Last week I led a flash mob on a BART Train.
Heading to San Francisco.
On the long stretch when the train dives under the Bay.
I asked riders and friends to shake their arms and legs.
To take deep breaths followed by long sighs.
To tap dance down the aisle between the seats, and to move their bodies slow and smooth like the seaweed floating on the waves in the Bay above our heads.
This train where we often cram in, press to strangers arms and legs, but carefully avoid each other’s eyes.
Where I plug in, head down, legs crossed, arms folded and pray no one sits next to me.
What would happen by opening up in this way?
I practiced what I might say. There would be no room for timidity. The train is loud. Alone in my living room, I yelled, trying and discarding tones and words like blouses on a dressing room floor. Which would cloak me in confidence?
Pulling away from the West Oakland station, I don’t remember what I said or what I did, but when I looked up people were moving – and not just the audience plants I’d cajoled.
There was smiling –laughing even.
Together we were taking deep breaths and letting out long sighs.
A stranger intentionally made contact with my open palm for a brief, glorious second.
A woman yelled out, “this is the party car!”
Two people asked for my business card.
One person left his empty car to join whatever was happening in ours.
This was not how I thought this would go.
I’d hoped we’d be heckled minimally. I’d hoped we wouldn’t seem aggressive, and maybe (maybe) one or two people would join in.
I could not believe, and I still can’t, how naturally a few simple invitations quickly transformed us from single, detached riders to a joyful collective.
Could it really be as simple as breathing together and moving like seaweed?
Maybe this was one in a million. Maybe if I tried it again, we’d be booed off the train, but I don’t think so.
Because I believe.
We’re starving for connection.
Starving to be seen in our vulnerability
Starving to feel like we’re part of something special.
As soon as there’s a possibility – a crack in the façade of our separation — we either pry it open and let the light of connection flood in or we tiptoe away for the safety of a less vulnerable reality.
These cracks are everywhere.
I wanted to tiptoe away
When a friend suggested I lead a flash mob on BART, my first response was BRILLIANT. YES! Followed quickly by, TERRIFYING. NO FREAKIN WAY!
And this is how cracks work.
The mere suggestion of opening and expressing some aspect of ourselves is quickly followed by an instant contraction. The, “No way!” We squash it before it has a chance.
We can thank our No Ways for helping us stay “alive” but we must also recognize when they’re keeping us from living.
I find that the unhelpful No Ways often follow quickly on the heels of some inspiration to “extend out.” Like:
When we allow ourselves to show up in this way, it creates ripples. Others feel our bravery and the possibility (their own crack) of bringing forth more of who they are. This is where connection happens. This is where belonging happens. This is the world I long to live in.
When we got off the train, we were buzzing. Alive. Vibrant. Connected. During the rest of the evening, movement flowed naturally. Conversations happened in song. We stayed out too late on a school night and explored the city, took selfies, ate pizza slices and Mexican candy, and then with some difficulty pulled ourselves apart to go home.
My invitation to you is to notice your No Ways. When they pop up, ask, yourself, “What is this No Way protecting me from?” “Do I really need to be protected in this way?”
You don’t have to do anything different.
You don’t have to feel bad about anything.
Just notice and be curious.