As human beings, we are faced with many threating possibilities such as illness, accidents, rejections, unemployment, war, loss of our significant relationships, and other kinds of suffering. Living our lives in an unpredictable world where things happen unexpectedly can make us feel vulnerable; therefore, vulnerability is part of life. No one, no matter how rich or famous, can escape the reality that we are not in total control of what can happen to us. When we don't accept this, we develop unrealistic expectations of ourselves. We can feel shame for simply being a human being and having limitations when it comes to dealing with events that we cannot foresee. Our ability to feel secure in our lives depends on how well we embrace our vulnerability. Putting this concept in perspective is the focus of this short article.
Many of us don’t know how to help ourselves to feel safe in relation to life’s uncertainties. Instead, some turn to addictions or other mind-numbing behaviors in order to cope with scenarios in which they feel vulnerable. Others seek wealth and power to compensate for their powerlessness over life. Not knowing how to deal with our vulnerability limits our ability to take risks and live a fuller life. We can't passionately explore the mystery of life and live meaningful lives when we become paralyzed by our fear of vulnerability. When we find the courage to face and accept our vulnerabilities, we can accomplish enormous tasks in life.
"O seeker without the shadow of a pir (teacher) the clamor of the beast will torment you."
Hafiz also emphasizes the need for a guide in the following poem:
"Do not take a step on the path of love without a guide. I have tried it one hundred times and failed."
Since dealing with life’s unpredictability requires protection from a force or a power greater than ourselves, this notion of turning to a power beyond our limited ego is associated with religious activities. Such associations might scare many people off. Countless numbers of people have been abused or oppressed by certain organized religions, and their walls go up when the topic of God or Higher Power is raised. At the same time, turning to the force, or God Within, or whatever name you would like to assign to it, can be tremendous help when it comes to embracing vulnerability and coping with tragic life events. In a very real way, reclaiming God from oppressive religious institutions that hold a monopoly on God is a form of activism. People can learn to have a direct relationship with the God of their understanding and cut out the middleman. As the Sufi poet Jami reminded us:
A meditation that focuses on love energy in your heart is an intoxicating way to remember the God of your understanding and deepen your connection to Him / Her. At the same time, it is important to note that not all organized religions are oppressive. In fact, there are many people who have had positive religious experiences, and they turn to praying in troubled time. People should never take their freedom of religion for granted. We all need to be respectful of each other’s chosen path, as long as one’s faith does not involve hatred and violence.
© Dr. Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D. is a mental health counselor in private practice in West Hollywood, California. www.DrPayam.com