Vulnerably, Invincibly

by Christopher Lovejoy on April 14, 2013

If a mastery of self projects a mastery of world, then a mastery of world reflects a mastery of self.

In a world of duality – in a realm of dualistic complements and seeming opposites – the spectrum defined by vulnerability and invincibility has a vital role to play where the masteries of self and world are concerned. Let us start with invincibility.

Invincible: too powerful to be defeated or overcome; insurmountable, insuperable, inexhaustible.

The experience of being invincible sparks the imagination; without a sense of invincibility, the spirit could not move decisively and effectively into action.  Without a sense of invincibility, the spirit could not stay the course in the face of adversity.

With a focus on externals – on physical strength, speed, flexibility, endurance – there are so many ways to embody and express this way of being, and just as many ways to embody and express falling down and falling short of the mark.

We are always already vulnerable at heart. Might it be that we are destined to become forever invincible in spirit?

Not unlike a gem in need of a polish, might it be that the core of Being merely requires the removal of egoic conditioning in a process of cleansing the self and the world of certain restrictions, limitations, and expectations so as to set us free of them?

With a focus on internals – on spiritual strength, speed, flexibility, endurance – any emphasis on invincibility undergoes a shift in priorities.

For one thing, attention can finally be paid to harvesting the benefits of cultivating a sense of vulnerability at the heart of the soul.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 33

Vulnerability and invincibility are two sides of the same proverbial coin.

If vulnerability dwells at the heart of soul, then invincibility moves the soul of spirit.

Speaking of soul and spirit, this verse makes a few sagacious distinctions …

Those who
understand others
have knowledge;
Those who
understand themselves
have wisdom.

Mastering others
requires force;
Mastering the self
calls for inner strength.

If you realize
you have enough,
you are truly rich.

Those who
give themselves
to their positions
surely live long.
Those who
give themselves
to the Tao
surely live forever.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Cutting yourself off from your vulnerability at the heart of your soul so as to be forever invincible is one thing; remaining cut off from the invincibility of your spirit by way of your soul so as to remain forever vulnerable is quite another.

While a force of will is no match for the presence, promise, and power of conscious willing when a response is called for, the presence, promise, and power of conscious willing is no match for a force of will when a reaction is called for.

Knowing tentatively when and where and how to be vulnerable at heart (and why) and knowing without a doubt when and where and how to be invincible in spirit (and why) lies at the crux of your mastery of self and world, respectively.

My Impressions of the Verse

I love the simplicity of this verse, with its clear distinctions and bold comparisons.

Those who
understand others
have knowledge;
Those who
understand themselves
have wisdom.

Understanding for the sake of knowing (invincibility) is never complete without understanding for the sake of being (vulnerable).

To be yourself, know yourself in time; to know yourself fully, be yourself timelessly.

Mastering others
requires force;
Mastering the self
calls for inner strength.

If motivating others requires a constant force of will, inspiring others calls for a constancy of inner strength.

If you realize
you have enough,
you are truly rich.

Even if you owned the entire planet and everyone on it, but nevertheless gave it all free reign, trusting that everyone could do a much better job of running the world than you, you’d still be rich beyond belief.

And how do you own the entire world and everyone in it? By taking ownership of your self and your world, by finding the gift in every encounter with an attitude of gratitude, by knowing when enough is enough.

Those who
give themselves
to their positions
surely live long.
Those who
give themselves
to the Tao
surely live forever.

Being wedded to time and place brings timely constancy, but being free of time and place brings timeless immortality.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

Even as we require the trust, respect, and approval of ourselves to encounter vulnerability in all of its wonder, we desire an experience of ourselves as strong, smart, wise, rich, powerful, and immortal to experience invincibility in all of its splendor.

If satisfaction accepts vulnerability, fulfillment honors invincibility.

We can either attach ourselves to vulnerability for the sake of soul at the expense of spirit, presenting as fragile, insipid, and mediocre, or we can attach ourselves to invincibility for the sake of spirit at the expense of soul, presenting as stormy, demanding, and controlling.

A third option, however, goes one better: master those polar opposites known as vulnerability and invincibility.

Begin with the intention to hold a space for both by being a witness to both. Be vulnerable: open up and trust your encounters as and when this feels good and right for you. Become invincible: apply a laser focus to your experience, decisively, relentlessly, completely.

Witnessing allows you to watch yourself open up and close down at will – to relax focus or to apply focus.

Next, think of yourself as a diamond (invincible) wrapped in velvet (vulnerable); bring a sense of balance to these complementary opposites by keeping yourself aligned with your intrinsic wholeness.

You do this by accepting and aligning with that part of you that is invincible, not unlike being a mirror to others, accepting and reflecting with zen-like equanimity whatever is put before it, no matter how venal, vicious, or vile.

Detached from and never tainted or stained by whatever it reflects, you, the invincible mirror at the core of your being, always and forever remain the same, always and forever retain purity, always and forever fail to wear thin, down, or out.

The reflections in your experience cannot ever affect the mirror, which transcends the reflections, like a mirage of water in a desert. Fire cannot consume it, earth cannot bury it, water cannot soak it, the wind cannot blow it away.

Pure from the beginning, this invisible, invincible mirror cannot be bound, cannot be frozen or liquefied or evaporated without your permission; evil intent cannot touch it unless you yourself lose touch with it.

True, the reflections can appear to obscure the surface of this mirror, but then, you would never notice the mirror without its reflections. The reflections are revelations of your invincible power and you would do well to treat them as such.

The reflections in your experience are inseparable, indivisible, insuperable expressions of the mirror – the invisible, invincible you.

The reflections are the mirror yet not the mirror and only you can tell the difference with a sense of vulnerability.

Next up: From Good to Great (Living the Great Way)

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