By Reena Gagneja |
There can be no spiritual growth without the essential practice of aloneness, or simply put, spending time alone. This may be meditation, taking a walk in nature, reading a spiritual book, or simply contemplation in peace and quiet. Even in a busy day, 5-10 minutes is not too much to find. The ‘body-mind’ needs rest and balancing.
Time spent alone helps us to train ourselves to quieten the stories we constantly run in our heads and to see the facade that we hold out for others. When we are with others, we perform an act. A carefully-designed mask appears automatically for the outside world. When we are alone, we have no need for this mask, the ego is given a holiday, and thus we have the space to just be.
Osho, the Indian sage, said, “The whole life experience is of being together with people. Aloneness seems almost like death. In a way it is a death; it is the death of the personality that you have created in the crowd. That is the gift of others to you. The moment you move out of the crowd you also move out of your personality….So the first problem for the seeker is to understand exactly the nature of aloneness…Those who have reached to aloneness have found nobody there.
I really mean nobody – no name, no form, but a pure presence, a pure life, nameless, formless. This is exactly the true resurrection, and it certainly needs courage. Only very courageous people have been able to accept with joy their pure being; it is death and a resurrection both…In aloneness you will disappear as an ego and personality and you will find yourself as life itself, deathless and eternal. Unless you are capable of being alone your search for truth will remain a failure.”
Spending time alone is not easy. You may perpetually seek to fill the space with activities and busy-ness. Even silence in a crowd can be deeply uncomfortable. This is because when alone we cannot easily hide from ourselves. And spiritual evolution can only occur when we have some courage to take a look at what we hide.
In terms of loneliness, which may be felt acutely but rarely acknowledged, there is a vast difference between that and aloneness. Loneliness is an idea based on memory of the past and beliefs our mind clings to. Aloneness is our natural nature without the charge of loneliness. Once this difference is truly understood, and our loneliness acknowledged, the fear of isolation and loneliness gives way to the joy of just being, which naturally arises from understanding and accepting ourselves.
Self-understanding comes through acceptance of what is there – if it’s loneliness, then so be it. When we see that fighting it or hiding from it, as per most people’s conscious or unconscious preoccupation, is useless because you cannot hide from yourself, then we start become conscious. To try to hide from yourself is frankly impossible, because whether consciously or unconsciously tried, it cannot be done.
Whenever we hide from feelings, they do not disappear, they simply fester, appearing through our thoughts and actions in covert ways, stripping life of its inherent joy and peace. The irony is that many people think that they are in control of their life, but this is merely self-delusion. What is in fact running the ship daily is the perpetual stories and intellectual models we run in our minds and spend most of our focus on. But even this isn’t real control, for these stories and thoughts just appear, they have nothing to do with what is truly real.
So what is truly real?
Now we’re talking! This is where real enquiry leads us from story to truth, and this is the spiritual endeavour. These questions are asked in our aloneness.
If we are to truly evolve further, we have to learn to be honest with ourselves. As a Counsellor and spiritual ‘aficionado’, I have heard on several occasions people say that they have no pain, no suffering. This is simply part of the self-delusion and ego mask. There is always pain because till we reveal who we really are (an untarnished Being that is unaffected by story) the separation we feel deep down is in itself pain and suffering, no matter what angle we may want to present to ourselves or others.
As we do take courage to face whatever demons arise when we are alone, the Universe rushes to our aid and reveals who we are.
And who are we?
That, is for each of us to discover!
By Reena Gagneja