“That’s it,” I said to myself this morning. “I have had enough. I don’t like this anymore.”
Then there was just silence, and more space—possibly a small echo of my voice bouncing off barren land. I looked up toward the sky to see if anyone there had heard me—apparently not. I was still here, alone. Sitting by a river, in the woods, writing and meditating—for the past three weeks, by myself.
Friends offered me their place out of town and I decided to take the opportunity to leave the city and do a solo retreat. There is nothing like voluntarily committing to spiritual labor (i.e., delving into one’s depths and digging up what we usually avoid).
Yes, I headed out to the woods gleefully, with the intention to unplug. By disconnecting from the city, my phone and people, I hoped to connect deeply with myself.
I connected quickly to a few things out here: the hummingbird that kisses my cheeks each morning, the deer that join me every afternoon on the front lawn, the cottontail rabbit that visits me in the late morning and the two snakes that show themselves in the baking afternoon sun.
I have heard bird songs too—ones that last for hours and carry a whole orchestra. I have seen how each morning the misty partner of the sea hugs this house and how by 11 a.m. the sun successfully chases it away.
Out here, I have also come to understand loneliness better. Maybe in this, I have connected more deeply to myself…surely I have contacted the wisdom that whispers, “We are meant to be with each other.” The whisper that reminds me that it is in each other’s gaze and conversation we find the stimulation to kindle the fire of our life.
As I write this, I hear an eagle calling in the tree to the right—I remember the high-pitch voice of this majestic bird.
What has struck me on this retreat is that we need one another, even though other people are the ones we like to blame our discomforts on, especially because of this. They are the spark that keeps us going. Days are long without them, nights are even longer.
I am not happy, human-less. Animal friends only go so far. What ticked me off about this realization is that I thought I would be content alone—also, that there is no one out here to blame this unhappiness on.
I imagined without the constraints of a city and social obligations I would feel amazing—on the contrary. Nuts. Bugger. Poo.
We have to laugh at our morose self when we meet disappointment and try to enjoy the feeling of hindsight biting us on the butt. However, I prefer it when a human does that.
This fresh perspective from the woods has helped me—we were never meant to be alone. I miss my pack, and howling at the moon without you is just not the same. Sangha is what this is called in Buddhist terminology—the community that holds us.
Solo living requires too much responsibility for me. Peace is an inside job, just like happiness, but this work is made easier with many hands. It has taken a lot of focus to stay balanced by myself—I am tired.
I look forward to company and community again.
We offer something precious to one another with our presence; we carry each other’s load, just a little. Not like a burden, actually like a gift. With our companionship we allow another to rest and have the energy source of two rather then one. This matters.
Sometimes we need to leave home for a while to remember—humans are our lifeblood, the presence that excites us for the next day.
I did connect more deeply to myself out here, and in that connection I realized that my self loves others.
It is you who inspires me the most.
Author: Sarah Norrad
Editors: Emily Bartran; Caitlin Oriel