Okay, okay, so I’m sure that Patanjali was not actually referring to dating angst when he orated about kaivalya – the ultimate state of aloneness, or detachment, from worldly sensory objects. However, embracing aloneness isn’t just for yogis meditating in caves. It’s also essential for our adventures in relationship.
The Insane Mind
The merits of kaivalya became clear to me awhile back when I was trying to meditate. (Let me stress – “trying.”) As I sat, I watched in growing horror and bemusement as my mind trampolined incessantly about a guy that I’d recently met. Despite every intention to focus on my breath, my mind kept returning to its increasingly paranoid chatter. What was he thinking? Was he going to call me? Did I want him to? Had I made a mistake. Aaaarrgh!
Eventually, I gave up trying to control the gong show and just watched it all unfold. I seriously needed a path out of the insanity.
Aloneness as a path out of crazy
When the crazy voices start, it’s time to take a breather and reflect on the merits of really being alone – and take a hard look at the fears that are keeping us tied to our distractions.
Rather than pitch our identity into the maelstrom of someone else’s (usually a stranger’s – for the love of god!) good opinion, we can step back and see the mind’s churning for what it is: an attempt to regulate our ego’s safety in an uncertain situation.
Watching the rolling of the mind in any situation (job crisis, personal change, yoga class, or yes – dating) is a profound opportunity to question what is real: are the thoughts real, or can we anchor ourselves to something deeper and more steady?
To summarize the first few yoga sutras (a 2000-year old yoga text): “Yoga is the restraint of the fluctuation of the mind. Then you rest in your true nature. Otherwise you think you’re all the crap that you’re thinking.” When we can observe our thoughts rather than getting caught up in our drama, we are able to identify with the unchanging Purusha (Consciousness) rather than with our mind’s tempestuous swings.
The compiler of the sutras, Patanjali, says that the ultimate state of liberation is kaivalya, which is usually translated as “aloneness.” While this concept initially seems sort of, well…lonely…there is a difference between being “alone” and being “lonely.” Resting in our aloneness, we no longer need someone else to fill the gaps in our self-perception. Connecting to a deeper sense of ourselves allows us to be fully present in our uncertainty, fear, and excitement so that we can observe these sensations come and go without attaching our identity to them.
Aloneness as a path to freedom…and intimacy
Being comfortable in aloneness not only helps us negotiate the dating jungle, it is also essential for maintaining a healthy relationship. When we are okay being alone, we can be fully present with our partner without needing them to play a role in our own drama. Without our ego clamoring for self-affirmation, we can drop our agendas and be in relationship more compassionately, honestly, and bravely. In short, since we have the power to leave, we can make a free and clear choice to stay. We can communicate without fear of being abandoned, because we are already intrinsically whole. Instead of serving our need for psychological safety, our relationships become the field for mutual growth.
Whether you are single or in a relationship, embracing aloneness will nourish your self-love and support your intimacy. Here are some ways to practice:
- Meditate for 5 minutes. Become an observer in order to distance yourself from the stories of your mind.
- Take yourself on a date – by yourself. Set aside two hours a week that are just for you. Follow your own fascinations.
- Go for a long walk by yourself.
- Have an electronics-fast: No cellphones. No ipads. No computer. No tv’s. No facebook. Rest in the quiet of being totally unplugged and unreachable.
Ultimately, practicing mindful aloneness is the antidote to “lonely,” as we cultivate our capacity to act from a place of intrinsic wholeness.
“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” – Pema Chodron