One Quivering Breath

By Tara Purnell

Vulnerability invites courage into our lives. It requires surrender and reinforces our faith. It’s found in the moments between closed eyes and open hearts. It lives in the contemplation of ideas that challenge our identities, who we think we are, and what we believe we represent. Vulnerability means stepping outside of our comfortable mental walls, exposed somehow, to the great unknown.

Open your crazy-person notebook in a public place.

Let someone new visit your home…and use your bathroom.

Do something that, at first, makes your mind say, “That’s not for me.”

I grew up admiring images of Black athletes. I found myself aspiring to be like them in my early years as a tiny, tumbling gymnast and later as a runner. The feelings of vulnerability were there too: leaning my back into my first unassisted back walkover (and falling) and running full speed at my first set of hurdles (and smashing my palms into the gravel beneath me). There was this sickening rush, knowing I could fall despite my preparations. Yet, as I practiced and pushed through that discomfort, I realized that I could actually fly. 

I’ve started to notice that same rush as an adult in my most vulnerable moments: a flood of fear, shame bleeding into my peripheral vision, my heart in someone else’s teeth, the anticipation of attack.  Maybe it's because of those early experiences. Maybe it's in my molecular memory, or somewhere in the collective consciousness...wherever it comes from. I've started to remember that again and again, vulnerability leads me to higher ground.

For my ancestors, living Black in America, to be seen was to be vulnerable to physical pain, emotional abuse and moral criticism. Now born of the survivors of this dangerous circumstance, I'm still susceptible to these forms of violence and social bondage. Instead of letting fear reign, I consider these opportunities to find freedom, to welcome that quivering breath and let it be quieted by the light of ancestral love shining into my heart. 

I’ve almost become addicted to the rush of finding vulnerability—taking every chance I have to learn and care for myself—to travel, dance and read. To speak my mind and share my sacred rituals. Every time I feel open and afraid, I just breathe and hold my ground until I start to feel brave. Bravely human. Trusting that the universe led me to that emotional edge because I'm ready to shift my perspective. 

We are more dynamic than we know. My yoga practice has helped me to understand this. As soon as I build strength in one area, I discover a new pose that forces me to risk falling and major embarrassment. Headstands become forearm stands, and down dogs evolve into handstands. Perhaps most importantly, fear becomes gratitude. When the universe hurls me into a vulnerable moment now, I know that I'll live to breathe another quivering breath and falling feels fine as long as my spirit flies.   


PHOTO: SOLOMON

PHOTO: SOLOMON

Tara Purnell is a D.C. native, brought to Brooklyn, NY by magic and good fortune. Since her transcendental meditation studies began in 2006, Tara's passion for meditative movement and the arts became rooted in her professional pursuits. She brings a joy for life to each class she teaches at Brooklyn's own Urban Asanas. Now as part of the founding team that brought cold-pressed WTRMLN WTR to market, she aims to infuse the broader community with clean hydration alternatives and positive energy. Learn more about her at tarapurnell.com or book a yoga class with her at urbanasanas.com.