Vulnerability is Courageous
By Shelley Klammer | Posted 11/10/10 | Updated 11/16/23
"All you need is already within you, only you must approach yourself with reverence and love. Self-condemnation and self-distrust are grievous errors… all I plead with you is this: make the love of your self perfect." Sri Nisargatta
I am irrationally in love with the woods behind our new house. It is a steep walk up the mountain a strength-building walk with the sound of running water and the dappled light of sun through the thick trees. My two dogs and I walk up the mountain path each morning before I go to work almost like a ritual or a prayer.
What comes to mind as I walk is the word "Dignity" in the form of a prayer. I feel reverence. The forest is my church as I behold the tall evergreens and the giant ferns. The trees feel rooted and intensely dignified to me. They seem utterly proud of their existence.
I feel dignified and even majestic these days myself. I feel strangely free from any sort of self-judgment. I have cleared a major life pattern in myself. I am gentle. And it is not as if life is smooth sailing these days. We had a difficult move fraught with illness in the family and many unforeseen delays. Mistakes have been made, human frailty has been revealed. It is easy to beat ourselves up for our missteps. We are vulnerable, trembling beings at times.
Yet I feel clear and open and much more willing to flow with what life brings instead of having a need to do and create so much. So often we try to make life different so that it does not bring up "our stuff". Yet life emerges whole and complete in each moment even if it seems "wrong". Life brings us what we need to learn and there is an innate, embedded creativity that is unfolding for our fullest growth if we let it ourselves see it. Life is art. Life is meaningful.
Having just turned 44, I unpack my boxes and look at photographs of myself as a young woman. I am old enough now to look back at my younger photos and acknowledge that I was physically beautiful to look at but very "unformed" inside. Oh the soft innocence of youth unseasoned by life's experiences! I see this same unmarked beauty in my 15 year old daughter's face.
I look at my face in old photographs and how "malleable" I was in my early twenties. I was not yet strong in my person, in my opinions, values or principles. I was playing the roles I was told to play. I was full of "uncooked seeds as Ram Dass phrases it, "The seeds of aversions and attachments that lie dormant until the right circumstances provide the catalytic conditions for them to bloom and flower." Life has a way of bringing out the best and the worst in us.
In old photographs I see in my wide and innocent gaze life has not challenged me much yet even though there was much unmet psychological material broiling within just waiting to erupt out of the challenges of life. I followed the status quo as perfectly as I could when I was young in order to stay safe and protected from all that felt uncomfortable within. It was only when I began to forge my own life and to define myself in my 30's that my uncooked seeds began to flower. My individuality has brought me the the gifts of having to say no and yes appropriately.
There is nothing like a move to examine the bits and pieces of your life and integrate them into a new way of living. It has been with much tenderness that I have looked back on chapters my life as I take them out of boxes and find places for them my photographs my keepsakes my drawings my journals all of the books I have written in my own hand fill me with a sudden gratitude for my messy, non-linear human life and what I have made of it.
As I reread my journals with a tender and accepting eyes what I understand about being human is that first and foremost we need to look with courageous curiosity at what we are unwilling to experience within ourselves. The minute we avoid feeling our own vulnerability we are already in that instant judging something outside of ourselves. This can keep us in a perpetual mode of victimization victimized by our own fear and unwillingness to meet the difficult "uncooked seeds" within. We must learn to be courageously honest.
It is painful to feel vulnerable and to admit it but paradoxically it is the only way to feel deeply connected, alive and fully majestic as a human being. Vulnerability is a strong and dignified embracing of our full humanness. To be vulnerable we must tell the truth about ourselves and be courageous to see every imperfect corner of ourselves inside without self-diminishment or criticism. To paraphrase Nisargatta I encourage you to love yourself deeply and perfectly. Every part every piece.
I leave you with some words about the pitfalls of self-protection that I have been living into for a few years now from the eloquent book The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer:
"Ultimately if you protect yourself perfectly, you will never grow. Life becomes stagnant when people protect their stored issues. There are all sorts of rules about things that are not supposed to happen because they could cause a disturbance inside. Living like this allows very little spontaneous joy, enthusiasm and excitement for life.
"Most people just go from day to day protecting themselves and making sure that nothing goes too wrong. They see life as a threat. A good day means you made it through without getting hurt. The longer you live like this the more closed you become.
"If you really want to grow, you have to do the opposite. Real spiritual growth happens when there is only one of you inside. There is not a part that is scared and a part that's protecting the part that's scared. All parts are unified. Because there is no part of you that you are unwilling to see, the mind is no longer divided into conscious and subconscious. There is simply you watching the dance of the psyche.
"In order to reach this state you must let the entire contents surface. Each little separated piece of it must be permitted to pass through. Right now, many fragmented parts of your psyche are held within you. If you want to be free, it all has to be equally exposed to your awareness and released. But it will never get exposed if you are closing yourself.
"After all the purpose of closing was to make sure that the sensitive parts of your psyche do not get exposed. So no matter how much pain the the exposure creates you are willing to pay that price for freedom. When you are no longer willing to identify with the part of yourself that is separating itself into a million pieces, you are ready for real growth."
Copyright ©2010 Shelley Klammer. All rights reserved.
Shelley Klammer is a Registered Professional Counselor and an Expressive Art Facilitator. …