Written by Monica Rai Silver, HOYH Founder + CEO. Excerpt taken from our Heartwork™ program; Heart2Heart (H2H): “The Tree of Your Heart: A Year Living in the Branches of Self-Love.” From the month of April, the branch of Vulnerability + Connection. Concept of “Arena” inspired by the Theodore Roosevelt poem and its reemergence by phenom Brené Brown, and her world changing research around shame and vulnerability. If you haven’t seen Brené’s famous TED talk, click here for a good time. #TruthBombsAwaitYou
There is a call that comes, at different points in our lives, to come to the arena. And inherently we each know this – and so, in fear, we gather pieces of protection; carrying unnecessary armor to bind us away from loss and vulnerability, failure, disappointment and pain. I heard another call, and this time I saw it: Looking back, the pieces of heavy metal shed as I’ve done the work. Felt what I needed to feel. Owned what I needed to own. But now, I’m here, I’ve been standing in the doorway – the bars down, wide open expanse of being seen before me; shivering in the rising dust, with no one but me calling my name: Armor off. Armor off. Armor off.
I walk in, without anything to hide…
“It is not the critic who counts; not the woman who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while Daring Greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship In A Republic” speech. Pronoun edits by Monica Rai Silver.
I revel in this bravery, this freedom! I soak it in; the relief, liberation and room to breathe around the truth of who I am. I laugh and spin circles in all this space, hearing the echoes bounce around the stone and then back to my happy ears: The sound of my own Voice. It sounds like a chorus of joy, like every part of me is in agreement, accord, and harmony. With my hands on my hips I survey what’s around me: bare, open, beautiful.
“It needs my touch,” I declare, and set about making it cozy, making it Home. I move easily, unencumbered by the heavy armor and rusted metal I worked so hard to shed. Comfortable furniture is brought in, art, music, color, a magnificent #Crownbed, nourishing food: all tools in my Heartwork™ arsenal. I settle in, safe, protected, vulnerable, powerful, authentic, enough. My worth courses through me in the air like a living shield, a boundary between my Heart and the world outside. It is beautiful, here. I am making it my Home.
But even in that courage and determination, it is not long before I hear shouting from the stands, a cacophony of judgment, criticism and shame. And when I finally look out amongst the faces, the one I see most – is my own. A hundred different selves yell back at me, blaming, projecting, excuse-laden and unhappy. I feel the need to protect, to hide, to armor up. I shut down. The instant I do, I find myself in the stands, yelling back at an empty arena…
And I realize that I’ve left myself. I’ve abandoned me. No one’s done it to me, no matter the reasons my fingers are already ticking off, one by one. My muscles stiffen under the weight of the armor that automatically, like a faithful boomerang, magnetically re-attaches. With the darkness of apathy and self-pity sinking in, I sit heavily in my familiar, season-ticketed seat. The tears pool and I look around me. There are other people, here to be entertained by my imperfections, but not many. Far fewer than we (in the stands) want to believe. There are many more versions of myself, in various stages, ages, in their own pain and comfort zones. But more shockingly, are the weapons that wait in every single seat around my Arena. Weapons…to be picked up and used by whoever sits there.
I understand. I see. The gift shows itself and I am aware of where I am. I am aware that I have a choice. I am aware that I choose where I reside. So, I choose to remember Janette Grace’s stunning statement, “Surrender is putting down my weapons and picking up my tools.” Only weapons await me in the stands: judgment, criticism, hatred, projection, blame, victimhood, perfectionism, and codependency. But my tools await me in the Arena: Heartwork™, Connection, Vulnerability, Higher Power, Self-Love, Compassion, Rooting, Gardening, and so many more. These are my Super Powers. These, are my Heart. These, are Home.
My choice made, I heave myself up from the seat and lumber toward the aisle. I walk down the dirt pathway, one step at a time, remembering that the Path from the stands to the arena is the “path to the feeling of worthiness.” -Brené Brown. To accepting the truth of my worthiness. To feeling my worthiness.
With each step I feel the emotions of the stands and the Arena, and I understand that I will make many trips back and forth as I journey through this life. I can accept this, knowing that the gift is in recognizing where I am, and choosing where to go from there. Knowing, I am enough. Knowing, it is my choice.
With one final, exhausting stride – I step back into the Arena. The armor is gone, and the subsequent fear of being vulnerable takes its place. But I breathe through it, settling my gaze on the safe space before me: Home. This time, when I hear the jeers from the crowd, I will choose to stay here. I will first root in myself before I look up. I’ll acknowledge the message if it contains wounds that need healing. I’ll feel through the feelings it brings up. I’ll give gratitude for the lessons they contain. And I’ll do it all from the safety, empowerment and protection, real protection of the Arena. The Arena of my Heart.
“Vulnerability is the only authentic state.
Being vulnerable means being open for wounding, but also for pleasure.
Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty.
Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset.
Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it.
The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things
can only come to you when you are vulnerable and open.”