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by Sally Kempton

Originally posted on Patheos.

Roberta approaches me during a break in an urban workshop. Retreats and workshops, she explains, leave her feeling so wide-open that she'll often find herself picking up other people's energy and moods. She'd left the workshop the night before, gone out on the street, and felt overwhelmed by the Saturday night energy of the city. Not just the cars honking and the music, but the people who passed her by, and even her own boyfriend.

I look at her””tall and blonde and thin””and asked her if in general she feels vulnerable. She burst into tears. "I want to be open," she said. "But I feel so raw!" Raw, in this case, is another word for vulnerable. And Roberta's struggle is a real one.

If you've done much yoga, meditation, or even deep psychological work, you may have felt something similar. When I was first spending time around my teacher, the energy generated in meditation would sometimes leave me feeling weepy and irritable, hypersensitive, even overwhelmed. No one had ever told me that the first (and many subsequent) stages of opening the heart could feel like exposing a wound, or like taking the lid off of a Pandora's box of old, unprocessed griefs and fears.

Nor did I realize, until years later, that fielding these feelings of vulnerability is not optional, nor even personal to me, but an actual part of the yogic process. Yoga, after all, is not an escape from life, but a way of taking yourself into life's pulsing heart. As you do that, you will inevitably meet your own vulnerability. Just as vulnerability and rawness are synonymous, so are vulnerability and openness. In other words, to find your way to true openness of heart, you need to pass through the forest of vulnerability.

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5 Responses to “Finding the Vulnerable Heart, Part One”

  1. Lynda Silva

    Bless you for presenting these wisdoms to us. This is so helpful and nourishing for my soul.

  2. Carolyn W

    Beautiful article on vulnerability! I could look back at my life and see those times I have been vulnerable and the strength and openness and trust that I gained from those experiences.

  3. Regina Nemni

    These are my two very favorite subjects: vulnerability and humility. So strictly related. It’s what I look for 24/7 and what I forget about 24/7. Looking forward to part 2 (and not because I’ve mastered part 1 :))

  4. Lauren

    I really appreciate this. It is a challenge to learn how to allow openness and boundaries to be an in the moment experience. For several years now I have experienced being in an environment where others have acted out towards me whether based on positive or negative stories in their minds, some bowing at my feet as I danced and others attempting to provoke me. Over time this taught me how to have boundaries that work without engaging the stories or reacting to them but simply continuing with my presence and practice. I am grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to learn this. Last night I was dancing and spinning like a dervish to beautiful music lost in the meditation when out of the corner of my eye a young man laid down near me then started rolling toward me. I stopped long enough to lay down a long, light, scarf between us. I said ‘that is not a good idea’ and then resumed my dancing meditation. It was a good example of being open with boundaries I think:)

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  1.  Finding the Vulnerable Heart, Part Two by Sally Kempton : World Spirituality based on Integral Principles

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