Archive for the ‘loneliness’ tag
I am turning for a bit to some of my Buddhist readings, especially the work of Chogyam Trungpa, The Path is the Goal. The title of the book reminded me of the path of individuation. The more I study, the more and more I am finding that “fits” to make a whole. In the sixth chapter of Trungpa’s book, the topic is “loneliness.” I will bring some of the words here, words that address the topic of loneliness and meditation.
“I think we should realize that the practice of meditation takes us on a journey that is very personal and very lonely. Only the individual meditator knows what he or she is doing, and it is a very lonely journey.” (Trungpa, p. 126)
A journey of one person. There is a guide/teacher that helps with orientation from time to time, but the journey is still a journey of one person. And, it is a very serious journey.
“The only thing that is visible, that apparently exists, is the journey, the loneliness itself. . . . . On this path, we are not looking for the grace of God or any other kind of saving grace. There is no sense that we are going to be saved, that someone is going to keep an eye on us so that if we are just about to make a mistake, someone will fish us out. . . . Nobody is going to save us and nobody is going to protect us, so this journey has to be a very personal journey. (pp 127-128)
As I sit in my meditation each morning, it is just me, myself and I working at taming my mind, trying to find a bit more light, awareness, consciousness. As I sit in analysis, even with my analyst, I am still wrestling with myself. The analyst, like the meditation teacher is there invested with care, compassion and even love; but, neither can take any of my steps for me on my journey. When I move through the rest of the hours either alone or in the company of others, my sense of individualness continues to assert itself within me.
This separateness is easily understood as a parent. I love all three of my children with an unbelievable intensity and would move every rock on their journeys so that their lives could be gentler. But is spite of all my efforts and love, they must walk their individual journeys separate from me as a parent, separate from their siblings, separate from their own children and their spouses. It is almost overwhelming to realise this. Yet, that is the way of being human, the way of being in life. We live our individual journeys in loneliness. And, we are graced to find others seeing us, loving us, touching us and being with us as best they can as they also make their individual journeys.
When I took this photo out in the countryside where it was so quiet that one could actually hear silence, I thought about how lonely solitude could become. At the time the photo was taken I was with my brother-in-law and was struck by how easily he slipped into a state that seemed not to “need” others as he wandered from my side to investigate. He suffers Alzheimer’s and is indeed alone with himself. From what I can see, most of that alone-ness is filled with anxieties.
I wonder at times about being alone, sometimes thinking that it would be easier, that there would be fewer distractions, fewer interruptions. What books I might then write, what photos I might then take, what learning about “self” I might then discover! But each time I find myself alone, I slip into lethargy and do less. Anxieties seem to surface and paralyze.
I “know” that I must learn to bear the anxiety, but I cling to the hope that in relationship to an “other” I will be saved the pain of loneliness, that in relationship to an “other” I will have meaning and purpose.
“Indeed, next to the fantasy of immortality, the hardest fantasy to relinquish is the thought that there is someone out there who is going to fix us, take care of us – spare us the intimidating journey to which we have been summoned.” (James Hollis, Swamplands of the Soul, p. 11)
Well, I’ve thought about this for so long, chasing the idea all around my head and heart that I only get dizzy. My heart says that this “other,” this someone is there. My mind says that this “other” is found within, not without. Now, if I understood Jung correctly, I must continue to hold on to this polar opposites for a something else to emerge that reconciles these opposites.
“You are alone and you are confronted with all the demons of hell. That is what people don’t know. Then they say you have an anxiety neurosis, nocturnal fears, compulsions – I don’t know what. Your soul has become lonely; it is extra ecclesiam [outside the Church] and in a state of no-salvation. And people don’t know it. They think your condition is pathological, and every doctor helps them to believe it. . . But it is neurotic talk when one says that this is a neurosis. As a matter of fact it is something quite different; it is the terrific fear of loneliness. It is the hallucination of loneliness, and it is loneliness that cannot be quenched by anything else. You can be a member of society with a thousand members, and you are still alone. That thing in you which should live is alone; nobody touches it, nobody knows it, you yourself don’t know it; but it keeps on stirring, it disturbs you, it makes you restless, and it gives you no peace.” (Jung, CW 18, par 632)
I imagine you know this feeling if you are reading this. You know that pills and therapy somehow don’t really get it fixed as there is no search for the roots, only an attempt to deal with symptoms. And the results have been an abysmal failure for the world of psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Hillman is correct in saying that with more than a hundred years of professional practice, we have not done any good, perhaps only having succeeded in making a bad situation worse for the individuals and for the others with whom those individuals come into contact.
Midlife crisis. What to do? Get pills? Get a new car? Get involved in a series of affairs? Step up the pace and acquire even more money and things? See a shrink? Take up yoga or martial arts? Run marathons and ultra-marathons? There are innumerable strategies to keep busy in the outer world in order to avoid that inner loneliness. Who would ever think that perhaps it is by going within to meet with the shadows that we find that we aren’t alone anymore, that we can recover a sense of who we are and a sense of meaning in an otherwise meaningless world.
Is there hope? Yes there is. I have hope and I have a sense of purpose and meaning and it is through beginning to live a symbolic life that this transformation has occurred. I have become re-connected to my “self” and in the process have allowed my soul a breath of fresh air. And, like this little bird, I am ready to emerge from behind the scenery into full life again.