You are Not Alone

The other morning, while practicing meditation, I noticed a moment free from the constant demands of my work, travel, and incessant mind-chatter, the pain body. In that moment I heard — among the traffic noises, and sirens…. the day waking up – the water lapping up against the side of our houseboat…the sea lions barking and in particular a small bird chirping. Quietly, insistently, “You are not alone.”

Even when we are caught in our most isolated and self-absorbed self there is a possibility of being reminded that there are other beings out there experiencing some form of the “weave of interconnected existence.”

I recently arrived in Florence with a great deal of pain due to chronic back issues. My whole world was about the pain. My mind insisted that the only way I could have ease was if I could numb the pain.

Pain, as my friend Ram Dass says, “is a worthy adversary for our spiritual practice”.

There is an unconscious movement toward isolation. I don’t want to be with others …..don’t want anything asked of me….don’t feel I have anything to give. I begin to view the world though the lens of separation. Believing this is reality…. I become lonesome.

The lonesome feelings were “real but not true”. It can be hard to discern the difference. After a while I asked, “Is this pain mine… is this me? ” Slowly the truth began to emerge.

I began to realize…. Everyone has fears, insecurities, and doubts. Everyone has pain, everyone wants to escape. Everyone feel helpless and desperate. Everyone makes mistakes….everyone worries about making new ones. Everyone’s doing the best they can, sometimes wondering if that’s good enough. Everyone wants to enjoy life more ….and stress about it less. Everyone hides. Everyone feels alone.

I saw the universal nature of my reactions. That opened me to the pain of others. At times I felt myself lying side by side….touching others awake in the middle of the night struggling with their absence of mercy.

It is the claiming of the conditions ….the misperception that they are me and mine ….that is the cause of the loneliness and the barrier to genuine connection and intimacy with life. The identification is the cause of separation and loneliness.

When I can remember this and rest I find that these are all occurring in a larger awareness. There is space…breathing space….empty space. It has room for the pain, for my small self and all it’s strategies. For everyone else who is suffering.

“You are not alone.”



Frank Ostaseski is the founder of the Metta Institute and cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project and author of The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.

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Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight, helping us to discover what matters most.

Life and death are a package deal. They cannot be pulled apart and we cannot truly live unless we are aware of death. The Five Invitations is an exhilarating meditation on the meaning of life and how maintaining an ever-present consciousness of death can bring us closer to our truest selves.


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