Two years ago while on a weekend getaway by the sea, I found myself standing alone at the edge of the ocean one night, under the full moon, and well past midnight. While standing by the water's edge, I was visited by two distinct and striking feelings: One, a feeling of total and utter aloneness…the kind of aloneness that lives below even the deepest sense of integration and connection, one that often rocks me to my core reminding me how tragic and how beautiful it can be to stand in the silence of one's own presence. And the other, a feeling of deep and pervading connection, with myself and all things, with my friends sleeping in a rented cottage not far away, the many people who had walked that beach earlier in the day, and the myriad experiences of an average day of my life.
Standing at the waters edge by myself, while my two friends slept inside the rented beachfront cottage, I was struck by the duality of connection and aloneness. In that moment, in spite of the fact that there was no one to share the beauty of the ocean and the glowing light of the moon with, I felt a deep and almost umbilical sense of connection to these two women, my dear and treasured friends, who were elsewhere and asleep. And yet, the sense of the beauty I felt of being alone in that moment was its own life force.
Emotional intimacy and connection are vulnerable. Aloneness can be painful. And I am struck by the ways in which we humans often use these two relational polarities to defend and protect ourselves from being entered and affected too fully by either. At times when the vulnerability of intimacy and connection are too much it is easy to step back into a pattern of aloneness and isolation. And when aloneness, even on the most basic level, evokes a pain we are not able to bear, it is easy to thrust ourselves into connection, so we don't have to meet or give attention to a very real pain that lives inside of us. And between these two something is lost… the competence of standing on and occupying ones own ground, fully, in all experience. We lose the intimacy of getting to know the winds of our inner turmoil and learning the strength and skill of this ancient navigation.
In his book Letters to a Young Poet, R.M. Rilke mentions this most beautiful relationship between solitude and connection….he suggests the that greatest love is the result of two solitudes standing next to each other, giving each other space for their own experience, yet always turning toward and relating to each other in their aloneness.
So let us be both solitudes standing beside each other. Let us find and learn to speak the wisdom in our vast aloneness, and let us welcome the connection of knowing ourselves and others fully. Let us stand in awe of being fully entered and affected by a single moment of silence, standing at the edge of the sea while those you love are elsewhere and asleep. And from there, walk into a wild love affair with the whole world.