Life’s Vulnerability and Walking with Bears

Vulnerability is defined as the emotion we feel during times of risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure.  It is having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.

One of the times I feel vulnerable is when hiking in the forests.  Steve and I love to hike and we like to hike on trails that are remote and out of the way.  We usually only see a few other people on our hikes.  Having the trail to ourselves is wonderful.  It also frightens me especially when I see bear warning signs at the trailheads.

Recently we were in Yellowstone National Park.  Yellowstone has the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states.  Some of these mammals include black bears, grizzly bears, wolfs, coyotes, mountain lions, bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and deer.

There are signs all over the park about bears and other wildlife. In the Yellowstone Visitors Guide there is a section on bears and bear encounters.  In bold it says, “your safety cannot be guaranteed.”   Even with all of these warnings we head off into the forest on amazing adventures.  We carry bear spray with us, we make noise as we hike, and we stay alert.  I feel very vulnerable because we never know what is around the next bend on the trail. We never know where the bears are hiding.  There is uncertainty and my heart starts to race.  This is when I sing, make loud noises, or toot the whistle on my backpack. 

I can’t imagine not going on the hikes.  I would miss out on so many amazing views, waterfalls, canyons, caves and experiences. The courage to be vulnerable is about the courage to show up even when you can’t predict or control the outcome.   I don’t know what is out in the woods but I know that I would never miss a hike because I was not willing to be vulnerable.  The reward of the hike, or the reward for being vulnerable and putting yourself out there is worth the risk.  

My hiking story is just one example of vulnerability.  You face uncertainty and risk every day.  You face emotional exposure when you make changes to your life and to your habits and routines. 

The question is, are you willing to show up and take risks?  Are you willing to take risks even when you can’t control the outcome?  When you start on a new journey, you have no idea what will happen on the trail.  Are you willing to walk that trail? Are you willing to be vulnerable in order to make changes?  Do you want to take risks so you can live the life you are worthy of living?

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