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  • Writer's pictureHeidi Nehring

The Everest of Vulnerability

Updated: May 17

Vulnerability is medicine. It’s the elixir that connects, repairs, restores, opens, massages, and soothes the pathway of the head and the heart, connecting with the Collective Heart.

Come January, every year for about the past 20 years, I get a hunger inside of me to begin reading books about climbing mountains, specifically Everest. By the time I finish one of the books, it’s the climbing season for Mount Everest, as they document lead lines of people, hundreds at a time, attempting to make their way to the summit.

My fascination with these books is not who makes it to the top. I am fascinated by the human journey. It’s a concentrated amount of time where people are faced with their most vulnerable self. It’s a curiosity I have as to what motivates people to take such a big risk and how they make it through. There’s lots of sacrifice as people spend what a house costs to make this trip and leave family behind for months, not to mention the time and attention on the training portion prior to the experience. While it’s the same mountain, the entire adventure is different for every individual. As a mere observer and reader, there seems to be two types of people that climb Everest. 

Many times, there are the people that want to push their limits to make it to the top to prove something to themselves, or to beat a record. Many times individuals push past their limits even after being told multiple times to turn around by others, ignoring illness, exposing themselves more to the elements. Many times the results are not great. Fingers or toes lost, extreme edema, and sometimes even death. If they even make it to the top, many perish on the way down not far from the summit as they have used up all of their energy and resources.

Then there are the people who want to challenge themselves to make it to the top to fulfill a lifelong dream, but are very in tune with who they are as human beings, authentically, and know when, or if, they need to turn around. They are open to whatever the opportunity brings. If they have to turn around, of course, many times they are met with extreme disappointment. Sometimes there is frostbite, but the fingers and toes return to normal color and function. In the books, we are normally able to witness those individual’s journeys afterwards. That is, the self-reflection of the experience within the grieving process of having had to make choices they didn’t necessarily want to make. In most cases, while there is disappointment, those individuals return to their true nature becoming more confident, honest, and supporting others through their own process. While unhappy with the circumstances, they are okay within themselves and what they have learned in the process. 

I use these two to make a point. Our human experience is not very different at sea level. Specifically speaking about vulnerability. I’ve been walking the journey with others this week as to what vulnerability is. It’s interesting that much of our society associates vulnerability with fear, hurt, pain, and eventually ultimate suffering.

I would like to challenge the thinking and state that vulnerability doesn’t have to be painful to the point of suffering. Buddhist philosophy/practices, religions, as well as many of the authors today, such as Brené Brown, focus on the phrase, “strong back, soft front.” When we are able to live in our truth, to analyze our motivations as to why we want to do something, vulnerability doesn’t become so scary. While we might expose ourselves to elements, it’s the motivations behind why we do those things that makes the difference. If someone is going to climb Everest just to summit, or to beat a record, reaching for praise or attention and not listening to their own body, mind, emotions, they will be exposing themselves to more suffering. So it is with vulnerability. If we pour ourselves out, all of our energy, expecting a return for fulfillment, most chances are we'll be disappointed. Without contemplation in the process, the ultimate suffering may be isolation, separation, and loneliness. 

If someone is going to climb Everest with the intention of summiting, but remain curious to the experience and open to who and how they are in the process while exposing themselves to the raw elements, the chances of suffering become much less. They are aware of the give and take. While there normally is pain, there is also healing, a return to self; authenticity, self-love, remaining connected to the Whole.

So it is with vulnerability in exposing who we are as human beings. Our thoughts, feelings, our struggles, our hopes, and our dreams. If we continually reach for reassurance from the outside, pouring ourselves out of ourselves, thinking that this will offer some form of self-fulfillment, we will most likely suffer, losing ourselves even more in the process. If we work to remain genuinely connected, contemplating thoughts and feelings, creating a deeper relationship with purpose, and that which is bigger than us, we remain true to the collective, and there is more peace in the process.

And, as with anything, seeing this is just a blog, I could be completely wrong.

I leave you with this poem.

There’s a space





If there is too much of one

Or the other

One experiences loneliness

Separation, suffering

Drowning in too much thought


Repetition of movement

Staying in one place

The skill of expression

Is what balances

Connects the two

Reviving, unifying

Freeing our minds and bodies

Massaging, bridging

The gap

Between the head and the heart

And the hearts of other people

With the medicine of vulnerability

Peace is ours. Namaste 

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