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Bouncing off Brene
I have mixed feelings towards TED because of its systemic bias – support of the 1% mostly unwittingly. Basically it is bog-standard academic, it will come up with all kinds of answers to the world’s problems – except saying it is the 1%. If you look to TED your mind can flit from one solution to another to another and then wonder why the world is still in a mess. To use TED and place it in context you have to know that it is not presenting solutions – just mental diversions. On TED you get something new, and this of course is good, but the criterion is newness and not the real issue – the solving of world’s problems. As with all academia TED has no power because quite simply ideas have no power – only used by power.
Having said this Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk on insight helped me a great deal, and an understanding of this can help with pathtivism but the dots are not drawn in the talk – a typical avoidance by academia. Thandie Newton’s talk is revolutionary because it deep down talks about the path, and given the current state of our society the path is revolutionary. But her talk’s intention was not to confront the system – ie not drawing the dots. I saw a link to Brene Brown and resolved to listen.
I started with listening to shame and went on to vulnerability. Please note when reading this blog that Brene was recounting a story and not just delivering a conclusion. My writing is also confusing because I reflected and then connected with what she said as she was saying, so the blog is a mixture of my reflecting and her recounting – hence my overall reflection at the end. Give it a go, she has got into some good stuff. At the beginning I had a feeling there was something important in her talk – maybe I couldn’t see it because of the recounting style, I was grappling with it – but couldn’t get hold. Then there was a definition of shame as the fear of being unconnected, and this was a key. After my upheaval I have been connected to the path, and connectedness is hugely important. Brene is concerned about connectedness with other people – social worker but that is not the issue for me. People feel disconnected because they have no path, can you really be connected to people? People try to be connected by seeking solace in company, family and all the social conditioning actions. They seek solace in running from pillar to post, their mental running often mirroring a race in life (maybe travelling), seeking connection – seeking the path.
For me Brene’s shame and vulnerability are about the path though she never spoke of such except a mention of breakdown as spiritual awakening. Before my upheaval (breakdown), I did some shameful stuff especially floundering around sex, and I feel ashamed of that. But I wasn’t following the path then, what is really me began with the path. Since on the path I have done some bad stuff as well, in some ways I feel more ashamed of that stuff because I did it on the path. But I am not really ashamed – I let go of any shame, I did what I did, I shouldn’t have, and I get on with my life. The longer my life has gone on, the more I have learned about life, being on the path and myself. With that learning has come closer adherence to the path, and less chance of doing shameful things. My spirit gets hurt by shame so I don’t do it. I make mistakes but I try not to, and when made I am considerate of the consequences and address them; that again is the path.
Her talk of shame is judgemental and egoic – not good enough etc. Of course I am not good enough but I don’t think about it because I am on the path and do the best I can. Being on the path is enough, I am not judgemental because trying to be the best I can is enough. Judgement and ego are not the path. Ego is also the key to vulnerability, it is the ego that is vulnerable; the path is strong and solid, the ego is weak and vulnerable. To understand her talk we need to recognise that it is the ego that is vulnerable.
In the vulnerability talk she spoke of worthiness, people who have a sense of worthiness, have love and belonging – connectedness. Her connectedness is the social work context but for me it is the path, path gives love and belonging. She turned it into ego again by talking of people who believed they are worthy. But if you love, if you follow the path you are worthy. It is not an evaluation such as “I think I am worthy because I follow the path”, people on the path are simply worthy – that is a characteristic of path. No subjective judgement about worthiness, that does not arise because thinking about worthiness in oneself is ego. Following the path makes one worthy.
Because of social work she wanted to understand why people did not feel they were worthy of connection. Fair enough but it is conditioned ego. Then she described some of her research – observing the characteristics of worthy people. Whole-heartedness. Courage – telling the story of who you are with your whole heart, having the courage to be imperfect. Compassion – towards self and others. Connection – be authentic, be who you are and let go of who you think you should be, who you are conditioned to be. Authentic – let go of ego.
