May 19, 2017

Romancing Aloneness: How to Be Alone Like a Buddhist.

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 meditation 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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