Finding the Vulnerable Heart, Part Two

Now, imagine a circle of protective energy around yourself. One way to do this is to imagine a thick ribbon of light coming from your heart, and wrapping itself around your body like a cocoon. Think of the light-ribbon as an energetic shield, that lets in the energies that belong in your field, and keeps out the energies that don't.

Now, with your awareness in the heart, begin to practice a basic indrawn meditation technique. This could be mantra repetition, focusing on the space between one breath and another, or focusing on the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. Think of this practice as your exercise in meeting your invulnerable core. It will give you the strength you need to open to your own vulnerability, without being overwhelmed by it.

It's important when you want to explore your deep vulnerability, to do it from a ground of practice like the one described here.

Once you've created such a zone of protection, you might begin your exploration of vulnerability like this:

Practice 2: Diving into the Vulnerable Self
Begin by bringing to mind a part of your life where you feel vulnerable. Perhaps it's at work. Maybe you feel vulnerable in relationship. Perhaps you're confused about your direction. Maybe your physical health is being challenged.

Use thoughts of a specific situation to bring yourself in touch with your vulnerability, and then drop the thoughts.

Begin to notice how vulnerability feels to you. It may have a tinge of sadness. It might contain fear. As you explore these feelings, see where you experience them in your body. The feeling of vulnerability may manifest as a wincing sensation in the eyes, as a rush of tears, as hollowness in the gut or heart. Find the feeling, and stay present with it for as long as you can.

Then, ask the feeling what it has to tell you. What is the message of your vulnerability? What lessons is it showing you?

Finally, ask this feeling of vulnerability what gift it has for you.

(It's important to recognize that the 'gift' might not show itself immediately. You might find that an insight arises immediately, or the insight might arise over the next hours or days. It might also come as an event in your outer life.)

When you are done, return to the breath, allowing the breath to flow in and out through the place where you have felt your vulnerability. Re-create your protective shields. Thank yourself for being willing to enter into the vulnerable self.

True Invulnerability
There is, after all, a paradox that we find as our spiritual practice begins to open us in new ways. At first, opening feels scary, because it recalls your original vulnerability, the unprotected feeling you may remember from early childhood. This can be even more unsettling when your body is filled with toxins, or your health is dicey. (Which is why diet and exercise are such an important aspect of any spiritual yoga!)

Yet, as you develop the skills learned through genuine practice, you begin to recognize that when you go into your vulnerability and connect with the divine, this helps you see that there is a space of invulnerability.

The true gift of meeting your vulnerability is always an opening into your divine core. At that same retreat where I met Roberta, the young woman with the boundary problem, I was approached by K, a successful designer and yoga therapist who had recently ended a long-term relationship. K told me that she's actually relieved that the relationship is over though the breakup triggered a swamp of sadness. She said that it was sometimes so acute that she would sit for hours, unable to do anything but feel it. Then, at one point, because she had no choice, she gave herself permission to meet her vulnerable self.

At that point, the quality of the sadness morphed. She stopped feeling the sadness as her own. Instead, she's begun graphically feeling the suffering of others. She'll be cutting up a chicken and feel a rush of fear moving through her body, and recognize that the fear she feels is actually the chicken's terror at being killed. She'll see a mother scolding her child, and feel overwhelmed with grief. Stories on the news sometimes feel as if they're happening in her living room.

She was worried that this could be the result of some glitch in her practice. Yoga is supposed to induce happy feelings. If she's feeling such grief, could it mean that she's doing something wrong?

As I listened to her story, two things occurred to me.

First, that what she is experiencing is not something out of order, but a classical spiritual awakening, the kind that is often triggered by just such a crisis of vulnerability. Her acute experience of personal vulnerability had triggered the awakening of actual felt compassion. And this level of compassion is actually one of the flavors of enlightenment.

8/15/2011 4:00:00 AM
  • Hindu
  • Meditation for Life
  • Vulnerability
  • Meditation
  • Suffering
  • Shiva
  • Hinduism
  • Sally Kempton
    About Sally Kempton
    An internationally known teacher of meditation and spiritual wisdom, Kempton is the author of Meditation for the Love of It and writes a monthly column for Yoga Journal. Follow her on Facebook and visit her website at
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