Romancing Aloneness: How to Be Alone Like a Buddhist.

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There are hidden treasures in life that we can discover if we just look a little deeper.

We do so much in our culture to avoid being alone. There are hundreds of ways we can distract ourselves from this very moment. Our world has actually been designed to do this. It has currently been constructed so that we do not feel what is really going on, and, also, so that we never notice the times when we are alone.

We have been taught that aloneness is bad. That if we were to experience life directly without all our distractions, it would somehow be too much to handle. It would become too real.

There is some truth to this matter. Feeling what is happening in the moment can be rather raw. However, constantly distracting ourselves from it ends up causing us way more pain and dysfunction then being alone could ever do. Actually, learning to romance our aloneness can be a profoundly beautiful experience.

For if we were to settle within ourselves, we would realize that all the running we do is futile. We can never truly escape the fact that we have these separate human bodies that we are living inside. We also cannot escape the fact that life is a process of letting go from the time we are born to the time we die, which means we are bound to be alone.

When we bring our focus back again to this moment, what will we find? We might find that there is a human we did not expect just waiting to be seen. This is what we do when we are distracted all of the time: We end up turning away from ourselves. We actually ignore the person we are living as. Now isn’t this a shame?

If we cannot see ourselves, how do we expect others to see us clearly? If we cannot be alone, how can we truly enjoy being with people? The contrast in life is often what allows us to appreciate it.

Aloneness is not bad, nor are we when we are it. Being alone can be sacred and it is something that trains us for how to be with each other in a deeper and more profound way.

When I was 18, I moved to Australia from Canada—alone. After that I moved to New Zealand and then the Cook Islands, then Thailand, England, and finally Portugal. I did all of these moves—alone. However, I was so petrified of loneliness (which I associated with being alone) that I didn’t allow myself throughout these years to feel my aloneness. Once in a while I might have—and those were the moments I remember to this day—because they were so profoundly sweet. Instead, I distracted myself with many other things.

It wasn’t until I committed to a daily practice of mediation that I really learned how powerful being alone, still, and simply observing myself could be.

I had craved being “seen” all my life, just as much as I had run from it. It was a strange experience for me to realize that when I was alone, it was actually when I could be greatly seen and fall in love, not with another person, but with myself.

Learning to witness myself was the beginning of the most profound romance I have felt; it was the romance of my own aloneness.

It was in this romance that I opened up to a unique tenderness; it was one I had been craving and perhaps chasing from country to country but never truly able to grasp. It was a soft nature and a realness that almost scared me with how beautiful it was. To my surprise, there was also genuine sadness there.

I realized that it was this, too, that I had been running from—and perhaps we all do. Maybe it is why our world has gotten so sneaky at distracting us and why we’re so willing to let it. We are afraid of the humanness of who we are—our aloneness.

In Shambhala Buddhism, we are taught that this sweet sadness that we often only experience when we are still, quiet, and alone has a name—it is called “the genuine heart of sadness.” It is the feeling that we touch into when we allow ourselves to be present with the emptiness that, as humans, we are bound to feel. It is something that makes us completely exposed and real. We understand, then, how entirely alone but, also, continually connected to everything we naturally are.

When we meditate, this is what we will eventually see. It is also known in Buddhism that to feel the genuine heart of sadness (and our aloneness) takes bravery. We say that we are becoming warriors through a spiritual training like this. Not warriors who use aggression, but ones who use gentleness.

Now I find romance in my aloneness and I understand, like the genuine heart of sadness, it is meant to be an experience of both courage and vulnerability—like most relationships are.

When I realize my separateness there is a certain sweetness about it—it is like a long slow dance with my most tender self, and finally, finally all of me is seen.


The Simple Buddhist Trick to being Happy.




Author: Sarah Norrad
Image: Eli DeFaria/Unsplash
Editor: Leah Sugerman


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Sarah Norrad

Sarah Norrad was born a wild woman in the rural and rugged forests of the Nimpkish Valley, on Vancouver Island, BC. This is a place where the mountains, forests and rivers speak louder than the people. A transformational coach, certified yoga instructor, mindfulness and lay counsellor, and authoress, Sarah muses at the world through a lens steeped in mindfulness, adventure, and tenderness. Currently, she exploits the cracks in her own heart to write as a columnist at elephant journal, her busy brain to create content for others through her business and her keen spirit to sit as coach and counsellor, teaching powerful tools for success in all aspect of our lives, especially personal power. Please track down her offerings and her mindful self on elephant journal, her writer’s page or her personal Facebook, her website, Cowbird, Twitter and Instagram.

