The Gift of Vulnerability
This past weekend, I sat with plant medicine – Grandmother Ayahuasca – again for the second time. It was a sometimes brutal experience, but I walked away once again humbled and in awe at her profound healing power.
My intention was to explore my resistance to VULNERABILITY.
This year has been a tremendous period of growth for me. After years of deep healing work, I thought I had reached a state of good enough. I had – knowingly – closed at least one door in my life and was content to leave it at that.
Until I wasn’t.
I’ve been getting messages for years about fostering sacred connection with other human beings. But with a strong hermit archetype in my energetic field, and a lifetime of feeling disappointed in the ability of others around me to go deep with me, I began to chalk this divine message of connection up to being impossible and, therefore, not worth the effort to develop.
So I knowingly and intentionally closed the door on this particular vein of healing, despite repeated messages not to. It was like having one closet that is messy and junky, in a house otherwise – mostly – organized and clean. The divine has a marvelous way of orchestrating our healing opportunities, however, and despite my stubborn refusal to open that door, circumstances unfolded that not only showed me it needed to be open, but also that deep down, I wanted it open.
The question became: was I willing to dredge up the courage it would take to sort through all the baggage and debris I had accumulated?
Fear of Vulnerability and An Acknowledgement of the Unknown
I receive a lot of guidance, messages, signs, and synchronicities. We all do. But in this regard, I was – perhaps – hyper-aware of the messages, in part because I thought I wanted this door to sacred connection to remain firmly closed and, in all honestly, I was looking hard for the signs in an effort to detour quickly away from where they told me I needed to head next. I realize now that they had cleverly crafted the crucible that was to hold this transformative healing, bit by bit, all around me. Then ignited the fire that would fuel this forge so that it was impossible for me to extinguish the flames. Believe me, I tried.
The first thread of transforming my resistance to vulnerability came through a sudden cessation of messages and signs. I often get information directly from dreams, and for months I dreamt very, very little. When I went into journey to get answers, I got very conflicting messages; I could see everything from two opposing viewpoints and couldn’t make heads or tails of which was accurate. I asked direct questions out in the real world with the same result. I consulted three healers whom I trust implicitly and who often are very accurate when it comes to validating or expanding guidance I’ve received through my own intuition and guides. They didn’t have much to offer, only – “They say you have to wait and see. Have fun with this!” And my response was, “No! Not only ‘no,’ but hell no. And fun? This isn’t fun. If I’m going to sit in what has become very quickly the most intense and uncomfortable transformative fire that I’ve ever experienced, then I would like some reassurances, thank you very much.” Still, I got – “No. Just wait. Let go of your expectations.”
When I couldn’t get the reassurances I wanted, my resistance flared up in full force, like a gale force wind trying to put out the fire of transformation they had dropped me neatly into the center of . Sleepless nights, sabotage after sabotage, wanting to hurl myself into full scale flight – anywhere that was outside of this crucible. I told myself I didn’t care if I spent the rest of my life utterly alone. The fire was simply too hot and too uncomfortable. Why endure it if I couldn’t even be assured of the outcome? If I couldn’t be assured of the destination, then I was resistant to embarking on the journey.
I decided it was time for another journey to speak directly with Grandmother Aya, who has been one of my guides throughout my journey and long before I ever sat with her medicine physically. This past weekend, she told me very clearly – the foundation of vulnerability must be built upon a willingness to not know. To sit in the space where there are no answers. True vulnerability only comes through embracing the unknown and allowing the tide to carry you where it will. Though we often do, we shouldn’t embark on a healing journey to reach a specific, visible point on the coast. Healing has the potential to take us to far away, uncharted lands; that’s the magic of it. Was I willing to embrace the expansive unknown or not?
Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed out inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.
“Safety” is an Illusion; You Have to Show Up – With Vulnerability
There is a beautiful flow to Grandmother Ayahuasca’s medicine. First was the message on night one that I needed to be willing to sit in the unknown. On the second night, she showed me that waiting to “feel safe” with someone before I show my true and deepest self is a zero-sum game. As long as something is held back, there will ALWAYS remain doubt about whether someone will accept me for my deepest, most authentic and messy self. You have to go all in with vulnerability and no assurances or expectations about outcome in order to build connection at the deepest, most intimate levels.
Of course, this wasn’t the answer I was particularly looking for. The universe has, over these last months, placed so many teachings in my way (ahem – I meant, path!) that explore how to meet another in sacred union. And all of them, whether they use the word “vulnerable” or not, require this deep unfolding and display of the soul’s core essence. One amazing book, Conscious Loving, by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, really challenged me. I simultaneously loved and wanted to burn the book all at the same time! Because in it, they talk about the need to tell the “microscopic truth.” This, to me, seemed a deeper uncovering, revealing, of the soul. Not just what comes up in a particular moment, but a willingness to take someone into the messy junk closet to which we like to keep the door closed (and maybe locked and barricaded too.) The microscopic truth entails revealing our deeply messy and sometimes highly irrational fears, anger, sadness, and insecurities. It means turning our protected interiors inside out, with no assurances how the other will receive it. Meaning, of course, that we risk the other seeing it and saying, “Yeah – no – that’s all a bit messier and damaged than I’m willing to go in for.”
