Search & Read
Why Do You Feel Alienated?
Bettina: Dear Ram, you say I have to accept that the love of people and the desire to belong will never supply me with lasting happiness. But can there be lasting happiness along with the feeling of being alienated and disconnected and unable to communicate about the most important topic of my life?
Ram: Is the cause of feeling alienated the fact that no one understands and sympathizes with you? People like us are rarely understood and appreciated except by people like us. And there are very few people like us. So I think it is not reasonable to expect to be understood and appreciated – except occasionally. Almost nobody understands me – but I don’t care. I don’t feel that I’m here to get anything from anybody. We have been given everything we need (and more) even before we were born, so one should think of oneself as a giver, not a getter. The truth about people in general is that they really care only about themselves, so it is unreasonable to expect them to give something they are unwilling to give. On the other hand, if you change your view, quit asking to be appreciated and start appreciating others, the world will love you.
If you want to feel satisfied in yourself then it should be because you are following the right path. You should feel very good that you have been so diligent pursuing your Heart’s desire. Even if feelings of alienation and disconnection exist, they are just feelings. Why make an issue of them? Are they there twenty-four hours a day? There are a many other feelings, positive and negative, that come up every day. Why single out this one for attention? Furthermore, are you actually the author of this feeling? Are you the only one who feels it, the only one who ever felt it? No. Why? Because it is just a universal feeling. How you feel does not stand in the way of happiness, because happiness is your nature. I think it would be more useful to figure out why you have a tendency to identify with self-defeating feelings. If you do, I think you will discover that you view yourself is inadequate or incomplete. If you do, then the next question is: “Am I actually incomplete?” If you can answer that in the negative you will be free of this desire to be loved and appreciated.
Bettina: Of course the self never fells alienated, but I feel I have to live on both levels, the level of the self and the level of “Bettina.” And as Bettina I have to find a way to live my little human life, to do things, to communicate, don’t I?
Ram: This is one of the most common spiritual misunderstandings. The answer is no. How can you live on two levels? Are there two yous? You yourself immediately see the absurdity of this point of view when you say yes, I know, there are not two levels, but still somehow there seem to be two and I feel like I’m juggling with two balls, and one or the other keeps slipping from my hands and rolling away. And sometimes both. Why not be satisfied with the answer you have given yourself? It is true.
There’s that old “Yeah, but…” monster sticking up his ugly head. The problem, it seems to me, is lack of self-confidence. You know what the truth is but you don’t have confidence in it. You are spiritually free but at the same time you want to be loved. Since your own love is the most valuable and that of others always suspect, why not win your own love by asserting your wholeness and banishing this weak state of mind? Why are your feelings so important? You’ll like yourself a lot better (and others will too) if you only relate to yourself as if you were whole and complete.
If your desire to be loved hasn’t been fulfilled so far and life has had every opportunity to fulfill it, isn’t it reasonable to suppose that you are not going to get what you want – and be satisfied with that? At some point you need to get fed up with the whining and complaining and feeling bad. Refuse to put up with this nonsense. Go to India and live in a hut with some desperately poor people. See if you can stand yourself feeling this way when there are billions of people who can’t even afford enough to eat. I have a friend who lives in a mud hut in Tiruvannamalai with her daughter, brother and two aging parents. I can arrange that you stay there. Develop a good sense of self-disgust.
Additionally, what is so difficult in living your little human life? You’re already doing it, aren’t you? Is there a problem brushing your teeth, paying your bills, getting out of bed in the morning, eating your food? The truth is that it doesn’t take much to live a human life. It’s a no-brainer. There are seven billion people doing it. How special can it be? Middle-aged people are endlessly telling me that they still have something to learn, but I can’t figure out what it might be. The whole problem lies in the expectation that life should be at one’s beck and call, that it should be more/better/different than it is. Why isn’t it fine as it is?
