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Being Alone

By Sumitra Burton.  

This little word “alone” can be terrifying, perhaps second only to the word “death.” We naturally feel threatened by these ideas of being alone in life or of dying. And sometimes the sense of being alone feels worse than death. Also there can be a big difference between feeling alone and feeling lonely. Often after sitting for a while in deep rest or meditation, there’s a sense of aloneness that is very peaceful. 

And, of course, during this pandemic time for many the sense of being alone and/or lonely is greatly exaggerated. Those of us who live alone have been spending much more time by ourselves than ever before and many of us will even spend the winter holidays alone. It can be easy to sink into a space of feeling separate, alone and lost.

In more normal times I have inquired into this idea of aloneness a number of times for myself, and have facilitated sessions with others who have felt plagued by the thought of it on an ongoing basis. A sense of separation from others and from life itself can freeze us to our core, making life feel unbearable at times. We may feel exiled from life and nourishment. 

Our first strategy is often to look outside ourselves for the connection we so deeply crave. The problem with that, of course, is that the relief we find outside ourselves is temporary and dependent on others.

What’s the worst that could happen if I were truly alone? I’d have to care for myself, to find relief and connection inside myself. There would be no one to give it to me from the outside, to hold or to save me. I might feel frozen and terrified. I would have to face that gripping sense of emptiness inside myself.

Can I take a moment to feel that emptiness just now? What’s it like?

It feels like a hollow void in the center of my body – just above the belly (solar plexus area), very intense and with a strong grip. When I sit with the sensation and feel into it, images arise of past experiences of being “left alone” by others, rejected, abandoned, etc. I look at each image to see if they prove I’m alone. I can see they’re simply images from the past and hold no threat in this moment.

As I notice that sensation of the hollow void in my center just now, I say to it, Thank you for arising, I feel you; you are welcome to stay as long as you need. This helps me to relax and turn towards the sensation. Sitting a while with a sense of embracing this hollow void and allowing it to be as it is encourages it to soften a bit.

When I look at the word “alone” and listen to the sound of it spoken aloud, it seems a little less threatening now. I take a few moments to come to a sense of rest and take a few deep breaths.

I check to see if anything is left of the sensation. I say aloud, I am not alone, and check in with my body to see if there’s any resistance there, anything that seems to argue with those words. 

An image comes of me as a little child wanting to be held by my mother when she was busy doing something else. I welcome this little child to be with me in this moment, and imagine holding her on my lap, with full attention. She seems surprised to be acknowledged, and cuddles up, loving the attention. You are welcome to stay as long as you need, I tell her softly. 

How amazing to find that I can hold my own aloneness and allow it to be felt so deeply inside. “Alone” tends to melt into a feeling of “all-one.” There is no lack of connection now. Nothing else is needed than simply holding the sensation, listening to its words, and feeling deep compassion for its sense of separation or lack of connection. And in that holding and listening, real connection is experienced and the gripping sense of emptiness loosens. Nothing outside is needed after all. 

Turning towards my fear, being willing to hold it while it reveals its sorrow, feels magical. Welcoming what once seemed terrifying – to come home, to be held and heard – allows a real sense of connection. I can rest here now, with this sense of relaxed connection.

Old and more frightening experiences can certainly be more difficult to inquire into than this simple example, but the process is generally the same. There are times when it’s helpful to have a facilitator hold the space for us, while we gradually learn to inquire on our own. 

And also, it’s important to find ways during this pandemic time to connect with others in safe ways.

 

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

Being in the world and being of Love

By Lisa Meuser.  

“Deepen, that is where your reality lies. That is how you will find your place, and how you will find your true center.  You are created matter… You are part of the great plan, an indispensable part. You are needed; you have your own unique share in the freedom of creation.”
Madeleine L’Engle, “A wind in the door”

I have been quiet lately. By quiet, I mean I’ve not written much on FB, or much in general. This has been a time of deep listening, learning, and engaging from that place of learning.

This has been a very rich time. I’ve been saturated. More than normal.

In addition to my already full life of clients, students, family and inner work, I’ve been participating in a diversity intensive[1], engaging in more social justice in my community, and furthering my experiential learning of Relational Cultural Theory/Therapy with people in my community.

 

From Quiet, to Engaged.

After spending years quietly focusing on family, clients and students, and self-study, my scope for 2019 widened. I didn’t know what I was moving towards; I only knew that I had been separate from engaging with life, and that my nervous system was ready to be more of a participant with life.  It’s not that my life had become easy or even boring, but there was certainly complacency on some level that was keeping me from fully partaking as a human being on this planet, and something in me could feel this. It was time to grow up, and out. Easy to say, but no small step for me! Moving out of the nest of familiarity can often be challenging, as it requires a willingness to be in new terrain and in beginner’s mind. Hello uncertainty! Hello discomfort!

