Main Entry: vul·ner·a·ble
Pronunciation: \ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl, ˈvəl-nər-bəl\
- Etymology: Late Latin vulnerabilis, from Latin vulnerare to wound, from vulner-, vulnus wound; probably akin to Latin vellere to pluck, Greek oulē wound
- Date: 1605
1 : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2 : open to attack or damage : assailable <vulnerable to criticism>
3 : liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses after winning a game in contract bridge
So, I don’t know about #3, but the first two are revealing puzzles. I love revealing puzzles, especially when they come packed in lovely words.
I’m preparing for a “Strong Shoulders, Open Heart” workshop this weekend, and I’ve been gathering stones, so to speak. It’s time to choose the ones that sparkle, but I love the brainstorming part of the preparation process. Writing down and following every lead that comes to mind, integrating anatomy and experience and meaning and feeling. Yoga, in a word.
So as I was performing a mudra meditation for the heart yesterday, vulnerability washed over me. The “open” part of the workshop title took center stage. What’s it mean to cultivate strength and openness? What’s it mean to stay open even when things are scarey. What’s it mean to remain loving while you stand your ground?
I started thinking about the very word “vulnerable”… “to wound”. The heart chakra is called, in Sanskrit, Anahata – “unstruck.” Unstruck. So the very place where we are arguably most vulnerable, is somehow, paradoxically, like a perfect soundless bell. To wound, to be unstruck.
And it struck me. “Vulner” “able” doesn’t really straightforwardly translate to “woundable”, because “vulner” is active. More directly, it would mean our ability to wound.
So, our ability to wound is related to our ability to be wounded. In relation to the heart center, the literal heart, as well as our figurative, energetic and emotional connection to our passion and meaning, what does this mean?
And here’s what arose for me. We have access to way of being and moving in the world that is unstruck because it originates in the present moment, whatever that is for us. Whether it’s a scarey situation or tense or joyful or boring, we can connect to it. But instead, we flee forward or backward, putting on our masks, so we drege up old feeling and bring it into the unstruck moment, and we find emotion in that same moment, but we’re holding on so tight it gets stuck. Gets stuck to our ribs, in our arteries, in our teeth, heads and brains.
It’s when we respond from this place, trying not to be open, trying not to be struck, that we are most capable of wounding others, because we’ve already unwittingly wounded ourselves. We’ve closed off, turned away and restricted our own possibilities because we weren’t able to remember that there’s a part of us – the most important part – that can’t be struck.