The Second Best Piece of Advice I Ever Was Given. ~ Ben Ralston

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The second best piece of advice I ever was given…

…also (like the best advice) came to me via a Swami (vedantic monk). And it wasn’t until recently, when I had gone to the absolute extremes of ignoring him, that I understood the truth of what he said.

It was in an Ashram in Southern India and this very beautiful man urged me to never live alone.

He told me that scientific research (you’d be surprised how scientific some Swamis are) had proven a link between early death and living alone.
“Don’t live alone,” he said, simply. “Rather have a pet than live alone.”

I could see the truth in what he said but it’s only now that I really choose consciously to embody that truth, to practice it.

Because at the start of last year I separated from my wife (and child), and a few weeks later my dog died.

So that quite suddenly I found myself living quite alone, in a house on a hill in the middle of nowhere. Some days I saw more deer than people.

And I stayed there for a year.

A year of solitude.

And yes, I can tell you that this little experiment confirmed what I had been told almost 15 years earlier—it’s really not healthy to live alone.

Now I’ve moved 30 minutes away to a place where I have friends. A family. A community. People to live and talk and argue and laugh and dance and break bread with.

And I feel so much more human as a result. So much more alive now. So much lighter and healthier.

We’re all in this together. Let’s really be in this together.

We’re social animals. Pack animals, human beings. Community is natural for us. Solitude, not at all.

But…very often when we choose solitude over togetherness, there’s a reason: we’re hiding. We hide a lot.

So what are we hiding from?

Tell me, please—what are you hiding from (if you live alone, or when you seek solitude)?

Tell me your truth, and I’ll tell you some more of mine. And we’ll probably find that they’re the same…


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

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anonymous Sep 21, 2014 5:54pm

I fear judgment, I had a rough upbringing and I have never been close to my parents. they divorced when I was young, my dads a chronic cheater, my mom blinded by her power hunger asshole husband. I hate it. I feel anger and sadness I don't know how to deal with sometimes and I feel like if I was to share my thoughts with people, they would reject me. I think I live alone to protect myself from getting hurt again. I live alone because it scares the shit out of me that I might hurt someone emotionally .

anonymous Sep 21, 2014 3:11pm

I love spending time alone, travelling and wandering in strange cities all by myself…and I'm really good at it too. I need it to reboot, but I love the company of good friends and family just the same, and I know I need them. They complete me. So I think you are right, we should not never be solitary, as we are social animals, We are made to share experiences, love, food, book, wine and laughter. The best memories are the shared ones, My sister and I were living both by ourselves, until decided to move in together and create our own little hub, our two woman family. Best decision ever!

anonymous Mar 17, 2014 1:25pm

What am I hiding from? Plenty. But more than that I was born into family circumstances that made an isolated existence the norm. I grew up an only child with parents who commuted far away for a week at a time before switching, shuffled between single parent households under the same roof. For the majority of my life I lived at the end of a long dirt road behind a gate on much acreage but with little access to people. So solitude comes naturally, if not comfortably all the time.

I'm choosing to be social and to be a part of community as much as I can now, but it is difficult at times. I'm discovering that I love the company and companionship, yet do not wish to relinquish the sanctuary of solitude. I find it scary that I might matter to people when I feel I have so little access and have internalized loneliness so much. I find it terrifying that people might anchor to me, or I may anchor to them, placing them into that place in my heart that has never been filled, binding me to them. And yet I long for it, not understanding fully the ramifications of that.

    anonymous Mar 18, 2014 2:07am

    Thanks for your honesty Eric. I totally understand you – I was also an only child (for most of my childhood anyway), and lived in a kind of solitiude for many years.
    But the reason i wrote this piece is that I'm beginning to really deeply understand the importance of community – it's not easy for us sometimes, but it's always good 🙂
    Heal the childhood wounds, and it will be much easier my friend.
    With love

anonymous Mar 11, 2014 5:53am

Maybe some live all alone, because they have walls up. Open the heart, don't be afraid.

"If in your fear you would seek only love's peace and loves pleasure.

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out on love's threshing-floor,

Into the season-less world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears."

'The Prophet,' by Khalil Gibran.

When ones lives alone in isolation, they are holding on so tightly to that loneliness, they won't let it go. Is it protection. Why would ones own company be so desirable, that one should favour their own company most of the time and seek not what others have to offer.

    anonymous Mar 11, 2014 1:23pm

    Because it's in relationship to others that our shadows are most evident.

anonymous Mar 11, 2014 2:53am

Loneliness is in the heart, not in the circumstances. I've been living alone since 10 years (apart from a few cats and dogs) but never feel alone because I feel connected with everything and everyone around me.
I often seek solitude, not to hide or flee from anything, but to find something.

    anonymous Mar 11, 2014 1:22pm

    Fair enough! But as I mentioned in the post – when you have pets, you're not really alone.

anonymous Mar 10, 2014 9:35pm

I live alone. Why do you assume I'm hiding? I left a horrible realtionship and believe me, this is just fine for now. For many, at times in life, we are alone. And at times we're not. Solitude is as much a teacher as company. Why so much fear of aloneness? Why not accept it as a state of being, impermanent like all the others . . .

    anonymous Mar 11, 2014 1:22pm

    EAC, I didn't make any assumption. If you re-read what I wrote: "very often when we choose solitude over togetherness, there’s a reason: we’re hiding"
    I agree wholeheartedly that solitude is precious and can be a teacher.
    But nevertheless, society and community is something that is *necessary* for a healthy human life. And perhaps the 'horrible relationship' (trauma) is more a part of your desire for solitude than you care to admit…
    With love

anonymous Mar 10, 2014 7:29pm

I don’t live alone but I do enjoy my own company quite a bit. Although I enjoy socialising very much, for me it can be exhausting at times. I think I have so many defences up that it literally drains my energy. This self imposed isolation/lack of connection is causing major issues in my life.

    anonymous Mar 11, 2014 1:18pm

    RB – the sense of a lack of connection is what causes the problems, i believe. And it's an illusion caused by past trauma. The reality is we're all interconnected, and the more deeply one truly knows oneself, the more that reality becomes a part of the experience of life…

      anonymous Feb 3, 2016 7:18pm

      Never give up. By helping others you also help yourself.

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Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting.
He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.