Letting Ourselves Experience the Vulnerability

Inniswood Metro Gardens, August 23, 2010

Excerpt from The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship by David Whyte:

We think that if we investigate the self we will find out there is something wrong at the core, and we want to defend against that revelation at all costs. The surface personality feels as if it is going to  die and becomes deathly afraid of the conversation. The task is to shift the identity more toward the movable conversation that stands behind us, a deep undercurrent we can tap into that carries on unconcerned with the surface tribulations. In this depth we try to create a real silence in which to keep our long-standing, well-established, self-protective stories away, to let ourselves alone so we can experience the physical vulnerability of the question and be transformed by it. We give these smaller protective stories away so that we can see how they come back to us once we have established a larger way of being in the world.

We call this unremitting wish to create a silence in which to see to the truth meditation. The outer form looks like silence as we see a practitioner sitting quietly, but meditation can take many forms, beginning usually with simply following the breath, getting to the very foundations of the way we physically give and take. It can be quite revealing to find out how much willpower we put into that autonomic bodily function; we find that we are controlling a process that can be left well alone and doesn't need so much outside intervention...

We could see meditation as the equivalent of the kitchen or a bedroom in a marriage. It's the place where most of the significant transformative conversations happen; significant conversations that may be silent but that can shift the relationship with the self to a new level. The act of physical transformation can at times be an almost ecstatic, sexual experience. It can also be a fierce, unrelenting and prolonged daily confrontation. 


What is needed in a marriage with the self is what is needed in the marriage to another: a radical letting alone of our partner, the deeper self, to let it live its own life without our necessity for a constant, overarching control. We must stop trying to protect that deeper, more vulnerable self from the way it feels things keenly and at their essence. This self that we are attempting to "marry" can look after itself as much as our partner can. Its vulnerability is not a weakness but actually a faculty for understanding what is about to happen. It does not wish to survive its encounters with its previous reality intact and untouched; it actually wants to be transformed by what it meets. In a sense it wants to be the conversation itself. 

See also: This Difficulty Feels Like This