What does the word vulnerability bring up for you? What images come to mind when you imagine a time you felt vulnerable? For many of us, myself included, vulnerability is scary. It brings up feelings up inadequacy, of powerlessness, of being overwhelmed, and that classic, of not being good enough. Remembering times when we have been vulnerable are often associated with painful memories for us, a time when we have perhaps lost control, maybe by losing our temper with someone we love (or perhaps worse, a stranger), of feeling embarrassed or humiliated in a situation, or perhaps even when we have lost a relationship, a job, or a home.
We want to be successful, be happy, be well. And whilst there's nothing wrong with these things, we somehow have the idea that unless we're feeling really bloody happy all of the time, that we're somehow failing. Anything that makes us feel vulnerable? Well, we haven't really signed up to that.
The problem with this is that by shutting down our vulnerability, we're closing off not only an important part of our life experience, but we're also closing ourselves off to a greater power. Power in vulnerability? Yes, you hear me right.
Vulnerability helps us to realise that we are part of something greater than our own individual lives, dramas and stories. Vulnerability helps us to open up, to connect more deeply with the other vulnerable human beings around us (yes, everyone is vulnerable even that really successful women you know at work with the long legs, great salary and brilliant social life), and to be truly immersed in life. If we strive only for happiness, only for joy, we are cutting ourselves off from part of the emotional landscape which makes life so rich. Instead, by welcoming in vulnerability, we build our emotional and spiritual muscles, and become more resilient.
Alexandra Pope, menstrual guru that she is, describes vulnerability like this in her absolutely brilliant Women's Quest handbook (which I strongly recommend every menstruating woman reads. In fact, even if you're not menstruating. Even if you're male. She is awesome).
"Someone who is unable to feel vulnerable is emotionally dead... Whilst intellectually you may be able to function, you will be unable to truly engage with yourself and have deeply satisfying relationships. Without it you will become disconnected: a disconnection that can be the breeding ground for indifference and even violence."
Feelings of being numb, worn down or just unwell can be signs that we're not allowing our true vulnerability to show. Often when we feel this way, we already feel fragile enough, but until we allow the vulnerability to be truly expressed, we will continue to feel this way. By suppressing our vulnerability we also can commit when Ayurveda call crimes against wisdom - we begin to eat food which doesn't make us feel well, to not get enough, proper sleep, and to punish our body with grueling regimes.
Learning to express vulnerability can start with something as simple as asking for help. Whether this is asking your partner, children or housemate to do the washing up when you're exhausted, or recognising you need help in the form of counselling or other therapy, we can only ask for help when we are truthfully understanding that we can't do it all by ourselves. This is wonderful, because the people who love us want to help us! And by asking them to help us, we better equip ourselves so we can too help others.
Finding time to stop, slow down, and do nothing is also an essential part of our vulnerability. If we're constantly in busy doing mode, it becomes harder to switch into the subtly of stillness. Even 5 minutes a day to sit and meditate, journal, or simply gaze out the window can do wonders for reconnecting back to yourself, and allowing whatever feelings are inside, to gently drift to the surface.
Whether you're on a spiritual path, or simply looking to find more peace in your life, vulnerability is essential. I would love to hear how you get on with this exercise, so connect with me on Facebook or Twitter or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know.