We talk about “where we’re at” from varied perspectives: geographic, demographic, career stage and evolution, the reality though is that we are only ever in one of two places: inside our heads or not. This morning I was walking the dogs when a question came to me, perhaps a remnant from earlier meditation: is loneliness and being alone the same thing? The easy answer of course, is not necessarily.
Being alone is a choice, a time when you decide that you would prefer your own company to that of others. Whether it’s to recharge, to create or to just get your feet back under you, time alone can be a positive experience. Being lonely on the other hand, is being by yourself when you would really prefer to be in the company of others. The step it takes to cross the gulf between being by yourself and with others can seem insurmountable to those who struggle with it. An absolute wall of fear stands between them and the rest of the world.
When I looked deeper though, I see both are simply choices we make. They may not look the same and I’m sure they don’t feel the same, but in each case the individual makes a decision to spend time with themselves; the only problem is the lonely person sees it as a prison, the alone-person as a sanctuary.
Being happy is about being free, free to choose. I sometimes think this is the only true basis for happiness. The alone person then is actually a happy person, they have made a decision to do something they want to do; the lonely person is an unhappy soul, saddled with the burdens of a mind that won’t listen. Hiding inside their own mind, trapped by the fear it generates.
It’s like the elephant story: firmly held by a tiny rope and a stake in the ground it never tries to escape; the only reason the elephant doesn’t escape is that it thinks it can’t. Itremembers the strength of the rope when it was just a calf. If the now grown elephant decided to break loose, the ties that held them would break like thread in a tailor’s hands. So it is with lonely people, they are trapped by a belief that is only of their mind’s making: the one that says that they deserve to be alone and as long as they hide behind that facade they will at least be able to control their state of affairs.
Maybe this goes for all our fears, there are rational fears that are there for our protection, but there are also millions of illogical fears that we hold our selves hostage with, rather than confronting them and finding freedom. We all know those individuals that seem to harbour no fear at all, they’ll dive from high cliffs, speak loud and clear in a room full of strangers, wear outrageous clothes because they like them or ski down a black diamond run without any reservations at all.
This rule ( lets call it a law) applies to almost every non-survival decision we make where fear is the main driver. The more Zen in the crowd might call it resistance, the desire for things to be different but the unwillingness to do the things that will make it happen. What we really need to learn, is the ability to ignore most of the stuff our mind tells us.; to be able to detach ourselves from our fears and doubts and recognize they are only thoughts.
Our mind is like a the search button on our radio, the one that scrolls through each station, stopping long enough to give us a taste of what is playing but never landing permanently. Our thoughts continue to ruminate in our heads, jumping from one to another with lightning speed and no logic. Our mission then, is to control this beast; the thing is, the less we try the easier it is. The more effort we put into directing our thoughts and feelings, the less success we have. The only thing we need to do is be present with those feelings, don’t think about them or analyze them, simply observe them. Be detached and let them slowly fall away.
Be the casual observer, not one who in disappointment says its raining, but who notices that its raining and carries on, no worse for it.