In your special introductory issue you say that through inner work we can "relate soul-to-soul... [and] be understood for who we really are. "Well, that's not my experience. I used to have an active social life with a wide circle of friends. But over the last couple of years, as I've gotten into inner work, I've just become more and more isolated. My old friends think I'm weird and I think they're shallow. I wouldn't want to go back to where I was, but sometimes I feel awfully lonely. Where are those deeper relationships you promise everyone?
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This is a transitional phase. You may go through sornething like this not only at the beginning of your Journey but also, if you keep growing, at various points along the way. You have been leaving the old to make room for the new, letting something die to allow for rebirth. It may be painful . . . but it is only a phase.
Let's see how this works. Prior to beginning your inner work, you had invested much of your energy outward in a network of relationships at a certain level, with people who (like yourself) were conscious primarily at that level. This was comfortable for all concerned.
But then you began your inner work, and two things changed. First, you had to withdraw much of your energy from its investment in these external relationships to make it available for investment in your inner exploration. Second, your inner work began to shift your consciousness to a deeper level that your old friends found threatening, since it challenged them to face parts of themselves they were not yet ready to face. Both of these factors required you and your friends to dissociate from one another, and you each generated appropriate feelings-"they're shallow," "s/he's weird" - to help bring this about.
The loneliness you have experienced from this is part of the price for the rewards of your inner work. Inner rewards, like outer rewards, always require a price of some sort. In your case, you were confronted repeatedly with a choice between inner depth and shallow sociality, and repeatedly you chose inner depth. Through this process You developed the high value you now place on inner work-a value that only a choice such as this could have madc possible. It has left you stronger.
However, companionship-like aloneness is valuable to us at all levels of development. And there are certainly people at your current level who would want your companionship as much as you want theirs.1 The trick is to find and recognize them.
Finding and recognizing are not the sarne. To find people at your current level of development, ask yourself where they would be most likely to "hang out," then go there. This could mean a physical place such as an ashrarn, workshop, spiritual retreat, therapy center or holistic enterprise, or it could be a virtual "place" like an on-line newsgroup. Of course, not all people in these places will be in your "space", nor will all people in your "space" be in these places. But it is simply intelligent to look for such people where your chances of finding them are greatest.
Or do you believe that your new circle of companions should find you without any effort on your part to find them? This strategy can be a great way to develop your patience-you may have to wait a long time.
Once you have found a likely candidate for the kind of companion you now seek, you must be able to recognize if they actually "qualify". It is neither necessary nor always desirable to begin by asking if they are practicing the same modality of inner work as you ... although this would come out eventually. Not everyone who works in that modality will be compatible, and also there will be some who have arrived in a similar space through different routes. How, then, can you recognize "Your own kind"?
You look for signs ofthe essental common ground As a result of your inner work, you have changed! What are those changes? What feelings, attitudes and understandings have you acquired? And which of these are essential to "where you are at" now, so you would want them to be part of any common ground?
When you meet someone who you feel might be the kind of person you are looking for, you can watch, listen and "feel" for these elements, perhaps slipping in a few subtle cues to see if the other person picks up on them. For example, you could mention someone's name to see how they react to it, or in a neutral manner ask their opinion on a relevant issue. In this way you can "check someone out" before revealing too much about yourself that you feel most people would consider "weird." This can save embarrassment not only for you but for the other person as well, and keep you from wasting time on people who are not a good match for your current needs (or you for theirs).
Depending on the particular space you are in
now and how uncommon it is, the search for
new companions could take you some time -
but it will be a fun journey with great rewards.
not unlike (and not separate from) your inward
journey itself. Your new companions will offer
the opportunity for relationships far deeper and
richer than your associates of old. They will
also serve as an important source of information
and feedback on your inner work. Finally, by
bringing the dimension of relationship to your
new levels of being they will allow you to
expand your presence at those new levels in
ways that a strictly solo journey never could. In
short, your new friends will be worth the
loneliness, the wait and the search.
1 Although each person's development is unique, and different paths lead to different "spaces,"
there may be many people with whom you sharecommon ground. Emma Bragdon's The Call of' Spiritual Emergency - a sympathetic and helpful book - discusses the problems, including isolation and loneliness, that can be encountered by people experiencing an inner awakening either spontaneously or through inner work. She demonstrates that there are large numbers of such people in America today, so the chances are that many others share whatever your own particular "space" happens to be.