Strength And Vulnerability

Determination, fearlessness, confidence, convincing, and optimistic are some of the words that come to mind when I reflect on what characterizes a strong leader. I find that my Vipassana practice leads me to be humble, vulnerable, and open. I’m unsure whether my Vipassana practice is helping or hurting me as a leader.

It might depend on the audience. One of the strongest characteristics of a leader is that people listen to them. My practice definitely helps me catch the ear of people interested in meditation but this is only a small portion of the population. Does everyone else want to take direction from a humble, vulnerable, and open leader? Those adjectives don’t scream confidence or strength so I’m unsure how to lead from that base.

There is the possibility that by growing stronger in my practice through these bouts with vulnerability I will become even stronger and a better leader. Equanimity in the face of chaos certainly inspires confidence in others. Is being soft-spoken also a characteristic of Vipassana? Leaders need their voice to be heard. If a leader is too soft-spoken they’re likely to be replaced by someone more vocal.

Is Vipassana concerned about the world today or is it just concerned about developing on the path to liberation? I hear a lot of conversations about not trying to push this practice on anyone but if truly has the healing power we believe it has shouldn’t we be working harder to share it? I’m not talking about forcing people to take a 10 day course but aren’t there ways to have a more public profile so people can observe the positive qualities of meditators? Shouldn’t we be challenging the individuals and communities around us to grow? Or am I just supposed to focus on my own practice and let Dhamma guide everyone else?

I’ve observed individuals have such a huge impact on the choices of other people who I can’t write off the importance of being a leader in this tradition. I’m also not comfortable passing the responsibility of our planet over to dhamma while I sit quietly on my pillow. I want to learn how to be a dhamma leader but I have a long way to go before I understand what that means. I would be curious to hear how other people see these issues and how they deal with them in their lives. I’m sure my practice will reveal the answers to me someday but I wouldn’t mind expediting the process with some help from my dhamma friends. For now I’ll just keep exploring.

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About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

2 thoughts on “Strength And Vulnerability

  1. I think as we get more comfortable with pain and suffering.. we allow ourselves to get closer to them. This authentic vulnerability is something I’ve been experiencing lately as well. It feels great because it feels so real, alive, raw, and beautiful. And yet terrifying and sometimes unbearable.

    I think what Pema Chodron describes as “groundlessness” is similar to this feeling. She also talks about the fundamental ambiguity of human existence (http://www.soundstrue.com/weeklywisdom/?source=tami-simon&p=1385&category=PP&version=full).

    Recently I’ve read a poem that relates to this experience and also to how essential it is:

    Every loss must be felt right to the core
    Or else there’s an even greater loss
    Sadness must leave its mind to become grief
    Or else it’ll just settle for repressive relief

    So let the pain sweep through
    And the even truer ache
    And especially the bare need
    The love beyond love
    The pure heartbreak

    by Robert Augustus Masters

    Like

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