Vulnerability

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

 

Our lives can be seen as a constant balancing act between protecting ourselves, and yet remaining open enough to ‘life as it is’ for presence, kindness, intimacy.All of us are somewhere on the continuum between being completely closed off and being very open, and where we end up on the spectrum depends on many factors, including our personality, gender, family history, our culture, and life events. Many people become interested in learning mindfulness when they feel the cost of their old self-protective patterns is too high. They may experience a sense of disconnectedness, or struggle in relationships, or realise that their coping strategies seem to cause more problems than they solve. Or their health and emotional wellbeing might show the strain of constant chronic stress.

We certainly need to protect ourselves – there are plenty of people around who’d happily take advantage of us if we let them. A sense of professionalism, of not imposing on our colleagues with our own dramas day in and day out, will help us in our career. Our children rely on us to be strong, to guide them. Yet it’s all too easy to mistake common sense, professionalism and good parenting with needing to appear invulnerable, perfect, beyond reproach. The more we reach for perfection, the more vulnerable we feel underneath. We know it’s only a matter of time before someone discovers a crack in us, and, if we have a tendency towards perfectionism, the slightest visible crack might feel like the end of the world. And striving to be perfect all the time also tends to make us judgemental and unforgiving towards others.

We like stories because they show us the vulnerability of their heroes, their struggles to survive despite their fragility. Even the great warrior Achilles had his Achilles’ heel. The story of Jesus has inspired people for thousands of years, and his is not a story of invincible power but of great openness and vulnerability. When he said, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,’ he was pointing to our common humanity, to the fact we all make mistakes.

People who begin a regular meditation practice often report an increased sense of kindness towards themselves, of being more open and forgiving. Interestingly, this tends to improve relationships even with some of the more difficult people in our lives. Sometimes we are caught in a ‘life and death’ battle, and will need to ensure that even our Achilles heel is firmly protected. Yet most of the time, our relationships will become stronger, and more rewarding, if we can open some of our cracks enough to ‘let the light shine in’.

Weekly practice idea:

What are some of your ‘cracks’, and how do you feel about them? Might some of those cracks be opportunities to’ let in the light’? What would this look like for you?

Anja Tanhane