As we sat down to breakfast, Dharma asked me a question, "Tadpole, do you ever cry over anything or feel the need to ask for another's help? Do you easily share your feelings?" I was kind of surprised by his question. "No, Sir, " I responded, then clarified my response. " I rarely ask for help, Dharma, I prefer to do things on my own. Feelings? What feelings? And as for crying, I leave that to my little brother Quigley." Dharma shook his head. "Son, the frog who is vulnerable is perhaps the most beautiful." I have to admit, his statement sort of irritated me. I've always worked hard at being independent and took great pride in being able to take care of myself." "So you're telling me that being vulnerable is a good thing? I've always seen it as being weak. And that's especially true for us men...human or frog!" Dharma gave me a slight smile. "Being vulnerable means showing up and being seen as we are; the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. And that can be a terrifying thing when we care what others think of us. Like you, many frogs, and humans too, I suspect, associate vulnerability with weakness, fear, hurt, and betrayal. But let me very clear, vulnerability is not a weakness, Irwin, it can be a frog's greatest strength. Being vulnerable means showing up and having the courage to participate in life even when we know we'll have little control over the outcome."
I found this idea disturbing. I've spend my whole life trying to be seen as strong. Allowing others to rely on me but not the other way around. I'm not sure I buy into Dharma's belief 100% but I know that my wise teacher has never lead me astray before. "Okay, Dharma, if I wanted to become more vulnerable, how would I go about doing that?" "I'm glad you asked that, my boy. I know it took a little bit of courage on your part. Your association with vulnerability requires a shift in awareness in order to strengthen your emotional well-being." Although I was feeling really uncomfortable with all this vulnerability talk, I sat by quietly while Dharma elaborated on the best way to begin letting my guard down.
First, accept that you are worthy. Worthy of what, I wondered, but Dharma soon answered that without my having to ask. "In order to become okay with vulnerability, the first thing you need to do is accept the fact that you're worthy to get a positive response back. If you're opening up to someone else, believe that you're enough to warrant love and respect back. Give yourself the gift of imperfection."
Next on his list was, "Fight your knee-jerk reaction to flee in the face of vulnerability. Learn what things that make you feel like running away then pull in the reins on your gut reactions and tell yourself you can be strong."
Third; "When you catch yourself resisting, stop yourself. When you feel yourself approaching a vulnerable moment, don't clench. Don't put up the wall and the pretenses that'll keep you hidden, but rather give yourself permission to experience the feelings that you'll have as a consequence of your vulnerability, good or bad."
His fourth point was this: "Trust that you can deal with the outcome, no matter what it is. It's a horrible feeling when you share a part of yourself and you get rejected or, worse yet, are met with indifference. But the thing is, that's all that the consequence is: A varying level of hurt. While that's not ideal, you know that you have the emotional strength to pull yourself back up by your socks and deal with it. You might have to lick a couple of wounds, but you're strong. You have enough in you to handle the worst."
Fifth up: (And I should interject here I was feeling very uncomfortable with all this. But I vowed I'd let myself keep listening.) "Share your hurt with others. If you open up about your feelings, failures, and thoughts to someone you trust, you not only get help on the soothing forefront, but you get another shot at practicing vulnerability." Okay, so this vulnerability stuff is NOT going to be easy!
Sixth: "By not being vulnerable, you're giving away the power to hurt you. When you open up yourself to be vulnerable, you make the conscious decision that what you're showing and offering other people is worthy. You believe that when you extend yourself, they'll accept and that you're worth that acceptance. So in reality, allowing yourself to become vulnerable makes you safe from harm because you already know on the inside that you're good enough. If things don't work out that's not a reflection on you but the circumstance or situation."
And finally, seventh: "Realize that you are already hurting yourself with inaction and that you can only go up from here. It might seem like you're protecting yourself by not letting yourself become vulnerable, but really you're only ensuring that you'll stay disappointed. And who wants that? But if you open yourself up and go through that vulnerable moment, you have a 50/50 chance towards happiness. And that's already infinitely better."
This was a hard and uncomfortable lesson for me. And I have to admit I was glad when it was over. But I do see value in learning to become more vulnerable. And I know that it'll take tadpole "hops" for me to being implementing Dharmas suggestions. Accepting and embracing our own vulnerability makes life whole. Even the smallest act of letting down your guard is a commitment to your personal growth. Allowing ourselves to be "human" even when we're frogs, really does make us beautiful. For beauty is in the eyes of the holder and that begins with seeing ourselves in a new way.
Please join me back here tomorrow for a fun (and shorter) blog to help you celebrate Weed Appreciation Day.