In my recent exploration of the book Being Mortal I feel as though I'm being faced with many different ways to unpack what it means to be human. Not only looking through the lens of aging and dying, but also what it means to do that with meaning. I was recently listening to a podcast featuring one of my favorite poets David Whyte and in it he discusses this idea of dropping into the vulnerability of being alone with ourselves.
If we look at today's modern world it is surprisingly difficult to be alone. If you've ever been in a waiting room or on the bus, you may notice that for the most part as soon as people are alone, their cell phones come out. Through the technology of this modern world, we have the opportunity to be connected to people at all times not only through text and voicemail, but also through social media platforms like Facebook. The ability to be alone, is something that has become increasingly rare and I would venture a guess it has also become increasingly frightening for people.
If we let it, our yoga practice has become a place that we can begin to explore this idea of being alone. Or if we let it, our yoga practice can be a place where we can continually connected into others. We get to choose. But here I'd like to explore what it means to dive into this energy of being alone.
I had a brilliant teacher share with me once that the challenge that new meditators often run into is that as soon as they sit down on the mat to be quiet, their mind starts going a million miles a minute. The mind is making up for all of those moments that we haven't had the opportunity to process: unfinished thoughts, unprocessed emotion, experiences that we've had that we haven't fully sat with.
All of these come up when we drop into a place of quiet, when we drop into a place of solitude. If we constantly live our life plugged in, whether it's to cell phones and TVs or even in the beautiful energy of making community and connecting with others, we never allow ourselves time to sit with ourselves. And then, when we do take rare moments to be begin to meditate, we are surprised by the endless onslaught of the chattering mind. If we were to create more spaces for ourselves of quiet, solitude and meditation, we would drop into more places to process all of these things. My teacher would say that then, following all of this, is when the meditation would truly begin.
What I'm more interested in though, is all of the things that arise before we get to that meditative state. There is a richness in this information if we can stay present with it rather than dismissing it or thinking that we must be doing something wrong. This is the gift of aloneness: Looking at all the parts of ourselves--the good, the bad, the ugly, the shameful--all parts. And it's often only when we give ourselves space that we are actually able to see and hold all of those parts.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this is a place that is particularly comfortable. Being inside our own mind, being inside all of the parts of ourselves that we struggle, that we're afraid of is challenging and difficult. In his poem there is a reason why in his poem Sweet Darkness, David Wright calls it “the sweet confinement of our aloneness.” It is the sense of confinement. Of being shut in being claustrophobic with all of these parts of ourselves .But there is a sweetness in getting so close to ourselves in this time of aloneness that give us the opportunity to go deeper.
And this is where our yoga practice comes in, if we are able to come to our mat with our body just as it is. All of his aches, all of its pains, all of its tightness and all of it soreness and move into a physical practice, we can start to explore this idea of bumping up against her edges. I would hazard a guess that most of us have been in a yoga class at some point where we have been asked to go into a pose we detested. We may not like it because we are not flexible, we may avoid it because we are sore, we may move away from it because we are tired. This is part of bumping up against parts of ourselves that we do not like. However, yoga teaches us that we have the breath as a tool to help guide us through the sticky points in our bodies. In fact, it is a tool to guide us through all parts of sticky points in our lives. As we unpack these parts of ourselves in the beautiful confinement of our aloneness, we have the opportunity to find our breath and use it is a guide to take us on the journey deeper inside ourselves.
Is a simultaneous aversion to aloneness and the great desire to deeply know oneself deeply through an experience of aloneness that is truly the definition of the human experience...it is, the sweet confinement of our aloneness.
Yoga teacher, sound healer and explorer of the inner landscape. Join me!