For the past two and a half years I have lived in semi-isolation (some would refer to it as culture shock which has its pertinence also). This has not been thrust upon me by outside circumstances or choices I made that resulted in less than desirable outcomes, but more by personal choosing – although I wasn’t quite aware of how that would play out or affect me when it began.
During this interesting, shoot off of a meditation retreat – while still being a full time parent and partner – some of the most valuable aspects have also come through initially feeling very alone, very unsafe, and very misunderstood. Reminds me a bit of Saint John of the Cross, whose writings are contained in Dark Night of the Soul, although my experience has been much less grueling.
Along with all of these not-so-comfortable experiences has been the accompanying cultural standard where I live that children deserve and need punishment. This goes against every grain of well being in my body and mind. It is only in the last month that I have met a parent who is exploring other options. The rest of the few families and school officials I have met either believe fully in corporal (and other shame-based) forms of punishment, or they teeter on the subject – not fully having a foot in one or the other… which means they punish sometimes, feel guilty at others, and struggle much of the rest.
In the times I have felt alone, the intensity would initially pull me toward running away or going back “home”. Except home isn’t really a place for me; it’s more an awareness of truth, of what is, of what lies beneath the story currently running through my experience. All of the moments I felt intense isolation from people and resources who would support my choices as a person, partner, and parent have drawn me deeper into right here and now, my true home. A sense, a current of peace running through everyone and everything – even those who I felt I had so little in common with. I have been challenged to see our likeness, even if we disagree on points so important to me that my life revolves around them.
The opening I have experienced can’t really be put into words, though I can speak to its significance. I see people differently. I judge much less. I truly feel at one with people, even those who are actively choosing ways that are so different than me it would have previously made me cringe. I see humanity for what it is, identity for what it is, and I experience the love at the center. It’s always there, inside of the story. We get to rest in It if we so choose, instead of thinking we are all alone.
A question to ask when one feels alone may be, Who is alone? Really, who?
Is it me? Who am I? What difference is there between me and him, me and you, me and the Truth? Possible answers… attachment, identity, adherence to a story as if it is absolute reality. Look deeper, what’s inside? Feel it…
Issues around safety have brought me to a deeper space of trust and faith that I ever thought I would know, and the process continues. How can we be safe in a world where death and famine are rampant, where we ultimately cease to exist in the body at some point? What is safety, really? I am not ignoring the relative reality of being safe from harm, from harsh actions of those we surround ourselves with, of living in conditions that support and nourish human life.
I am sitting with these questions, asking what safety really means to me. Feeling what it really means, because in so many times of my life I have felt unsafe, afraid, alone. I can choose to see a bigger picture, to notice all of the times that all is well, that my family and I are safe, to nourish a sense of safety through awareness, and to take it one moment at a time, living intentionally, responsibly, with purpose.
This is not perfection I am speaking of, this is presence.
What does it mean to be misunderstood? Does it mean that someone thinks I am wrong? Does it mean I am wrong? Does it mean I have not communicated clearly? Does it mean the person on the receiving end has the issue? Is it a cultural, language, or some other sort of barrier? How does it feel to not have a connection of understanding with those around me?
It feels like isolation.
The growth potential of isolation cannot be measured, but it can be embraced.
In moments when you feel alone, afraid, unsafe, or misunderstood consider challenging yourself to experience what is waiting for you underneath, inside of the confusion and pain you may experience. See if you can access the peaceful base of being that is always present, waiting, and abiding to guide you through and out of the experience of isolation and into the experience of illumination.