Vulnerability and connection (2)

This talk has remained powerful for me since I came across it some weeks ago:

connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.

Regarding connection, you are better able to connect if you are okay with not connecting or connecting in some specific, preferred, conditional way. You’re not attached to things going exactly this or that way.  You can connect better if you aren’t holding on to preconceptions. Just the opposite, if you are more perceptive, more sensitive, you can grasp the situation more accurately; if you aren’t holding on too tightly to certain ways you think you want to act, you’re freer to adjust more appropriately, fittingly.

There’s a paradox to be reconciled: being okay with connecting incompletely or not at all, while trying to connect / being inclined to connect / being open to connect.  This state of being open is not one that is jaded or numb – just the opposite, it’s welcoming and fertile. The tough thing for many of us is to be open in this way without being guarded, without being prepared for disappointment, without devoting ourselves to defense, at least partly. But I think it’s quickly evident that you can’t be attentive and jaded at the same time. In fact, in order to be more attentive, it’s conducive to find in yourself a feeling of curiosity, interest, even love and compassion, for the other. This way, it’s a recursive cycle, in which you receive some nourishment yourself from participating in the connection.

As a way of being, this state of being okay despite the specific nature of the condition includes when you are not connected, just before connection starts or intensifies, and after connection ends or weakens. (Of course these describe the moment-to-moment changes during a connection.) I remember asking Endo sensei on more than one occasion, what do you do if your uke escapes the technique, runs away? His response was straightforward: just let them go away, if that’s what they want – there’s nothing you have to deal with and you don’t have to force a solution if there’s no problem; if they want to come to you, let them come. Initially I subscribed to the notion that connection entailed domination and control, so I didn’t like the idea of someone escaping the technique. But now, I’ve realized for myself, I am freer for not being attached to dominating or controlling the opponent, and I am better able to explore and continue connection with them the less determined and fixated I am. (Ironically, in addition to the ukes who are puzzled when apparently given the opportunity to stand back up by sensei in the midst of techniques, there are also ukes who are puzzled when they break away and are not chased or forcibly prevented. It speaks to the fact that many aikido practitioners are socialized to be uke in specific ways, and accordingly act and feel only in certain ways.)

We numb vulnerability…. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.

The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment, I don’t want to feel these. … You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.


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