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Never alone in solitude

June 22, 2011

In childhood I loved coming across phrases like ‘lonely in a crowd’ and ‘loving solitude’. I was a quiet child, given to speaking words at certain times that the elders lovingly appreciated. Not about my life, but about ideas, feelings, thoughts.

I grew to love solitude, happy in knowing that in a crowded world, no one needed me to voice any more than I was willing to share.

It didn’t last. From my late teens to very recently, I was with people who were uncomfortable with silence, not satisfied that I preferred to write rather than to speak. I found that the more uncomfortable the situation, the more words were needed. Fortunately, not so at home. Within my immediate family, silences rule. We are well connected.

Recently I spent time with my mother when she was hospitalized for an extended time. I was alone with her, and for one reason or another, family could not come at first. I did not feel alone. I could hear my sisters in my head, and know what they would say or advise or suggest in different situations. It was easy to follow them.

Every week I host an online meditation on skype, called Stepping into Stillness. Sometimes there are people who log on, and at other times, there are none. In solitude, I never feel alone. There is such a sense of presence, a connection even deeper, not with the personality of another, but with their essence. Online communication has facilitated that. In a world where writing rules, not speaking, I am prolific, often verbose. In a world where blogs coexist with tweets and Like buttons, the canvas for sharing is so diverse that it is easy to communicate. It is also possible to stay away from gatherings – just don’t use the technology that creates too much visibility.

I attended two ‘skin-life’ events yesterday, both related to the solstice. In the first, a Gaia Minute circle, we were to meet others in silent prayer at sunrise by the bay. I found myself ringing up one friend the previous evening to dissuade her from coming, sensing that she was tense about waking early; and not reminding another, even though she had said she would come. I sensed them and others who had said they would be there in spirit, as we stood there silently – a friend, a fisherman, and two men, one of whom later spoke to us and revealed his mathematical genius about the solstice. The Gaia Minute has helped me to be aware that not only is it okay to love solitude, it is true that we are never alone.

In the second gathering, I was with friends, a wonderful gathering where new met old, each person was from another country, and we all shared a lovely solstice-cum-birthday meal at the home of a gracious hostess. I found myself happy to converse and happier to be allowed silence. That is the greatest gift of friends – allowing one to engage as much or as little as one would like.

In company too, solitude need not leave me. And that is a blessing beyond measure.

The sages in the Himalayas, sitting in solitary splendor, or ascetic aloneness, are said to be connected in their vision to the happenings of the world. I see how that can be.

And yet I write. There is that little thread of connection that is still needed. That voice in the ear from a wonderful being who came down from the  mountains. The voice from the students that their silence was one of deep communion with what was being taught. That sense that solitude is not in the void.

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