There is something about being vulnerable that opens up the doorway of deep courage, and leads you on a winding, twisting pathway of strength. It lets you change. It moves you through the diversity of being you, and the wildness of how you are never just you. Your personal identity is a part of the world.
To be vulnerable is to feel. Sometimes it’s a gentle breeze on exposed skin. Sometimes it’s a burning freeze. Sometimes it’s the kind of heat that makes you feel like you’re going crazy. Sometimes with desire for something. Other times with hurt. To be vulnerable is to let both grief and love reshape who we are. To be vulnerable is to change with the seasons, to keep becoming and dissolving.
Vulnerability allows us to recognize that our individuality is never in separation from the collective, and that we are a part of an ecosystem, a voice within an orchestra, a star within a constellation, a constellation that is shaped by vast imagination and a limited perspective.
It might be the literature I read, it might be motherhood, it might be old friendships reforming and new friendships birthing, it might be my age, it might be what goes on in the world, the events of the last few years, but I am feeling more and more the permeability of the boundary of my skin.
The older I get, the more I experience the way that the beat of my heart to which I dance, is beating in response to, and in relationship with, other drums.
I move in murmuration
Even though I identify as a lone wolf
I go through transformation
And discover that it is never in isolation
Boundaries are super important. Individuation is necessary. And yet entanglement is inevitable.
Our society is focused on individualism. We forget that we are not separate from community, from ecology, from the environment we’re in, from ancestry, from the food that we eat, from the music we hear, from the podcasts we listen to, and the books that we read. There’s value and necessity in the process of becoming who we are. It’s just that who we are is never an entity that stands on its own. There’s a basic need for the safety embedded in knowing where we end and where others begin. And yet we breathe in oxygen made by other species. We breathe out and nourish the plants. The tree lives in me, and I in the tree.
We are much more like bees than we like to think we are.
One of the points Krishna makes in the Bhagavad Gita in his conversation with Arjuna, is that Arjuna must maintain who he is. When Arjuna melts down and refuses to fight, Krishna pokes him, and throws insults at him to snap him out of it. Meltdowns are out of character for Arjuna, and Krishna will have none of it. Message: We gotta get our shit together, maintain the core of who we are, rise up to the occasion that life throws our way no matter how hard it may be, and commit to the authenticity of our character.
Sometimes it’s a crisis that offers us the opportunity to melt down and then to regroup. Other times it’s a slow burn. We are always in the process of reformation.
One of the reasons Krishna demands that we, as Arjuna, stay in character, is so that we can respect the larger fabric of which we are apart. We can’t just do whatever the fuck we want, and turn away from the world when shit gets hard. Arjuna must get off his ass and fight, because otherwise the villains will win. Arjuna is the most talented warrior, and he is needed. It’s his obligation to pick up his bow and arrow and show up for battle.
That doesn’t mean you have to continue to play the role that was written for you and by you in the patterns within any relationship.
AND at the end of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reminds Arjuna that he can decide for himself. He has all the information he needs. And he is free to choose his own actions.
Identity crisis is part of human experience. Particularly in the western, modern world. The western modern world is actually having its own identity crisis right now. Individualism, as part of the fabric of modernity, woven through with the threads of colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism, is being shaken as we come face to face with the catastrophe that we have been brewing by not recognizing the reality of our interconnectedness with each other, with other species, and with the environment.
Identity is fluid. It shatters. It coalesces. It changes. It dissolves. It transmutes. Who we are is made by who we were. But it isn’t who we were. We are created by our childhood. But we are not bound to it. Who we are is made of who we hang out with. As my philosophy/mythology teacher, Douglas Brooks, says: “You are the company you keep, so keep good company.” We are created and shaped by genetic code and by the influence of time and place. We are an experience, an experiment, an expression. Never in isolation.
We are a murmuration.
We are in it, so we can’t see it. Like the starlings, we move with the currents, with each other. We sync in with the rhythms of mountains, winds, and ocean tides, with moon phases, with news cycles, with politics, with where we think justice permeates, with weather patterns, and shifting climates. We move with the trends within our circles.
Uncertainty makes us nervous. Because it makes us vulnerable. We are much more susceptible than we would like to admit. Much more permeable.
But vulnerability is the key for our survival. Adaptability and mobility don’t come from the rigidity of regimes rooted in certainty.
My pre-teen daughter is not who she was. The transformation that is undertaking her body affects who she is becoming, through behavioral shifts that intertwine with her changing character. And it alters the family. It changes me. It breaks her relationship with her brother. Only so that they will restructure the beauty of their connection later on. It breaks my dear Andrew’s heart, as he feels the distance growing. We are changed by her change. And it is expected as much as it is filled with grief, as well as miraculous wonder.
I must be the ground that lets her grow into her own. Nourish without imposing. I must let the air carry her away from me. Encourage her questioning. Stand strong and soft so that she can rage, fall apart, and reconstruct. Let her morph. So much of motherhood is about letting them go. So much of motherhood is a crisis of identity – theirs and our own. So much of motherhood is entanglement. And so much of it is giving them space to untie the knots. So much of motherhood is removing my own needs and desires from theirs.
They come from me but they are not me.
They come through me and they are not mine.
I breathe, and the trees fill my lungs. Soil that nurtures their roots nourishes my heart. Not just metaphorically. Mycelial networks and microbial interactions are part of the system that I consider “mine.” And the “I” that I am rises and falls each day and each night, until one day its existence will become food for the worms, soil of the earth, dust that flies with the wind and becomes, perhaps, part of a completely different environment.
This time of year carries us through the liminality of existence. We are shifting with the light, changing with the leaves. Maybe there are patterns of thought or behavioral tendencies you’d like to disintegrate with all that falls to the earth. And in the portal of the decay, as you move through a ceremony of shedding, what is in the core of who you are, that remains a source of grounding, wisdom, and truth?
If you feel like sharing your thoughts and reflection on this, I would LOVE to hear from you. Comment below and let us know. We are a part of one another.
All my love,
P.S – You can still register for the Fall Somatic Ceremony if you want to go on this season’s journey of dissolution. Learn about it here.
AND check out the Embodied Bhagavad Gita practices on the MamaMandala YouTube channel.