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Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
Blogs about inhabiting this present moment

Discovering Love in the Face of Imminent Death

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Updated: May 5th 2014

An Adapted Tale Based on a True Incident

"When fear knocked on the door,
faith answered and no one was there."
— Anonymous

"God helps those who help themselves."
— Benjamin Franklin

pistolAn holy man, dwelling within "what is" without any separate ego claiming authority and authorship (i.e., what is called enlightenment), was respectfully asked to address a meeting of people who consciously wanted to progress in their highest spiritual evolvement. Filled to overflowing was the living room and adjacent family room when, amid deep silence, smiles and reverence, the holy man began to softly speak. Profound peace, gratitude and generous brotherhood in living inside the presence of God's ever-flowing bounty of Love and Light were shared gently and intuitively. All listened and became attuned to these messages.

Within this sacred ambiance one gentleman became ever more uncomfortable, shifting positions and agitated. Immersed in the mood, the holy man noticed this, gave it little importance and carried on. That is until at one moment the gentleman listening a mere dozen feet away became so upset he abruptly scrambled to his feet and interrupted the holy man desperately bellowing, "Now just stop with all this love, fellowship and peace. ENOUGH! No one has the right to be so happy!"

He pulled out a large handgun, pointed it directly at the holy man's head. With his wild, mad eyes flashing, visibly shaken, emotionally distraught, and at his wit's end, the gentleman shouted in an emotionally punctuated, staccato way, "JUST WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF I PULLED THE TRIGGER AND PUT A BULLET IN YOUR HEAD?" As was found later, the gun was loaded. And as it turned out, the man was an outstanding marksman.

You could palpably feel the shock and hear everyone holding their breath in the room. All were immobilized and terror-filled only moments after having been in ecstatic bliss. The holy man didn't blink, didn't break eye contact, didn't flinch. He dug deep within himself to find all the compassion, kindness and human connection he was capable of. In this timeless moment the holy man simply radiated all of this boundless caring to this gentleman. The holy man kept his heart open and head straight within the shock.

With the intensity of the moment and a realistic fear obvious and present, yet without any vestige of the imaginary ego-mind's past fears being projected onto these circumstances, the holy man spoke from the great well of love within him. With heart-felt sincerity he replied, "Then...I would die loving you."

With this, the gentleman's hand holding the huge gun went weakly limp. Almost imperceptibly, the holy man began to very slowly stand up, all while continuing his eye, heart, mind and bodily connection with him. The holy man moved lithely, panther-like to this deeply despairing man, gently taking the gun from his hand and handing it to someone seated nearby. He took the man into his arms, fully enfolding and embracing him, as the gentleman wept inconsolably for his actions and his pain. Soon, the holy man joined him in weeping, being so touched and relieved at once.

The holy man whispered reassurances quietly into the man's ear as he gently rocked him slowly back and forth, much like you would with a lost, lonely and fearful child. As the man's maelstrom came to a crescendo, became more modulated and eventually dissipated, the holy man wiped the tears from both of their cheeks, kissed the man on both cheeks and his forehead, and helped him back to his seat, cradling him as he sat down.

After taking his own seat, the holy man took several deep breaths as he nonverbally invited everyone to do the same. He moved his arms in a broad yet restrained gesture, almost as if he was gracefully smoothing out the life energy in the room's environment. There was purely spacious, relieved and relaxing timelessness.

Without missing a beat, the holy man picked up exactly where he had been in his talk. The meeting proceeded thereafter without incident. All was well and remained well.

In facing the real threat of explosive violence, no S.W.A.T. Team was called. No failed heroics with bloody consequences occurred. No details at 11 or inch-high headlines the following morning. Rather, the holy man brought absolute, unconditional Love and Love only, all within his certainty of true faith and fearlessness, and even a deeper and more profound intuitive knowing and Being at One. What makes this tale riveting is the depth of love expressed within the stunning threat of imminent death. Curiously, it is when the stakes are highest in life that you discover what kind of depth and breadth of character you possess. What depth of unconditional, bountiful and authentic Love, compassion and kindness can we find for the wounded souls that grace our paths daily?


This adapted story is based upon a true anecdote reported by journalist Sally Kempton and Psychology professor Ruth Berlin regarding the writer Paul Zweig's first meeting with a spiritual master and former psychologist re-named Swami Muktananda.1 At the meeting of people who had come to listen to Swami's spiritual thoughts on peace and brotherhood, one man had become so agitated that he shouted that no one had the right to be as happy as Muktananda. The man then asked what Muktananda would do if he took out a gun and pulled the trigger. Muktananda only said, "I would die loving you."


1. Sally Kempton & Ruth Berlin, "Foreword." In Swami Muktananda, Mystery of the Mind. South Fallsburg, New York: SYDA Foundation, 1981, pages ix-xviii, reference: page x.


Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician in private practice in Pleasanton, CA in the East San Francisco Bay area. Licensed as a psychologist in California since 1987 and in the field since 1976, he specializes in Presence-centered therapy principally with adults and couples. Presence-centered therapy is a conscious attuning to the richness of this present moment (sometimes called mindfulness or wakefulness) along with witnessing, that is, observing what the mind is up to now by looking from outside of it. His practice is centered upon inhabiting this present moment, witnessing and "buying out" of the ego-mind's unworkable patterns, desensitizing root emotional charges, and gaining effective tools to thrive in the world. He specializes in providing therapy for adults facing anxiety, significant stress, work issues, relationship challenges and depression as well as couples with marital issues, communication issues, self-defeating behavior, divorce mediation, co-parenting and pre-marital counseling. Core to his approach is installing, building and developing strong internal resources, an enhanced capacity to hold, bear and tolerate strong emotions, and highly adaptive tools to better thrive in the world.He can be reached directly through his website (featuring over 215 articles, 27 YouTube videos and pages upon pages of highly practical annotated resource links) or by email at . Dr. Friedman is available for business consulting, business training and executive coaching (detail on his home page).

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