We learn that we are vulnerable in a very real way when we are young. It’s like that little kid in kindergarten who excitedly runs over to his best friend during gym expecting them to be partners for rope climbing and his friend says to him, “Jimmy is my new best friend. We are partners now.” ouch! THAT is how we learn to close our hearts. That vulnerability is a bitch. And we start to build walls to protect ourselves so we can avoid or minimize criticism, ridicule, judgement, blame, hurt and disappointment. Brick by brick, we build the walls of our own prison.

To me, vulnerability is like running with scissors hoping no one trips you. Hoping you won’t get impaled. It is risky business. Risky business. And not the fun kind like in the Tom Cruise movie.

Being emotionally vulnerable to disappointment, heartache, loss, embarassment, shame aren’t things we usually like to talk about. They bring up things we’d rather not think about, places we would rather not go. We’d prefer they stay in the deep dark recesses of our minds where we think they belong. Behind our prison walls.

They talk a lot about our tendencies to protect our soft spot or bodhichitta in Buddhism – to protect our heart and what they are talking about is vulnerability. We are in an all out battle to protect ourselves from being hurt, disappointed or let down. To hold back from emotional exposure instead of opening up to life – people or experiences for fear of being hurt, rejected, disappointed – stabbed with a pair of scissors. Being vulnerable to life’s hurts and disappointments is something as hard as we try, we just can’t protect ourselves from all the time and I’ll take that a step further, it is something we shouldn’t try to protect ourselves from because it cuts us off from two very important basic human needs: emotional intimacy and revealing our authentic selves.

Brene Brown in her book, Daring Greatly, lists ways in which we do this. Here are a few:


-numbing – with food, drink etc..

-foreboding joy – or dress rehearsing for tragedy. The “this can’t last” syndrome.

-cynicism, criticism, being cool

-“pretending I don’t care”

-being invisible,silent, maintaining life “below the radar”

-people pleasing


-judging others


These are some of the bricks we use to build those prison walls that we think are protecting us when in fact, they are actually terrorists that keep you hostage from life, from your full expression, full joy. You can’t experience life without feeling life.

Dalai Lama XIV said, “Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.“ Starting this blog felt really risky for me. To start writing about these kinds of things, to expose this side of me. I thought, ”Am I really any good at expressing what I want to say?“ ”Will anyone care about what I am saying?“ ”Could I allow myself to reveal such personal things about myself?” If we dare to reveal our authentic selves, there is the great possibility that we will be misunderstood, judged, or worst of all, rejected. The fear of rejection can be so powerful that we decide to opt out. Not even participate. We think that by protecting ourselves from rejection, we are being kind to ourselves. The truth is, we only become more fearful, more hardened and more alienated. We experience ourselves as being separate from the whole. In a solitary confinement of our own making.

When we are hurt or disappointed by someone or something in life that you let yourself be vulnerable to, instead of standing there screaming at the person or blaming the situation that just tripped you, I’ve learned it is better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s a pair of scissors in your heart. We can either take that hurt and use it as an excuse to close down even more giving us further “proof” that we should tread lightly with our heart and reinforce our walls or we can use those feelings of hurt, disappointment and confusion as reminders to lean in to our vulnerability, explore what it feels like to have a pair of scissors stuck in your heart. See it as an opportunity to explore what that hurt and disappointment feels like, explore what feeling like a piece of shit feels like when we would rather back away and not feel anything at all. At least nothing bad. This takes courage. To show people who you are, to let them into your heart, to bear the pain of heartache, takes courage.

I have had my heart broken. More than once. I have had major disappointments, embarassments, and failures. I have felt like hiding out behind those walls instead of showing up for fear of being exposed again. I have ended up with a pair of scissors in my heart. I have used every single one of those defenses listed above (of course, I have my favorites, my stand-bys) to protect myself from feeling hurt from people and life. But what I’ve learned is that not allowing yourself to be exposed to those scissors is a far worse risk because regret, fear and self-doubt are far more painful because now those scissors are in your hands, and you just turned them on yourself.

I know now that being vulnerable is a risk I am willing to take. That being vulnerable is as Brene Brown says, “the birthplace of love, belonging, courage, empathy, joy, and creativity.” That if you run away as soon as those shaky feelings start to arise, you will be reinforcing those voices inside saying, “I am not good enough.” I also intrinsically know that there is no end to my heart. That what we are trying to protect is hurt more by our closing it up by then our opening it up. Intuitively, this is opposite of what we think is happening but it is always the closing down of our hearts that brings us the most pain. Heart attacks come from blockages, not openings.

Real connection, real love, and living fully requires risk, vulunerability. You can’t fake it. I’ve learned I am willing to be vulnerable enough unsure of the outcome because I know that always seeking safety and avoiding pain keeps me trapped in that prison I built around myself. And it gets very lonely in there when there is a vast world waiting for me to explore and enjoy.

Being fully alive means being “continually thrown out of the nest” as Pema Chodron says , in other words letting yourself be vulnerable. And this, takes the courage and the strength to pull those scissors out of your heart as needed.