Saturday, October 5, 2013

Alone Not Lonely

“If we don’t know who we are, we will never know how we ought to live.”  (Reverend Billy Graham, evangelist))

Alone.  Being alone.  Being alone in silence.  For many people, these three phrases strike immediate anxiety, if not fear, in their minds.  But alone is not lonely.  Being alone is not being lonely.  Being alone in silence is not being lonely with no interaction.  Lonely is that state of feeling separated from Life and its component parts, along with a defeated sense that this separation has been forced upon us by negative events or circumstances.  Alone is a quiet calmness where we take a selfish and likely infrequent time to rediscover and better understand our inner being.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”  (Ram Dass, Buddhist teacher)

Some say that “experience is the best teacher.”  And most of us typically spend each day having a succession of experiences.  One chore, one task, one to-do, one responsibility continually after another.  Experiences that we also usually feel are required of us, unwilling to acknowledge that a significant percentage of these experiences have been voluntarily chosen by us.  Many of these chosen experiences are in fact designed to keep us too busy to acknowledge our deeply underlying loneliness.

Truthfully, experience is not the teacher.  It is the input for teaching.  A child who places her hand on a hot stove will immediately know that that stove is hot and can burn her with great pain.  But no “lesson” has been learned until experience is followed by contemplation and reflection.  It is in the pause that follows that burning that she learns a) a stove can be either hot or cold, b) a hot stove can cause you pain, c) a cold stove has no impact on you, and so d) you need to test that stove before touching it.  Such experiences → contemplation and reflection → learning can only happen when we are alone, in quietness, absent from the accumulation of more experiences.

“Quiet people have the loudest minds.”   (Stephen Hawking, scientist)

This is why we pray and/or meditate.  To voluntarily call ourselves into a time of aloneness, into quiet.  That we might escape our unending experiences for a time, and thoughtfully reflect upon the experiences we have already had.  To learn the many great lessons available to us in order to better understand the world around us and within us.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”   (Psalm 46:10)

We sit alone in quiet.  But we are not really alone.  We are in the company of that very real self that lives within us, but is so often forgotten.  In our quiet, the only new experience we have is the getting to know of that real self.  Whether we sit alone for minutes, for hours, for a day, or for many days.  This quiet can be the loudest sound we hear.  Aloneness can be the greatest company for us to be with.

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul.  To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.”   (Deepak Chopra)

© 2013   Randy Bell