All Alone

We come into this world alone, we leave this world alone, yet why are we so afraid to live alone.

I was about to post this this morning and found the perfect quote in the Quote of the Day:
Do not blame Heaven, and do not blame earth, for your loneliness. You are traveling the ways of loneliness because your mind has not tried to conquer the darkness of frustration-frown. – Sri Chinmoy

The novelty of living alone is starting to wear off, the time is beginning where the lessons are starting to come in. It’s funny you know because you can’t really say that I am alone, I mean I’m not holed up in my apartment, on average once a day I am doing something that is not related to philosophy/music.

Those who want to be a true sadhak of music get restrictions, imposed upon them by the teacher (particularly if you are starting late in the game in terms of age). Very limited social life, full focus on music, cutting out people and things that will disturb your practice. Movement is restricted. It may seem overbearing, but completely necessary to do the sadhna. It is not just a sadhak of music, but any sadhna. Why is it that Vipassana has no cell phones, no contact, even eye contact with anyone. Because they really want you to spend time with yourself.

Spending time with yourself is hard. (note I am not complaining, just trying to go through the thoughts running in my head). To gain complete control over your mind and actions (ie doing everything with full awareness) is difficult and not something that your mind will easily allow you to do. Our training and upbringing typically is such that we are the slave of the mind. To try to change that power dynamic is not simple, who would want to give up power and become the one who follows.

My yoga instructor is always telling me, we have to gain control over the mind, even if you don’t want to hold the position, you must hold it (unless I absolutely can’t). Be strong, yog requires determination. The more determined you are, the stronger you are, the more powerful the experience. Be it for the postures or breathing exercises, everything requires control over the mind and strong will power.

In philosophy classes, after 20-30 minutes, the yawning begins and drowsiness begins to set in. Not because I am tired. All of sudden I want to pee. I try pinching myself and forcing myself to concentrate – wanting to listen, wanting to understand. Not wanting to seem rude or that I am not interested, I try to stifle the yawns and concentrate even more – after all what teacher wants to see the student yawning. But the teacher understands. “Your mind does not want you to understand reality, which in turn of course is linked to control over the mind. So it’s defense mechanism – causing you to become sleeping, once it distracts you once, it wins. It takes effort to build concentration, which is why we are beginning with the basics, easy stuff, slowly training the mind to listen and absorb this material.”

Tabla practice. Little Rahul once said to me that once you sit down for riyaz, you cannot get up. “Ha.” I thought. I can’t sit for that long at a time. It is always during riyaz that I remember the twenty-five thousand things I need to do – call this person, pick up this, etc, etc. But taking motivation from the comment, I sat down one day and with strong determination decided (made a “sankalp”) that I would not get up for 2 hours. And I did it. But the sad part about it, and this is me being completely honest, is that when I tried it again the next day, I got up. It was as if the one time was to prove to myself that I could do it. Good news though is that it is improving.. I remembering less things to do and trying harder to make a mental note and move on vs acting upon it immediately. The physical challenge of practice is hard, my lack of flexibility in the inner thighs makes it difficult to sit cross-legged for extended periods of time. However, esp with yoga, the flexibility is increasing and the stamina particularly in the arms and shoulders is building. Going from around 1hr/day straight to 4hr/day was a big jump, but its happening.

When challenging the self on so many different fronts, living on my own and cutting social ties on one side does not “help”, though in reality is it critical. The old Heena loved being around people, but at the same time stayed separate from them. I am glad to step away from social things, particularly of an Indian nature, which so many times I find to be very forced and artificial, but at the same time, I love to talk and share and limiting the people I interact with has been challenging. There are two sides to this – one is that I am not completely ready to share because I am still figuring it out and am in the process, yet two I miss the social comfort of having people around. (this last paragraph doesn’t make a lot of sense I know)

I’ve been sick for the last two days. While I could easily go to the ashram house and be around people, I want to be alone so I can keep up practice, etc (which hasn’t really happened). But what happens almost everytime I get sick happened again- I wanted to be taken care of. I wanted someone to be around to cook, to do things to make me feel better. At one point, I felt sorry for myself that I had no one around (which is not completely true – I could go to the ashram house), but that really isn’t the point. The craving for another to provide for me arose. I wanted someone else to do stuff for me to make me feel better. When I look at that question a little closer, the topic for this long post came up. What does it mean to be alone. Here I am, enjoying the time for self, but when a physical challenge comes up in terms of health, I feel sorry for myself that no one is around. What is that really? I have all the resources. All I have to do is call someone, let them know I am sick and they will more than happily do things, but I don’t do that. Subconsciously, I don’t want to take action, but I want something done – which is completely unrealistic.

Being sick is simply a metaphor. We come into this world alone and leave this world alone. In the middle, most tend to live their lives surrounded by others, trying to find that happiness with the crowds, but ultimately something is missing. If we can’t live with ourselves, is it possible to find true satisfaction? True happiness only comes from within and when we seek it from the outside world, at some point, we will be disappointed. If I want to achieve anything, ultimately I need to do it myself. I am lucky that I have people around sending me their support and love, but in the end I need to find the determination within myself. Things are going to be harder and are going to get harder as I enter deeper into the battle with the mind, but to win, I have to keep faith, determination and strong will.

The study of Indian classical music and philosophy are a huge help as I delve deeper into the self. Ultimately it is knowledge that brings a person out of their misery, their suffering and ignorance.

All alone? Of course. We all are. They say though, that the deeper one goes into the self, the more one truly sees the connectivity one has with the world and the world becomes an extension of the self. Walking on the path to get there, til then, the lessons will keep on coming.

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1 Comment

Filed under Indian classical music, Reflections, Spirituality

One response to “All Alone

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Heena, I found this post very interesting.I was half way through some study when, as you’ve described, I started yawning & becoming drowsy. yawning so much my eyes were watering. this is nothing new to me, I’ve had this happen in meetings and other places where i really need to concentrate. thinking this must be some kind of illness I searched the net for some clues (a big clue in itself, see later) and found your description.It fits in with what I already know and am trying to deal with, the fact that for most of the time i’m not present and my mind is running the show. the fact that i stopped my study to surf the net for answers is another sign of this..I’d be really interested to know how you’re dealing with this now and what teachings you’ve looked at.just hope I’ve not missed the last of your blogs, off to read the rest.thanks, G.

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