"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward."
- Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart set out to circumnavigate the globe in 1937 and disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. In her decision to take this flight said, “decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.” She left a legacy representing courage, determination, and following her hearts passion. Maybe some of you, like me, have taken to voyages that seemed risky and confronted the place inside our heads that threw stones at such a possibility.
The human spirit has a built in regulatory system that has the capacity to conquer such fears as sky diving, learning to fly, climbing a mountain peak, or taking a trip to another country. Such experiences open life in ways that if not done, we wouldn’t be who we are today. But what about the risk of day–to-day circumstances of our lives that present themselves over and over only to be shut down, shut out, refused. We close to the vulnerable moments, keeping our hearts closed.
At times, I witness this in my office as patients struggle to get in touch with their vulnerabilities. Discussing sex is like opening Pandora’s box. It’s not about the sex per se, but about what gets in the way of actually being present to body sensations, feelings, and thoughts just as they arise in any given moment. The “what’s getting in the way,” or fear, is that difficult place that feels like the plane will probably go down in the pacific. Or the paper tigers that seem real, which as fear spells, False Evidence Appearing Real.
Researcher, Brene Brown, in her pivotal work on the courage to risk being vulnerable, says that vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experience. How desperate we are to be seen and heard, to be noticed as valuable and worthy. Yet more than not, fear hijacks life’s experience of living wholeheartedly. So much of our conditioning as a child until this moment keeps us locked into modes of fear, shame, guilt, unworthiness, etc.; so why even leave the runway, right?
Making the decision to act on the calling of our hearts and risk vulnerability seems the only real and true option. And with gratitude and appreciation, I bare witness to hearts opening to their stories, to their tears, to their need to be loved and held. I know in those moments of space and time that the universe changes in some very magical way. This space is wide open, like the sky Amelia flew in with the vast ocean below her. These moments of wholehearted expression feel like the open sky and vast ocean.
That is what our hearts have to offer. This is where vulnerability leads. Sometimes we may not land where we’d like, yet the experience of being in a field of such expansiveness makes it all just fine anyway. I would say when we risk vulnerability of the heart, it’s the experience of the flight that really matters anyway. As Amelia says, "the process is it's own reward." May your heart take wings so you may experience what I’m certain Amelia experienced as she encountered the great expanse of the sky and ocean.
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Sherri Aikin is a Fellow of Integrative Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Sex Counselor, Mindfulness Facilitator, and Life Coach.
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