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A Monday meander: Vulnerability

Light at the end of the season.

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

Resting and watching.

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.

Blackeyed-Susans in the front garden.

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.

Zooming in.

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.

A little twirl.

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.)

Queen of summer.

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).

Empty bowl.

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.

A little kinky.

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.

Insight.

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’m not sure what this is. The flowers are huge and bloom for only a few hours.

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.

Little flowers everywhere.

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.

More yellow. I just noticed that most of the images I picked for this post include orange and yellow.

Author:

Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

15 thoughts on “A Monday meander: Vulnerability

  1. Orange and yellow are root chakra colors – I’ve been drawn to them lately, too (esp. in my vases). Must be a reason for that…
    Loved the David Whyte quote – it speaks to me at this age. Acceptance isn’t always easy, but it is essential. As they say, ‘resistance is futile.”
    The white flower is a Datura – deadly nightshade – don’t let the kids near it.
    Have a good week, Robin!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Eliza. 🙂 I especially appreciate the ID on the flower and have definitely kept the kids away from it.
      Lots of talk lately about clearing our root chakra… maybe that’s the reason. 🙂

      Like

  2. Very honest and thought provoking post, Robin. Seems there’s a lot stirring within…and many of us have been feeling this pretty intensely for several weeks. Take good care of yourself, it’s what we must do as we navigate these shifting times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Carrie. 🙂 Yes, a lot of shifting and stirring going on lately. It’s very important we take good care of ourselves, especially in the next few weeks (probably months). Stay safe and well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am a huge fan of David Whyte. Are you familiar with the radio show On Being? He has been interviewed on that show. Very, very hard times right now, especially for those of us who live in the United States. Some writers have posited we are seeing the end of empire. If so, the ground is shifting beneath our feet. We would all do well to heed Whyte’s wise words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am a fan of his, too, Laurie. 🙂 I’ve not heard the interview with him (On Being) and will look for it. I’ve listened to On Being a few times and liked it very much.
      It might well be the end of empire. I don’t know. But do agree that the ground is shifting. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride for a while.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A very thoughtful post, Robin. Yes, there is a lot of balancing we have to do–good and bad, empty and full . . .That is sad about your maternal grandmother. To be that bitter all the time takes a lot of energy, don’t you think? And as you say, there must have been more to it than living through those events–which my grandparents also lived through and pogroms, but they were not bitter.
    But this situation today–yes, all the emotions, and it is exhausting. Sigh.

    Have fun teaching! Fun fact–my undergraduate degree is in early childhood/elementary education. I taught preschool for a bit. I was OK with the little ones, but not a great college lecturer. 😀I am not cut out to be a classroom teacher. My husband and younger daughter are excellent teachers, and I admire that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Merril. 🙂 Yes, I think being bitter all the time does take a good deal of energy. I don’t know how people manage to hold on to their bitterness, their angers, and their resentments. I would think it feels almost toxic, but maybe there are some who prefer that.

      I admire the good teachers, too. I don’t think it’s my calling, and can appreciate all the hard work they put in.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the story about your grandmother. It is making me think of legacy burdens…what we might take on from our ancestor’s stress and trauma. How there’s a possibility that we can learn to find the Holy in the ways our ancestors seemingly couldn’t. But this is so hard… Hugs to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “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…”

    Like this part of David Whyte’s quote. Your piece shows generous amounts of vulnerability. My fave photo is the one of the empty bowl. Have you read Sue Bender’s book Everyday Sacred? It’s a small, simple book and one of my faves.

    In the Preface, she writes:

    “This story is about a bowl. A bowl—waiting to be filled. If what I have just written makes no sense to you, I am not surprised. If I had known in the beginning what I was looking for, I would not have written this story. I had to trust there was a reason I had to write, and I didn’t have to have it all figured out in order to begin. I would find what I was looking for along the way.”

    We are searching and don’t yet know where we will land. I can relate to your dance with your grandmother’s bitterness. And feeling the full range of emotions every day. It’s a time of reckoning for all of us. You inspire me to keep digging at the roots.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, QM. 🙂 I keep thinking about what you wrote about digging at the roots. It’s such a necessary thing right now.

      I did read Sue Bender’s book. It was wonderful. I was thinking of that, too, when I took the photo of the empty bowl.

      Like

Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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