Friday, January 6, 2017

The traveler of aloneness

As an alive, sensitive human being, there may always be times when a familiar sense of loneliness will seep into your awareness, and begin to color your world. What is this visitor, you wonder, and what does it want from me?

You question if it will ever go away, when it will yield to your deep longing for connection, and why all the work on yourself has not yet transformed the unknowing despair.
The feeling of loneliness is a reminder of separation, and has a way of cutting into the aliveness of immediate experience.

The reality of aloneness, on the other hand, is utterly raw and surging with life. Despite our connection with others, we are asked to make the journey of the heart alone. No one can experience life for us, love and be loved for us, embrace and feel our achy and open heart for us, or die for us; likewise, we for them.

The traveler of aloneness is at home in this type of environment – and in fact welcomes it – knowing that organizing her reality around love will almost always trigger the experience of tenderness and penetrating vulnerability. Living in the delicate field of aloneness is so open, so unknown, and unbearably touching; it is always uncertain, a bit shaky, and forever without reference point. It reveals the truth that we can never really look to the known to tell us who we are or why we’ve come here.

Aloneness is a sacred friend but its mysteries and power have been lost in a world that has forgotten. Its invitation is direct, relentless, and shattering, but is filled with unseen guidance and high-voltage creativity. It is a call from deep within you to return to that which is most important in your life, and to not forget what is most meaningful. It is a fierce reminder to live your life, not someone else’s.

It is a portal like none other, a darkened passageway into the mysteries of separation and union, and into an alchemical sort of heartbreak. Not the heartbreak of the mind which arises from the conviction that something has been lost. But in the shattering reorganization which comes by way of revelation of that which has finally been found.

Art by Josh Adamski

The Way of Rest summer retreat – registration open now 

New book – The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – to be released in April


  1. Some people, they say, have no need of earth. They only need God. I have been most of my life and I have no need for anyone now... only when I git Upstairs, will I be surrounded by love withe Holy Spirit forever.

    It makes a HUGE dfference in my existence finite: the Verbal Abuse, the pride/atheism, total dysfunction/coldness from my mom and sis. Thus, our lifelong demise is quite different from your 'other' population of humanoids.

    I dont wanna bore thee with boredom, my just and fair liege...

    The more you shall honor Me,
    the more I shall bless you.
    -the Infant Jesus of Prague
    (<- Czech Republic, next to Russia)

    trustNjesus, dear,
    and wiseabove to Seventh-Heaven...
    cuz the other realm aint too cool.
    God bless your indelible soul.

  2. I wasn't sure where to post this so I'm just going to post it here. Are you open to sharing the work you did on your dissertation? Is there a paper you wrote? I have a question.

    How do we commit to a meditation practice without falling into the trap of using it as a kind of defense? After reading some of your writing, every time I sit down to meditate now I question myself I trying to run away from something by sitting down to meditate right now? Is there ever a good time to meditate? Couldn't it be argued that every time we decide to meditate we are in a sense running away from our immediate experience? Is it unwise to decide to meditate when we are feeling discomfort? The curiosity to see what would happen if I meditated in this particular emotional that curiosity really just a covert expression of my desire to escape, avoid, repress, and move away from that which is most alive in my immediate awareness?

    1. Hi Paley, I hope to make available a public version of my dissertation at some point (it’s about 500 pages), however it will likely not be this year, as I’m working on other projects/ entering sabbatical. The way it stands now it contains quite a bit of personal material from a number of public figures, most of whom agreed to participate under the agreement it would only be shared with my dissertation committee and in the University setting.

      Some other (public) sources in the area of the defensive use of spiritual belief and practice, if you aren’t aware of them.

      Robert Augustus Masters’ book -
      Mariana Caplan’s book -
      Miles Neale’s work -
      John Welwood’s original book where the term was introduced -
      And many articles by John, e.g.

      With respect to your meditation practice – and your reasons for engaging in it – as I do not know you, I am not sure your motivations for engaging in sitting practice, or what is true/ alive for you. One suggestion would be as you are meditating to just be really curious about the whole thing, and open to whatever motivations might be present. The invitation is not to judge, shame, and blame what you are doing, but just to open your heart and your awareness.

      Continued below...

    2. In my experience, at times we will engage in spiritual practice as a way to get closer to ourselves; at other times as a way to avoid something. No worries. No shame. No blame. Just curiosity. Open to what is alive in you and then simply make a decision to continue with your practice, or to inquire in a different way.

      I do not think that we could argue that every time a person decided to meditate that they are running away from immediate experience. You could meditate in order to know more intimately your immediate experience. The invitation here is one of deeper awareness as to what you are doing, what is motivating you, and more than anything to be kind to yourself. If you are feeling discomfort and you choose to meditate as a way to care for yourself, that is beautiful and honorable and valid. If, as part of such exploration, you decide to let go of any particular meditative technique and to deeply encounter a painful emotion or image or feeling or bodily sensation, then you could experiment in that way as well. In short, if you enjoy your meditation practice and find it helpful and beneficial, by all means please continue. And please take care of yourself in whatever way you find helpful and resonant with what you're after.

      The goal here is that of deeper levels of awareness, and more than anything of kindness and compassion to ourselves, to care so deeply about who we are and what we’re doing and what is motivating us and to cultivate new and more profound ways of self-care and compassion for others.

      If we use the psychological jargon of defense mechanism, then yes we can see the variety of activities we engage in (including, at times, spiritual practice) as a way to defend against underlying anxiety or sadness or grief or rage or jealousy or depression, etc. as defensive in nature. There is nothing wrong with this. Defensive organization can be adaptive and helpful and skillful. If meditating helps you to relieve symptoms of anxiety or to calm an overactive nervous system, or to cut through painful emotions and feelings – and that work is important to you and helpful – by all means, please follow that. There is nothing wrong with spiritual bypassing, a term which I hesitate to use as it has such a negative connotation, as do all “defense mechanisms” (Freud was fond of military metaphors).

      And then, from that place of slowness, of self-compassion, of curiosity, and of deep levels of inquiry into what is arising in your immediate experience, you can then make a more conscious, open, embodied, kind choice as to how you’d like to proceed with your practice: to keep it as it is, to alter it a bit, to let go of it for a while, or to commit more deeply to it. The point of all this is awareness – and kindness – not any sort of judgment, shame, or blame, which is simply residue from prior neural circuitry that was learned at an earlier time.

      Take care, Paley.