I tend to gravitate towards the familiar – to what is known. A friend from my ashram days – where I spent some of my 20s and 30s – recently reminded me how insular we were. We lived in a tiny town, focused on our own internal growth, and were disconnected from the well-being of the world. Disconnected indeed.

As I look back from what I see now, I recognize the dysfunction and the privilege – and I also see how we were rooted in the dominant narrative. In our chosen deniability and separation, we did not consider intersectionality, inter-dependence, inclusivity, collaboration, or a global sense of community. As my friend reminded me, “we were rather self-interested.”  Moreover, the practices were rooted in hierarchy, competitiveness, secrecy, and us/them thinking.

Of course, I didn’t know anything about that then. It has been over the last few years – the last one particularly – that I’ve awoken from a deep slumber of cultural denial. As shared in my blog post “Loosening the Grip of Oppression,” it is so easy for us to cling to these dominant narratives when we’ve been born and bred to accept them as truth. My various teachers always moved from this paradigm, collecting many followers along the way who were eager to fix themselves and be told how to do it using various linear approaches.  Yup, that was me.

Although things are different for me now, I still am discovering how to embody a different way. Luckily I am surrounded by people who are interested in similar evolutionary trajectories. We stumble and learn in practical ways together – returning again and again to beginner’s mind, collaboration, transparency, inclusion of all people, and focus on connection and relationship.

 

Waking Up out of the Dominant Narrative

Life brings us just what we need, and for me Brig Feltus, my Heal Thyself teacher, was just that. I had been eyeing the Heal Thyself Diversity Training for months, but was too immersed in teaching my own courses. When summer came and I found myself in between training groups, something in me knew that although I was still busy, it would be the perfect time to do this course.

I was only days into the course when I started to realize how the dominant narrative had a hold on me in very subtle yet impactful ways. I saw my insecurities, I saw my fears, and I saw my strategies. I watched myself trying to “do it right” (a binary approach), rather than embrace the vulnerability and curiosity of beginner’s mind. I found myself ignoring my own truths and adapting to others so as to decrease conflict and make things “easier” for the group, forgetting that with integrity, conflict can be growth-fostering. A few times I noticed I was being competitive with myself, trying push myself to meet deadlines, rather than admit that I was struggling and needed to engage in self-care.

I was able to notice all these things rather quickly because I already have a practice rooted in self-awareness, but also because Brig had lovingly created a beautiful container for us to explore and grow in.

As tends to happen, what I was learning in her course immediately became applicable all areas of my life, allowing me to participate from a deeper level of honesty, and from a deeper place of connection and Love. I was able to get more real with all of the engagements of my life, as well as be more in integrity with how I was participating.

 

Deeping Into My True Center

Patterns get in the way of us being in true integrity with ourselves, and keep us from being connection with Love. Connecting to these patterns in myself was exactly what I needed, to deepen even more into what Madeleine L’engle names as my “true center.”

The dominant narrative of our culture, in which we’ve all been raised, keeps us separate from life, and separate from ourselves. It does not teach us how to participate with our whole beings; it does not want us to find our true center. When we embark upon a journey to wake up, to transform, we discover a life of learning (1) what we’ve been taught, (2) what possibilities exist, and, (3) if we’re lucky and have good teachers and guides, how to get from what we’ve known, to what we want to know, live, and Be.

I am lucky.

I no longer gravitate towards modalities, teachers or people who move from the dominant narrative of self-improvement and self-bettering in an individualistic or capitalistic way, and I am no longer that kind of teacher or therapist. Instead I am surrounded by people who value and acknowledge that humans are genetically designed to be in relationship with life, and in relationship with Love. We live and learn together.

 

Being in the world and being of Love

My intention for this year – “Being in the world and being of Love”- continues to invite me to deepen, deepen, and deepen some more. Relationships with people are deepening, my level of participating with my community is deepening, the way in which I connect with my clients and students is deepening, the way that I’m being in integrity with myself is deepening, and the way that I’m being “of Love” continues to constantly deepen.

I am always learning. It is humbling to be a forever student, and in my experience, we must constantly assume beginners mind if we are to truly deepen. This can feel counterintuitive and challenging, but when we have support, our nervous systems become more resourced, and we can learn with more ease.

Many of you reading are my clients and students, and I am deeply appreciative that we journey and learn together. What an amazing life this is!  I am profoundly grateful for all those I connect with: I know how privileged I am to have this life.

May we all have the support to deepen, to find our true center, for we are all a “part of the great plan, an indispensable part. You are needed; you have your own unique share in the freedom of creation.” Blessed be.

[1] https://www.intersectionformankind.com/stories/2018/11/28/heal-thyself-a-diversity-intensive-for-healers-and-life-coaches

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.