Deborah Ross Oct 17, 2018 4:05am

Thank you Sarah! Recently I have emotionally wounded myself. I am now alone and in great pain. I left a love and now have regret and shame. Like you said I have been trying to cover the aloneness with distractions. I will take your writing to heart and work on acceptance of my place in life. Thank you again, Deborah

Derek Mikulski Oct 15, 2018 2:17pm

Very nice article. Thanks for sharing!

Nicole S. Urdang Oct 15, 2018 1:46pm

Great piece. Yes, the paradox of being human is we are always connected to everthing and everyone, yet we are always alone.

Donat Kentang Donat Jul 10, 2018 4:59pm

Thankyou 🙏🏻

Esko Tarkka Jun 2, 2017 8:01am

Just don't take my ramblings as authentic dharma ;) And you're welcome.

Clementina Labinjo Jun 1, 2017 8:27am

Thank you Sarah for letting me see a glimpse of your "genuine heart of sadness" and appreciating mine.

Michael Cunningham May 27, 2017 8:45pm

Sarah Norrad Do you have word-count targets or limits?

Sarah Norrad May 26, 2017 3:41pm

Michael Cunningham, if you are interested we would love to get an article submission about just that! Blessings for your weekend.

Michael Cunningham May 24, 2017 2:54am

Thanks, we all must keep working! My comments on Buddhists reflect my experience in Asia and elsewhere. Many have good volition and give dana, but don't know the deeper essence of the Buddha's teachings.

Michael Cunningham May 24, 2017 2:52am

Sarah Norrad

Sarah Norrad May 23, 2017 5:39pm

Always a work in progress, friend! Thank you for your thoughts and insight.

Sarah Norrad May 23, 2017 5:38pm

Beyond limitations and expectations we go! XO

Sarah Norrad May 23, 2017 5:38pm

Yes! I was quite codependent for many years and healing from that is a lot about what made me realize the sweetness that can be our own aloneness. Cheers, my friend.

Sarah Norrad May 23, 2017 5:36pm

Perhaps it is very much about the balance in life of finding the tenderness and love in aloneness but also learning how to consciously connect with others. Both of these things to me are very important.

Sarah Norrad May 23, 2017 5:35pm

Thank you, dear one. XO

Claudia Volano May 22, 2017 12:41pm

So true Tim.

Michael Cunningham May 22, 2017 7:07am

Don't confuse Buddhism with the teachings of the Buddha. He taught a non-sectarian practice which anyone can follow, and did not found a religion - the Buddhist religion developed in India about 500 years after the Buddha's passing, at a time when the technique which he taught and by which he became enlightened had been lost to that country. Most Buddhists do not engage in that practice, and so don't understand the nature of existence - constant change, no solidity, no substance, no "I, me, mine:" nothing to attach to, nothing to cling to, just a process of arising and passing away. It sounds from your writing that you still have a strong sense of self rather than awareness of your transient nature.

Alice Jacobo May 21, 2017 7:50pm

I feel some people are too independent and can't conform to societies ever changing ideas about what we are suppose to do at any specific time . I find peace when I don't have limitations or expectations .

Sarah Norrad May 21, 2017 4:23pm

Thank you so much for your sharing here with me. I am touched and moved by your support. May you also be so well, always.

Sarah Norrad May 21, 2017 4:22pm

Thank you, dear one! We are getting more brave when we can sit with just ourselves. You, are courageous my friend. Xx

Meredith Linden May 20, 2017 9:34pm

And then there is codependency, which, when set at our most tender age, can enhance the fear of being alone but also the joy that can come from practicing it. Thank you for your writing and insight.

Meredith Linden May 20, 2017 9:31pm

indeed. I am also exploring those ends of spectrum. Thank you for your comment.

Carolyn Graham May 20, 2017 7:04pm

Very beautifully and tenderly spoken, Sarah. You've nailed it. Thank you.

Tim Dibble May 20, 2017 5:23pm

The hardest part of being alone are the situations like a friend just went through. Major stroke, in his home alone, over 12 hours before someone thought to check on him. Its hard not having beneficiaries to list on medical forms, or retirement assets. Being alone in your 20's and 30's is less fraught with peril. Unfortunately by your 50's and 60's lonliness is easier-we've had a few more decades of crappy relationships, false friends, spurned loves that a dog or cat appears a much better option. That doesn't mean we wouldn't accept a great relationship, but we also acknowledge that we have a lot of blocks and barriers to them. But while being alone is emotionally easier, it is more fraught with peril. Even with a big circle of friends, you don't connect daily, there's no one watching out for you.

Derick Centeno May 20, 2017 4:30am

Beautifully expressed Sarah Norrad. Thanks for sharing yourself allowing those of us who are listening to engage and be with you even if only for a few moments. Stay and be well. Again, thank you.