Waking up, I smile to all of the causes and conditions that make life possible and full of richness.
I recently determined, after years of sporadic pondering, that 3:00am still constitutes as night, whereas 4:00am can be considered morning. Given that I went to bed last night around 8:00pm, I gave myself permission to get up at 3:44am this morning. Lately, though, as I’ve been waking up earlier than usual, I’ve been telling myself that I have to wait until at least 4:00am, when it’s morning, to get up. I mean, there is such a thing as waking up too early.
Recently, I’ve been filled with a sort of electric, buzzing, fertile energy. I think it has to do with my mind and body’s muscle memory kicking in, as I prepare to head back to Deer Park Monastery (DP) soon. I’ve been waking up earlier than usual, spending certain evenings staying up later than usual, and I’m filled to the brim and spilling over with flowing creative juices.
My husband and I will be going to DP on retreat for 3 weeks in early January. We’ve been going to DP every January, for what will be my 5th year and my husband’s 4th. It’s been a lovely annual pilgrimage. A replenishing source of both powers of fluidity and solidity – and of both elements of solitude and community.
Most of us – maybe even all of us – need a balance of solitude and community. Time to reconnect and recharge on our own accord – to dance it out in our living room or read a book uninterrupted or hike it out in the woods, or whatever your chosen “out” is – and time to be nourished by others, supported in the company of people that replenish and inspire us.
And, of course, we each have our own balance to find. I’m realizing that my particular balance is struck on the daily, as of late. I enjoy my solitude in the wee hours of the darkened, melodic spell of morning: writing, reading, sipping tea, and sometimes dancing, which sets the stage for a day of connecting with others, in a variety of ways. When I stay in close contact with myself, I am able to ascertain which type of nourishment I am in need of: that which comes from time spent flying solo or that which comes from cultivating connection and friendship, watering the seeds of love. Both are necessary and vital in the art of thriving as a human ecosystem. We need to know how to care well for ourselves – to know how to fill and strengthen our own reservoirs of joy and ease – so that we may know how, and be able to, care well for others, as part of the planetary organism breathing and pulsating all around us. We need to learn how to commune with ourselves, in order to commune with others. We tend to our own internal garden, so that we may be of service and benefit to others.
Solitude is not the same as loneliness. They are different qualities of being. Loneliness involves a sense of disconnection and feelings of separateness, whereas solitude involves the element of self-nourishment, joy, ease, and interconnection. Solitude is a beneficial state of spending quality time with one’s own person.
And generating the bonds of community is not the same as insulating ourselves solely to our own nuclear family or close bundle of friends. While we benefit greatly from investing in the relationships we have with our dearest friends and family – and these connections are likely the most important to spend our time and energy building and strengthening – there is also the matter of the greater human collective that dances around us, wherever we find ourselves in roam. It’s also worth our time to apply our mindful attention towards people we interact with in smaller, subtler ways throughout the day. Whether it’s the cashier at the market or a neighbor we pass by on the street or a flight attendant we encounter during a flight. Community is all around us – all of the time – conspiring together to co-create this one precious life. It’s quite miraculous, really, when I think about it. When I start thinking about the multitude of people that influence my life, in both small and large capacities, the list, if I were to ever make such a thing, would involve everyone on the planet right now and anyone who’s ever existed! So, like, there’s that…
With the approach of Montana winter gaining momentum, I’ve been hearing from friends lately who are in the process of figuring out how to re-calibrate their own balance between solitude and the call inward and spending time in community with others, as this has a tendency to be in flux with the transition of the seasons. It’s rather improbable that we should discover what our own balance is without tipping back and forth from side to side. So we’ll likely find that it takes some time to figure out where our balance is and how to maintain it. And, matters become even more exciting when we come to fully understand how this balance, like everything else, is impermanent! Staying open to change is an important practice.
Ah, life! What a splendid installment we get to encounter, eh?!