“As warriors in training we develop wholehearted determination to use discomfort as an opportunity for awakening, rather than trying to make it disappear.”
~ Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You
A year ago I published this article on being alone, a first layer examination of my sensitive side and my experiences in aloneness.
Since then, the way I see (hear, need, sit in, feel) it has loosened and shifted.
I still feel (really) lonely at times. But the difference between now and then is that now know that I need to feel it.
Now, I recognize on a deeper level that loneliness, anxiety, heartbreak are just feelings. They come at me with the most intensity when I’m by myself, but I’m less scared of them now.
I have known for a while that I (we) need to feel in order to write. But now I am coming to a place where I understand that the act of accessing these tender places is what allows tears and joy and words to flow freely.
If they aren’t given the opportunity to flow out, they get all stuck inside and weigh us down. We then become jumbled, heavy, maybe numb.
It’s sometimes scary and sad, but the very act of accessing any feelings in solitude is where we can eventually come to find the strength and clarity to give back to the world.
Recently a friend posted a Facebook status referring to how we are all ultimately alone, which sent my head into a spiral of spiritual-philosophical search for the reason that I don’t really believe this any more.
I believe that even if we are physically by ourselves, we aren’t actually alone. And it’s this belief in itself that makes me feel less alone.
I suppose this is the whole point of spirituality itself.
But there is another element to this idea of being alone that I’ve come to terms with this past year:
The more accepting that we are of our aloneness, the less alone we actually feel.
That is: the very act of learning how to be alone and getting through the rough stuff for ourselves (sometimes with the help of others, too), is us showing love to ourselves. Practicing this allows us to remember and know that we are we are love(d).
So maybe we think about our family, our friends, or some spiritual faith, but we just decide to get to know our own love.
I’ve learned how to examine different aspects of loneliness: is it about feeling unloved, or actually not being loved? Do we feel depressed because of brain chemistry, or is there an actual event that is causing us to feel sad?
Will reaching to a friend or family member really help us? And if so, who is safe?
Here are three things that help me work through the depths when I’m in them alone:
1) I think back to a (recent) time when I felt real love and joy and I try to access that feeling in myself, by myself. I visualize the memory, or I think of the person, go back to a recent conversation or situation. Or I force myself to do something that I know makes me feel full, something that really has the ability to tug my brain out of that dwelling.
Basically, I practice accessing love on my own, without anyone else to directly offer it at that point in time.
2) I remember, really know, that I will feel better at some point soon, especially if the ‘low’ or anxious feelings have biological causes (brain chemistry or hormone fluctuations).
3) If I decide to reach out, I consider who I completely trust and what their availability is. I think about how my friend J might be more inclined to answer me in Facebook chat within the hour, whereas my friend A might be happy to schedule a walk in two days, and so on.
In respecting their time, I also try to consider how capable I am of expressing true compassion towards them at any given moment, because nurturing good relationships is also a great way to remind ourselves that we are not alone.
These things work well for me personally because I have developed many close friendships during the past year or so. I know that I’m surrounded by loving, mindful people.
It might even seem a little bit ironic that the creation and recognition of community is a way of building strength in solitude. And being vulnerable and open about emotions—examining, processing, writing about them—is exactly what can foster community.
These (you, my audience, fellow writers, friends) are the people that want to understand. That want to listen.
You are reading this because you feel it too, because you want to connect just as badly as I do in writing this.
And you might be afraid to share sometimes, but you do it anyway, because you are more scared of what will happen if noone ever bears witness to all that you are.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: aeruginosa at flickr