‘Have you ever felt alone in a crowded room? Have you ever smiled when inside you were crying with loneliness? We are less likely to feel like this when we learn to like the person we are alone with
Although I love people I also love to be alone. To potter and to enjoy my own company. I love the quiet of nature, the peacefulness of an empty house and the calm of a home yoga practice. I think I thrive on a mix of solitude and adventure!!
Obviously I get lonely; there are times when I need a voice at the end of a phone, or the sound of the radio keeping me company at home. The reassurance of my little dog’s snore to remind me I am loved. Then I am grateful for a work life, which provides routine and regular contact with people. A life where I never go for too long without company, yet I get plenty of opportunity for space.
We need to remember to spend time with ourselves too or we may forget to be curious about our inner world. In today’s modern society we are able to distract ourselves almost continually with busyness, with television, with company or with drugs or alcohol. We can go for hours, days or years avoiding turning inward or spending time alone. Or similar we can build barriers to stop others seeing us, to not allow people in. Living with an open heart and an open mind takes courage and optimism. Learning to open our heart means accepting the possibility of pain. However opening ourselves to possibility also allows us to appreciate the beauty in the world. See here for a beautiful short story reminding us not to lock our heart away.
Essentially we are all alone. Solitude is often not appreciated until it is gone…maybe when we travel in company or share our space and get twitchy at the need for alone time! In solitude we can be together with our self whereas when lonely we feel somewhat disconnected to our self. I know for me that somehow time spent in meditation & pranayama (breathing practices) reduces my loneliness! As though feeling the connection to my Self during my practice shifts my experience to a positive one. Maybe this is how long term solitude, as in a monks life, is not the torture of the solitary confinement of a prisoner.
When I get my me time, I am in a better place to interact with people! However that alone time can also be lonely, and the difference between loneliness and solitude is hard to describe. Solitude is being lost in your own thoughts or enjoying your own company. Time being creative is often spent in solitude. Loneliness is when we feel a gap, like something is missing. We can be lonely in a company and often when we feel isolated or lonely we put up more barriers to protect our self from the pain of being alone. Maybe solitude and Loneliness describe the joy and the pain of time spent alone?
For me. I need the calm of my yoga practice to allow my mind to smooth. , I need the solitude to think, to allow creativity and thoughts to bubble up from within. I find my alone time allows me to be honest with myself…to learn the truth about what I need, for example when compromise is good and when it is not. I know for me there were many years where I lived in avoidance. I avoided meditation because I was scared of what I may find when I turned inward. I avoided intimacy for fear of being hurt. It would seem this is unfortunately more common than ever, this living in fear. Nowadays I have learnt to be brave. For me it was learning to accept who I am, even if that was not what I had expected to become.