|Abstract||Close encounters with research participants and collaborators invariably involve more than formal meetings. We argue in this paper that for research that aspires to living educational theory, vulnerability needs to be experienced, encountered and reflected upon as part of the research process. Our insights in this paper emerged from our work on equity and inclusion in higher education, and on the impacts of 'aspiration-raising' initiatives promoted by universities and governments. We explored these through case studies of the trajectories of individual students from disadvantaged backgrounds into higher education. In the midst of this work, it became apparent that our inquiry into the experiences of these students touched our own lives. It drew attention to points of vulnerability in ourselves, as researchers. Together, we came to recognise the importance of the 'living 'I' (Whitehead, 1989a; McNiff & Whitehead, 2002) in our research because 'I' am a part of each of the stories told by our participants. 'I' am a part of the research and 'I' am part of the learning. 'I' am therefore enmeshed in 'my' relationship to the experiences of each of our participants. As researchers, each of us is also an 'I' who is culturally constructed, shaped by lived experience, and entangled in the contextually based stories and experiences of each other. Central to this was our desire to gain perspective on our embodied ontological values and commitments to living epistemological standards of critical judgment (Whitehead, 2005). Further, we sought to communicate this through theory based explanations accounting for the lived experience of our learning, the learning of others and the 'education of social formations' (Whitehead, 2005).