Being willing to no longer fight nor anesthetize ourselves, being brave enough to bring mindfulness to our existential angst, is a sign that our mindfulness is deepening. Whenever we are in touch with our Aliveness, angst is present. Our Consciousness comes to our attention, we notice that we exist and are unbound, and it makes us uneasy. We encounter angst as an all-too-familiar permanent condition which we’ve repeatedly tried to push away, ignore, and maybe even fix. In our innocence and confusion, we’ve gone as far as inadvertently overlooking our Beingness (most often through lots of “doing” instead of “Being”) to try to avoid anxiety, and this isn’t helpful. When we are radically mindful, however, we give ourselves an opening to be fearlessly present with the gloom of our malaise. “Like a baby learning to use its hands and feet, at first we only fumble around in spirit, groping in the dark until, almost by accident, we compose a posture of being that opens our spirits for existential release,” writes existential philosopher James Leonard Park (2015). “Somewhere in the dark, a door opens, and we turn our spirits toward the light, hoping for another glimpse.” Paradoxically, darkness, when consciously encountered, leads to light. It can serve as an entrance into a mysterious quest, a sacred moment of bittersweetness, of purgatory disillusionment, and the refreshment of not-knowing.
When we investigate our existential angst or anxiety mindfully, we find unexpected gifts—as long as we are prepared to turn within. We cannot bypass existential loneliness, however, but we can realize our oneness, universal Beingness, our seamlessly collective Consciousness—radical aloneness. As with anxiety, loneliness can be a portal to Aliveness; we just need courage, or readiness, to enter it. It seems at first contradictory and nonsensical, but loneliness can unveil healing, love, and connection with the life that we are in all its glorious forms. Loneliness gives us space to mindfully inquire into our existential state and move with the flow. Then, whereas interpersonal loneliness is lifeless and empty, existential loneliness transmutes into fresh possibility and community, bringing authenticity and self-renewal. We must first be willing to put aside our self-centered seeking for better states and better people, to mindfully shift the focus of our attention to greater depths of existence. Then we might realize that the individual we think we are is but a foretaste of existence, and not existence itself.
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