Ah yes, solitude—we want it when we don’t have it and when we get it, we have no idea what to do with it.
God forbid we spend time alone, just with ourselves living life as we do, but without the need of anyone else’s company. A movie alone, dinner for one, a weekend with just me, myself and I?
Again, we want it when we don’t have it, but when we have it…really? Alone? Boring, along with a slew of insecurities that come up.
To name a few:
1. The being alone in public problem. The delusions begin—“Why is everyone looking at me? I hope these people know I have friends and that I am choosing to be alone? What if someone is following me and kidnaps me and no one knows because I am alone!”
2. The IBSC syndrome. The Itty Bitty Shitty Committee in our head giving a very lively demonstration on why you being alone means you are a big un-freakin’-loveable loser. (Big applause by the committee now).
3. The forgotten one and all that you missed out on. So the story begins in your head as the first few hours of solitude set in and it goes a little like this:
“On this particular evening that you are alone, the whole world is celebrating at the best party ever to have existed and you are missing out, and in your absence all your friends are meeting the most amazing awesome super rad people in the world…and well, tomorrow when you call to make plans, they will be booked for the next eternity.”
So maybe I am alone in this very human neurosis, but considering they are human neuroses I am going to say: in this, I am not alone.
I spent 11 years in one of the most bustling, busy-body, never-need-to-be-solo cities in the world, New York City. Then about a year ago, I transplanted myself to a world quite different from this pace, a small fishing town called San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
So 11 years in New York City and 1 year in Nicaragua—needless to say, I am still adjusting.
However, what I want to share here today are not the obstacles and ironic past times of such an extreme environment and culture change, but rather I want to share with you what I have gained, what I have come to appreciate and what will forever be my gift from this small town.
I was invited to San Juan Del Sur by the yoga studio ZEN Yoga upon its opening in September of 2011 and I arrived the first week in October. Now SJDS is far from nestled away in the deep jungle of Nicaragua—rather it is a small town with a rapidly growing number of tourists.
I decided the summer of 2011 I would leave my great location/great price/not so great landlord apartment, sell pretty much everything I owned (in what turned out to be two amazing stoop sales that could be a story all on its own), and couch surf my way through the summer until “ the answer” came. And well folks, it did, just one week after I left my place!
I created the space and the universe filled it with something outside of myself, something bigger than me, something I quite frankly could not have thought up myself (as I didn’t even know ZEN existed until I got the e-mail from the lovely Kristy who took just one workshop from me when I was visiting there that past February). This chica remembered me and she remembered my teaching, which was a workshop I call Yoga Playground.
So off to Nicaragua I went. I arrived and made some friends over time, as this town is full of ex-patriots who now call this little town home, but isolation was a part of the journey from day one. I arrived during the hard rains of the rainy season and was housed in the owner of ZEN’s spare villa (who was out of town for a month).
I was there with two great girls, but one was going through some serious heartache stuff and the other had a pretty good size community of friends already. I eventually became good friends with both, but that takes time.
So here I am…I don’t really know anyone, when I go out into town I don’t speak the language (I am getting by now—phew!) and generally I was just not used to spending a lot of time ‘just chillin’ with me—not to mention it was super rainy and so there was not really anything much to do and even the internet was down quite often.
As November came and so did the sun, I made some friends pretty quickly, but still, being a tourist town, I learned quickly that friends here come and go. Many live here only six months out of the year and several people you meet are here for six months to a year and then move on.
So I had my first friendship heartbreak when my two closest friends (and I was so attached to them because that is what happens when you don’t know how to be alone) left after five months.
I met them early in November and they left around March. I was heartbroken like a girl who lost her pet. I decided in that moment to “protect myself” and to not be friends with anyone else who was not staying for good (what does that even mean? I myself was not even sure how long I would be here).
Basically I was being re-active from feeling their absence and feeling lonely, and I was in solitude once again and didn’t know how to deal with it.
So this is where being a yoga teacher is so amazing because my life is my offering.
My lessons in class are the very things I am struggling with and working with. I try not to preach, but rather humbly share.
As I researched quotes on solitude and loneliness, read books and passages to help me understand, and taught from what I was learning from these sources and from my own truth, I woke up a little more.
I realized I needed to be okay with myself, all by myself, without any others approval or protection, and I needed to actually practice this, just like anything else I want to become good at in life.
I can think about being in handstand all freakin’ day long and sure, this visualization will help, but the only thing that will get my legs up over my head and hips over my shoulders is doing it and doing it more than once—thus, practicing it.
So that’s what I made Nicaragua for me—a practice in the art of solitude.
I created space for being alone. I noticed that when I heard the music in town pumping that my inner neediness called out and I practiced saying (and meaning), “Not tonight chica, I got plans already…with myself.”
I made sure I also spent time off the internet. We can fool ourselves into thinking this is alone time, but it is not. It is work time or it is distraction time. It is a distraction from being with yourself.
It took me a bit to figure that one out, but I learned that one from Nicaragua, as well as that power outages are not an uncommon happening in town, so time without internet is a forced practice and a little hidden gift (once you get over cussing your computer out and see that you now have time to hang with the coolest person ever: you).
My truth…who I am (who we all are) is pure creativity. I had days fueled with energy and creativity and days that I wished would hurry up and end. And all the while I just watched myself in this process and thought it was incredibly interesting and amusing. I was observing my humanness and I was finding that I actually really enjoyed my own company. I felt really alive and far from alone.
This past year I have gotten to know myself in a deep way that all those years in a big city did not allow. I love NYC, don’t get me wrong, and I came alive in that world and found my voice, my passion and the best friends anyone could ever have.
But what I found in my solitude in Nicaragua was something bigger than all that combined. I found me. I found me enjoying me.
I found myself seeing myself in my glory, but also in my shame—in those places I thought I had worked through. I saw myself being very charming and interesting, but also judgmental and insecure. I saw it, but this time I did not have a million ways to distract myself from it (and it is true, we have to see it first before we can transform it).
So despite popular belief…solitude is pretty cool.
From my experience, it has given way to personal transformation and growth and also taught me not to run from myself, but rather to run towards myself.
Amber Campion is the founder of Yogaeira, a fusion of Vinyasa Yoga, the Brazilian martial art known as Capoeira, and Thai body therapy. Since 2005 she has immersed herself in the ancient arts of Yoga, Capoeira and Thai Bodywork. Her approach to the practice is one of deep inquiry, exploration and playfulness and her classes exemplify this journey. To see her full bio and learn more about Yogaeira, visit www.amberjcampion.com.
Editor: Jamie Morgan
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