Vulnerability Practice

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow. ~ Mary Anne Rademacher

This quote speaks more clearly to me than any other of the mistake we sometimes make when we glorify achievement, striving and courage. And vulnerability.

In our “just do it” culture, we often push aside our needs, our low energy levels, our unhealed, raw vulnerability and force ourselves onward “no matter what.”

Why could “just do it” be a mistake?

You may not have developed the resilience for that yet. It could derail you, sending you retreating further away from the wholehearted and connected living your were aiming for. Daring greatly requires a level of inner strength, a feeling that you can weather the storm if it doesn’t go your way. Your inner wisdom might be trying to signal that this is where you are at.

That might by why you feel the hesitation in the first place. It is a sense of “not ready yet.” It is a sign to take a breath and consider what you need and what you have in your backpack to resource you for the life you want. You may move forward or you may regroup before leaping out there.

This realization is usually a great relief to clients who are trying hard to be the best version of themselves and interpret that message as “I know you don’t feel great, but feel the fear and do it anyway!” And yet they feel that they have already reached their limit and just want to be let off the hook and rest for a moment.

Instead, slow down. Pause. Try this mini-mindful self-compassion practice and then decide what is right for you at this time.

  • Take a moment to tune in to any feeling of vulnerability you feel. Make space for that feeling and envelop it with kindness and support. Breathe in the sense that it’s OK for that vulnerability to be there and you are not going to push it away. Remind yourself that other people feel this too. You are not alone in feeling this way.
  • Now see if you can tune in to the presence of a need to rest, renew and heal. Gently ask yourself “what do I need right now?” and sit a little longer until you get a sense of what the answer is. Make space for this need and see if you can give yourself permission to meet this need in a way that is right for you and causes no harm to others.
  • Now explore any sense of “groundedness” — any feeling of solid ground and strength that might also be present. It is possible to sense the presence of vulnerability, needs and strength all at once. Breathe through a gentle scan of your body from your feet up as you locate that strength. Is it your feet firmly planted on the ground? Is it your back, straight and true? Is it your thighs, solid and supporting your upper body? Where can you connect to a feeling of strength right now?
  • Tune in to all three and decide if now is a time to rest and renew or if you feel ready to take the next step forward. You are practicing refining your awareness of different resources, vulnerabilities and needs within you so that you can more easily know what you need and what you have that stabilizes you and your connection to all that is within you and around you.

Some mental habits such as self-criticism, worry, undeveloped emotional regulation, rumination and self-consciousness can leave us feeling overwhelmed and burned out, exhausted by our own habitually busy mind. These are all habits that result from how our brain is designed, so it’s not really our fault we feel like this. But we can get back into the driver’s seat and develop healthier options.

And the good news is that we know for a fact, based on the latest neuroscience that well-being is a skill. The brain changes and you can heal these vulnerabilities and rewire it for greater happiness. We can all fall back in love with our lives again.

Of course, resilience is developed not only by aligning ourselves with the healing and life-affirming self-compassion practices like this one, but by taking risks, being vulnerable, and healing the hurts and disappointments along the way as well as experiencing the joys of successes.

Not all growth opportunities need involve high levels of risk — finding meaning in one’s life, expressing gratitude and extending kindness to self and others to name a few. All these qualities, like mindfulness and self-compassion, remain latent unless we make an effort to develop them. Like any skill, developing well-being takes practice.

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