Precept ( 8 ) Going Alone: an in -depth look at non-attachment
This really is the very big one in our lives. On a cycle ride there is a lot of stimulation with new countries ,people and cities to visit. But in this Blog I want to explore what loneliness really means and its relationship to Freedom.
I couldn't make this journey without the help of Existential therapist Irvin D Yallom and spiritual teacher J Krishnamurti the anti-Guru, Guru.
As far as I know Yallom has been happy all his married life, and probably before. But Mr.K has had a very unusual life. Taken from his family as a child , to be brought up to be the Messiah, then dissolving and rejecting that role, to become even more famous.
According to the account in the book, Lives in the Shadow of Krishnamurti, he lived a pretty full sexual and relationship life, so we are not talking about reclusive's .
Generally when we think about loneliness we are also referring to Isolation from other individuals. But there is also the loneliness of " going your own way" not conforming to what others expect of you . If I'm very honest with myself , even though I thought I fell " in love" with my wife, the real reason I hooked up was because I felt very lonely. It's also true that I was already in my thirties , and I felt it was time to start a family. There's nothing wrong to want to share your life with someone, of course, but in many ways we were two lost souls looking to escape from the misery of loneliness.
The need to want to merge with your partner is referred to in the Pink Floyd song on the B side of Atom Heart Mother , IF " I'd understand spaces between friends".
Would I be being too controversial if I suggested the current obsession that many seem to be displaying with the frequent use of their cell phones, is prompted by feelings of loneliness?. And why do we try to pack our day with so many things, that we have little time to stop and stare. Except when we're so wiped out that we turn on the Tele
to distract ourselves from the emptiness .
Perhaps most of us are hard-wired to have children , and for me the experience was essential for that feeling of wholeness . Now that they are grown up and I don't see them often, they can sometimes feel like strangers until we spend time together.
So like it or not we are all alone in this world , and the longer you live and the less you see of your friends the more acute it feels . When I worked with the Blood Transfusion Team , I envied some of the donors lying on the bed surrounded by their grand-children. There is nothing like being with people who you love and who love you.
Here is a contribution from a friend which points to the feelings of "rootlessness ".
As a result of conditioning which can come from many sources, not just parents but the wider family,institutions groups, friends, subjects studied, places visited and so on a person is formed. I feel that for me what has resulted is a person who belongs nowhere and hence the feelings of loneliness. There is no place I can feel whole because almost everywhere is it possible to be a part. Part of my constructed self comes alive in a variety of settings. But you leave these settings with a sense of unsatisfactoriness because something of the true Person has been absent and yet that person is hard to identify. Those feelings are inevitably lonely ones experiencing separateness and distance. Worst still is the continuing struggle to adapt to twist and turn so that some part of the subsequent construct makes contact with other human beings. It is why the spiritual path towards awareness is so valuble. I have recently gleaned much from Mark Epstein , who talks of the self as a flexible process rather than a fixed solid. The practice of meditation allows that time to truly examine those habituated constructs, always trying to forge a self which seems true. I feel the possibility is there that once I see them for what they are and can move into a much less extorted attempt to be someone loved by all . I may be a peculiarly fragmented person drawn in many directions ,not finding homes and suffering from feeling alone or that maybe the case for many others, but by just being aware of those patterns I can feel the pain without moving into that suffering.
In the Sixties, ah those heady days when tobacco companies were free to advertise their wares on TV . There was one for small cigars with the slogan " your never alone with a Strand" , Implying that for some, addictions are an escape from loneliness.
But that's not the whole story. Here's an extract from Yallom
The Loneliness of Being One's Own Parent
To the extent that one is responsible for ones own life, one is alone. Responsibility implies authorship; to be aware of one's authorship means to forsake the belief that there is another who creates and guards one. Deep loneliness is inherent in the act of self-creation. One becomes aware of the universe's cosmic in-difference. Perhaps animals have some sense of shepherd and shelter, but humankind, is cursed by self-awareness, must remain exposed to existence.
Eric Fromm believed that isolation is the primary source of anxiety. He especially emphasised the sense of helplessness inherent in the human being's basic separateness .
" The awareness of his aloneness and separateness, of his helplessness before the forces of nature and of society, all this makes his separate disunited existence an unbearable prison. The experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is indeed the source of all anxiety. Being separate means being cut off, without any capacity to use my human powers. Hence to be separate means to be helpless, unable to grasp the world- things and people-actively; it means that the world can invade me without my ability to react."
Yallom points out that Freedom and death are concepts that traditionally lie outside of the psychotherapist's domain.
So let's have a look at how this is understood by the spiritual masters. An extract from the mind of J Krishnamurti
To Be Alone
To be alone, which is not a philosophy of loneliness, is obviously to be in a state of revolution against the whole setup of society - not only this society, but the communist society, the fascist, every form of society as organised brutality, organised power.
And that means an extraordinary perception of the effects of power. Sir, have you noticed those soldiers rehearsing? They are not human beings any more, they are machines, they are your sons and my sons, standing there in the sun. This is happening here, in America, in Russia, and everywhere- not only at the governmental level, but also at the monastic level, belonging to monasteries, to orders, to groups who employ astonishing power. And it is only the mind which does not belong that can be alone. And aloneness is not something to be cultivated. You see this? When you see all this, you are out , and no governor or president is going to invite you to dinner.
Out of that aloneness there is humility. It is this aloneness that knows love-not power.
The ambitious man, religious or ordinary, will never know what love is. So, if one sees all this, then one has this quality of total living and therefore total action. This comes through self-knowledge.
So to be Non-attached means to be prepared to face loneliness, rejection, an outsider.
But what is the Buddha saying ? Can we feel love without "being in" or out of a relationship.
To quote the Dhammapada verse 217,
Naturally loved are those who have found their way to live with right action,
and through insight become established in Truth.
The Solitude of Night. by Li Po
It was at a wine party-
I lay in a drowse, knowing it not.
The brown flowers fell and filled my lap.
When I arose, still drunken,
The birds had all gone to their nests,
And there remained but few of my comrades.
I went along the river. -- alone in the moonlight.
So we've come a long way from the humble cycle, or so it seems . But once you recognise what these wise people have to say, then Freedom is just over the hill.
But don't wait till your over , just do it now! PLG Tony