(Doesn't even the word look lonely, all by itself, up there?)
This one is tricky for me.
I've written before about requiring more time alone than most people do. I don't know if it's because I'm an only child, or if it's simply my nature, but I need a lot of time to myself and when I don't get it, I get edgy.
I understand that some people don't like being alone, in the way that I understand some people can perform addition and subtraction using just brain power, and without counting on their fingers at all. Those people and I are about as different as difference gets.
I like to spend time with people I care about and then I like to go home.
Once I joked to a very sweet and earnest yoga teacher that instead of ending my classes by saying, "namaste," I say, "Thank you so much for coming. It was so good to see you and spend this time together. Please go now, with haste."
He didn't laugh even a little. I suspect that might be one of those jokes that's only funny to me.
But as much as I enjoy my own company, I know this, too:
Isolated is the most dangerous thing I can allow myself to become. Isolation is my enemy. The edge between essential time to myself and isolation is the edge of a knife.
Too little alone time leaves me with too little time to assimilate all the experiences I had when I wasn't alone. Too much alone time and I might not find the motivation to brush my hair. Hair that goes unbrushed hair for too long creates as many inner snarls as outer ones.
As the sage Goldilocks taught in The Three Bear Sutras: "not too little; not too much."
With Einstein's famous equation E= mc2, he proved what yoga traditions have been claiming for some time--that when you come right down to it, everything in the universe is energy.
The word yoga is often defined union, and union with that supreme energy is the goal of many yogas. My yoga is a little upside down. Like the physicists, on the level of strings and quarks or whatever the heck the smallest stuff is, anyway, we see everything, and everyone, as an expression of that singular energy that went BANG in a big way, and literally created our universe.
Oneness has expressed itself as infinity, we say, meaning that that super-particle that went BANG has expressed itself as me, and as you, and as all carbon based lifeforms, and everything else, too. Since my tradition doesn't think we've ever been other than that infinity, we don't spend a whole lot of time trying to reunite with it.
(Whether or not we experience ourselves as full of infinite potential and supreme intelligence is a whole other story and a subject for another day.)Without a need for union, what's left is relationship. Yoga asks me to think about my relationship with myself, with other people who are very much like me but also genuinely different, too, and my relationship with the world and with the infinite.
In my yoga, alienation is the only evil there is.
I couldn't be so separate as to be entirely unlike others if I tried but I might feel separate, alienated and alone. While I might mistakenly think someone so unlike myself that I dehumanize him, it's very unlikely that I could look into his eyes and recognize myself there, and still intentionally cause him harm. It's also unlikely that I could look into my own eyes in the mirror and recognize infinity there and not find something worthy.
Alienation is misalignment. It is contrary to your nature, no matter how private of a person you are, and no good can come of it. It is the nature of energy to collect and to clump and to constellate, and at the microcosmic level, we are pure energy. Einstein said so.
Alienation and isolation are the opposite of yoga, and depression is the opposite of self-respect. I have come to think that depression is an attitude that's not quite grateful enough for the gift of a lifetime.
But I have learned this only through relationship.
If you struggle with depression the single most dangerous thing you can do is allow yourself to become isolated. It's not enough to practice at home, on your own, even if you can muster up the energy to do it, which is unlikely. Get in your car and get yourself to class. It's not simply about the movement. It's about community and connection, or kula, as we say in sanskrit.
Being part of a community of people who strive to engage their own potential as deeply as they can, and who actively try to get better at loving life has changed me in profound ways. I'll strive to move mountains for these people on days when I mightn't otherwise have the inclination to so much as budge a pebble for my own sake. We need each other.
The best thing I've ever gotten from my yoga practice, by far, has been the people I would move mountains for.
You know who you are.