Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Being Alone in Shanghai
"Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It's restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down." ~ Pema Chodron
I have not written on this blog in over a month. There are a few reasons for this. I have been busy with three kids here and the accompanying nurturing, organizing, adapting, and going here, there and everywhere that that entails. I am also giving emotional and energetic support to my daughter living in the states. I have been teaching more, including starting a new job at a new yoga studio. Most of all, I feel I have gone away from writing because I have been in a period of deep introspection and spiritual practice. I have been using a lot of energy in the process of feeling and digesting experience. I have been taking in so intensely, that I have had to pause for a time from giving out. I have had to make a very conscious choice to settle in for awhile, to take shelter and seek quiet in order to do some essential work on myself. I am still very much in the depths of the process, but I finally felt the tug to express something outwardly.
I have been going through a lot here. I am dealing with multiple issues with family and kids. ADD, scoliosis, academic turmoil, teenage hormones, social pressures, bullying, and the list goes on. I have also been dealing with my own core wound around fitting in (amongst others), seeking social acceptance and connection, and yet honoring my introverted side. I have had some loss in the realm of friendship, including some rejection, which is so hard for me to take, and I will also be faced with friends I have made here repatriating soon. I have a certain sense of connection and support from my friends and family back home, but the fact is I am a world away. Facebook and Skype just can't take the place of a face to face. Virtual hugs just aren't the same as arms wrapped around and warm hearts embracing.
A big part of my experience right now in Shanghai is centered around loneliness. Now the bombshell moment. I thank God for this loneliness! I find it ironic that I have come to the most populated city in the entire world to finally do the hard work I need to do on loneliness.
I am exploring and finding ways to relax into being alone. I realize that when I am experiencing discomfort or anxiety around being alone it is coming from thoughts and beliefs I have been carrying around for most, if not all of my life. These thoughts and beliefs have come from many sources and events, but ultimately are all tied into my perceived lack of value and goodness. These thoughts and beliefs are only that, and as I have leaned into them and relaxed and breathed around them, their solidity and grip on me has begun to dissolve.
I am still connecting and saying yes to social engagements and reaching out to people, the difference is there is far less fear attached to it. I am not depending on my social calendar to give me my sense of security, in fact I am appreciating the time I am making to be alone more and more. I find myself craving more simplicity so I can focus in on more of this internal process. I am pulled to practice. The practice of being and breathing, moving slowly, doing one thing at a time or doing nothing at all (revolutionary).
I feel more rooted and steady. I feel I am enough and I enjoy my own company. Self compassion is becoming more accessible. I need that self compassion because as I dig into my relationship with loneliness other wounds and storylines are showing up as well. This is life and healing happens, not by fixing or controlling outer circumstances or people, but by doing this deep inner excavation. This internal work is not about fixing either. It is about peeling back these layers of false beliefs and judgments about myself and seeing myself clearly.
In my lineage of Kripalu Yoga we believe that the essence of all people, our true nature, is love. Swami Kripalu said "The highest form of spiritual practice is self observation without judgment." Self observation with love is what I am continuously trying to lean into, to embrace and accept.
"It is not your job to like me, it's mine." ~Byron Katie
I am to the point in this where I can say most of the time I feel solitude instead of loneliness. I also have had an angel in doggy form come into my life. She is a great companion with the sweetest nature and the kind of unconditional love that dog angels have. So, we walk on. All of us. In fact we are never really alone. Here we are together even now. Wherever you are, I am with you.