Vulnerability and Protective Power

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"My strength and my weakness are twins in the same womb."
—Marge Piercy

I love jelly fish! They are magical phenomenons that seem prehistorically relevant to me. Mostly water, jelly fish are on the one hand, incredibly delicate. And with all the pulsating that they do in the  water, it is amazing to me that they don't break apart. On the flip side of their delicate constitutions, stings from certain jelly fish can be fatal. These extremes are what to me represents but also reminds me that there is a fine line between the delicacy of strength that is vulnerability, and the fragility that power to retaliate can bring or expose. This is what makes me see the jelly fish as an incredibly spiritual creature. Because I find that my own strength and flexibility are often opposite of where I think they are at any given moment, the jelly fish helps me to consider human characteristics challenging what we may deem to be weak and strong. 

Spiritually speaking, it is important to remember that being vulnerable is a virtue. All of the delicate bits of ourselves are important. It is within those soft spots where the truth and honesty of who we are lies. Our vulnerability is what connects us to the world. We are intended to be open, generous, kind, compassionate and of service. All of that which makes us human helping us all to be relatable to each other. Because we are all one, we gravitate towards experiences for which we have a natural compassion, or for what we can simply understand. There is a familiarity. And, within the pain of our experiences we grow to become more able in that capacity, and in that, becoming more of who we already are. When we can share that side of ourselves with others, it moves us more to be a part of the collective whole once again. 

Depending on the day or my mood, as a human person, I can struggle with finding balance between those extremes. There are times when we are really ONLY thinking from our own perspective and not considering either those around us, or those whom which will be affected by our choice or action. As such, I hope that any case where I have been insensitive or impatient with someone has been minimal and few. On a deeper level, when feeling vulnerable we can be hyper-sensitive and jump into a protective stance, or the stinging, attack mode revealed as we lash out or feel the need to protect ourselves or our loved ones. When fearful or angry, this reactive behavior is a natural response that can be expressed in the heat of the moment. With harsh words or actions made in attempt to retaliate, save face or offer care, some gestures can ultimately result in our hurting ourselves. It can also be an empowering way to stand up for yourself or others or any cause in which you believe.

When feeling in a fight for your life, livelihood, loved ones or personal ideal that causes us to feel vulnerable or at risk, the passionate intensity of exercising our powers towards a secure end come up. This would be the "Danger, danger, Will Robinson", or "Get out of the house" signal our brain gets which is basically the concept referred to as 'Fight or Flight'. Here, the assessment is that something is not right and danger is imminent. The choices are to either get out and dodge, or stand firm and get ready to kick some butt. These are characteristics associated with the Root Chakra or Muladhara Chakra. (Mula meaning Root, and Adhara meaning Support base). It is associated with the earth, grounding, stability, origin and base. It is said to have connections to how we were raised and therefore how we function in the world, our initial connections to our surroundings, relationships and our sense of security and stability. If one feels stable, their fight or flight instincts are at bey, and if not, then that person is in a state of attempting to create or seek out a safe and settled foundation. 

During and after getting my cancer diagnosis, I snapped at some people and was not as friendly as I could have been to some nurses and hospital support staff. I was literally in fight or flight mode wanting to run away from the reality that I was facing and, wanting to 'fight' anyone or any situation, doctors appointment or any inconvenience that reminded me that I wanted to run. I vented my frustration. The inconvenience was excruciating and honestly, it was really just constantly pissing me off! (When a pissed off person is REALLY polite, its scary. And in hindsight, I realize that I may have unintentionally scared some of my caregivers.) I felt so vulnerable and exposed not only from a health perspective, but literally on the verge of losing all that I had identified with and grown accustomed to being seen as and perceived myself to be. My ego was thoroughly being messed with and I was way, waaaaaay out of my comfort zone and my five year old self, (which is essentially my ego), was totally out of sorts.

I have this yoga teacher, friend mentor and life coach who I have come to love and trust. Her name is Donnalynn but I lovingly describe her as 'Glinda, the good witch'—because she's magical and really good. Also, there is a lightness and glow that only she and Glinda of OZ have. So far Donnalynn is 3 for 3 in helping me through fairly recent overwhelming and life changing events: the death of my sister, the sudden acquiring of a yoga studio and my cancer, (diagnosis, treatment and all). In each matter, her guidance and words of wisdom were about "staying put and going deeper into the experience". Now, she understands me to be a person who is hyper-freedom oriented, so she's hip on telling me to put my running shoes down. (This advice also shows up in our conversations about my dating life, but that topic will be discussed at a later date - lol.) In each life changing event, once I did sit in the awfulness of what I was feeling, experiencing and wanting to run from, I was able to find a way to move with the flow of my emotions! And, as I write this now, I realize that by moving with my feelings—not being completely controlled by them, I was able to use that existing momentum to help me actually move through the 'quick sand' of the heaviness of the situation and my emotions. It was the fighting of it all and wanting to run away that was actually causing me to feel stuck and sinking. 

So to wrap this up, when we can find that balance between what makes us feel vulnerable to the point that we are arbitrarily stinging those we come into contact with—or so strong that we cannot allow ourselves genuine moments of fragility, we can be like the mobile jelly fish and pulsate—(def: expand and contract with strong regular movements), and move on as we continue to live out the life that we are meant to live.


Teri Gandy-Richardson