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Alone / Anthony de Mello


If people feel lonely they quite often long for other people to fill that gap. Sometimes that does not work. Why does life lead us into such a situation? Obviously because it is exactly the experience we need. By accepting what is and trusting life, trusting that life brings exactly the conditions we are supposed to have, we experience a relieve already. Hereafter an extract from Anthony de Mello's book 'The way to love':

The mountain of prayer

Has it ever occurred to you that you can only love when you are alone? What does it mean to love? It means to see a person, a thing, a situation, as it really is and not as you imagine it to be, and to give it the response it deserves. You cannot love what you do not even see.

And what prevents you from seeing? Your concepts, your categories, your prejudices and projections, your needs and attachments, the labels you have drawn from your conditioning and from your past experiences. Seeing is the most aduous thing a human being can undertake. For it calls for a disciplined, alert mind, whereas most poeple would much rather lapse into mental laziness than take the trouble to see each person and thing anew in present-moment freshness.

To drop your conditioning in order to see ist aduous enough. But seeing calls for something more painful still. The dropping of the control that society exercises over you; a control whose tentacles have penetrated to the very roots of your being, so that to drop it is to tear yourself apart. If you wish to understand this think of a little child that is given a taste for drugs. As the drug penetrates the body of the child, it becomes addicted and its whole being cries out for the drug. To be without the drug is so unbearable a torment that it seems preferable to die.

Now this is exactly what society did to you when you were a child. You were not allowed to enjoy the solid, nutritious food of life: work and play and the company of poeple and the pleasures of the senses and the mind. You were given a taste for the drug called Approval, Appreciation, Attention, the drug called Success, Prestige, Power. Having got a taste for thes things you became addicted and began to dread their loss. You felt terror at the prospect of failure, of mistakes, of the criticism of others. So you became cravenly dependent on people and lost your freedom. Others now have the power to make you happy or miserable. And much as you now hate the sufferings this involves, you find yourself completely helpless.

There is never a minute when, consciously or unconsciously, you are not attuned to the reaction of others, marching to the drum of their demands. When you are ignored or disapproved of, you experience a loneliness so unbearable that you crawl back to people to beg for the comfort known as Support, Encouragement, Reassurance. To live with people in this state involves never-ending tension; but to live without them brings the agony of loneliness. You have lost your capacity to see them clearly as they are and to repond to them accurately because mostly your perception of them is clouded by your need to get your drug.

The consequence of all this is terrifying and enescapable: You have become incapable of loving anyone or anything. If you wish to love you must learn to see again. And if you wish to see you must give up your drug. You must tear away from your being the roots of society that have penetrated to the marrow. You must drop out. Externally everything will go on as before, you will continue to be in the world, but no longer of it.

And in your heart you will now be free at last and utterly alone. It is only in this aloneness, this utter solitude, that dependence and desire will die, and the capacity to love is born. For one no longer sees others as means to satisfy one's addiction.

Only someone who has attempted this knows the terror of the process. It is like inviting yourself to die. It is like asking the poor drug addict to give up the only happiness he has known and to replace it with a taste for bread and fruit and the clean fresh morning air and the sweetness of the water from the mountain stream, while he is struggling to cope with his withdrawal symptoms and with the emptiness that he experiences within himself now that his drug has gone.

To his fevered mind nothing can fill the emptiness except his drug. Can you imagine a life in which you refuse to enjoy a single word of approval and appreciation, or to lean on someone's arm; in which you depend on no one emotionally, so no one has the power to make you happy or miserable anymore; you refuse to need any particular person or to be special to anyone or to call anyone your own?

Even the birds of the air have their nests and the foxes their holes, but you will have nowhere to rest your head in your journey through life.

If you ever get to this state you will at last know what it means to see with a vision that is clear and unclouded by fear or desire. And you will know what it means to love. But to come to this land of love you have to pass through the pains of death. For to love persons is to have died to the need for persons and to be utterly alone.

How would you ever get there? By ceaseless awareness, and the infinite patience and compassion that you would have for a drug addict. It will also help you to undertake activities that you can do with your whole being, activities that you so much love to do, that while you are engaged in them, success or recognition or approval simply do not mean a thing to you.

It will help too if you return to Nature: Send the crowds away and go up into the mountain and silently commune with trees and flowers and animals and birds, with sea and sky and clouds and stars. Then you will know that your heart has brought you into the vast desert of solitude.

There is no one there by your side, absolutely no one. At first it will seem unbearable, but that is only because you are unaccustomed to aloneness. But if you manage to stay there for a while the desert will suddenly blossom into Love. Your heart will burst into song. And it will be springtime forever.



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