Solitude, loneliness and the journey

The Silence Of Loneliness

The Silence Of Loneliness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s post from Nadine Marie on Aligning with Truth struck me deeply (her posts often do) and I’ve been mulling it over since I read it.

I’m an only child, so solitude became normal from a very early age.  Long ago one of my friends commented that I am more content to be alone than anyone she’s known.  For many years, though, alone felt lonely.  Then I reached a place where I could just be in my own company and feel perfectly content.

Because I do it so easily I don’t always notice when alone has become permeated with loneliness.  Over a year ago, I lost my place to teach yoga and haven’t had the heart to find another so one source of being out with people has been gone.  At the same time the unwinding head/sleeplessness issues have impacted my social life — I often bow out on events because I just don’t feel up to it.

But in recent months I’ve been realizing that I’ve become too isolated.  Which led to trying to decide what I want to do about that.  It’s kind of an issue for me.  I tend to define myself as outside — though I’m finally realizing it’s also true and who I am is outside the norm–but that’s another story for another post.  I’ve also struggled a bit ever since I moved here from northern California with feeling like I don’t quite fit.

To some extent that’s always been true. Though my parents are both native Kentuckians and my southern roots are many and deep and long, I was raised in the north.  I wound up a little too southern for the north and a little too northern for the south.  (My grandmother’s favorite accusation when she didn’t like my manners or behavior, “That’s what you get for raising her up there with those damn yankees…”)

Like Nadine, I lived in the midst of seekers on a similar path for some years.  My apartment was attached to my teacher’s house and I met most of my friends one way or another through her or her workshops.  Events, celebrations and ceremonies happened there all the time.  A lot of our social lives involved going to pujas, zikrs, meditations, etc.  My whole life was immersed and, though many of us favored different paths, we had in common a desire to go deep and somehow we shared very similar philosophies even though we each might study a different type of spirituality.

When I moved, there wasn’t a lot going on in my new place.  That has changed, but as I’ve wandered from one group to another I’ve not really found a place that fits.  Also like Nadine, I don’t want to sound like there’s a sense of superiority.  Most people are at a different stage than I am or are just on a path so different that I don’t feel like we “get” one another.  Just different, not better or worse or less or more.

At the same time that more is going on spiritually speaking, this is still an area with a lot of folks who associate my beliefs with the devil.  Where the more mainstream types don’t share my beliefs at all.  So a lot of the time I feel I have to keep my mouth shut.  And really that also includes most of my family.

I’ve networked more here than anywhere I’ve ever lived so I know a lot of people.  There are a few particular people that I love spending time with.  I kind of like being with 1-3 other people at a time rather than big gatherings.  So I mostly organize coffee or lunch with one or two people occasionally.  But still casting about for that communal feeling I had when I lived in Marin.  I didn’t get to make my annual trip out there this year and I could have used those long heart-to-hearts and the sense of renewal those visits give me.

Since a solitary path has been so much a part of me it didn’t occur to me that lots of other seekers feel alone or outside.  Or that some of my loneliness arises from being on a path that’s not the norm instead of from me being me.  No answers at this stage, just noticing it and wondering what, if anything, to do…  And whether this is just part of this path.

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15 thoughts on “Solitude, loneliness and the journey

  1. Hi Leigh, that is an interesting point to make about being comfortable in our own space, even though to others that may seem too ‘alone’.
    Most of my childhood was spent alone in nature, I lived way out in the ‘bush’ but I was comfortable with that. But as I have become more ‘connected’ with myself and my journey, I slowly realized that the first part of my life had purpose in that ‘aloneness’ as it gave me a great appreciation of this world, but now it seems that having gone through many ‘walls’ in my life I can, and wish to, ‘connect’ in a much closer way.
    Change I suppose is the constant that is not constant, so we move through parts of our lives and become that change, become comfortable in who we now are, and move into the world, ever changing with life’s events.
    I suppose what I am trying to say is…I was something, and changed as I moved through life. But I did check myself as I got older and made sure that I didn’t block myself moving into something just because I had become used to ‘being’ a certain way. Sometimes we become tired, of the pain and hurt, and stay in our comfort zone. And sometimes we just need that company or someone that we can really relate to, so that we can change and open our hearts again without the fear of being ‘exposed’ again to the harshness of life.
    I only mention this because of what I recently went through, and needed to really look inside to make sure I didn’t have a ‘wall’ or two hidden away in the basement of my mind. Great post, thank you. Namaste

  2. Oh…thank you Leigh for making reference to my post. But more than that, I’m happy to see you writing your own post and sharing your own experiences. I know there’s quite a number of us going through the same dilemma — probably in various degrees. I know this feeling of isolation is shared by many who have chosen such a path. I can probably safely, confidently claim it to be part of such a path. The challenge now — for me at least — is how to address it, how to move through it. Do I simply let it be, knowing it will pass, knowing I will be connected with my tribe? And how do I know that? Is it really a passing yet necessary phase? Will I in fact be connected with my tribe? When? How? Questions. Questions. Questions. As is our journey!

