This past Christmas—after the kids began to wind down their frantic ripping, tossing and piling up of the usual holiday haul–it was time for the adults to swap gifts. By now there is not much magic or fan fare involved in the adult gift swap. We all know Christmas is about the kids and we give to each other the things that we actually need or want. My mom renews my AAA membership each year, I usually gift pictures of family members or photo books of family vacations and books or little home made offerings are sweetly appreciated with gratitude.
My brother passed a wrapped parcel over to my father and called his girlfriend in from the kitchen. Upon my brother’s insistence that his girlfriend needed to see my father open his gift, we all waited until she returned to the couch. My father began to open the gift—which was obviously a framed photo or drawing of something—and my brother turned to me and quietly said this is a good one.
My father held the wrapped package on his lap and tore the wrapping paper from the frame. No one but my father could see the image. My father cleared off the paper and he began to register what he was looking at. He lowered his chin a bit and stared down at the image as we all just watched—and waited. All became very still and very quiet. It was as if someone had pushed the pause button and we were suspended in time. The energy in the room had all at once completely shifted from the buzzing excitement of children opening gifts and shouting in excitement to silent seriousness—it was palpable. We waited there—suspended in time—as my father just stared at whatever it was. Then he lowered his face into his hands and began to weep.
There are moments in life when the pure depth of emotion overtakes our capacity to rationalize, conceptualize or think our way through what is happening and we surrender to the awe of such power. This is when we experience pure connection with everyone and everything.
This moment with my father and my family was once such moment. We silently watched as my father continued to hold his face in the palms of his hands gently cry. I began to cry. I locked eyes with my sister Pam—who was also crying. Words were completely unnecessary. I looked at my brother and the same thing happened. Finally I looked at my mother—who will celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with my father this year—and the same thing happened. We felt a connection more pure than any conversation could accomplish because we all surrendered into being. The emotional realness of the moment was too big for us to nudge our way out of—or around—or through. It cut through all of the words, thoughts, rationalizations and explanations that we humans normally bring to our daily circumstances and in the end we all just came into being—together—as one.
We didn’t need to know what my father was looking at because that powerful moment was not about the image at all. In one moment my father became vulnerable—and his surrender to vulnerability ushered the way for the rest of us to surrender to vulnerability. In that place we connected. In that place we felt sorrow, but we also felt pure love.
We spend most of our lives in our heads—thinking about our to-do lists, what we will eat for our next meal, whether we said or did the right thing, and drawing conclusions about ourselves and about those around us. This keeps us isolated. It keeps us “safe” from vulnerability and it keeps us out of connection. In our lives we occasionally experience this shared vulnerability—a birth, a death, or some other major life event. These things can make us come face to face with our smallness and in that smallness we feel our oneness and that leads us to feeling a super nova of emotions that we can’t think our way through. All at once we feel sad, happy, small, big, connected, vulnerable, joyous and pained and we have no choice but to surrender. And it is in that surrender that we experience being.
I am eternally grateful for the moment of connectedness and being I shared with my family over Christmas—it was a gift more meaningful than any I can think of. I am profoundly thankful for my yoga practice, which allows me to experience this feeling of being each time I practice. I vow to make 2012 the year that I step into courageous vulnerability so that I may experience being together with my fellow humans in a way that transcends words and ushers us into pure connection and love (and yes, a buttload of feeeeEEEEEeeeeeeelings).
ps. For those of you dying to know what the image was, stay tuned for a follow-up article. I will reveal the mystery 😉