I first discovered this article in May of 2003. I did a search on my posts for the word “present”, and this is the second post that came up. The first is this one on a trip to Disneyland. This seems to be around the time when I actually began to wake up from my deep depression.
Perhaps what it is really all about is simply learning to be present, to be here now, as they say. It seems trite, but once you’ve really learned that, everything else becomes so much easier. Just to be present with yourself, with how you really actually feel in the moment, seems to be what makes us most alive.
The experience of certain feelings can seem particularly pregnant with desire for resolution: loneliness, boredom, anxiety. Unless we can relax with these feelings, it’s very hard to stay in the middle when we experience them. We want victory or defeat, praise or blame. For example, if somebody abandons us, we don’t want to be with that raw discomfort. Instead, we conjure up a familiar identity of ourselves as a hapless victim. Or maybe we avoid the rawness by acting out and righteously telling the person how messed up he or she is. We automatically want to cover over the pain in one way or another, identifying with victory or victimhood.
Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It’s restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.
There are six ways of describing this kind of cool loneliness. They are: less desire, contentment, avoiding unnecessary activity, complete discipline, not wandering in the world of desire, and not seeking security from one’s discursive thoughts.