Years ago, eight to be exact, a dear friend of mine, in a very humane gesture of emotion asked me to find happiness in being alone. At that time, i sincerely craved for a relationship, of being with “the other” so as to instill the feeling of belonging and existential worth. She looked deep into my eyes and asked me to do something that smashed my feelings to the ground. How could she ask something like that? If she doesn’t want to be with me she could have said that directly and not use the subterfuge of philosophical mumbo-jumbo.
Time crawled, slithered and sometimes flew by; seasons changed and so did the places. I was in pain after my first breakup. Somewhere, i needed the escape from all that pain and emotional burden and to be honest, i now feel that i was doing something more out of my desire to escape that hellish emotional blob inside of me. Those words always stayed with me. As the dust began to settle and my mind started to dust off years of self inflicted pain, i realized the true nature of that call. What is being alone? Is it something we must desire or it happens on its own when we are with ourselves. Not just physically, rather in a holistic manner where the Mind-Body complex is at ease and in a state of deep acceptance of the self. What is self?
We shall leave this topic of self for later discussion. Let us now just concentrate on the nature of being alone. First, we begin with asking a question:
Why do we seek a company or companionship?
In general, our desire to engage with fellow humans is genetic. We are probably made this way. To build a complex network of societies, states and countries we need to associate with each other and forge relationships as a means to survive and propagate the species and prosper. Is there also such thing in human genome, where a person desires to be alone , with the self and not engaged in any external activity? Perhaps, this is what forms the basis of the quest for the eternal truth that drives a man to solitude; where the other is a nuisance, no matter how sweet or accommodating. For most of us life is all about being with the other/others and spending time such that the pincers of reality does not bring us out of our sense of security in being around with others. The idea of fragility of our existence doesn’t make us brood over the purpose of life itself. This brings us to the very idea of associating the self with the outside world viz., people, things and designations.
All our effort in life seems an exercise to be away from the reality of being alone. The death is something that makes us uncomfortable. Is there as deep seated desire to be immortal that made humanity imagine about afterlife and reincarnation? To be able to somehow “remain” after the dust goes to dust, or after the borrowed mud goes back into mud. Thus, the feeling of being lonely shakes us right to the core because it is akin to death. Is aloneness the same thing or qualitatively different?
Human relations encompass a variety of forms in a lifetime. There is a family which has parents, siblings, wives, husbands, children. Outside of it there are neighbors, friends, lovers, there are people who are general acquaintances. Then, there is professional sphere of activity which again demands associative performance in order to survive. It seems as if the need of relationship is linked to expression of life itself and is enmeshed with desire to propagate the self or the understood-self ( its misconstrued notion) by association the being or the self with objects and people while seeking happiness and fulfillment from them. An enlightened mystic, Sadhguru, puts it this way
“Fundamentally, all relationships in your life have come up because you have certain needs to fulfill – physical, mental, emotional, social, financial and so on. You try to establish a certain type of relationship to fulfill whatever kind of need you have. If that need is not fulfilled, that relationship seems difficult to maintain.“
Do we get time to be alone and to sense and touch the throbbing life that we are? Sometimes, I feel that, immured within the outward projections of the self, we tend to confuse the real purpose of life. Maybe it is just the expression of life itself in every form. The throbbing of your heart, the rhythm of breathing, the ticking of the mind, hunger of the stomach and countless actions being performed without our actual interference are just happening. For some it leads to a desire for a supra-entity who is in control and they prefer to call it by different names. But is it a justified course of thinking for us? The most intellectually developed species whose existence hinges on the desire to search and make things suit their needs than other way around. Isn’t it a good way to probe and investigate all that is around us including the self? So, the question is, what is meant by being alone as a human being? No relations…not even a God to depend upon. Purely the self in its blatant nakedness. What is it like?
My own experience has been that once you start on this path the first encounter is loneliness. This is a negative state borne out of the severance from our previous lines of communications or physical social network. One feels very vulnerable in this state and we should remember that this is just a bubble which will burst if we are able to keep our patience. The time for this bubble to vanish is very much subjective. Once this stage is over. We enter the next stage of seeing the madness in our own head. So many voices of so many people try to fill the voids created during the first stage. The mind rushes in to save the genetically predisposed desire to socialize, to spread the tentacles of buzz of thought into that emptiness. Then, the fascinating power of mind comes forth to display a myriad forms of occupations, many hues of desires and wishes spread on the empty canvas entices the observer to come back into its grip. Human mind is very complex and indeed we know much less about it. Psychology tries to unearth layers of mind but in my opinion it does more damage than good. Little knowledge is a dangerous thing…perhaps Alexander Pope said it and he seems right.
Then comes the third layer, which we generate ourselves by being dispassionate to all the seductions of mind. We do not participate in the doings of the mind. Not identifying with the duality of this world. No connection to things concocted by a desperate mind struggling to hold its grip on you and drag you to the old patterns and habits. I do not know anything beyond this. Coming back to our previous question about aloneness, i guess that being alone is one step towards understanding the self. While, loneliness is just a state where we crave for a company to escape from the self which is without a dual and in its entirety sufficient for existence. The vital task is how to balance the bridge between the world of associations and the inner world of solitude. I feel that the picture at the top is apt display of that. When your hand joins with the other, its association to the outside world and when your hands join together then there is playfulness and benediction.
Aham Bhrahm Asmi