2014 The Engaging with a Wholeheart Project: January


Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To find
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems


So today I am starting close in.  Just this first step.  No more.  Right here.  Beginning this writing of vulnerability and all that it demands of us to show up and be present with kindness, gentleness, and tenderness.   Recent years have been a meandering through the encountering of vulnerability and resilience, in myself and in my patients and their families, but in some ways not an engaging deeply with vulnerability from the perspective of understanding its full spectrum.  That journey still daily unfolds.  Perhaps for all of us.

About eighteen months ago I was having a Skype conversation with a dear friend of mine after her recent solo ten-day silent retreat.  Curious about what had come up for her.  Curious about what had been present during the ten days alone at the side of a mountain, someone silently delivering food each day.  She told me she had sat many days with a new emotion that came up for her.  The emotion and engagement with shame and her visceral experience of how hot and deeply present it felt. I remember very vividly my initial thought of “Huh, I don’t really do shame.  Embarrassment and guilt maybe, but not really shame.” Some months later I was sent by email a TED talk given by Brené Brown on the Power of Vulnerability that has now gone viral with more than thirteen million views.   Brené Brown spoke extensively about shame and how it relates to vulnerability.  And for me it was like the floodgates opened up.  I suddenly was in touch with all the areas of my life that had been touched by vulnerability and shame, and moments that I had perhaps missed when my patients shared their experiences of this.  I was reminded of speaking with a young teenage patient, an orphan, a long way from home, staying with an aunt because she needed care given by one of only two renal dialysis units in the country.  Now after her body had rejected a kidney transplant, she was on peritoneal dialysis, having to infuse into and then drain out exchange fluid from of her abdomen every four hours so that the toxins accumulating in her body, due to her non-functioning kidneys, could be cleared.   Her renal team had asked me to spend time with her due to her depression, offer some space to express herself, and learn some mindful approaches to build resilience back into her life.  Her questions were sad and filled with loss and rejection.  Questions about feeling vulnerable and othered; questions about being shamed, and feeling shamed, questions of an extended family that had little tolerance for the difficulties of her illness process and rigid necessary practicalities of constant dialysis. And in that sitting with her I recognised how we all put up walls to protect our tender vulnerable beings.  How we all other and shame, are othered and shamed.  How we turn away from our vulnerabilities, hide our pain, or lash out.   How we all struggle to show up in that moment of feeling vulnerable and exposed.  And in that turning inward can be at great risk of depression and more.

Recently starting in on Brené Brown’s new book Daring Greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms she mentions her previous guideposts for Wholehearted living which strongly resonated with my own journey, and that of the young people and families I serve.  So the seeds for this writing project took form, 2014 The Engaging with a Wholeheart Project, based on the ten guideposts for wholehearted living: cultivating authenticity; self-compassion; resilient spirit; gratitude and joy; intuition and trusting faith; creativity; play and rest; calm and stillness; meaningful work; laughter, song, and dance.  In this unfolding vulnerability project of cultivating a wholehearted life, for myself, those I love, and those I walk alongside, I will engage with each of these themes in the months to come.  Perhaps you wish to engage with them too.  One month at a time.  A be sure to have look at the TED talks if you haven’t already seen them.



About amindfullife

Passionate about living every moment as best I can. Continually emergent and a work in progress
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