Vulnerability & Tolerance

Vulnerability & Tolerance

One of the characteristics of good learners is their tolerance for ambiguity, which means sitting calmly in the space between knowing and unknowing. You are vulnerable in this place! Such tolerance for accepting your vulnerability and willingly exposing yourself to the unknown, can be developed through conscious practice.


Tolerance for Ambiguity

First, you have to know what’s happening with learning, it’s nature, before you can develop yourself as an authentic learner through practice! Hasn’t this been the gist of Self-Study? Haven’t you been learning that aspects of human nature exist and then observing how they manifest within you? Haven’t you been encouraged to own your nature and work with these aspects of yourself to develop for wellness? Has this been a wisdom curriculum? YES! You are learning about learning not for an A in this course but for a meaningful life of vitality– a life worth living!

 In the Challenge Course, you learned about resistance, and in the Choice Course, you learned about holding space in order to mindfully respond to your experiences rather than merely unconsciously react. In the Attention Course, you were asked to withhold your critical judgment and evaluation of whatever you were attending to, and you were asked to just notice what was happening in your body, mind, and your emotional being without judgment or doing anything to change those realities.  So….You have been encouraged to tolerate “not knowing” until you “know” throughout your entire self-study curriculum! Yay, you.  We will simply reflect on this learning process to further motivate you to learn and study yourself for life!

 “ I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives.”
— Brene Brown

 To be human is to be vulnerable. Allowing yourself to be open to experience and vulnerable is how one learns, grows, and thrives, but being vulnerable also invites the potential for pain and suffering, even death. Vulnerability is a double-edged sword. Vulnerability is a challenge, and how you accept, respond, and “run with it” as an opportunity for growth defines who you are. To know oneself is to understand one’s own vulnerability and to know oneself as a lifelong, authentic learner.

Humans cannot control the externals, uncertainties, mysteries, and unknowns of life, but each of us are empowered with the ability to choose how to respond to things beyond our control, including everything that makes one feel vulnerable, insecure, or afraid. Choosing one’s response to life is the challenge of being human and becoming the person one is meant to be. Make the choice to be a curious learner, as you have been encouraged all along in these courses in self-study.

Vulnerability & Safety= Learning is a Balance

I observed in my high school teaching career how many parents try to change an environment or attempt to manipulate and regulate other people’s behavior in order to protect their kids from from uncertainty, discomfort, or loss because they perceive such things as “dangerous.” They do their children a great disservice by trying to create “safe spaces” in the world and over-protection that is beyond trying to ensure their physical wellbeing.  Rather than teaching children to stay open to understand the important role of vulnerability in learning and creativity, children are conditioned instead to turn to find comfort outside of themselves (other people, drugs, and other unhealthy dependencies) rather than developing healthy responses to stress and coping skills within.

Since we will be tested by truly threatening external stimuli and because much of life is beyond our control, it is better preparation and protection to build up our ability to respond to what life gives us than struggle to control the world or hide defensively in our comfort and security zones where no change or growth can possibly happen.

If our attention and effort is overly-focused on controlling and manipulating what is outside of ourselves to make the world conform to our desires––to make it conform to just how we’d like it (whether in a yoga class or in our lives when we are uncomfortable), then we not only create more disappointment for ourselves and unnecessary suffering, but we also neglect using and thereby strengthening our inner resources to grow.

We miss the opportunities to learn more about ourselves and who we really are.

When we continually turn outside ourselves for answers, comfort, or to deny our suffering and vulnerability, we remain ignorant to ourselves, and we stop learning, growing and thriving. Imbalance results because we are focused too much on the external and not enough on the internal, where our true self resides.

Your personal freedom isn’t conditional on the environment or other people behaving “just so.” You ought not wait to be happy when everything is just as you want it to be. Instead, learn how to be happy and peaceful no matter the circumstances—unconditionally. This kind of freedom that comes from practicing and building discipline is possible and can be cultivated through practice.

Writing About Vulnerability

Notice when you feel most vulnerable. Write about those experiences if you remember to and are able.

Notice how you respond or react to feeling vulnerable. Write about those reactions and/or responses.

Reflect, What was your level of tolerance like during those times/in these examples above?

Notice what vulnerability feels like in your body.

How does vulnerability feel when you move?

How does vulnerability feel when you are still?

Notice how you tolerate stillness and movement in your body.

Notice how you tolerate stillness and movement in your mind.

*Answer the prompts above but replace the term “uncertainty” for “vulnerability.”

Notice at times how much of your thinking related to your own feelings of vulnerability causes you to feel stress.

Notice at times how much of your sensations and emotions related to your thoughts about vulnerability causes you to feel stress.

Real Learning is Risky Business

Think and write about specific situations where you have felt vulnerable. Be specific about when, where, why, and how vulnerability occurred.

Write about your feelings of  exposure to risk of potential danger.

Write about your feelings of  exposure to risk of real danger.

Think and write about the various times and situations where you have been in a state of uncertainty. How long did it last? How did you feel while in this state of unknowing? What, if anything, did you do to cope with such feelings of uncertainty or unknowing?

Think and write about life experiences where you were protected unnecessarily (either self-protection or from others) and missed valuable opportunity to grow or learn more about yourself and the world. Were you “too sheltered” or not protected enough?

Think and write about various situations wherein you tried to manipulate the environment and/or others in an attempt to achieve safety, a sense of security, or personal gain. What motivated such behavior? What might you have learned from a bit more exposure or risk as opposed to over protection?

What can you learn from observing and reflecting on your own specific insecurities, uncertainty, fears, and vulnerability?

When, where, why, and how or with whom do you feel most vulnerable? Try to sit with the feeling of vulnerability to know it better. Write about your experience and what you learned.


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