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Lions Roar : September 2018
up on the psychiatric ward eventually. But a few days later, I found him unre- strained in a bed in the regular part of the emergency room. When I inquired about the situation, I was told that no beds were available in the lockdown ward. The supervising doctor agreed with the psychiatrist that the patient’s lack of a violent history meant that he could be managed just by keeping him medicated. I didn’t agree, but it wasn’t my call. Over the next several days, I got to know the guy a bit. I found out that he was not only an Iraqi war vet but also a former special forces team member. His PTSD had forced him out of the service and caused a downward spiral ever since. He hated being on medication, and this incident was the result of him choosing to stop taking it. I noticed that his demeanor and abil- ity to be lucid were constantly shifting. This was a dynamic I’d seen before with other patients—the result of doctors AT ONE TIME I DIRECTED crisis response in the emergency room and psychiatric ward of a major hospital. I was the first responder in any situation involving a disruptive or violent person, and I employed tactics ranging from verbally defusing a potential altercation to physically restraining someone. Not a day went by that I wasn’t dealing with a patient who was physically acting out and needed to be restrained for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them. The Buddha taught “cause no harm.” But this teaching is often, in my opinion, wrongly interpreted as “use no force.” What’s the difference? Violence, which is rooted in ignorance and aggression, is fueled by harmful intention to victimize another. Force, when rooted in wisdom and compas- sionate intention, can be used to stop violence and prevent victimization. Let me share with you an experience from my time in the hospital that exemplifies a Buddhist-tempered use of force to quell violence. One day, I was sitting at my emergency room post when police and paramedics brought in a guy whose arms and legs were handcuffed to the gurney. He had a seven-inch knife penetrating his forearm, with the handle on top of his arm and the full length of the blade sticking out from the underside. Rather than scream- ing like most patients, this guy was laughing! One of the officers told me that he’d stabbed himself. The guy was quickly taken to the surgical wing, and I expected to see him THIS DHARMA LIFE Force for Good JEFF EISENBERG’s vow was to cause no harm. As a security guard that sometimes meant he had to use force. experimenting with different combina- tions of medication in an effort to find the best course of treatment. Unfortu- nately, this is a harrowing process. He bounced back and forth from high to low, and his agitation built as a result. It didn’t surprise me when I was called into the ER as a precaution because he was yelling at a nurse. This happened several times, and each time I was able to use wise speech to befriend him, earn his trust, and calm him down. With each incident, I could see further deterioration in him, and finally it all came to a head. I was called into the ER to find he’d gotten out of bed and—with his IV stand in tow—was arguing inco- herently with a doctor. Suddenly he exploded, and in the blink of an eye, his hands were firmly around the doc- tor’s neck. As he pushed the doctor to the ground, I ran and grabbed him in what’s called a “seat belt grip,” which is one hand over the shoulder and one ISTOCK.COM/ANDREYPOPOV The author of Buddha’s Bodyguard and Fight- ing Buddha, JEFF EISENBERG has run his own dojo for nearly fifteen years. He’s also worked as a bodyguard and an investigator. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2018 19 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE