Men, Looking for Some Vulnerability Lessons?

November 24, 2013
Katherine Austin Wooley



Clint Eastwood

In the last few decades, men have been schooled by male icons like Clint Eastwood to act tough, know all the answers, and never reveal weakness.

That expectation of a strong veneer is cracking lately and acknowledging vulnerability, the susceptibility to emotional or physical injury, is a rather hot topic in personal and business settings. In fact, vulnerability is now being celebrated as strength and a sign of courage.

Brene Brown, PhD

Perhaps this topic has been best studied by Dr. Brene Brown, who in an uber-successful TED talk and in her book Daring Greatly, has taught that only in vulnerability can we advance in love, joy, belonging, courage, empathy and creativity.

While it may not be fun to expose yourself to risk, she provides advice that serves both men and women well:

1)     Let go of the constant worry about what other people think of you. Most people are focused on their own internal struggles, not on you.

2)     Feeling overwhelmed? Focus your attention gently on your breath and the sensations in your body for a few moments before returning your attention back to the task at hand.

3)     Don't worry about being perfect-in fact, don't even consider it. No one is perfect, and the more you hold yourself to an impossible ideal, the more easily you will give up.

As welcome as it is to recognize that we can Live Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, as is the title of Pema Chodron's book of wisdom, the media discussing vulnerability have been mainly generated my women.  What is a man to do?

In my own life, I have taken a zigzag career path at times, switching practices more than I planned and exposing myself to additional stress, questions and economic uncertainty. Looking back, those periods of exposure led to spurts in opportunities, skills and creativity.

The last three years in my life has been a period of purposefully ripping me out of a successful job, returning to university for additional training, and reentering another practice while most just shook their heads and wandered what I was doing. I didn't have the courage to tell them that I wasn't sure either, but I had faith it would all work out.

I would not advise men to seek out lessons on vulnerability and growth on a consistent basis by regularly leaving successful jobs! I recent have found a place where I can experiment with being open and exposed, and I recommend it to my male warrior friends. That place is Kundalini yoga.

Tara Stiles

While I will leave it to the Tara Stiles of the world to teach about the history of Kundalini yoga as a royal form of yoga that has been called the fast path to energy, I was invited by a friend to join her practice in a local yoga studio by a well-known yogi certified in Kundalini. 

After more than a dozen years of regularly practicing Vinyasa yoga, I was game and confident.  However, in a just a few minutes I realized this yoga was a world apart. People sat on sheepskin rugs, wore white clothing and many had crocheted white head coverings.

The music wasn't the latest Usher or Brett Dennen but spiritual songs by women all with the last Kaur that seemed to raise my spirit. Candles were lit all over the room. The female-to-male ratio was far higher than in my typical hot classes (a bonus).

Yogi Bhajan was quoted over and over. We chanted together several mantras and I felt that I was the only one in the room who didn't know the words. The delightful teacher never stopped smiling and teaching words of wisdom that were uplifting and new to me. The practice was energetic and started by rubbing our hands together to generate energy.

What happened to downward dog?  We did 3-minute timed asanas, most seated, and none familiar. These included many cat cows and spinal balances, rotating on our sitz bones, beating our bodies, beating the floor, snoring, whistling, balancing with our arms up, boat poses, planks and other positions called out by the instructor from a notebook she had from teachings of Yogi Bhajan.

My favorite part was the constant reminders to tighten our sex organ locks. I felt like Sting!  We ended in a magical state of savasana with the gong vibrating through the room and our bodies.

I have gone back to Kundalini yoga many times, mixing it with Vinyasa practices during the week.  It is more familiar now but never the same. I had a great lesson in vulnerability this week when near the end of a great class we stood up and were instructed to dance wildly with our arms circling all over. Thank goodness our eyes were closed and the freedom of this motion was so exciting I continued it at home!

So men, where to look for inspiration between Kundalini classes?  Surprisingly, one of the manliest of men, President Theodore Roosevelt, gave a famous lecture in 1910 known as The Man in The Arena.  We would all benefit by choosing this as our credo:

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who 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 great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Dr. Joel Kahn is a cardiologist. Visit his website here: 

Read More

Mantra? What is it?

December 6, 2013
You enter a yoga class, the room is warm and inviting, students are mingling and you're just so happy to be on your mat finally, ready to relax. Then...

The Gift of a Gift

December 5, 2013
"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving."ʉۥ Mother Teresa In today's world, we often feel pressured to give a material...

Light Your Fire: An Affirmation of Personal P

November 27, 2013
This mornings yoga class at Karma Yoga was hot and passionate; the "fun factor" was high and the music was right on cue. "Change" by Natalie Merchant was...