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Vulnerability / Invulnerability

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Vulnerability / Invulnerability?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Vulnerability / Invulnerability

An Extreme Attempt to Eliminate Our Vulnerability

An extreme attempt to eliminate our vulnerability is to try to not be permeable to anything—to not feel anything, the pain or the pleasure. And when you eliminate that vulnerability completely, when you don’t feel anger or sadness, love or hate, need or desire, when you don’t feel any emotion at all, you start feeling alienated and that you’re not human. The effect is that you feel you’re not human, because you’ve cut away the most characteristic of human qualities, your vulnerability. If you’re completely invulnerable, completely defended with nothing flowing in or out, completely unfeeling, you’re completely a shell. You feel, “I’m not human, I’m like a machine.” It’s true that you’re defended then, but you’re defended against all possibilities, not just against some. 

Creation Evolves from the Least Vulnerable to the Most Vulnerable

When the shell becomes completely permeable, completely transparent, completely vulnerable, when there is no shell anymore, just empty space, then the question arises: Who’s there to be scared of what? What does it mean to be scared? What does it mean to be vulnerable? We protect ourselves because we believe we are vulnerable. But by that very protection we change vulnerability from being the greatest support to being the greatest danger. If you’re not vulnerable, you’re separate. If you’re separate, you’re scared. You’re scared of everything. The complete understanding of vulnerability is that the nature of the human being is ultimately the supreme reality, is this unity, is everything. The human is the possibility of being the supreme reality. We are the final, ultimate fruit of existence, because we are the most vulnerable. Creation evolves from the least vulnerable to the most vulnerable. Rocks are less vulnerable than trees, and trees are less vulnerable than animals, and animals are less vulnerable than humans. Reality has to become completely vulnerable, all the way to the utmost possibility of vulnerability. And when that happens at the very tip of development, at the ultimate apogee of evolution, you experience yourself at the utmost vulnerability, and you see you are everything, you are the nature of everything. So, if you go through total meekness, total weakness, total susceptibility and total vulnerability, leaving yourself at the mercy of everything, and if you allow yourself to be completely, totally at the mercy of reality, you realize you are the reality.

If You're Completely Vulnerable You Don't Make Choices

Student: So you don’t make choices if you’re completely vulnerable?
Almaas: No, if you’re completely vulnerable, you don’t make choices. In a sense, choices are made for you. Your inner source moves in a certain direction. You become like a glove, and Essence is the hand that moves you. The glove doesn’t make a choice. If the glove makes a choice, it won’t let the hand move. If the glove says, “No, I want to go this way,” and the hand says, “No, I want to go that way,” you’re in conflict. That’s what emotional conflict is all about. But if you don’t choose and you let Essence, your nature, function through you, the glove will be permeable, vulnerable to the hand, and then your nature will move you. And your nature has intelligence. We don’t trust that our nature has intelligence, that it will know where to go, what to do. So, we don’t let ourselves be vulnerable to it. We feel we have to choose. But when we are truly vulnerable, the choice is always to go along with the supreme will. We don’t go against it, ever. Our choice is to be vulnerable to the supreme will, which is our true nature.

Our Vulnerability is a Total Openness to Any Possibility

We are vulnerable not only physically, but also mentally. We can be conscious of our situation—we can reflect on it, know its implications, and understand it. Our human mind is so impressionable, so influenceable, that the best word to describe it is vulnerable. The fact that it is so influenceable, susceptible, and impressionable leaves us open and vulnerable to absolutely everything. As a baby you are completely at the mercy of the environment not only physically but mentally. You are vulnerable in a way that influences you for the rest of your life. You’re so susceptible to your parents and the rest of your environment that almost everything about how you feel and how you think is determined from outside: what you think is good, what you think is bad, what you think you want, what you think you don’t want, even who you think you are. Animals cannot really be conditioned in that way, because their minds are not that impressionable. Not only are we very vulnerable physically and mentally, but we’re emotionally vulnerable as well. Some animals are somewhat vulnerable emotionally, but we human beings are completely vulnerable emotionally. We are probably the most emotionally vulnerable creatures on earth. Our capacity to feel makes us emotionally vulnerable, puts us in a very vulnerable position. Emotionally we’re susceptible to the experience of whatever state is happening in our bodies. We can experience pleasure and experience pain. We feel love, but also hatred. Our vulnerability is a total openness to any possibility.

Receptivity to Our Deeper Nature

But if the personality understands what vulnerability actually means, then we become receptive to our deeper nature and it acts on us. We are no longer the actor; we are a permeable membrane. We are acted upon, we are penetrated by our nature, and we allow it to come out. And the work on the personality, which can be seen as refining it, allows that membrane to become increasingly vulnerable to our Essence. The less defended and opaque the personality is, the more it is permeable to Essence. And as Essence manifests through the personality -- as it permeates it, influences it, as the personality becomes completely one-hundred-percent vulnerable to our truest nature and -- we begin to see that there is no difference between them. We experience oneness, unity.

