Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.
To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is a lovely illusionary privilege and perhaps the prime and most beautifully constructed conceit of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but it is a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath.
The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.
~ David Whyte, Consolations
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Vulnerability. Openness. Heartfulness. Surrender. How do we continue to be “generous citizens of loss,” as David Whyte puts it in his book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. How do we allow ourselves to be open to it all? Gurus of all kinds (yoga, religious, self-help) tell us to surrender, to trust, to have faith, and to allow everything to flow through us, and that by doing so, we will experience the heights of joy as well as the depths of sorrow. What they don’t tell us is how to do it. It seems we have to figure that out on our own.
I fear I may be going the way of the complainers, the Negative Nellies, the always reluctant. I hear it in my voice, inwardly and outwardly, in thoughts, words, and sometimes even in deeds. It’s a reluctance to show up or to stand firm if I do show up, a doubt or unease when it comes to risk, a dreadful discomfort with allowing what is to be what is. Not in all things, in all ways, and at all times. There’s just enough of the complaining and negativity, however, that I hear some of the bitterness of the bitter women I grew up with and have met in my adult life.
It is the voice, sometimes, of my maternal grandmother who was the bitterest of bitter women. I don’t know why she was as she was. I often wish I’d had the opportunity to learn her story, to find out and maybe understand the why of her sharp, cutting edges and vitriol. I did ask about her childhood and her early adulthood, but her response was always “oh, you don’t want to hear about that.” I did want to hear. She didn’t want to tell. I respected that.
She’s long gone and I can no longer ask. Still, I wonder. I wonder more than ever when I hear her voice coming out of my mouth or entering my thoughts or see something of her in my own reflection in a mirror or window caught out of the corner of my eye. She lived during the 1918 flu pandemic. She lived during the Great Depression. I know life was hard for her. There is reason for her bitterness and yet… there are other people who have also lived through hard and/or terrible times, people who come out of it with insight, compassion, and not-bitterness.
I am aware enough to know that my current attitude of complaining, of being miserly, creeps in when I’m exhausted, overstretched, hungry, angry, lonely, depressed. The pandemic has brought out a lot of these emotions/feelings. Many of us are cycling through all the feelings at least once a day. Sometimes several times a day. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? One interesting aspect is that I’ve found it can be an and/both situation. I can feel joy about being with my grandsons and at the same time feel grief or sorrow for what is going on in the world. (Amber Karnes, who was one of the Yoga Darsana guest speakers and who is the founder of Body Positive Yoga, recently posted about the AND/BOTH situation on Instagram. Look her up, if you’re on IG. I think you’ll enjoy the post. She might have posted it on Facebook, too.)
I have noticed, too, an element of shiny object syndrome creeping into my life. I’ve always been a bit like a crow or raven, distracted by shiny objects. It’s the reason I
sometimes often don’t finish what I’ve started. The Yoga Darsana class is the latest example of how I look to the next thing before I finish what I’m working on. Spiritual ecology courses, meditation talks, a yoga nidra teacher training… all have called. I have answered some of them. But before I take any more deep or shallow dives into anything, I really should finish the Yoga Anatomy portion of the yoga teacher training I already started (and paid handsomely for, I might add).
This brings to mind the concepts of emptiness and fullness. My cup runneth over lately, and in the running over, I am retaining very little. There is a Zen story you might be familiar with, a story about a full tea cup and a teacher admonishing a student, telling him he can’t be taught because his cup is already full and overflowing. This past year has brought with it a lot of learning, unlearning, and relearning. There has been an almost constant steam of information and experiential lessons. What there has not been is time to process, time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I’m turning towards winnowing, releasing, emptying my cup. It is, after all, the beginning of harvest season. Not everything that comes to fruition needs to be saved or preserved. Some should be given over to the fires of digestion or to the earthiness of the compost pile, in order to incorporate what is needed and release/recycle what is not.
I don’t know that I will have the time to do much of that while we’re here in the Bogs. I see it as something that might have to wait until we return home, but there are practices I can do (or continue) now to ready myself for the harvesting and processing. In a way, this circles back around to deep listening, rituals, and how to bring the inner and outer aspects of what I practice together in a meaningful way.
I reckon that’s enough meandering for today. Thank you so much for dropping by and joining me on another walk through the gardens. Sunset is scheduled for 8:30 PM today. Let’s meet across the road by the cornfield and see what develops. It’s quite warm (90’s for a high) and the air is kind of hazy. Sometimes those hazy days produce colorful sunsets.
Please be safe, be well, and be kind.
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,501) Walks around the pond and into the woods with the boys. 1,502) Cucumber and lemon water. Very refreshing on a hot day. 1,503) A first day of homeschooling for the Little Wookie with me acting as a teacher. I’ll be doing this in the mornings for the next two weeks. It will be fun, but I should also note that there is a good reason I am not a preschool teacher. I have a great deal of admiration for all teachers. It’s not easy to hold a child’s interest on things they need to learn. 1,504) Surviving my first day as the substitute teacher. lol! 1,505) Coffee. I might need to think about cutting back. For now, it’s fueling me to run around with the little ones in the mornings.