Yogic meditations on solitude
by Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on May 20, 2014. Posted with permission.
The basic cause of unhappiness is loneliness. This feeling of isolation cannot be cured by the external world, nor does it lie in relationships with other people.
The solution is to know thyself. When you connect with your essence and live your individual truth, you will find happiness. That connection demands you move within and embrace aloneness.
Life is a solitary path.
The painful feeling of loneliness is a sign that you have become a stranger to yourself and to your life’s purpose. Lessons and teachers will dot your journey, but ultimately every relationship is just a mirror of the one you have with yourself.
It is a mistake to equate socializing with human connection. You can feel isolated at a party, and you can feel more connected with the universe by floating alone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just because it’s Friday night you don’t have to go out. You don’t have to attend a New Year’s Eve party. You can skip the raucous Thanksgiving dinner and retreat to Denny’s by yourself. You do not have to eat lunch with everyone else at work.
You can shatter the paradigms.
Spending the weekend alone does not involve a Netflix binge or snuggling with a good book.
A weekend of solitary meditation is when you sit in silence with yourself. There are no distractions including phone, computer, music, books, cleaning the bathroom, cooking elaborate meals or working out.
Can you sit in simple serenity for two days? Or will you go mad?
Stepping out of the din of civilization and into the solitude of nature is transformative, freeing you from the notions of yourself. Thru-hikers walk the entire 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail in a continuous journey from Georgia to Maine. Members of this subculture adopt trail names for their journeys. Rename yourself. “Eternal Optimist.” “Thunder Chicken.” “King Kong.”
In Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong, Kong retreats to his mountaintop home after saving Ann from a T-Rex. Ann attempts to cheer the wounded Kong by entertaining him with juggling. Kong, nonplussed, yawns. He prefers the sunset. Ann turns and learns. “Beautiful.” Side-by-side in stillness and quiet, their two anonymous silhouettes watch the real show.
Contemplative and thoughtful beings are never bored. Beautiful.
There is a difference between being shy and being introverted. According to Susan Cain, author of the magnificent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, an introvert isn’t necessarily a hermit or a misanthrope. An introvert isn’t always shy, either. An introvert is drawn to the inner world of thinking, contemplation and observation as opposed to the outer world of people and activities. A shy person is fearful of social disapproval or humiliation.
Between one-third and one-half of the population is introverted. Paradoxically, introverts are not alone.
Paradoxically, technology can create a false extroversion.
In 2006, sociologists with Duke University and the University of Arizona published a study indicating that in the past two decades, Americans’ circle of close friends has shrunk, and the number of people who report that they have no one with whom to discuss important matters has more than doubled.
How is it possible that in a world where you can have thousands of friends that you can feel so lonely? The researchers don’t know why.
Brahmacharya is one of yoga’s guiding ethical principles. In the strictest sense, it means celibacy. How much life energy is consumed not only with the pursuit of sex but with the fixation on acquiring a romantic relationship?
A romantic partner has become an accessory. But other people do not exist to fulfill your needs. Your partner is not a product. Remind yourself that you exist to serve.
The practice of brahmacharya today is the observance of restraint in romantic and sexual matters. No one is promised a partner in life. You may never check the married box. Even if you do, you are still walking a solitary journey.
Human relationships do not have to be permanent to be worthwhile. Revisit Victor Hugo’s bustling Parisian streets. Human collisions are inevitable. Some impacts are momentary diversions; others are life-altering.
You can exchange contact information if you want. Or you can be content to drift off into separateness and accept the meeting for what it was. There will be more. If you are open and connected to all that is, people, friends and strangers alike, every encounter can be powerful and meaningful. In the end, the road leads back to you.