Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Vulnerable Are You?

Suzanne McDermott

We are all vulnerable

Wind and rain, fire and flood, sticks and stones, words.

I'm currently reading Sakyong Mipham's "Rulling Your World" because I would like to(rule my world rather than react to it.)
In his introduction, The Sakyong writes about his father, Chogyam Trungpa's escape from Tibet.
"My father...—who was born a monk and died a Sakyong—led three hundred people out of Tibet in 1959, with the Chinese Communists on their heels. They climbed mountain after mountain, often through deep snow and bitter cold. They ran out of food, so they boiled and ate their yak-skin bags. Some people in the group died; some were captured by the Chinese. They lost many of their possessions, including a thousand-page manuscript on the Shambhala teachings that Rinpoche had written, which was swallowed by a river. According to my mother, in spite of the suffering, they were always cheerful."
What with everything going on in the world right now and especially in light of the aftermath of Sandy, how many people are experiencing cheerfulness? I don't know. Cheerfulness doesn't sell newspapers or soap.
With each new challenge in my recent personal series of...amazing experiences...I have asked myself why I might react with fear or despair or upset rather than choose to accept each challenge as a problem requiring a creative solution that requires considerable and sometimes immediate re-prioritization of my time, attention and energy.
To be fair to myself (and if we can't be fair to ourselves, how can we be fair to others?), I have reacted with creative (sometimes radical) solutions but my learning curve suddenly shot straight up, and solving confusing and sometimes scary situations without the luxury of waiting till tomorrow or turning the solution over to anyone else has been exhausting. Because of re-prioritizing, putting off till a later date what I thought was most important to handle now has been unnerving.
We are trained to look at some experiences as bad and others as good. We are trained to protect our underbellies, mask our shortcomings hide our problems.
However, anyone who has lived and paid attention knows that what seems bad now might be the best thing that ever happened. Anyone who has ever been moved by a great novel, song, performance or other expression of creativity has recognized themselves in some shared and universal revelation of vulnerability.
The thing of it is, when we expose our vulnerability, we also open our hearts.

In a forest in the north of England

“My crown is in my heart, not on my head;
Not decked with diamonds and Indian stones,
Nor to be seen: my crown is called content:
A crown it is that seldom kings enjoy.”


Accept yourself

What do you really need to be content?

Let down your guard. Allow your basic goodness to shine through. What's the worst that could happen?
At a recent low point, I shared, oh, my deepest insecurities with a dear, dear friend who responded in part by saying that she thought I was very brave. It's not the first time someone has told me that and, frankly, my response (in thought if not in word) has been well, there's a fine line between bravery and foolhardiness. But that's not being kind to myself and certainly not very helpful.
What I strive for is courage.
The meaning of the word bravery is rooted in defiance, daring, boldness, related to bravura. A little wild but that's okay. I am, too.
Courage, on the other hand, is rooted in the French word for heart and though often used now interchangeably with bravery means more of an inner strength which, to be true to the root of the word might be inner strength with an open heart.
Perhaps the most courageous act is to accept yourself for who you are, to recognize your underlying basic goodness and to feel love and compassion for yourself.

Learn to practice courage

I've said it before and I will continue to do so. It takes courage to practice drawing! This is one of the main reasons I teach drawing and watercolor. It's not the only reason but it's a biggie. Every time you put pen or brush to paper, you have to summon courage, open your heart and allow yourself to be yourself.
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