well, let’s see how long you can keep this charade up.”
But our mistake is in believing that we have to measure up. Because who we really are, can’t be judged. Something inside of us knows this, and is at the same time completely oblivious to it. It doesn’t judge, measure, evaluate; it just is. It doesn’t care what other people think, doesn’t even care what you yourself think. It only shows interest. And interest doesn’t say yes or no, good or bad, tasty or disgusting. Interest just watches, meets, experiences, all with the same amazement. It doesn’t even know what a standard is. It just revels in the joy of being, saying yes to everything that’s here.
Which is all fine and dandy of course, but how do we make it come out? One answer I can give, from my own experience, is this: practice. Last week I had - what turned out to be - a pretty hefty practice session with a close friend, Pieter Hemels, in which all of the above whirled through me at the same time. A couple of hours later, at home, I began a new chapter in a book I picked up a couple of months ago. And these are pretty much the first lines I came across:
“…real communication must be spontaneous and alive; too much planning and carefulness will kill it. At one point you have to plunge in and learn by doing. The best learning comes from being open to feedback from others, not trying to prevent any need for feedback. You will make mistakes, step on toes, and undoubtedly embarrass yourself at times, but these are useful experiences and not reasons to keep your mouth shut. What is most important is that you are truly interested in communicating and learning to be real, not in winning or being right.”
Wham. Nailed it right on the head. It felt like I’d done my homework before I ever received it. And more importantly, like I'd stumbled into the meaning of life, wrapped into a single paragraph for my convenience. Why? Because in learning to be interested, to be real, to show myself and to make myself vulnerable, I feel more and more alive: an immense power and energy coursing through my body; a deep, honest, true connection with myself and with other people. And most of all, I’ve come to feel (what I believe to be) true love.
I had a beautiful meeting, with Shinta Oosterwaal. As we talked, she remarked that “the value of communication is in the interaction.” All of these encounters helped to deepen the following realization: making ourselves vulnerable and honestly showing ourselves - whatever the internal weather may be, is true spirituality. And the same goes for accepting, embracing and taking responsibility for what we feel and think; for being “truly interested in communicating and learning to be real, not in winning or being right”; for integrating our higher levels of consciousness with life here on earth - wobbly bits included - instead of separating them; and for not rejecting whatever our minds, society, or any standard set by anything or anyone is bent on rejecting. To me anyway. Because through showing all of ourselves, I see that we're freeing the way for our true, radiant self to make itself known. So we can grow, live and feel alive!
The book I’m reading is Byron Brown’s Soul Without Shame - A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within. I can highly recommend it. Especially because my friend Pieter, who found it within himself to see the intention behind what I threw at him (which, on the surface, wasn’t all that pretty), jokingly commented: “I’m glad he didn’t write ‘Shame without Soul’.”
And here are 20 of the most brilliant minutes I’ve ever seen on the subject of vulnerability: