Photo by Michael S. Wright
When I get sick, it is easy for me to think of vulnerability as weakness. When my body feels shaky, has a fever, or hurts so much that all I want to do is sleep, which pretty much describes my afternoon today, I find it hard to see how vulnerability could have anything in common with resilience. However, if I remember to listen, and if I can meet the needs that my body is trying to express, then I eventually get better, usually faster than when I fight with the above mentioned needs. It seems silly, but it surprises me every time.
Thinking about it some more, I am not sure it is so different when I feel emotionally vulnerable. When my heart is tender and emotions rise, it can be hard to remember how much easier it is to let them flow. Sure, there is that ripping, breathtaking moment when sadness, or even joy, may flood your being, but then there is flow. Whereas, when I am holding on, there is this dull ache that seems to fog everything that comes into view. Yet, no matter how many times I might have gone through this lesson, somehow the first knee-jerk response seems to be grasping rather than opening, pushing through rather than letting go. Of course I would feel very enlightened and Zen if my response could always, instinctively be an opening to vulnerability. I suppose that is why so many spiritual traditions talk about practice, and so many physical pursuits involve discipline.
I am still pretty unclear on what it means to have embraced vulnerability as a practice for 365 days. Today it meant listening to my body, and giving it the rest it needed to recuperate from illness. Yesterday it meant noticing how tender my heart was after a conversation with someone who unexpectedly got close again. It's a practice, and I am not even quite sure what I am practicing for, besides maybe the ability to be myself a little more each day.