Friday, August 22, 2014

Alone With My Self

Have you ever spent an entire day spiritually alone, just with your Self?

In the context of this question, “alone” does not mean “taking a day off” and doing just what you would like to do for a rare afternoon.  Running personal errands, treating yourself to a day of long-denied entertainment, non-required shopping, or personal pampering.  Nor does being alone mean simply being absent from the usual family, friends, or colleagues.

Being spiritually alone means surrounding yourself in true absence.  No distracting TV/radio/cell phones/computers.  No people at all, except for perhaps an occasional person necessary to help negotiate your way through the day.  No distractions.  No chores to perform.  No conversations with others.  Just you.  Perhaps in a quiet room, or on a comfortable bench in the quiet woods or garden.  Perhaps sitting in a meditation posture; perhaps at a table with pen in hand to jot down a few thoughts.  An occasional slow walk through your surroundings to refresh your quiet time.  Just you.  And your Self.  Your real Self.  The Self you rarely get to talk to, to know better.

For many people, such an undistracted day, in such quiet, in such an aloneness, is a frightening prospect.  The very idea of a silent day creates a sense of high anxiety, if not panic.  We think, “how will I get through these many hours, passing the time alone, and what am I likely to experience?”  It is a time and situation completely foreign to our training and experience, being separated from the task list and human interactions that typically fill our day.  So why would we want to do it?

It is in silence that one encounters one’s Self.  The true Self that lives quietly within us, lost to the conscious mind, crowded from our thoughts.  The truth is, many of us have little desire to meet that Self, even though it is our spiritual essence.  Perhaps we fear seeing an unpleasant person, or frightening thoughts, or scary experiences residing in that Self, a Self normally kept out of view.  Perhaps we resist some negative judgments being directed at us by that Self.  Perhaps we will find too many unfulfilled dreams, failed initiatives, or lost opportunities tucked away into that Self.  Or maybe too many regrets, too many unchangeable shortcomings, too many “I wish I hadn’t done that’s” being lugged around in a heavy bag marked “Failures.”

Or, after we slog through some of this initial dense swamp, perhaps we will find someone else.  A joyful, confident, and happy self we have been missing, albeit a Self bruised and battered around by Life.  A Self that has been waiting a long time to finally meet us.  A Self that would be nice to be acquainted with now.  Of all the Friends on our Facebook page or holiday mailing list, this could be the best friend of all.

Our first encounters alone with our Self may prove very difficult.  It is likely a Self very different from the one we normally see in the mirror.  But it gets easier, and more rewarding, with each repetition.  It takes a while to get to know fully the Self that awaits us.  We will have to take both the “good” and the “bad” of the Self together, just as with any other good friend.  But it is an acquaintance worth making.  It is an acquaintance we can only make within external silence.  Because that Self can only speak very softly, so we have to listen hard to hear it.  And if we keep listening hard enough, and long enough, and often enough, behind our Self we sometimes might hear an even softer Voice reaching out to us.

“Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness” (Meister Eckhart).  Stillness with Self is worth eight hours of our time.

©  2014   Randy Bell