Originally published on April 2, 2010 at Ezine Articles
‘…the most profound personal changes resulting from mindfulness come when a person disidentifies with the contents of his mind and stands back from the melodrama.’ ~Mikulas
Many years ago, I faced a man who clutched a sawed-off shotgun. Visually it reminded me of the M79 grenade launcher, “Thumper,” that resembled a large bore, break-action, sawed-off shotgun during my 14-month Army tour of duty in Vietnam.
As the executive director of a regional mountain mental health agency, I commuted to the isolated cabin in the mountains in the Sheriff’s SUV. The deputy sheriff entered the cabin with me where we found an agitated man named Jeff standing in his bedroom with a shotgun leveled at us as he nervously played with the trigger. I softly spoke with Jeff as I entered the small bedroom. The deputy sheriff backed away partially closing the door behind him.
To say that I felt vulnerable in this situation is an understatement. This was my first experience in this pilot program of combining law enforcement officers with mental health workers. I had fought many months to convince the sheriff of the program’s intrinsic value.
My vulnerability may not have been exactly what you think it was. I felt safer being vulnerable rather than attempting to be in control as I assessed the potential lethal situation.
I could have fought for absolute control (if this even exists) by employing force, persuasion, and power. However, I humbly embraced my vulnerability. I wanted to honor the authenticity of my essence – the person that I truly was in order to connect with this troubled man’s essence to reach him quickly and safely.
I thoughtfully acknowledged that my vulnerability was a natural process instead of an enculturated one with societal teachings. I understood that my enculturation was a learned process through education, parenting, training, and more that typically encouraged reacting rather than responding. Of equal importance, I knew that Jeff lived in the same enculturation and that it would take a non-enculturated approach to serve him peacefully.
My vulnerability gave me the capacity to thoroughly adapt rather than simply adjust to Jeff. I could readily adapt, because my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual vulnerability supported rapid yet thorough changes. I had a great range of responses and possibilities rather than just reacting with limited options.
Being vulnerable, I knew that I could activate my intuitive capability to determine the most effective action. My vulnerability ultimately meant greater presence, focus, and processing. To be that vulnerable was to allow me to be sensitive to nuances, clarity, and creative management.
When I was vulnerable, I did not have to make choices by selecting the ‘lessor of two evils’ about what action to take, nor did I have to mentally list the positives and negatives to determine my options. Quality choices were pure through the intimate relationship of my essence and intuition. My intuition followed my life path’s integrity, and, therefore, I followed my intuition. By not controlling this situation and allowing essence, my natural being, to function through me with vulnerability, my nature would move me in a fluid way that embraced Jeff.
I was initially aware of my vulnerability at age six or seven and because enculturation was experienced as a challenge much of the time, I sometimes felt the need to attempt to control it. One way I tried to control was by trying to feel only what felt good and pleasurable and to avoid what felt painful or sad. This was not an easy task for a scrawny kid growing up in East Los Angeles.
An extreme attempt (also used by many people) to eliminate vulnerability was to avoid feeling anything, the pain and the pleasure. When I disregarded that vulnerability, when I did not experience anger or sadness, love or hate, need or desire, when I did not feel any emotion at all, I started feeling alienated. I experienced separation from my essence, and I felt alone. Just like Jeff, I lacked a sense of belonging. I felt out of control.
Most of my life I had believed that I needed protection to survive. This was not something I hid from myself (nor anyone else) since this was completely accepted in society. I believed that to achieve what I desired and needed, I had to protect myself more and not truly feel things. I rationalized this defense mechanism (just like most of us) with all kinds of elaborate beliefs and philosophies. When I created my walls and hid behind them, I became insensitive to joy, love, happiness, pleasure, spirituality, and vitality- my essence.
Becoming vulnerable later in life, I discovered the pleasures and pains of my body, my emotions, and my thoughts. My vulnerability encouraged connecting on all levels of my being and all that is natural. I was permeable to essence and spiritual stimuli. I was vulnerable to my heightened awareness, higher conscious, and to my authenticity. I was opening to greater possibilities as I allowed myself to establish bridges instead of building walls. I could experience the essence of a stone, a flower, wildlife and the nature of others and myself.
I shared with Jeff the concept and process of embracing his vulnerability and recognizing his essence until he finally lowered the shotgun. Eventually, he surrendered the weapon to me, and we walked out of the bedroom only to realize the deputy sheriff had left on a law enforcement emergency, leaving the two of us alone. When the deputy sheriff returned, I gave him my assessment that Jeff was stable enough to be left alone. I then arranged for a therapy session for Jeff later that day, and he ultimately resolved his issues, continuing on to a productive and fulfilling life.
Through this experience, I realized it is safer and more meaningful to come from a place of genuine vulnerability rather than control, gaining insight into the relationship between intuition and essence.