My Art of Solitude
Buddha did it. Jesus did it. (Even Superman had his Fortress of Solitude.) The act and art of solitude, the choice to be alone, to sit with one’s thoughts, feelings, mood, emotions, to check in with the self, is what I view to be an essential part of uncovering, discovery, and growing. It is a space to continually refine the relationship to self. This is what Yoga has become for me. One of the common misconceptions about Yoga, translated as union, is that it’s all about feeling good. Yes, there is that. And yet, the process of union requires commitment to being honest with the self. We are called to recognize who we are; to understand our needs, to put away old ways, and forge a path for new ones. When Jesus and Buddha decided to go into a place of solitude, they too were tempted, they recognized pain, they recognized suffering, and they both advocated for transformation. Thich Nhat Hanh, in the majority of his books, the phrase “transforming suffering” rises to the surface. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it sometimes requires a process of grieving and of letting go. It is a recognizing what we are in control of and what we aren’t. Through this act of becoming comfortable with the genuine self; holding our feelings, emotions, mood, “lightly”, becomes a practice. This can only be done when one decides to grow compassionately with the self; with the human condition, the Divine Source and all through dedicated sadhana, or spiritual practice. At times, when I was younger, it was uncomfortable to sit by myself, with myself, surrounded by the forest and trees - just me. That has changed over the years as I have slowly incorporated more of that practice within my life. I have recognized a certain comfort and friendship with not only myself, but with God, the Divine Energy, as I have become more aware of who I am and what I feel. I recognize that I am in constant flux, surrendering and releasing to the movement, breath, and flow. Solitude is a natural ingredient in creating that personal relationship with self. I have found through my own experiences of solitude a more sophisticated relationship with mind: some thoughts I prefer, some I do not and yet, I hold it all because I understand that I am more than just one thing. So Hum “I am” all that is arising and so I play on. When I have chosen to place myself in a place of solitude many things have happened. I have recognized the incredible depth of the human experience; the human condition. How amazing that we witness each moment through complex layers of being: the mental body, the physical body, the emotional body, intuition and the bliss body. A singular experience touches each of these realms simultaneously. Notice how we can hold jealousy. We can hold anger. We can hold fear. And as we recognize these different things through observation, through meditation, through prayer, we create room for awareness to discern what acts will correspond or follow. I have experienced through various pranayama and meditation practices the observation of my own habits and patterns. I have observed where I hold onto suffering, and I have been awakened to the source of these places of pain, as well as the Source of the bliss body, compassion, love, the Divine. Buddha transformed. Jesus transformed. As humans, just like them, we too are able to transform. We are able to recognize that we have choices. When we accept who we really are: loving, kind, compassionate people, we are then able to recognize what is not us. For example: we are not anger; we are not jealousy. We may hold hurt, we may hold pain, and we can choose how much we want to hang onto suffering and why we might want to hang onto that suffering. Perhaps more ironically, one of the most important ingredients in embracing solitude, I believe, is to find a group of people that you trust. A Sangha or community in which you are able to lay reflections, grievances, struggles, feelings, joys, emotions. They become a safe place to present all of these things discovered in your practice of solitude. You may lay them at the feet of caring, loving, kind people who are on a similar path; the people whom you even feel comfortable just sitting with, walking with, and enjoying the human experience together. In solitude, and in the honest act of falling apart and coming back together, we really are coming back together. We are releasing. We are letting go. Many of the great teachers mention birth, death, and rebirth in the process of that transformation, surrender and change. Asana and meditation practices are designed in this modality to practice that process so that we will continually transform and grow. It is important to have a circle of support that honors and respects that process. As Thich Nhat Hanh penned, “the next Buddha is sangha" we wake up together.
Sangha member Heidi Nehring is an experienced educator and Life Coach. She is currently completing her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Certification with Meg Lucks and Sarah Filzen, hosted by Healium Yoga MKE.