Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Loneliness, aloneness, and the ever-vulnerable journey

Several of you have recently shared experiences you’ve been having of a profound sense of loneliness – wondering if it would ever go away, wanting so sweetly for it to yield to the deep longing for love that has been placed into the center of your hearts, wondering why all of your spiritual practice and processing has not yet eliminated this despair. In speaking with you and feeling into my own experience around this, it seems important to differentiate between “aloneness” and “loneliness.” 

Aloneness is a very raw, alive, vulnerable reality and experience – the realization that despite our connection with others and with life as it is, we do appear to make this journey alone. No one can have our experiences for us, love another for us, open our hearts for us, or die for us; likewise, we for them. The true yogi is at home in this type of aloneness, in a way even welcoming it, knowing that organizing our reality around love will almost always bring about the experience of a certain vulnerability and sadness. Living in the grace-field of aloneness is so fragile, so unknown, so unbearably touching, always uncertain, forever without ground or reference point. Not even our favorite spiritual beliefs and superstitions and beloved gurus can quite protect us from the Aloneness that was given to us. 

In this reality, we know that at any moment our hearts may break, we may fall in love in the most excruciating way, meet deep waves of feelings and sensations, and no longer be able to use even our most precious spiritualities to avoid intimacy. We realize that, without our conscious knowing, we have taken some unexplainable vow to turn all the way into the sacred preciousness of this life, willing to enter directly into sadness, into suffering, into darkness, into utter naked vulnerability – guided only by the unknown and by a love from beyond. 

“Loneliness,” on the other hand, is usually borne out of a resistance to our present experience – a turning from feelings of grief, sadness, hurt, shame, and so forth. When we are not able to meet these feelings and sensations, and are not able to stay with them and metabolize them within our own experience, we feel cut off from Life, lonely, and disconnected. These sweet feeling-friends which come knocking on the door of our hearts only want to be met, are seeking only one undistracted, unguarded, and unprotected moment of our time, to share their gifts with us. Will we, can we somehow open the door when they arrive? 

For many on a spiritual path, in my experience, this sort of embrace of direct experience is something they have learned as a conceptual goal. But what I’ve noticed is that there is often a hidden agenda lurking in the background. I’ll sit with this feeling of sadness or grief or shame or fear, but secretly because I’ve been told that’s what I’m supposed to do and that by doing so the feeling will likely go away. This of course is still a subtle resistance, and thus still the foundation of the experience of loneliness, cut-off-ness. It is very subtle. Oftentimes, we believe that we are fully meeting our experience, but if we look closely, we can see the various agendas that may be moving in the shadows. We all yearn and long, at the deepest levels, of course, to meet whatever arises in this sacred body, heart, and mind, for we intuit that each is a special doorway home. And we become lonely when we are not able. 

It is so sweet. Being human is such a fragile situation. Our friends sadness and grief and jealousy and raw wide open vulnerability are sent away, out the back door of our hearts, and into a lonely forest. This is sad. Please, don’t go, friends! Stay close! Let us somehow allow these ones in, that they may reveal the most precious path from loneliness to the ever-luminous grace-field that is true Aloneness, offering nothing to us, really, except for everything we could ever long for.