SomaNews – September/October 2010

Learning to Be Vulnerable


In my last SomaNews I wrote about surrender, so I thought it would be appropriate to talk about vulnerability — because the act of surrender will open us to being vulnerable or to showing vulnerability.

I have been contemplating what it means to be “vulnerable” ever since David Whyte suggested that having “robust vulnerability” was appropriate. Some of us define vulnerability as being exposed to emotional hurt or being taken advantage of or abused. In that state we feel fragile, weak and trapped. When we live in our bodies we can shift those moods by breathing, bringing in more width and length to our bodies and opening ourselves to emotional and spiritual growth.

If we move toward the vulnerability and see it as a gift for clarity — for example, welcoming assessments about ourselves and trying new experiences — that is when we become robust.

As I begin to pass into my sixties I realize that age actually has a wonderful ability to expose more of me and I am more vulnerable. I can choose to move through life in fear, or I can allow myself to open to new possibilities that will continue to build my path of growth. I believe that when we have robust vulnerability the ego has no place to stand.

"When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable." --Madeleine L’Engle

Quick Somatic Practice

Sit in a comfortable chair and take three deep breaths.

Imagine you are walking down a path into the woods. As you begin to enter the woods the sun dapples the leaves and you look up into the canopy. Feel your chest open in width and your feet being held deeply on the earth.

As you continue to walk the sun begins to wane and you come to a sign that says, “Trust No One.” Stop and feel your body. What is happening in your chest? Do you still feel your feet on the earth?

Even though you are vulnerable, you sense the sign is old and worn and you realize that this is an old story that no longer serves you. You take another deep breath and continue to walk. The path becomes rutted and stones dig into the soles of your feet. An old crow sits near the path watching you. She opens her mouth and says, You walk like you don’t know where you are going. I can see you will fail.

Stop. Feel your body. What happens?

Allow yourself to feel the vulnerability. The old crow winks and again you realize that this is an old story and crow is testing you. You take another deep breath and keep walking, walking with your vulnerability, using it as a compass to connect with new insight, new possibilities, accepting your humanness.

As you walk into a grove, friends await you and celebrate that you have walked through those old stories, showed your vulnerable side, and are better for it. You kept opening to new possibilities on this path.

Feel your body. Take a deep breath, spread your arms out to your side palms up, and feel your chest open. Sense your feet on the earth and thank them for carrying you on this important journey.

What did you notice?

How does it feel to be vulnerable? Where might you need to open to your vulnerability to grow and trust who you are becoming? Is this an area you would like to explore more? If you would like to arrange a somatic bodywork or coaching session, please contact me.

"With each passage of human growth we must
shed a protective structure [like a hardy crustacean].
We are left exposed and vulnerable

but also yeasty and embryonic again,
capable of stretching in ways
we hadn't known before."
-Gail Sheehy

Connecting in LA/Manhattan Beach

I will be in the Los Angeles/Manhattan Beach area October 28 and 29 for somatic bodywork sessions. If you'd be interested in a session, please call 707-480-3846 or send an email to