Once you know, you can’t un-know. And true to the nature of the universe in orchestrating our healing opportunities, of course there arose very shortly a circumstance in which I felt it was necessary to reveal my microscopic truth while I stood in excruciating vulnerability. I tried for a day to tell myself it wasn’t really necessary. Once I admitted it was indeed necessary, I spent another day pacing and antsy. I wrote out what I needed to say, then rewrote and refined it another dozen times. When the time came, I felt nauseous and light-headed. I struggled to squeeze words out of my mouth. Truthfully, it was one of the most fearful experiences I’ve ever pushed through in my life. Thankfully, the friend I revealed this microscopic truth to sat in silence as I spoke, allowing me to fully express – probably not entirely coherently, as I quickly went off-script – what I saw as my truth, and then we had a very thoughtful conversation around it. What I noticed afterwards was that my breath deepened, the tightness in my body unwound, and I felt deeply at peace, no longer trying to hold in and protect this interior world from being seen from the outside.
With Grandmother Aya on night one, I described to a friend that I felt “turned inside out.” It was only in the writing of the above text that I realized how deeply symbolic this feeling matched how I felt in allowing my deepest interior to be exposed to the outside world.
Feeling “turned inside out” is a very exhausting and brutal experience, so on night two, I asked for a deepening of the healing work of night one, with added gentleness. Night two I found myself laughing out loud for no apparent reason, and SINGING. I love, love, love to sing, but I don’t do it in front of anyone, perhaps with the exception of singing softly under my breath around my kids. This night, however, I noticed I was humming along in the beginning, then that turned to soft singing under my breath. Then I would only sing along with certain people. By the end of the night I was singly freely with unencumbered joy! It was beautiful! Of the five ceremonies I’ve participated in, never have I felt so much joy and freedom.
This revealing continued during Sunday’s integration circle. I’m not much of a cryer, especially in front of other people. If I do start to cry, it’s often short-lived as I quickly tamp a lid down on it. As we were going around the circle, when I was about two people away from my turn to speak, I noticed my throat tightening and tears prickling my eyes. I thought, “Oh shit, no; I’m not going to cry during my turn to speak.” I started breathing deeply trying to get it under control. When it was my turn to speak, I led with, “I’m going to try not to cry,” after which I burst into tears. In front of a group of nearly twenty people, only one of whom I’d know longer than forty-eight hours! Talk about vulnerability!
It was explained to us that “who” we are is forged from our childhood and a myriad of lifetime experiences. The swords each of us carries into relationship are forged in the heat of pain and out of terrific smelting; we are set, alloyed, from such experiences. It takes at least equal heat to re-forge us, to change what we are, to burn off the “obstacles to flight,” as Magdalen calls them, to burn off the dross. I want that burn, though I admit I sometimes fear the heat…”
Judi Sion, The Magdalen Manuscript
Integrative Thoughts …
Today is approximately one week since my journey with Grandmother Ayahuasca this past weekend.
- It’s always interesting to watch the progression of transformation as I leave that deeply connected space and return to the real world. It can be a challenge to remain connected to the insight and wisdom gained during such a journey, especially in this hectic, mostly disconnected world we live within!
- I noticed when I returned that I felt very “soft.” What this means precisely is difficult to put into words. It feels like the release of a lot of physical tension that I was holding as I tried to direct and control the events happening around me to match my expectations of what I wanted to happen (while remaining safely ensconced within my shell!)
- I have felt many times this week as if I can settle comfortably in the “spaces between;” beautiful moments of stillness and silence.
- My vocabulary has shifted … fewer mental, left-brained narratives around what has transpired and more right-brain activity based on feelings and emotions.
- I pulled card yesterday from Alberto Villoldo’s and Colette Baron-Reid’s Oracle Deck The Shaman’s Dream. It provides more depth on what vulnerability can and should look like. Card 41 – Moon Maiden – New Beginnings:
The Moon Maiden arrives to offer you a new beginning, a new phase and facet of yourself that is aching to be shown to the world. Those qualities that you have been quietly cultivating are ready for the limelight. The secrecy was important for it protected your new face and kept what was precious close to your heart. But now is the time to come forward in full splendor.
Announce the new you to yourself first! Reveal it slowly to the world, like the waxing moon. Allow others to be surprised by how mature and grown-up this side of you is. Now it’s time to set yourself free. The Moon Maiden belongs only to herself, and she is summoning the parts of you that challenge convention, that refuse to be intimidated, and that cannot be tamed or put inside a golden cage.
The Moon Maiden invites you to shine with your own light, to have radiant curiosity, and to ask anyone who offers you a mouthful of dogma, “Why do you believe this is so?” Question everything others assume is a given and do not collude with the drama around you. Become an unpredictable being yet an eminently reliable friend. The moon maiden invites you to answer only to yourself and remind you that you are not anyone’s property. Be true to your soul’s calling, even as some around you, in a relationship for a job, want to capture your light inside a bottle. You know how to rise to the occasion, just as unfailingly as the moon does. When the time comes, you return to darkness and become enshrouded in mystery until you are ready to return.
Finally, this work – VULNERABILITY – I know is lifetime work. There will likely always be a part of me that shies away from complete vulnerability. It will always be a choice I’ll have to make in the moment: do I have the courage to show up as my true and messy self? That choice, I suspect, will get easier and easier with time, but in the short-term, as I get used to bringing my inner world more fully into the purview of others, I will need to remain simultaneously diligent, courageous, compassionate, and gentle with myself.
- Hendricks, Gay. Hendricks, Kathlyn. Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment.February 1, 1992. https://hendricks.com/topic/conscious-loving/
- Kenyon, Tom. Sion, Judy. The Magdalen Manuscript: The Alchemies of Horus and the Sex Magic of Isis. January 1, 2006. https://tomkenyon.com/
- Villoldo, Alberto. Baron-Reid, Colette. The Shaman’s Dream Oracle: A 64-Card Deck and Guidebook. March 23, 2021. https://www.hayhouse.com/the-shamans-dream-oracle-card-deck
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