Redefining Solitude

There is a fine line between solitude and loneliness. Frienship often helps define it.

It’s a perfect Sunday morning; waking up on my own without an alarm clock, feeling relaxed. Ah, yes, just what the doctor ordered.

Lazy spontaneity is beautiful. Unfortunately, I don’t have time or a lifestyle that allows for that.

I have to plan my rests, and plan them around my budget.  In the most recent edition of Tricycle magazine, there’s a great article written by Brent R. Oliver called, “White Trash Buddhist“, and in many ways, that describes my ability to fully participate in all that is the beauty of practice within an equally learned and practiced sangha;

I am forever in debt to the handful of teachers, writers, and thinkers who introduced me to Buddhist practice, provide constant inspiration, and continue to shape my knowledge of this path.

Actually, I’m just forever in debt.

Every time I get in my 12-year-old car and rattle away to the nearest retreat center, I’m reminded that I’m a poor white trash Buddhist. It’s a good thing none of those luminaries will ever try to collect, since I can’t even afford the practice as it is. That’s a shame, because the dharma saved my life.

I have a big heart and just as much education. Unfortunately logic and spirituality don’t always get along.  My stress level often reaches unimaginable highs, and when that happens, it knocks pretty loud and hard on the door to my practice of living with an open heart.

Thursday morning found me in a typically anxious frame of mind, re-writing my long to-do lists, and looking to the future. As I gulped my first cup of coffee, I knew that if I didn’t schedule a little self-care time for today, I wouldn’t get it at all for the next month or so.  Realizing that my  professional calendar is booked, days, nights and weekends until we creep close to the Christmas season, I felt my body sieze up, and tried to lower my shoulders from my ears.

Ah yes, anxiety and stress. What wild beasts to train to continually walk the tightrope of sanity.

‘A little self-care time’, looks like a day at the healing-water spa with a massage thrown in. I called the spa and booked it.

spa1

There’s nothing like letting the salt water tumble in a waterfall over your shoulders to release a little stress, to give your mind some quiet time and help you release that big sigh you’ve been ignoring for so long.

The gift of solitude in the steam sauna is priceless.  After a water-cycle, I’m completely de-stressed, mind, body, and spirit. A water-cycle followed by a massage leaves me feeling like a wiggly pile of jello. Sometimes we all need to be reduced to a big wiggly pile of jello.

A thorough romp that takes you from evening to late morning under the covers with you lover can accomplish a similar result, but the component of solitude is something all spiritual creatures need. But you can hide within your own solitude too.

You can have too much solitude. I work much of the time in the rambling space of my own mind, with moments or hours broken only by counseling or participating in planning meetings.  The past year has seen my energy level plummet. So much so that I’ve withdrawn from much of the social interaction that buoys me up.

So, although I predicted I would need a break from constantly being in work-mode, I didn’t predict what a wonderful hour I would share with my dear friend Mrs. CK, and her man the ‘Animal’ yesterday. On a brief stop following a long day working, I arrived at their home to a plate of beautiful meat, chese, and fresh grapes. Oh, and wine of course. The Animal has exquisite taste in wine.  Just having a few minutes to see and talk to Mrs. CK was uplifting.  They sent me off with hugs and a care package, and when I opened it later and enjoyed the food they’d packed for me, I felt even more connected, loved, and human.

Most of the time I don’t splurge on spa days. I have to be completely wrung out to spend a day doting on me, without feeling like I have to cook, clean, or be somewhere for someone else. Anxiety often sucks the joy out of the present moment, and keeps me cloistered at home alone, trying to quiet it down with activity. My nature is to nurture and help, but I must recognize that sometimes I too need to be nurtured.

This weekend has been a good reminder that being in the company of friends and neighbours is all the therapy a person needs sometimes. Rambling conversations and impromptu meals make for a lifestyle that fosters wellness, joy and balance.

Although I’m heading off to the spa today for some much needed TLC, I’m heading off in fine spirits thanks to the generosity of time gifted to me by some wonderful people. It’s a wonderful reminder that although I can’t always afford to participate in retreats and the sanctuary of a paid-entrance-sangha, my friendhips are priceless.

Solitude is healing, revealing and fertile ground for personal growth, but I must not forget that the solitude of friendship is just as necessary. After all, I’m only human.

 

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