Fierce Vulnerability: An intimate illustration from Astrid Montuclard

A Letter to My Partner

After East Point’s Fierce Vulnerability Workshop


My Dear Love,

When we met up after I attended East Point Peace Academy’s Fierce Vulnerability two-day workshop, waves of emotion were running through my body. You noticed the contrast between new sparks in my eyes and greater fatigue in my voice. You asked about the event, and for a long time, I told you stories about it. These were stories about authenticity, shame, human connection, and the courage that our community needs to nurture in order to face the environmental and social crises in front of us, and to nurture our inner selves within the chaos.

You asked me what is meant by fierce vulnerability, and although I had no formal definition to give you, I gave you the words that arose from my experiences at the workshop. Fierce vulnerability is the art of showing yourself to others as you truly are – whether you’re full of fear or compassion – and to do so out of great love for both your friends and your opponents. This ability springs from a strong conviction in the interconnectedness of all beings and all things, whose imperfect wholeness is worthy of deep appreciation. Being fiercely vulnerable may also imply being ready to put your body on the line to stop unjust, harmful practices that hurt others at a systematic level.

Upon our arrival at the Oakland Peace Center for the first day of the workshop, an array of quotes about vulnerability welcomed us on the walls of the main hall. After reading them, everyone connected one-on-one to share about why they had decided to commit to this weekend journey together. My peers’ willingness to learn how to show their full humanity moved me, and I shared about my own longing to work on my frequent, hurtful need to show friendliness and confidence in social spaces while hiding my deeper longing for genuine connection. In the process, four trainers sat with us in the circle of chairs on the wooden floor, surrounded by the quotes, which had begun to guide us into the mindset of the workshop. Our trainers were Kazu, nonviolence teacher and restorative justice activist from Japan; Sierra, African-American healer and nonviolent activist; Nirali, socially engaged meditation teacher from India; and Chris, peace activist and movement builder. They all introduced one another with great respect and friendship, something I would soon have for every one of the attendees surrounding me.

The two days went by quickly, punctuated by activities that carefully threw us into the wide depths of self-awareness, supported by the community we shared in this space. One afternoon, we had the chance to open about our deepest sources of shame. Tears wet many cheeks and hugs interwove many arms. Standing in the hall, I witnessed and held in my gaze strangers hugging, expressing immense relief after finally bumping into another soul wandering on the same dark path they once imagined to be walking alone. In this community of compassion we built together, we gathered the tears of each other’s hearts, expressing a shared, unspoken pain that had remained hidden for so long. Recognition and determination flourished on the faces that surrounded me, and on my own, and planted seeds for greater connection and future willingness to expose our hidden shadows to the sun.

Protected by the circle we formed, facing and knowing each other, we spoke aloud about our refusal to continue believing untrue stories that had taken root in our bodies and had damaged our hearts for too long. We brainstormed which unique gifts each of us could apply to change “this system that hurts us all.” The weekend concluded with a memorable simulation of what fierce vulnerability might look like in socially engaged spaces.

My dear love, as I talked and talked to you about this workshop, you listened to me for a long time, and when I was done, you asked to sign up for the next workshop with an enthusiastic smile. For your heart-full understanding, I loved you more. Despite not being a frontline activist, you got it; you got that change starts with every one of us cultivating enough resilience to show and connect over our shared scares everywhere and at all levels, under the sun of interconnectedness.

For simply listening, deeply listening, and giving space to my pain and excitement and fears and hopes that night, I loved you more, too. Many of us have forgotten how to unveil and accept the darker corners of our own hearts, but also – and maybe as a result – how to stay present with openness, compassion, and courage when another heart’s truest voice sings and cries at the same time, as it so often does when it is alone.

Wishing you great joy, great bravery, and most of all, great kindness on your path to deeper connections,


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