We Are Not Alone

by Lisa Glueck

The great paradox: You go alone into your meditation room; you follow your breathing; you watch the play of your own mind. Rather than becoming isolated or alienated, you enter into deeper intimacy with all others.

Everyone understands when we talk about fear, joy, anxiety, anger, compassion, and so forth. We all have these seeds in our store consciousness. That’s why we can understand Shakespeare’s plays: jealousy, ambition, betrayal, revenge – they are all in us. Our store consciousness is full of an infinite variety of seeds, and they have both an individual and a collective aspect. Some seeds were transmitted from our personal ancestors, some as a species, and beyond. Don’t we go through a fish stage in utero? There are seeds that were transmitted through our families, from our society, and from our education.

We share the same brain structures. We all have a frontal cortex, a brain stem, a hippocampus, an amygdala and many other brain structures in common. They operate similarly in all our brains. The fact is that we have a lot in common: we know that a scattered mind is ill at ease; a more concentrated mind is happier.

What are the practice implications of this common ground? How can an awareness of commonality help us be happier and more at peace in the world? First, such an awareness can increase our joy and comfort. It’s like we have an infinite number of imaginary friends accompanying us in everything we do. When we’re doing the dishes and feeling impatient to finish, we can remember all the others who are also washing their dishes. We can enjoy their company as we work, making washing dishes a communal activity, rather than an inconvenience. This truth can be extended to all our daily tasks.

Then, the same awareness can be of help in times of distress. Having a painful feeling doesn’t mean we’re defective or poor practitioners. Acknowledging that all humans sometimes feel this way can give us the courage to look into the feeling, rather than running to any available distraction to avoid the intensity of the negative emotion.

Just as I am feeling fear, countless others are feeling fear in this moment. May I find the courage and determination to work with my fear so that I can also help others work with this difficult feeling. Knowing and feeling my interconnection with all beings opens me to the inspiration that as I heal myself, I am at the same time helping to heal countless others.

Finally, the awareness that we are not alone, that we all suffer accidents, anxiety and stress, increases our compassion and makes us less judgmental. We are all in the same boat.