    Oh Leigh, I so miss the time when meditation, drumming, rituals, ceremonies, etc were a way of life and filled up my social calendar!

    “Associating beliefs with the devil” — tell me Leigh. Being in a country that’s predominantly Catholic — whoa! I may as well be THE devil here! 🙂

    Good for you that you’re able to organize lunch or coffee even occasionally. I don’t get to do that here AT ALL. Oh well… Enough said!

    Thanks again for this post Leigh. Thank you for making me feel I’m in good company — albeit virtually.

    Blessed be. ❤ ❤ ❤ NadineMarie ❤ ❤ ❤

  3. I’ve spent years and years alone, years alone as a child because I was desperately shy, years trying to develop a personality and be socially acceptable, but still living alone as an adult as a very great preference to living with anyone until I met Don in my late 40’s. I do think ‘people like us’, those of us seeking the truth, on a spiritual path, on a path where that is more important than anything else, *need* a lot of time alone. At the same time the connection with like-minded people is so important for reassurance that we are not completely nuts. And for the love.
    It occurs to me to say – move back to California where you can connect with like-minded people when you need to. It’s so good for the soul to know you are not alone in your perception of ‘reality’.
    Love love love
    Alison ❤

    • Lovely thought. When I finally master the abundance side of things I’d love to go back. But it’s very expensive and after holding my breath monthly over how to pay the bills the whole time I lived there, I swore I wouldn’t go back without a big bank account or high paying job or ???. Meantime, can’t leave my 89-year-old mother and her ties are here.
      I think I’ll always need a fair amount of alone time but I know it has to balance with time spent with like-minded people for me. Kind of out of balance right now…

  4. Hi there 🙂 Just making my way here, as I follow the ripples that the pebble of my original post created! (btw, I am a native Californian and still live here…your comment ^^^^ was so true. It IS too expensive here! But it’s where our jobs are! LOL). I discovered a long time ago that much of my soul work to be done here is to learn how to live with others – even if that is just one other people. Being alone/solitary is actually my comfort zone (probably the whole Aries thing). And yet, the other half of me really desires a physical tribe. I find it so interesting how many of “us” are actually out here in the ethers, all experiencing the same thing – We can connect via The Web, but how do we connect live, and in person?? Perhaps we’re being called to find a way…make a way…

    • In my case I feel like some of it is me and my outsider issue. I also think a lot of people tend to group around a teaching and/or a teacher; if you’re on an eclectic path it can be hard to fit. At the moment I find that if I stick to getting together individually or in two or threes with the people I know are sympatico I feel nurtured by the interactions. I’m not sure what a more general answer is.

  5. Leigh, I can relate to so much of this post, but the part I’d like to speak about is this:
    “At the same time that more is going on spiritually speaking, this is still an area with a lot of folks who associate my beliefs with the devil.  Where the more mainstream types don’t share my beliefs at all.  So a lot of the time I feel I have to keep my mouth shut.  And really that also includes most of my family.”
    I live in a similar community and had fears about being treated differently when I “came out” as a Tarot reader, Yoga teacher,and Reiki practitioner. I have come to realize that our outer world is just a reflection of our inner world and that my fear of being accepted by my community was really my own problem accepting myself and constantly needing approval from others. I would work on accepting your self, the Others (those with whom you feel a disconnect) and anyone that makes you feel threatened.
    Also, it helps to gather regularly with people who are interested in spiritual growth (even if they are at a different stage than you). When I moved back to my small Midwestern hometown I missed the sangha at our temple in Baton Rouge…so I started teaching a meditation class to anyone who wanted to come. It started in a friend’s basement and then a couple times at the local library and now we meet every week and have 10-30 in regular attendance. It is amazing!

    You have a lot to offer your community. Make sure you aren’t playing small by taking so much time to yourself. Share your gifts with others. Find balance.

    Peace and Namaste,

    K

  6. Sometimes when I get lonely, I read Invictus or the Charge of the Light Brigade, and think it’s up to me to carve out that space and establish my spiritual and social identity. Of course that only really shakes of that pervading numinous specter hanging over my head for a little while. I still think that loneliness can only really be combatted with risk, which is why it’s so hard to try again after being burned.

    I know for myself the attempt, the risk is deeply tied to honesty and humility. I find it easy to be honest and hard to be humble, but both are required for me to make a genuine connection with another person. Aristotle said a lot about friendship – primarily that it was the greatest happiness a human being could attain. The best of friendships and the highest happiness were formed/attained through sharing a common contemplation.

    He also said that we become friends through “tasting salt together”.

    I hope you find your place in the people that are round you or in a new group! I hope we all do! I hope you can taste salt with them!

Please add your thoughts; love a good discussion!

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