A person can feel separate in a crowd, with a group of friends, even in the midst of a large family. Loneliness is not a friendless state; it is the major symptom of the world. It is the unavoidable price of taking the terrain one presently travels too seriously. The world does not work, and this still seems to surprise us. The feelings of not ever being completely understood, of having to be wary of using up other people's goodwill, of being saddled with certain relationships, of having too much to do by ourselves — these emotions are a constant and almost universal undercurrent to thought. They stem from placing great stock in how things go for us instead of how deeply rooted we are in our core. Yet if there is no real awareness of the core itself and what it implies, no other outcome can realistically be expected.

We will not first believe in a place of quiet within us and then experience it. We must have an experience first, and then another, and another, until our faith in its reliability and its locality begins to flood our mind. A distant light is dimly seen but not quite believed. Nevertheless it is walked toward. And with each step it grows brighter. There is no mystery to this process. The following exercise could be such a step.

• Once in the morning and evening, for 5 or 10 minutes, silently and slowly repeat these words: "I am gentle. I am peace. I am one."

• As you say this, try to become gradually aware of a place in you that the words point to, a place of utter stillness and peace, the one part of you where there is no loneliness and no change.

• While continuing to repeat these words, let this little spot of stillness grow. Let it expand. Watch it bloom. But do not want it to grow, and do not expect it to. You are simply focusing on a reality, and as you do so it naturally becomes more obvious. Merely experience whatever you are aware of without measuring or judging a thing.

Remember that you may not know this part of you well, so you may not be in a position to calculate what it should be doing for you. What perhaps you do not yet believe is that this part of you is you. You are you, and because of that simple fact, you are not alone. Isn't it obvious that an experience is badly needed? So perhaps do this little exercise for several days.

Hugh Prather in How To Live in the World and Still Be Happy