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Personal Practices: Vulnerability
Acknowledge Vulnerability

We often equate being competent with having everything under control. This can make it difficult to acknowledge when we feel vulnerable, whether to a group or even to ourselves. Yet even leaders and facilitators sometimes need to let go of control to be effective. Acknowledging the situation and your feeling of vulnerability can be a gift to shift the group into resonance.

Learning to be comfortable with vulnerability takes practice. Make a point that whenever you notice a sense of vulnerability, you acknowledge and stay present with it. At first, you might just practice by yourself. Find a quiet moment when you won't be interrupted. Get into a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths. Think about the situation that makes you feel vulnerable. Now focus not on the circumstances, but on the feelings. Where are they located in your body? Is there tension? Movement of energy? What happens when you continue to observe the sensations?

Once you are more familiar with feeling vulnerable and not in control and have developed a greater comfort level with it, the next step is to name the circumstances or feeling of vulnerability in public, without having to resolve it. Acknowledge that someone is sick or dying—or that you yourself are. Acknowledge that fatigue is setting in after long hours of effort. Acknowledge that the physical environment is difficult—or that the context is difficult. Perhaps a layoff has been announced at work, but no one knows yet who will be affected. Take the risk to speak of the possibility and fears, rather than to pretend that nothing is happening.

REFERENCE: A guide to a Buddhist system of practices for learning to face and stay with vulnerability is Pema Chodren, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, Shambhala Publications, 2001.

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