She reported that worthy people believed what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. She also said that people were feeling vulnerable when they were doing these “beautiful things”. This is misleading. When you stand up and are whole-hearted, courageous, authentic and compassionate, there is no vulnerability per se. But even following the path we must contend with ego. These worthy must contend with their own ego. Their ego arises with these actions of whole-heartedness, courage, compassion and authenticity. The ego asks “Will I be strong enough? Will I be courageous enough? Will I be good enough?” These issues of vulnerability are all ego issues, human issues that naturally arise but which we can let fall away again. If we are following the path and issues of vulnerability arise, we can say ego and let them fall away. This is not easy especially if you are just starting on the path, but the explanation is straight-forward ego. On the path we recognise the weakness of ego, its vulnerability, and just learn to let it go. Vulnerability is an issue for the worthy but it is not their worthiness but their ego that is vulnerable. Look at this wonderful moment of the love and vulnerability of Thandie Newton (in her TED talk), lovely to watch but just let it go.
Back to personal reflection. Since stopping work following the path has been easier, I have the time to dedicate to the path. Less pressure, more control, less mistakes – no shame.
Love makes me vulnerable but it is the ego around that love which creates the vulnerability. There is the obvious issue of sex which confuses love with desire, desire is vulnerable creating suffering (4NT). Then there is security and the social requirements of relationship such as home where the ego comes in. Then the natural instinct for children and the love for them that follows, and then the ego issues of bringing up children.
But love is wonderful, being vulnerable is an OK price to pay, detachment is suitable armour – don’t dive into numbness. I walk away from people who try to exploit me – or even further from those who succeed in exploiting me. I don’t need such people. They need me but that’s the price of their greed. And people around me know that is the price of greed, that is their choice. My love always leaves me vulnerable to greed but I cannot stop loving.
But I don’t think Brene sees vulnerability just as ego, I must re-listen. Her talk of vulnerability is that which underpins shame. Shame is judgement and ego so vulnerability is about the fragile ego – the ego is vulnerable. Good, let the ego be vulnerable and get rid of it; follow the path.
She considered that the vulnerability she observed was more, she said that the worthy believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. Love makes people beautiful, the path makes people beautiful – no belief there it just is. She described people who were willing to do stuff first – that is path, actions first not thoughts, not endless circular sankhara (procrastination) before action. Her ego said recognising the willingness to be vulnerable was betrayal of research because a researcher wants to control and predict; the worthy, the path, says be vulnerable.
Wonderful this led to her path because she had a breakdown, therapist called it spiritual awakening. Terrific stuff. I’m glad I persevered with this when it was sounding too academic. Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear, but she says it is a struggle for worthiness, the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging of love. This is an egoic conclusion. Joy, creativity, belonging and love can give rise to the vulnerable ego but not vice versa.
How do people deal with vulnerability? We numb so we numb everything - addiction, being dead in life. We make the uncertain certain, like the MAWPs. We blame – definition of blame discharge pain and discomfort onto others. We perfect (the outer) – ourselves cosmetic. We perfect our kids, they are wired for struggle but instead we mollycoddle them. She told companies to be authentic and fix it (Wai - na?ve). These are the same answers to the question “how do we deal with ego?”
Her solution – let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, love with our whole hearts, practise gratitude and joy in moments of terror, be grateful for the chance to love – whatever happens. “I’m enough” (Wai – because I am always trying to be the best I can – no more – enough), stop screaming start listening, being enough makes you kinder and gentler to the people around you, kinder and gentler to ourselves.
So glad I pursued this.
Reflection:- Vulnerability and shame are important to recognise as feelings, but they are not the path. When she described the worthy it was descriptions of the path – whole-heartedness, courage, compassion, connection, authenticity. These are the important qualities. It is important to know that there is vulnerability and shame, that they arise from ego, but it is important not to focus on them. Observing vulnerability and shame is a way to learn how to deal with ego, know your vulnerabilities, know your shames and let them fall away; hold to the strengths of the path. This is not easy especially when you are feeling vulnerable.
But no matter how difficult vulnerability and shame are, they are no more than ego; let them go.
[The next post goes into spiritual vulnerability.]
|Books:- Treatise, Pathtivism Manual, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education. Blogs:- Matriellez, Mandtao.|