The Door to Intimacy

The wonderful thing is that vulnerability becomes the door to intimacy, to being ourselves, to being real, to being where we are. But for that to happen, we have to be willing to be vulnerable to what is. Being vulnerable means that our soul is open for things to arise in it. It is not defended. If it has walls, it is preventing things from arising; it is not allowing the dynamism of our Being to transform our condition. This means that it will only transform in ways that don’t feel threatening—in other words, ways that are familiar to us. But being vulnerable allows our soul to transform into something new and unfamiliar, and that at first is scary—which means we will feel undefended.

The State of Defenselessness

When one finally allows the state of vulnerability, it can manifest as a state of defenselessness. This indicates the dropping of the defensiveness of ego. Such letting go means the abandonment, usually transitory, of certain deep identification systems. These constitute the core of the defensive structures of ego. The result is again the manifestation of emptiness, this time vast and of immeasurable depth. It is a deeper dimension of space.

To Be Vulnerable is to Flow Like Water

To be human means that you don’t say, “I want this to happen,” or “I don’t want that to happen.” You’re so vulnerable that you don’t need to choose what you experience. Whatever comes, comes. There’s no resistance to it. When I say that to be human you don’t choose this over that, I don’t mean that if you feel yourself choosing, you should tell yourself not to choose, because then you’re choosing. To be human is to be completely spontaneous, so delicate that you can’t resist or say no to any experience. Then you become like water—light goes through you. To be human is to be like delicate water, very clean, very transparent, very fresh. It doesn’t have any opaqueness; it is completely colorless. You can see all colors through it. It’s very fluid, transparent. Whatever impression comes from within you goes through you like light through water. To be vulnerable is to flow like water. To be like a running stream with the freshness of running water. There is a clarity, a lucidity, a delicacy. Vulnerability is like water, but the water is very delicate. It’s like the water of tears—so delicate, so fine. If you are like tears, if your very nature is like colorless tears, then you feel what it’s like to be vulnerable.

Total Vulnerability is the Same Thing as Total Invulnerability

Complete, one-hundred-percent, absolute and total vulnerability is the same thing as complete, one-hundred-percent, absolute and total invulnerability. In fact, in our attempts to eliminate our vulnerability, to deaden ourselves, desensitize ourselves, create a shell around ourselves, we create fear. The shell is always scared, as well as isolated. Separate from the world. There’s no unity, no support from the universe. You are on your own. You are cut off. And when you are cut off, you’re vulnerable. Then vulnerability is seen as dangerous. Vulnerability is a danger only if you think of yourself as separate from the rest of existence. This means that vulnerability is seen as a danger only if it is not completely understood. Vulnerability is a danger only if you think that there is a me and there is an other, and that I’m not defended against that other. This experience of vulnerability is not complete. There is still a barrier. You’re only partially permeable. You still have a shell, and the shell lets some things in and out, but not everything.  

Vulnerability Gives Us the Possibility of Experiencing All Levels of Reality

As far as I can tell, we are the only beings who are permeable to everything that exists, from the most painful to the most sublime. We're sensitive not only to experiencing the pleasures and pains of our bodies, to feeling our emotions, the painful and pleasurable, and to sensing our thoughts, but our vulnerability also gives us the possibility of experiencing, and being aware of, being in contact with all levels of reality. We're permeable to not only physical, emotional, and mental stimuli, but to essential and spiritual stimuli as well. So, not only are we vulnerable in the sense that our feelings, our preferences, even our identity can be influenced, but we are also vulnerable to being aware, conscious, and permeable to our true identity, and to the nature of all existence. So you see, our uniquely human quality of vulnerability is a disadvantage from one perspective and a great advantage from another. We’re wide open to all influences, all possibilities if we allow ourselves to be -- if we don't defend ourselves, if we don't build a shell and hide behind it. Our human consciousness is so vulnerable that we can actually know who we are. We're so conscious, so permeable, that we can experience the very nature of all of reality -- the nature of a stone, a tree, the nature of ourselves.

Vulnerability is Just the Beginning of Experiencing the Gentleness and the Exquisiteness of Being Genuine

As human beings, we have always been vulnerable. Our natural state is to be undefended. In fact, the defensiveness of human beings, the sense of security that ego constructs by building defensive walls to hide or camouflage itself, is arrogant and even delusional. Because when it comes to real danger, we are vulnerable all the time; we can be damaged easily. For example, we are quite vulnerable physically. A little virus that you can’t even see can get you, and the next day you are on your back and you can’t even move. But our vulnerability is also the quality of our humanness. It is a heart quality of openness, of gentleness, that is needed for us to recognize where we are and to abide there. We cannot truly recognize where we are without that gentleness, that humanness, that humility. But that means we will find ourselves in a vulnerable condition. Vulnerability in the face of danger feels frightening, but in the absence of danger, vulnerability can simply mean feeling naturally, undefendedly yourself. So we have a dilemma. We are scared, we want to protect ourselves, but at the same time we want to be real. How are we going to solve this paradox? How do we protect ourselves against danger and still be real? We come back to the peach . . . You do things to take care of yourself. You get professional health care as you need it, you brush your teeth, you take reasonable precautions if you are walking through an unsafe neighborhood, you don’t hang out with gangs, and so on. You use your intelligence to do what is necessary—you defend yourself physically if that is called for—but inside you remain vulnerable, open, supple, gentle. And you begin to appreciate vulnerability as a human quality that gives us the openness to reality, to perception, to our True Nature in all of its manifestations. We cannot be ourselves if we don’t experience that vulnerability, because vulnerability is just the beginning of experiencing the gentleness and the exquisiteness of being genuine. In time, we learn that we can feel completely undefended without it feeling scary, without feeling that we need to defend ourselves, without the need for those inner walls.

