Vulnerability is the foundational truth and the deepest teacher. Vulnerability is longing and limits. We all want things and we all have forces larger than ourselves contributing to whether and how those things happen. At the intersection of our longing and our limits is the place of “I can’t”.
We are not in full control of the things that happen to us and in us, nor do we ultimately control what happens to and in others and the world. And the more important that thing is to us, the more we long for it, the more we resist the truth of our vulnerability. We do not want to surrender to the place of “I can’t”.
I can’t make you love me or respect me or leave me alone. I can’t make the weather or the economy or the laws of physics bend to my will. I can’t make myself believe something i do not, or feel something I do not. I can’t singlehandedly do much at all, since other forces are always (though often invisibly) playing a part in everything I do.
On the one hand we resist knowing our vulnerability by trying harder, persisting even in the face of futility, gritting our teeth and pushing ourselves to control forces beyond ourselves. We reject ourselves and judge ourselves as weak or failures for not being able to make it so. Or, if we recognize we cannot control the outcome, we disown our longing. We decide we didn’t really want it anyway.
This is so natural, because vulnerability feels awful. It feels like threat. It feels like something is “wrong”. It is so physical and so uncomfortable. Muscle tension and agitation rouse us like prey animals who have caught the scent of a predator. We scan the environment looking for where the danger lies, we have the urge to do something to stop the feeling.
But that is only a trick. The sensations of tension and agitation are actually a brilliant communication from this body of knowledge that is your home. You are on the cusp of an experience that could grow you. In this moment you are signaled by your sympathetic nervous system to wake up and make a conscious choice. You have an opportunity to co-create your growth, to accelerate your emergence into more of who you are meant to become. Your choice in this precise moment? Approach or avoid.
Approach what? you may ask. The answer (as is so often the case, no matter what the question) is You.
Approach yourself in the moment in the body and feel really feel what it feels like in your skin. Know that a part of you will try to explain these sensations by making up dire conclusions. Do not listen to the story. Notice the tightening and the quiver and the bracing and the holding. Investigate with warm interest even though it does not feel good. Be willing to be surprised by the array of sensations that seem to speak of danger. And keep feeling them. Let your body know that you are right there. Let your presence be the evidence your body needs to know it is actually safe. There is no saber-toothed tiger, no oncoming truck, no in-the-moment threat to life and limb. There is longing and there are limits. There is the pain of that. And you make the choice to stay right there and feel.
This is what love looks like. In the face of vulnerability when we make the choice to stay with ourselves in the place of “I can’t” we find that we do not crumple up and die. In fact we find out that there was nothing to fear. There was only the feeling of the arousal and the story we told. And we find out we are larger than those feelings, more real than those stories. We experience ourselves as worth more than the small survival-sized life our fear would fashion for us.
We emerge more connected to ourselves, more compassionate and resilient, more able to take risks and reach for all we long for. The worst that will happen is a feeling, and though it is a painful one, it is one we know we can bear.
Will you love the vulnerable truth of you? It is not easy, but even a small approach sends a message of love. Feel your body as it calls to you. You are so worth it.
Photo Credit: ELB Photos