With the hectic pace of a busy season, it seemed appropriate to gravitate toward the yin side of life and talk about solitude. For many of us local small business owners, the peak season is hectic, bringing a needed abundance to support us when it all slows down in the heat of the summer. Recently, I was inundated with people from a variety of sources, including a tennis tournament my husband and I run, my yoga studio, as well as celebrating my birthday with a barrage of messages received. Needless to say, it felt like a tsunami of incoming energy, loaded with gratitude, good wishes, and much love. It reminded me of the importance of an outward connection to community, and it helped remind me that the balance to that is time alone.
One of the most powerful things we can learn is to sit alone in a room and be comfortable with that…no distractions with nothing to do, teetering on the edge of boredom. Yet, it isn’t something that we’re taught or that our culture values. We tend to recognize the extrovert, those who face outward, engage and get stuff done more than us introverted types whose energy is replenished in solitude and quiet.
Time by ourselves is the time we get to know ourselves. Without distraction to tear our attention away from us, we begin to sit face-to-face with what’s happening within us. The more we sit with ourselves, the more we peel away the layers of everything we hold in our unconscious selves.
Part of this process is my morning meditation practice that may include chanting a Tibetan Buddhist mantra along with the Gyuto monks, one of whom spent time in isolation for three years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours…twice. People say how they have never met a person so deeply at peace with themselves. Obviously, renouncing the world and focusing on compassion isn’t an option most of us “householders” choose to do with our lives. As Swami Kripalu said, the spiritual path of the householder is a difficult journey. All of us are engaged in our lives through our community, family, schools, careers, and attempting to make it all flow along as smoothly as possible. To find time to deepen our spiritual seeking takes great discipline and effort as we are naturally drawn away from turning inward.
So my thought is a simple one. When you find yourself in a time of solitude, notice what you do with it. Do you reach for your phone or tablet? Turn on the TV? Listen to a podcast? Head for the fridge? Do the laundry? Clean the kitchen? You get the picture. By simply noticing where your attention is drawn gives us an opportunity to pause and do nothing. The more frequently we interrupt our pattern, the more moments of solitude and connection we have. Perhaps this is how we’re taught to be better at being alone, by stepping onto our yoga or meditation mat, offering us the perfect sacred space in which to truly get to know our deepest and most authentic selves.