My friend Melanie celebrated her 19th birthday, this month. Melanie has cerebral palsy. For much of her life, her mother has cared for her at home with the help of a series of caregivers who feed her, bathe her, change her, carry her from bed to wheelchair to bath and back.

In 19 years, Melanie hasn’t spoken a single word. She cannot hold up her head, or hold a spoon with her hands. She is petite, with bird-bone wrists and slender fingers. When she smiles, I see her grandmother and mother in the twist of her mouth, in the tiny wrinkles in her forehead.

Melanie doesn’t speak. Yet her ability to create through the power of relationship is astonishing. And her communication skills are exquisitely sophisticated. She communicates in images and feeling states. Much the way Devas communicate, she shares a portion of her vibrational field with me so that, for the duration of our conversation, I experience the world as she does.

Slow down! I’ve said to her, more than once. You’re going too fast — I’m missing half of what you show me. Listening to her is, in some ways, like listening to someone speak a foreign language; one which I understand but in which I am not fluent. It takes effort. It can be exhausting. And exhilarating.

She uses capacities that all of us have as seeds or potentials within us, because they are capacities of our soul. Yet most of us haven’t developed the kind of skill and sophistication that Melanie has. Her skill with energy technologies offers a glimpse of our species future — she embodies potentials that the rest of us are still blundering toward with the clumsiness of toddlers.

Since she doesn’t use language in the ways we do – either to obscure or to illuminate – her presence is her message. The qualities of her being are highly refined, distilled, intensified by her lack of speech. In her presence, you feel what she’s feeling; you experience her inner state without veils, projections or hidden agendas.

The flip side of Melanie’s sophistication with subtle energies is her sensitivity to her environment. Her energy field is diffuse, her boundaries transparent. She feels whatever the people around her are feeling, and any incoherency, turbulence or lack of integration in her environment can be intensely painful for her.

Being highly sensitive myself, I understand something of what this means for her on a day to day basis. Engaging with other people can be exhausting or healing, depending on their inner state. Increasingly, she creates people and situations around her that support qualities of peace and comfort, love and delight. Her long-time caregiver has a young family — small children who adore Melanie and play happily with and around her.

She is patient with the gap between her reality and theirs. She is patient with herself, with her always-painful body. Her perspective is both more immediate and more spacious than most of us can manage. She inhabits a different part of the continuum of being than many of us do — without the intervening skins and masks that bind and protect us.

It’s a courageous way to live. The power of perfect vulnerability.