Have you ever howled at the moon?
Knowing the majority of my friends and readers (and there is much overlap), the answer to this question is most likely yes. And if your answer is no, I highly recommend it. One of my favorite writers, Clarissa Pinkola Estés swears by it. See her “wolf rules for life,” listed below.
3 Rove in between
4 Render loyalty
5 Love the children
6 Cavil in moonlight
7 Tune your ears
8 Attend to the bones
9 Make love
10 Howl often
I’ve howled at the moon in California often. Tahoe, Joshua Tree, Los Angeles…It’s a good place to do it. The horizons are wide, the voice echoes.
I’ve been back in LA for over a month, working at Wanderlust for three weeks, and falling in love with the desert all over again. It is dusty and expansive and the mountains are always blossoming outside Ian’s house, their peaks rising like the scales of a giant dragon. And speaking of dragons, I also enjoy watching his babe play in his dragon jammies. Sometimes he even pretends to be one of those huge-ass fantastical reptiles, himself. Tiny hands transform into claws and all seems okay in this scary world.
It’s weird to be back in a place that once made me so anxious. I think it helps that I am older, and that I have a better understanding of the tools I can use to soothe my mind. One of these tools, a big one, is the outdoors. If you are stressed or feeling powerless, I highly recommend a dose of nature, preferably with those you love. Two weekends ago I went to Lake Arrowhead with Ian, and last weekend, the two of us plus our friends Kait and Dave (we met at their wedding), joined us for a trip to San Diego.
The adventure was based around the idea to attend the Wanderlust 108, a mindful triathlon. The number 108 is significant in Hinduism and yoga. According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. And there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body. Wanderlust's 108 is a triathlon consisting of running, yoga, and meditation. Kait and I considered the event months ago (bonding through text messages as long-distance friends are wont to do), before I moved back to LA and before I started working at Wanderlust. The triathlon was simply a thing we wanted to try. And once the two aforementioned things happened—well, then it was obvious.
The moon. Right.
In those moments I’ve howled at the moon I’ve felt entirely free—vulnerable and wild and so connected to my fellow humans. It’s silly thing to do, rolling your mouth and letting your throat and heart do the talking. I can remember each time very vividly. There were always other humans, warm bodies to call with. There were always stretchy pants. There were always stars.
Ian, Kait, Dave, and I spent two nights in San Diego. Ian and I arrived at our weird little AirBnb, and then greeted our friends with booze and guacamole made from overripe avocados. The next day the boys dropped us off at the field (they were spending the afternoon playing golf), and Kait and I (ignoring our champagne hangovers and chugging water) checked-in.
She’s the only friend I run with, and we talk while doing so. It makes the chore of running so much more bearable. Kaitlyn and I go way back—we attended college together, moved out to LA within two years of one another. I let her borrow my glasses, she made me a cake. Throughout all of this we both struggled with similar mental and physical ailments. Often over cake. She is beautiful inside and out, she is fun and kind. She listens, even when we run.
During our run we talked about vulnerability, or the act emotionally exposing oneself. What a challenge that can be, especially for someone in a new relationship (cough cough) who has not been in a “real” relationship for quite sometime (cough COUGH cough). Vulnerability requires bravery, especially when you are exposing the most fearful parts of yourselves. I find this fascinating and ironic, and the irony makes it silly, which makes it less scary.
Howling at the moon—when that feels scary…I remember I’m howling, and then I feel silly, and it is no longer scary.
Why don't we share our vulnerability? If the reason is fear, does that fear make us more vulnerable? Would the braver choice be to share?
Another funny thing: Most of the time we howl at the moon, we are howling in the dark. The dark provides a shield from vulnerability; it is why many of us like to expose our secrets or make love with the lights off. It’s why we kiss strangers in nightclubs. Drugs, alcohol, filters of whatever kind—perhaps these are another form of darkness. They make the scary things less scary, the howling less vulnerable.
After our run, Kait and I wandered the field and collected various amounts of free samples of various protein bars. (I am set for weeks, thank you Wanderlust!) We shared snacks and stories and small secrets. Then came the time for yoga, the second installment of the mindful triathlon.
The flow was led by MC Yogi, a charismatic and endearing man with a joy-inducing voice. After 20 minutes of beat-driven yoga, MC Yogi called all the practitioners to the front of the stage, where we were called to dance. And I mean, dance. Bouncing, barefoot-stomping, headbanging, sweaty arm waving, dancing. The San Diego sun was hot, the sky cloudless. It was then we were invited to howl.
Howling in the sunlight. I’m a weird girl, this I know. But to howl in the sunlight? This felt downright wacky. There was no shade or darkness to shield the high levels of goofiness. But the delightful and mature response of “whatever” floated through my mind, and I grabbed it, and decided that howling at the sun would be my expression of being alive, and that I would let everyone and their mothers hear me howl. And I howled and Kaitlyn howled and we all howled together.
When I spoke to Kait later, we shared gratitude for the moment and for one another. And we discussed how it made us feel wild and fun. And that wildness and joy helps so much to quell the fear of vulnerability.
To share secrets is a scary thing. I think about this often as my relationship continues to deepen. I didn’t realize how much I struggled with vulnerability until I had someone who I wanted to be honest with, even though it initially felt like a trap. My thoughts: Share your deepest thoughts, your darkest feelings, and scare him away. I sincerely believed this was true.
I don’t think that way anymore, or at least, I would like to change it. To be vulnerable is to be wild. It’s to let your hair down and to show your lover and closest friends the knots and the flyaways. To howl in the sunlight is to show what you know to be yourself, loud and true.
Honesty, even when it feels so difficult, gives back so much. It builds relationships and inspires trust and makes us feel SO MUCH LESS ALONE! That’s the ticket, right?? We all want to be dancing with our friends, to be hold another by the surf, to howl in a community. I think that if we share our vulnerability it builds us all up. Getting into a pattern of sharing ourselves sets the stage for a more honest and braver collective of humans. If we can express our fears, they no longer stay trapped in our heads. We see them for what they are: thoughts.
What do you want to say to someone you love? What do you have in your heart or gut that you have not shared? What will you lose if you let it spill? If it is your love...would you really want a love who did not know all of these scary, spooky, sincere parts?
Don't get me wrong—a secret is a fun thing. I have mine and I like them very much. But being able to unleash myself...That's bigger and better than secret-keeping. Vulnerability is an adventure. I am making my peace with this, and I hope my friends will do the same. It really does sincerely bring joy to see others strip away those layers.
I hope you howl at the moon, and then howl at the sun. I will applaud you, and howl right back.