More than any other motivation, escape is the driver of our modern world. Everyone wants to get away, zone out, be entertained, disappear into a screen nearby. Why is this? What makes our lives so intolerable that we have to get away constantly? People talk about the pressures of modern life, jobs that don’t satisfy, debts that are never finally paid, distress that seems unending, family conflict for generations, emptiness that can’t be filled. The solution for all these is to escape – into a drink, a drug, compulsive behaviors, 24/7 news, computer games, holidays, screens, sports, novels – distractions that leave us feeling even worse when they eventually peter out.
Sitting still without activity, being alone with our self, getting the rational mind to let go of rabbiting on – all of these are seen as a fate worse than death. We have to keep moving, doing, achieving, meeting goals. Are we having fun yet? But what are we missing by not being able to be in the moment, alone with our distress, engaging with the depths of our being?
In olden days, before the invention of electricity and modern conveniences, it wasn’t really possible for a person to live on their own. Being part of a collective – a large, extended family, a wealthy household, a religious community – was necessary for basic survival. One person simply couldn’t do everything that was needed to sustain life. Each person had their place and it was amongst many other people. Being alone for any length of time just wasn’t sustainable. Hermits never lived that far from a village; anchorites always lived in the midst of a community whether religious or secular. People just didn’t even think about living alone and generally didn’t see it as desirable.
But now a days, it is quite possible, with sufficient income, to live on your own. There is still plenty of social contact if you work for a company of any sort, though the option of working from home via the internet has lessened even that opportunity for interpersonal interaction. Slowly, as we spend more and more time on screens, we have less and less direct human contact. We are escaping into a virtual world that is sterile and inhuman. Escape doesn’t seem to be working. We just have to work harder at finding ways to shield ourselves from the underlying pain.
I have found after meditating for many decades, and learning more about the potential of my inner world from the experience of people like Jill Bolte Taylor, John Kabat Zinn, and Carl Jung, that there is an alternative to escape. There is another aspect to my psyche that has only recently been recognized as what is missing in our left brain dominant world. It is a primarily non-verbal, vibrant energy that is and isn’t me (in the ego sense of that word). As I sit still, gradually insisting that the rational mind let go of its chatter, there tentatively emerges an experience of energy that provides solace and a sense of peace over time. This energy engenders a feeling of love, timelessness, and healing. It doesn’t solve the left brain’s problems, but it does provide an alternative experience of reality that sustains me in a way nothing else does. My rational mind is constantly trying to bring me away from it, but it is always there, the wholeness of me. It is in you as well. It takes time and effort to slowly dethrone the rational mind, but it is the only way to open to the other side of your self. I recommend it to you.
And with this new-found wholeness of self, we will find ourselves naturally returning to human contact. It will still take awareness and perspective to truly meet others where they live. But with an experience of stillness, we have a better chance of being patient with others, of meeting them where they live rather than needing them to meet our needs. Hell is other people only when we live in our own internal hell. Find the universe within you, and the world will be transformed.