Unlike other spiritual practices, you don’t have to work to be vulnerable. You can cultivate gratitude or compassion. You can develop your understanding of forgiveness or humility. Vulnerability, however, just is. We are vulnerable. Every second of our lives we might be physically injured, emotionally hurt, lose who we are or die.
It just is.
“We were not meant to survive,” wrote the poet Audre Lorde. Vulnerability doesn’t easily lend itself to T-shirt or bumper sticker like “be happy.” We seek happiness and peace. Who wakes up and says, “I think I’ll have an English muffin, toasted with peanut butter and a nice hot cup of death awareness!” Well maybe the great spiritual teachers like Jesus or Buddha did, but I’ve got emails to answer and tweets to send. I mean really? Death awareness? That is so 1st century.
I’ve been wondering lately about my own death avoidance.
It might be the serious car accident I had in October or the birth of my children. It could be an early mid-life crisis. I try to over-achieve.
It’s not a keep-me-up-late-at-night kind of crisis. It is the kind of thoughts that linger. I am more aware lately of how our time on planet earth is precious. What has come from this awareness is the beginning of sensing what is most important in my life. I told my congregation that my BS bowl had broken in the car accident. Many of the things that I used to worry about or hold onto just couldn’t be held anymore.
I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. Not in a neurotic way. Perhaps one can only begin to think about death in a neurotic way. Well, not in a Marlin the clownfish way. Finding Nemo spoiler alert! Marlin is the father of Nemo who after a terrible accident involving the death of his wife and children (all but one, Nemo) becomes obsessed about protecting Nemo, his only surviving child. He is definitely aware of vulnerability but in a neurotic, control-freak way.
I am not trying to put floaties on my life.
Before the accident, when I heard someone talk about becoming more aware, I roll my eyes. “I am really working on just being present to life right now.” Such statements would conjure all sorts of images: self-indulgent walks by ponds followed by sipping on expensive tea. It turns out, as shocking as it was to me, I was absolutely wrong.
Being more aware is hard work. It is not a day at the spa. And depending upon what you are becoming more aware of, it may lead to less awareness in other areas of life. Facebook birthday posts have gone by and I’ve lost several hobbies in this being more aware journey. And the more aware I become to my vulnerability, the more I am awakening to the world. Justice ministry is not pro-forma any more, but the only authentic response to the cray-cray world that is killing my brothers and sisters.
So I am concluding, perhaps prematurely, that if becoming aware leads you to sip tea by the pond, well then you might not be on the awakening experience that I am seeking and hoping others will join me in. I am talking about the, “I am going to die. Not just someday, but maybe this day. And so, what then?”
Or rather, what now?