Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vulnerability and Surrender -- How Children Remind Us to Be in the Moment



Children are the natural teachers of basic goodness. My son was hospitalized in 1999 as a 20 month old for a fractured skull. His parents were traumatized, his mother’s confidence shattered, and he was shaken up as well. But after a night in the hospital, he was back up on his feet in the playroom of Buffalo Children’s Hospital playing air hockey and bounding between one toy or game and another with the children who were ambulatory.

I remember a room full of children and their bandages wrapped around their head traumas and post-surgical procedures due to injury or cancer. These children were living in the moment, aware of each other, aware of themselves with the natural proclivity to play and participate in one another’s universe, to beckon us, to remind us, to shake us out of our self-induced comas. These sick and hurting children were teaching us to be alive and to stay awake. These children felt the fresh touch of vulnerability, their mortality and were naturally surrendering to the moment to simply be and play with their friends, fellow inpatients with different prognoses and challenges.



Becoming vulnerable is first admitting vulnerability exists. Fear and fearlessness walk hand in hand. Vulnerability is about giving up some of yourself to participate with everyone else. Surrender is the experience. Becoming vulnerable is becoming open, allowing yourself to be known by yourself and others. It is inviting in a broken heart. Loving is the tender side of being alive, of becoming fully human.



To love is to make one’s self vulnerable.  Experiencing our stuff, the habitual patterns we all have, allows the vulnerability to surface. The true heart of sadness is a raw inner one, it is a great heart of sadness, tender to all of life surrounding it at all moments yet still able to live and breathe and share and exalt in the vibrant and poignant moments of joy and pain, however big or small.

The open wounds we carry never completely heal, yet they somehow transform us if we allow the suffering to teach us to surrender to what is. We don’t uproot our old habits but in the light of basic goodness, basking in the authentic quality of goodness, we outshine these worn out habitual ways of carrying on our lives.

Basic goodness is in plain sight at all times. We may go from a lapse in seeing our true human goodness; we may experience a break in being loving or kind. Yet with fearlessness, gentleness and wakefulness we can on the spot touch basic goodness. It is within us, it marks each moment, each breath, each cloud passing in the sky on a hot summer day, a soft spring shower, the first bird singing sweetly after a long winter, the dew drops on the petals of summer flowers, the vast, wide open sky, a child’s laughter, the emergence of a baby from our womb, the death of a friend in pain, the sighs of lovemaking.

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