Vulnerability Seen as An Asset

Believing that we need to be thick-skinned to survive is not something we hide from ourselves; it’s completely accepted in our society. We are told that to get ahead, we have to become more thick-skinned and not feel things. And this point of view is actually rationalized with all kinds of philosophies. But something happens when we build a shell and hide inside it, which is the source of most human complaints. When we cover up our vulnerability so that we’re not open to hurt and pain, fear and influenceability, we also become insensitive to joy, love, happiness, pleasure, and aliveness. This helps us understand further what vulnerability means. It is true that we are physically vulnerable, but if you look at the physical vulnerability of a human being, you see that that vulnerability itself is also an asset. This vulnerability gives us the capacity to adapt better than other creatures. Vulnerability ultimately means sensitivity, transparency, penetrability. We see it as influenceability, which we think is negative, but it actually means that we’re open, we can be penetrated, we’re sensitive to impressions coming into us and going out of us. This leaves us at the mercy of all kinds of influences, but also gives us the possibility of greater versatility and flexibility in terms of what we can do, how we can respond, what environments we can live in. We can adapt and respond differently to different stimuli. Human beings have been able to adapt to and live in all kinds of environments. Most other creatures can’t do that because they have a narrower range of responses. We have been able to adapt because of our mental, emotional, and physical vulnerability.

Vulnerability to Love

You’re most vulnerable when you're experiencing love. Beyond love is unity, where vulnerability and invulnerability become one. Love is the first emanation, the first particularization of the supreme reality, which is unity. The first expression, the first breath of the unity is divine universal love, with its sweetness and delicacy. That is where you are the most vulnerable, before your vulnerability becomes invulnerability. When you’re loving, you still feel at the mercy of everything. The step beyond that is to become even more vulnerable, and then you’re completely invulnerable. So we’re seeing how love can lead always to complete vulnerability and thus to invulnerability. Love is the highest, the deepest, the most intense, the most expansive possibility of feeling. Love is the heart. Beyond love is the supreme reality, which is beyond feeling or no feeling. So vulnerability is vulnerability to love, and extremely deep vulnerability is love. If you really are vulnerable, you’re loving. You can’t help but be loving. And if you’re very loving, you can’t help but feel vulnerable. If you allow yourself to feel, your heart is completely open.

Vulnerability to the Reality of Pure Being

So at this advanced stage in the process of inner realization, vulnerability must be completely understood and accepted. It is experienced as the human adaptive capacity for being permeable, penetrable and impressionable. It is intrinsically adaptive, being open to a great range of experience and learning. At this stage, the student learns that for the individual consciousness to be completely without defenses means to be completely vulnerable, not only to human love objects but, more basically, to Being itself. This means no resistance, no defense, no separateness and no isolation. So for the personality to be completely vulnerable to the reality of Pure Being means ultimately that it will become so transparent and permeable to it that there is no longer a difference between the two. It is complete absorption of ego structure by Being; the complete integration of personality into Being. The result is the state of unity and oneness of Being. It is also the process of personalization of Pure Being. We see that the following are equivalent:

  • Complete cessation of ego defenses and resistances
  • Complete vulnerability
  • Complete absorption of personality into Being
  • Personalization of the supreme aspect of nondifferentiated Pure Being
  • Total oneness of Being. 

We Don’t See that Complete Invulnerability Means Complete Openness

You see, we are afraid. We believe we need to separate ourselves, create thick shells and defend ourselves against impressions of all kinds, because we feel separate from the invulnerable reality, the state of unity. And we separate ourselves from the invulnerable reality by trying not to be vulnerable. By trying not to be vulnerable, we become vulnerable in a negative way. We believe that complete invulnerability would mean complete defensiveness, complete isolation and detachment from all experience. We don’t see objectively what vulnerability is; we don’t see that complete invulnerability means complete openness. Complete openness means the lack of all separateness. The absence of all boundaries means unity, which means invulnerability. However, we go at it the other way around. We try to find invulnerability by isolating and defending ourselves, by becoming less sensitive, less human. But when we attempt to resist the vulnerability, when we say the slightest no to vulnerability, we’re creating a boundary, a shell which makes us feel separate. And that very separateness makes us vulnerable to fears, makes us paranoid. There is no paranoia if there is unity.

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