The Value of Vulnerability

Ten and a half months ago I remember very clearly the sensation of saying goodbye to my flat and most challenging of all, 527saying goodbye to my cat, who was moving to the cat-loving neighbour downstairs. I was excited but stressed. I hadn’t done a timely job of moving out of my flat and even though I had that ‘world is my oyster’ thought, it was also woven with ‘how on earth am I going to survive!’

Intuitively it rang truer to stay closer to home than attempt going nomad as far away as South Africa without some acclimatisation to the altitude of nomadic living. To misquote Oscar Wilde, ‘If you’re not going to live in the gutter you have to look at the stars.’ And thats what I mean about nomadic living at altitude.

Even though you’d expect the need to survive to be more immediate when you leave your home and belongings behind, its not. Not for me anyway. I remember once many years ago living for six months in Florida in a single storey condo with doors and french windows all over the place. A simple place for a burglar to break in. I lived with a lovely man, who was on his spiritual path and he never locked anything, not even the front door. When he went away for a fortnight I locked up at night, and all of a sudden I felt phenomenally vulnerable. As if in locking people out, I highlighted the danger, and considered myself a potential victim.

So, back to January of this year. I left my home, where I’d been holed up for about four years. The month before I’d seen an advert for volunteers wanted at Eco Chateau in the heart of ‘lionheart’ country in France (which I thought was an interesting bit of synchronicity). I was determined to go there even though it looked closed for the winter. But by hook or by crook that was my destination. On the 4th of February I flew out on a Ryanair flight with the owner of said chateau. I was the only volunteer! The eco-village was still in the planning stage and yet I was in seventh heaven.

I had a room to myself, worked during the day in my own office doing online marketing which included writing articles and pic_00121creating video to inspire and enthuse others to choose to visit too. I fell in love with the place. Every day the two big dogs and the kitten kept me company while I wandered around the 27 acre estate and collected kindling for the wood burner. The place was freezing, I don’t think I’ve ever worked, or pic_00141lived, in such cold conditions, but I loved virtually every second of it.

It was during this time I began to understand the value of vulnerability. Being in the heart of rural France meant I was pretty tied to the estate. I couldn’t do what I’d normally do under financial stress - visit independent businesses and offer to create video for their websites. So with no financial resources I had to rely on the effortless flow which is borne out of surrender, and a focus on the end result. Always in the nick of time, without any obvious machinations from me, money arrived when I needed it, and often not a day before!

In one of my previous blogs I wrote about how I’ve used money (or the lack of it) to buffer myself from life. At Eco Chateau I had no buffer - more accurately I had no buffer from myself. It became a time of extraordinary revelation. I learned a lot about myself and what I came away with most profoundly was the experience of connecting with the ‘bond’ of nature while I foraged for food in the early spring.

Picking wild plants, most considered weeds, became a meditation where I thanked the earth for her bounty for every single stempic_0048 I plucked. There came a day when the flow of love was like a figure eight, the infinity sign, flowing from me to the earth and back again in an effortless dialogue. I remember sitting outside the chateau having lunch - a salad created from the food which less than an hour earlier had been growing in the south facing field, and experiencing an emotion I couldn’t place. If I were to make up a name for it, I choose ‘completeness’. It was an awe-inspiring knowing that I am a part of the whole, that life itself is all inter-connected, all wanting to share and exchange for the highest good of all concerned.

Later that month it was time for me to move on - I visited the woods which I loved so much, and imagined they told me not to worry. Even though I was leaving the area, it didn’t mean I was leaving love behind. They would send a message to other trees around the world to await me. I know I made that up, but the feeling of love shared was without question.

I still forget to drop in to this deeper space of connection but when I do, the distance and separation between me and ‘others’ (whether people, animals, trees, landscape) turns from solid, clear lines of boundary to insubstantial mist. In those moments the magic of love and life overflows. Divine!

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