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 under-current 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 to ask for 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, illusory privilege and perhaps the prime beautifully constructed conceit of being human, and most especially of being a youthful human. But it is a privilege that must be surrendered with the 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 choose 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.
Copyright 2015 David Whyte. ‘Vulnerability’ from Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
I’ve been thinking about vulnerability some lately. And if there is a difference between being vulnerable and being naked.
I named this site The Naked Mystic because I wanted to hold nothing back. I wanted to be emotionally, spiritually (and sometimes physically- ha!) naked with myself and whoever chooses to stop by and read.
I have been wondering lately if that is the same as being vulnerable.
I tend to think in black-and-white, so these kinds of thoughts occur to me:
‘Naked’ is showing you my boobs; ‘vulnerable’ is sharing how sacred, pleasant, and difficult they are to me (or how much I worry about breast cancer).
‘Naked’ is talking about dance; ‘vulnerable’ is telling you how dance is like church for me.
‘Naked’ is telling you which sensual practices I prefer; ‘vulnerable’ is telling you how sensuality has changed my heart.
‘Naked’ is answering any question you ask; ‘vulnerable’ is telling the whole truth while I do it.
But then I think of past relationships where there was no difference between naked and vulnerable (physically or otherwise). Or the friendships I have today where I am both, simultaneously- and there really isn’t a difference between the two.
Is ‘naked’ easier than ‘vulnerable?’
Is ‘naked’ superficial?
I know it takes practice to be vulnerable, but can anyone just ‘go naked?’
I don’t know.
One thing I have figured out lately is how much I miss vulnerability when a relationship is over. A handful of people have left my life (or I theirs) abruptly, and what I pine for – even years later – is the vulnerability. The places where once I show you the holes in my soul, you show me yours. And we are gentle to each other around them. We offer bandaids or patience or terrible songs to sing in the dark; we support each other. Past the attraction, past the shared perspectives, that is what I miss from connections long gone.
David Whyte’s quote has been a bit of companion and guide to me as I’ve begun to think about these things. I would like to inhabit my vulnerability more. I think that may mean something slightly different here. Not sure what, though.
I will keep thinking on it, feeling into it. Because this is living life fully and well.
Please feel free to share your thoughts with me- add your comments, perspectives, and experiences below.