The next entry in the Everyday Awareness series is about staying vulnerable in emotionally risky situations.
While still maintaining healthy boundaries.
It’s about opening your heart when you’re afraid.
And understanding why we close down in the first place.
…which might already have you wondering:
Why the hell would I want to be vulnerable in a risky situation?
Or open my heart when I’m afraid??
And those are perfectly valid questions…
Because the answer is: you totally don’t have to do either one!
As long as you can get on board with the idea of a mediocre life…
Where you don’t grow much…
Or risk much…
Or love much…
Or express who you are…
Or connect deeply with another human being…
Then you can safely chuck all that vulnerability stuff aside!
Fuck that! is a proven solution to the problem.
But… if you actually do want those things…
If you want a life that matters.
And love that matters.
And dreams that you achieve.
Then vulnerability is something you need to get comfortable with.
So how do you make yourself vulnerable?
Without just getting crushed?
Well, some of it is just being brave and doing it…
Exposing yourself as courageously as you can, and then living with what happens.
But it also helps to dig a little deeper into why we don’t want to be vulnerable in the first place…
We can say that we just don’t want to be hurt.
That it’s safer to stay guarded.
And hope our hearts don’t break.
But I don’t think it’s that simple…
Vulnerability and Need
Think about the times in your life when you’ve been the happiest and most fulfilled…
When life felt lush with meaning.
And you were living your true purpose.
How did you feel about revealing yourself in those moments?
Were you timid and withheld?
Or were you confident and decisive? And unafraid to expose your heart?
The more you are living your WHY, the easier it is to stay vulnerable and strong.
Because your consciousness moves effortlessly into that state…
Heart open… Present in your body… Clear in your self… Connected and purposeful…
It’s a natural byproduct of your life in alignment.
But when we aren’t in alignment with our core, our interactions tend to become more shallow and desperate.
We lose touch with our deeper needs.
And begin starving on the inside.
And if we don’t know how to feed that part of ourselves…
Or if we’re too afraid to try…
Then the tendency is to over-focus on meeting other needs instead.
Overeating. Over working. Over fucking. Shallow socializing.
Leaning too hard on our relationships.
We don’t consciously think about it…
But once we lose our WHY, the instinct is to disconnect on the inside.
And we immerse ourselves in our lower level needs, to stay distracted from the deeper needs that aren’t being met…
As if more of the things we have, can make up for the other things we don’t.
The problem is, once the deep needs are off the table, we start to wall off our hearts.
Because we have to.
We withdraw our awareness, and hang from our anxieties, and grind away in thought.
Or just flat out run away.
And vulnerability goes out the window.
Suddenly it isn’t safe to be exposed…
Things aren’t as clear as they could be…
It’s not so easy to be strong…
And the more distracted we become, the worse the situation gets.
A fearful downward spiral.
Now, if you can identify your patterns…
Discover how you distract yourself.
And uncover the missing WHY that you’re distracting yourself from…
Then it’s a little easier to set things straight.
Because sometimes it’s just a matter of getting back on track with the things that really matter.
Making better choices.
Living the life you should have been living anyway.
Knocking off the bullshit, and taking the next step forward.
But sometimes that’s not so easy…
Sometimes the life we’re meant for just isn’t within reach from where we’re standing.
And the fear that takes root in a closed heart is no easy thing to overcome.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be vulnerable and strong.
To connect more deeply… Openly love the ones you love… Maintain your boundaries…
And move to meet the deep needs that are gnawing in your core.
Because even though vulnerability and strength come naturally when you are living your life’s purpose…
It’s still just a state of consciousness.
And so it’s always available to you.
Even in the times when life doesn’t make it easy.
Cultivating vulnerability is a little more involved than our last two exercises.
Or maybe it’s better to say that it takes a little prep…
Because if you’re feeling all walled off and anxious, it’s better to address that first.
Come to think of it, just go ahead and start by doing the exercise in the Dealing with Anxiety post…
Even if you’re not suffering from anxiety.
It’s still a good foundation for where we’re going with this one.
So do that and come back…
Once you’re feeling good with those initial steps…
Pay attention to how you feel in your heart.
Breathe slow and deep and expand your chest as far as you can when you inhale.
When we wall ourselves off, we naturally close around our hearts.
And sometimes we carry ourselves that way for a really long time without ever even realizing it.
You need to let that go.
Allow your heart to open.
Because vulnerability starts with an open heart.
It might feel strange, but that’s okay.
Just breathe, and watch the feelings when they arise.
They’re just feelings.
They move around inside you, just like the world moves around on the outside.
Cry if you have to.
Just let them move.
Now, if you’ve meditated before, some of this may be familiar.
Traditional meditations can be good for transcending.
For getting some distance on the emotional turmoil going on inside you.
Freedom from ego and all that…
And that makes it easier to be vulnerable and open.
But by itself, it’s not so good for maintaining strong, healthy boundaries.
Or acting decisively in risky situations.
In fact, the tendency is to become more passive and permissive.
And ultimately directionless, if you don’t balance the transcendence out with other motions.
And that’s not what we’re going for here…
So let’s add some direction…
Notice again the connections in the world around you.
The leaves moving together… The clouds traveling across the sky… The flow of traffic…
They’re all connections in the space around you…
Well, the same connections run through time.
They run within you.
Think back on the story of your life.
The moments that made you who you are.
The decisions that brought you to this point.
Moments of courage… Moments of fear…
Love and hurt…
It’s all connected too.
It made you who you are.
And there’s beauty in that.
Now, think of the life you want going forward.
The life you’re meant to live…
That life is just as connected as the past.
Your heart sits in the middle of all of it.
Your heart is what all of it has in common.
Like a single wind behind a thousand fluttering leaves…
Breathe and be with all of it.
Keep your vision of the future within you…
That is your purpose in life.
Let yourself lean into the road ahead.
No matter the obstacles.
No matter how rocky it might appear.
Heart open… Present in your body… Clear in your self… Connected and purposeful…
We all hide from the things we want the most.
What would you do next if you didn’t have to hide?
If you knew that you’d succeed?
What have you been avoiding?
Remember when I said that part of being vulnerable is just being brave and doing it?
Well, now’s the time…
Your heart’s been begging for it.
That’s why you walled it off…
So you wouldn’t have to hear…
Listen to it now.
Say what needs to be said.
Do what needs to be done.
Expose yourself if you have to.
Take a chance if you have to.
And take the next step forward.
Even if you don’t know the next step after that…
It will come to you along the way.
Be vulnerable and strong.
The more that you are, the more that you’ll take steps that reconnect you with your WHY.
It will naturally bring your life back into alignment.
And things will get easier…
Even when things don’t get easier.
Your open heart will point you in the right direction.
And your boundaries will keep you on the path.
It’s an ongoing upward spiral.
Yes, the risk of being hurt is there…
Yes, people will reject you…
Yes, you will get your heart broken…
And yes, the more open you are, the more painful it will be…
That’s the cost of doing business.
The price of a life worth living.
You cry… Pay your dues… Pick yourself up…
Open your heart…
And do it all again.
Vulnerable and strong.
Up next: a versatile little exercise to help you tame the runaway dialogue in your head…
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About Zach Herbert
I teach people to do cool things with their consciousness, and break their brains with beautiful ideas.
Professional heretic. Unlikely mystic. Host to rebels, misfits and independent thinkers.
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