So how does one change one’s attitude? The best way is put all the energy that goes into feeling bad into counting your blessings. You have your health. You have money. You have three meals a day, clothing and a roof over your head. You probably have no debts. You have no whining, needy brats (except your ego) to bedevil you every minute of the day. You have no husband or aging parents to look after. You have a consciousness of something greater. So your mantra, when this sense of dissatisfaction starts, is to run down this list in your mind (and any other items you might add to it) and see that you have a very good life. How many people in the world have what you do? Yet you still feel unsatisfied. God has blessed you, is in fact blessing you as we speak, yet you say you are not happy. What is wrong with this picture?
Bettina: Right now I feel caught between two incompatible worlds, the West, where the environment is pleasant and familiar but people turn every spiritual aspiration, even Buddhism, into a personal wellness program, and India, where nothing is familiar, where the environment is a real challenge but spirituality aims beyond the individual. I just don’t know how to proceed with my learning.
Ram: I assume that finances aren’t a big issue. Why not stay in the West until you can’t stand it and then stay in India until you can’t stand it? I’ve been doing this for thirty-plus years and it works just fine. There is always a reason why you can’t be happy where you are. And conversely you can be happy wherever you are, if you really want to. So it isn’t about the place. It’s about where your heart is.
Bettina: Maybe I will have to go back to India once again to continue my Vedanta studies. But I don’t know where to go and from whom to learn. Any suggestions?
Ram: I don’t think it would help. You already know enough. Until you are ready to discipline this complaining, anxious mind, every place will be unsuitable. And when you do, every place will be heaven. When your mind is under control then approach a teacher. There was a guru years ago who used to advertise like this: “Come to me when you are already happy.” First you get happiness, then you get enlightenment. That list of qualifications that Vedanta is famous for basically means that you are a happy person, you have figured out how to keep your mind cheerful most of the time. Then the teacher can easily help you finish the job.
Bettina: I like your description of the self as “inaction in action,” but I don’t think that I realized it. What makes YOU think so? And what does the first sentence of your mail about the problem with the past and the vasanas mean?
Ram: I’m sorry, Bettinaji, but I switched to my laptop and can’t find that file. I think what I was referring to when I mentioned the past is this feeling of not being properly loved and understood in your childhood. I wonder if this isn’t what is causing so much of your dissatisfaction. Perhaps you weren’t. Perhaps you were, but perceived that you weren’t. But whether you were or weren’t, one doesn’t attract love when one is dissatisfied, because everybody knows that nobody can fill up a dissatisfied person. If you were looking for someone to love, you would want somebody who was already happy so they could contribute happiness to you rather than demand it from you.
Bettina: Uff, always these heavy topics – sorry! I don’t want to complain, just to describe, but it always ends up in all these questions.
Ram: Swamiji used to say that people like you were in love with their doubts. Does that seem right? It is rather like picking a scab or scratching a mosquito bite. It works against the result you’re aiming for. At some point you are just going to have to get fed up with your mind and stop indulging it. You already know all the answers. You made a statement above and before you finished the paragraph you already knew the answer – but that wasn’t enough – you still decided to feel rotten. It’s not the questions or the answers. You’re the answer to all your questions.
Bettina: If all this stuff seems too much to you, please feel free to just ignore it and tell me some beach stories.
Ram: Aha! I’m sent by God to entertain you! I didn’t realize that. Seriously, Bettinaji, isn’t it too much for you? I’d suggest you lighten up a bit. Why not bag the whole spiritual thing for a while? I think you’ve probably done enough with it for now. Don’t worry, it will come back. But sometimes it is necessary to walk away from it and do something completely out of character so all the work you’ve done so far can cook in the unconscious without being further disturbed by the conscious mind’s problems. Act out some bizarre fantasy that has nothing to do with your quest for God. Go to Borneo and eat sea slugs and build water seal toilets for the natives. Climb Mount Everest. Learn to play the violin. Fall in love with a member of Al Quaeda and give birth to seventeen Muslims. Do something that has nothing to do with Bettina and her spiritual quest. Mind you, your spirituality will not desert you. You are much farther along the path than you imagine. But at some point everything will come together very nicely. You are pushing yourself too much. Relax, enjoy yourself.
~ Much love to you, Ramji