Thursday, February 17, 2011

Loneliness vs Aloneness

It seems to me that the message I hear over and over from the world is, don't be alone! Aloneness=loneliness=bad. The message is that the cure for loneliness=being with people.

I'm here to tell you that this is not true. At times when I am feeling my loneliest, I feel so much better when I can be alone to care for and pay attention to myself. My loneliness is eased by being alone. Aloneness can be helpful or not helpful depending on how it is framed. When I frame my time alone as time well spent re-connecting with myself, I certainly don't feel lonely. If I frame my alone time as time for self-pity (poor me, I am all alone), then I feel lonely.

I have so many options this weekend to spend time with people and be busy. But I am really feeling the need to be alone instead. I may choose to hang out with myself this weekend. When alone time is a choice, it doesn't allow much room for loneliness. And alone time can always be a choice.

When I am feeling the need to connect with people, there are always more opportunities than I could ever take advantage of. I have friends, family, a meditation community. There are events taking place around the city every day. There are lots of people to interact with and lots of busyness to take part in.

But so many times I would rather be alone than have casual and insignificant interactions with people. These just increase my sense of loneliness and disconnection. If I had a significant other, that would be time well spent with someone. But I don't. So my time alone is time well spent with my significant self. Time spent with myself sometimes carries loneliness, but it can be a cool, bittersweet sort of loneliness, not the crushing and hopeless kind. As long as I allow loneliness to be my friend, it will not overwhelm me. I care about this loneliness.

More about "cool loneliness":
Six Kinds of Loneliness, from When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grief and Joy

My dad passed on 13 days ago. Time to share some thoughts now. I spent the last few days just sitting. And it was good.


So today, yet another day of sitting here looking out the window all day. This is what I wanted to do, but it is getting old. I'm looking forward to getting the kids back. I can't be so lazy when they are around.

I do think sitting here with boredom and restlessness is helpful, even though the benefits are not always immediately apparent. I tried to put on a movie, but that was no good. It took way too long to decide what to watch and then I just couldn't focus. I suspect the same would be true if I tried to read. I really should go for a walk since it is melting outside at 34 degrees, but I just can't get motivated. Even 34 degrees is not good enough for me today. I need 80 degrees and a beach. Can I just sleep until the snow melts?

I'm grateful for this day of solitude, good food, music, a warm bath, sunlight streaming into my window, snuggly kitties three in number, and a pen and paper.

It's ok to be this way. This is how it is now. This is how my body is now. This is how my mind is now. This is how my heart is now. All due to causes and conditions that are guaranteed to pass. This torpor will pass. All is in flux in every moment. The earth is moving around the sun, making the sunlight on my paper move and change.

The seconds tick on the clock, and something is changing. Furnace comes on. Song ends. Kitties sleep. Light moves. I am right here in the middle of all the motion. Thoughts churn. Hand moves to write. Body feeling warm in the sun. Feet moving to music. Breathing. Putting the book down to remove my sweater. Body feeling fatigued. Relaxing with that sensation. Not trying to fight it or change it. Just being right in it, entirely submissive to the moment. Thoughts pop up, worries about what I might not be getting accomplished while sitting here. Feeling like I will never want to go out into the world again. I have the urge to be a hermit here in my house, listening only to my own soul.

Being alone, spending endless hours just sitting in contemplation. This feels natural to me. This is what I long for all the time. When I do have this time though, I get worried that I am simply being lazy.

But there are so many thoughts and feelings in me that want to be sorted out. i feel like if I could just sit here a little while longer, I will figure something out. Figure out the mystery of my being. See who or what I really am.

Light and joy, even when the body is sluggish and the mind restless. It seems like it shouldn't be possible, but it is.

How different is it to sit here like this all day at home than on the porch or beach at the family cabin? I need to think of this time as a vacation, not lazy-I-should-be-getting-something-done time.

I have a cozy chair, big windows, light streaming through the forest, a cup of tea and my journal. Yes, just like the cabin. Just like it. This is my winter retreat.