Here’s another installment in a series of emails that took place between Michael and one of his senior students beginning the Summer of 2009. May you find the exchange interesting and enriching.
Student: Since our last talk, its like everything, on the one hand, is easier and makes more sense. Its like Im seeing big picture and small frame more easily. Sometimes its as if I see them at the same time even. But there are also sticking points that worry me.
Michael: Like what?
Student: Like how friendships are being reconfigured in a huge way. Weve talked about this a lot over the last year, I know, but as this practice has heated up, many of my friendships are just slipping away, and Im letting them. This is mostly because I dont relate like I used to, or maybe because I find relating on the surface level so uninteresting and Id rather be alone. So, now Im often alone.
Michael: Do you feel lonely when youre alone?
Student: Some times, but not nearly as often as I would have just a couple of years back. In fact I was thinking about this just the other day how I feel so very content.
Michael: So whats your greatest concern?
Student: Is it dishonest to keep a friendship alive just because sometimes I dont want to be alone, but not necessarily because this relationship represents the deepest truth?
Michael: Letting go of friendships can involve both non-participation as well as limited participation, as well as full participation. The trick is being fully there when you are with someone. When we are fully present, we get to take on as much or as little of whatever offering is being made. Then we get to decide what to do.
The cautionary note is that harm can occur and ours and others light can be dimmed if we make participatory choices based on some unexamined need to anesthetize ourselves from the pain of loneliness. Just participate fully based on whatever is being offered, then choose consciously how to respond.