Mr. Myagi’s Lessons on Vulnerability

About a year ago, I wrote about my quest to be FEARLESS! Did I achieve the fearlessness that I was seeking? Yes and no. In my pursuit of fearlessness, the universe instead provided several opportunities to be vulnerable. [Ha ha universe – not laughing!] Yes, we must be careful what we ask for. My greatest lesson from this experience was that we must first be vulnerable to actually become fearless; for me, this was unexpected and much more difficult.

This got me to thinking…what does vulnerability mean? How can I practice this?

Believe it or not, I found my inspiration at the gym. Since the beginning of the year, I have been exercising regularly so far. I belong to a gym that has a Cardio Cinema, which is a darkened movie theater room with cardio equipment – where they play a different movie every day. Best idea ever, right? Most recently, the 1984 movie The Karate Kid was playing. If you have not watched it in a while, you may want to add it to the list. I enjoyed watching it 33 years later as an adult – and was completely inspired by Mr. Myagi!

Here are some quotes from our favorite sensei, who has much to teach us about vulnerability:

“Don’t forget to breathe, very important.” Mr. Myagi

Just Breathe…and Trust.

In my attempt to be fearless, I tried to make myself feel less fear – which produced an opposite effect. This would make me actually more defensive, protective – essentially in a fighting stance and prepared for battle.

Instead, it is in surrendering that we are the most powerful. In this context, surrendering does not mean giving up. You still have to prepare for whatever situation you are entering, but once the preparation is done, you can surrender, be in the moment, take a breath, and TRUST.

How would it feel to go into a situation without a defensive stance, but rather a peaceful and present stance? It is the same situation, but how can you make it feel different?

I have been focusing on this the past few months, and this subtle shift in mindset has made a world of difference. Just this past week, I had to do something by myself that I have been fearful of for years. I prepared, practiced, and kept my mind (and trash talk) in check. When the time came, I was still a little fearful (because everyone is!), and I also carried a sense of peace and trust that it was going to be okay. I was not trying to be strong or someone I was not – just me, fully present, breathing, and trusting.

Reflections:

  • How can you bring peacefulness to a current situation?
  • What are you approaching with a defensive stance? How can you make it feel different?

“Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, [makes squish gesture] get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes”, or karate do “no”. You karate do “guess so”, [makes squish gesture] just like grape. Understand?” Mr. Myagi

To be vulnerable, we must go “all in”.

Vulnerability is also about being “all in” and holding nothing back. To be fearless, we have to put it all out there. Think about a time when you were completely focused on achieving a goal. You were most likely placing all of your energy, resources, time, and thoughts towards achieving it. How would that have been different if you had held something back? Or if you hedged your bets? Or if you had one foot out the door ready to run away when adversity hit? As Mr. Myagi points out, we can’t be in the middle of the road – it will not work.

This reminds me of when I started grad school in 2003. I was accepted just months after my wedding. I started my program that fall and completed just over a year of classes. During this time, I was

  1. completely torn between spending time with my husband and building our new life together, and
  2. unsure of my career path (i.e. my degree).
  3. I was working my way up in a high-tech organization, but desperately wanting with all of my heart to work in non-profit.

This combination completely sabotaged my motivation and interest in schooling – so I quit for a while…Eight years later, I became very clear about why I wanted to finish my master’s degree and why I actually loved the degree I was pursuing. I finished school within one year of picking it up again, and completed my degree just under the ten year mark!

We are SO much better when we are clear on our intentions and bring our entire being to whatever we are trying to accomplish. This is vulnerability at its core.

Go all in – don’t get squished like a grape!

Reflections:

  • Where are you holding back? Where are you hedging your bets?
  • What is getting in your way?
  • Where do you need to go “all in” or take a step back?

Final thoughts

At yoga recently, my teacher said at the beginning of practice, “Is your mind running you, or are you running your mind?” We can truly get in our own way. Consider this when you are most afraid.

“It’s okay to lose to opponent, never okay to lose to fear.” – Mr. Miyagi