swimming with vulnerability


Image courtesy of Abigail Lenz

It sneaks up on me unannounced.  I imagine it to be a swirl of blue color, shades of the ocean, weaving, flowing like a silk scarf moving noiselessly through day and time in and out of rooms as it follows me around the house.  Eventually it catches me and settles in at quite unexpected times.  I imagine it brings a thermos of hot coffee and a snack as if to say, “Hey, I’ll be here for awhile.”  Doggedly I recognize it and turn my attention to other things only to find it waving to me from across the room.  I turn my attention to feeding my dogs and making dinner.  It is still there.  I turn my attention to taking out the trash and recycling.  It is still constantly, slowly moving around me.  The thick consistency of its movement tells me it is not going anywhere. I know this.  

The It, is vulnerability.  Vulnerability looks like the sign in the picture above.  A sign on which all manners of various locations and directions are posted indicating different routes (or journeys) we can take in life.  Note the top arrow in the picture says, “Go Fish.” Yep.  Such is vulnerability.


Image taken at Shadowood Farm 

I’ve noticed this feeling tends to swoop into my life when one of the following two things happen:

1) When I am grasping for something to be as it was. So, maybe that “something” was a particularly fun weekend spent with my husband or seeing all three of my dogs swim and play at the beach with an incredible amount of free spirit.  Not that these things cannot happen again, they will.  But, vulnerability, for me, tends to blossom out of my desire to stop time.  To grasp, reach, and keep a particular situation as it is all the while knowing this is not the way things work, nor should they.  

2) The second way in which vulnerability leans the most heavily on me is when I am feeling purposeless.  For me, lack of purpose feels like what I am doing does not matter or does not make a difference in the big picture of life.  

When I find myself in one of these two situations, I try to swim in its essence.  Swim in the essence of vulnerability.  It is the equivalent of Rumi coaching us to welcome all of our emotions to the table.  However, I envision myself literally swimming surrounded by the essence of vulnerability.  Surrounded by what vulnerability means to me at its very core.  In other words, I cannot let myself sugar coat how deeply this emotion can cut.  That is only skimming the surface.  

While sitting in meditation, I can let this blue emotion settle around me, engulf me. (By engulfed, I mean I am fully present – or try to be- and aware of this feeling.) Then, and only then, am I able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get on with life.  If I try to cut corners and, say, welcome it with a wave and a hello, it visits me again relatively quickly.  If I try to turn my attention to other things (I have a lot of experience with this!), as I mentioned, it noiselessly, gently follows me.  It goes without saying, I need a lot of practice, most likely a lifetime of practice with this emotion.  

Meditation can get us through and help us with many things in life.  Vulnerability tends to be one of my more difficult feelings to deal with.  My energy and thoughts are inclined to gather around and stick to this feeling more easily than others.  If you have a particularly difficult emotion, maybe give sitting with it in meditation a try, or pick a less powerful feeling to begin with if you are new to the practice.  Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche teaches meditators to be fully present and aware of these emotions while not identifying with them.  Rather, as these significant feelings come up, we will watch them pass through our field of awareness, as Rinpoche teaches, just like clouds pass through the sky.