Wednesday, April 8, 2009
There is something about the long, cold winter months here in Minnesota that brings on a loneliness so deep it's sometimes hard to bear. Reflecting on this over the past several months - and probably much longer - I have begun to realize how little this loneliness has to do with socializing, having a significant other, or being a member of a group.
I have a number of good friends and colleagues that support me in countless ways. I'm also fortunate to have good relationships with both my parents and with my only sister. In other words, I'm well loved.
Yes, there is definitely a strong desire within me to have a significant other, to share my life with another person in a deeply intimate way. Sometimes, some of my loneliness comes from not having this currently, at least on the surface.
But the reality is that most of the time, it's irrelevant whether I'm in a romantic relationship or not, having a good time with friends and/or family or not, being with others in my spiritual or professional communities or not. The reality is that I, like you probably, can be going along just fine and then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, an ache can arise that seems to have no source and which contains no obvious method of resolution. I've sometimes wondered if a pregnant ghost has come to haunt my body, it's bony shoulders poking mine and it's fat stomach pressing hard against my own.
Sometimes, I go days, even weeks, without a visitation. Other times, it is as if my body has become an extended day, full service hotel, offering everything in the name of both feeding it, and fighting like mad to get rid of it.
The well known Buddhist author and teacher Pema Chodron writes: "Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It's restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company."
How often I have felt that, and then done that, in so many ways. You, too, have a fairly long list if you take a little time to reflect on it.
Yet, what is interesting is that, there have been times where I have simply sat with it, breathed into that ghost inside me and watched as it inevitably changed. Not that it always went away completely, but there nearly always has been a softening of the energy when I have given it some space through breathing and meditation.
Who hasn't experienced loneliness? If you haven't, please let me know so I can recant my story :) As far as I can tell, loneliness isn't something I have to bear so much as a human expression that appears within us all from time to time. Obviously, some experience it more than others, but can any of really claim it - claim loneliness - as our own?
There's a deep liberation in recognizing that loneliness isn't about ME - alone - that I don't have to somehow come up with a way to free myself from it because I did something wrong, or because I'm single, or because no one is home when I call, or whatever else appears to be the reason for an appearance of loneliness.
How often do I have this recognition? I'm not sure. There's still plenty of grasping and efforts to be rid of going on here.
But a lotus flower can grow out of the dankest mud. So, there's no telling how big a jungle may sprout from a bed of loneliness freed from all our grasping.
Posted by Nathan at 5:25 PM