The Grace of Being Alone

I used to think that being in Guatemala would feel like being a hop, skip and a jump away. After all, it’s easy to pick up a phone, send a text or use video chat. But instead, home feels light years away. I have written family letters and this blog, but for the most part, no one writes back with missives about their lives. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to say that technology has not bridged the distance and I feel very far away.

I feel far away even from people here. I feel like I’m walking around in a bubble due to my limited Spanish and because no one accepts me as a Latina–it’s blown my whole identity out of the water! In terms of my Spanish problems, I am always struggling to translate things in my head. I have not reached a level of comfort in any conversation because I can hear my own mistakes which make me ponder corrective options while I’m still talking! At the end of each day when I retire to my study, I soak in the rest and quiet of my space.

Let me digress a moment.

Once I was on a two week artist retreat out in the countryside in Connecticut. During the days, I would walk along green fields from the house where we stayed to the art center where I worked on a collaborative theatre project with two other artists. At meal times I enjoyed listening to the handful of artists that were also there on retreat–accomplished dance and theatre artists with many stories to tell. I found myself listening deeply but barely talking. During the second week, I plunged even deeper into my work, creating a video segment that would fit into a larger theatre piece. By the end of the retreat, when I returned home, I noticed how much I had been in silence even while being in the company of larger than life artists. The silence that had come from simply keeping my mouth closed for those two weeks, felt cleansing, freeing. It had freed me from some of my own ego.

Returning to my present time here in Guatemala…. Due to all this “aloneness” there has been an odd but welcome unlayering of myself. Here are a few ways to describe how it plays out for me:

I’ve been more aware of patterns of conditioning in myself, in my thoughts, speech and behaviors. I would have thought that this would place me in choice of how I want to think, speak, or behave but instead, the moment of awareness leads to a dropping away — a feeling of an energy shift. It’s subtle, so subtle that I wonder if I should even write about it.

When I go for walks and hear my busy thoughts, it’s easier to drop under them, like dropping under incoming waves at the beach. It’s only momentarily that I can walk peacefully like this, but moments add up. Thank goodness for the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and the mindfulness walks I’ve taken with him and practitioners at Deer Park Monastery.

I’ve had moments of spiritual witnessing in which I am aware of myself (my body) not needing my thoughts to drive my actions. I am reminded of spiritual teachers who have said that we are not creating our lives, life just is; life is living itself. An example of this is when I am thinking of whether I should first eat breakfast or take a shower. My thoughts might be swirling with the options when I suddenly notice that I’m entering the shower. I chuckle because it proves once again that my body is living the life and the thoughts are needless banter.

The feeling of isolation that I’ve had for a few months now, means I don’t have to act in any particular way to impress or defend myself or be accepted–all the things that humans do in a subconscious way. This is partly an outcome of getting older, too; if I can get out of the house clean and fed, I call it good.

It’s also been easier to sit and meditate rather than to fight it like a child.

A psychic friend told me that here in Guatemala, I would be happier than I could imagine. It’s true, it really is. But the happiness is occurring in a way that I had not imagined; it’s welling up from within. Sometimes I feel the expansion of joy so much that I need to process it–because my head has not registered yet, that this much joy is possible. Processing (with EFT or Ho’oponopono) allows me to let out the steam of any suppressed energy in my body. If I don’t process it, my programmed response might be to use the internet or sugar to stay in my normal comfort range. There’s no growth in that.

In spite of the common connotations of  aloneness and isolation, I would say that my aloneness and isolation have been a source of much of my inner peace. Because aloneness is not the same thing as loneliness and I am not totally isolated; I am surrounded by people everyday. But still, I’ve had just enough aloneness and isolation to feel the grace of what comes from untethering to my thoughts and to people while retaining my tether to Creator. I have a strong connection to Creator (use whatever name or theology that suits you) so there is no possibility for me to feel truly alone or isolated. And I feel utterly connected to my family and friends here, even with the simultaneous feeling of distance. At least I’m no longer waiting for anyone or anything. Everything feels soft.

All of this is to say that the unlayering of myself has been a way to let go and allow the goodness of what moves me (what moves us all) to be better revealed and flourish.

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  1. This is a beautiful post. I am so happy that you are learning more about you. Subtle changes in energy seems that’s always how it works when it’s our own energy! Brava, my friend.

  2. Wow. You are so eloquent. How can they not accept you as a Latina? I can see why they would not accept you as Guatemalan, but Latina? You make isolation sound not quite so bad. Luv it. XOXO

    • Maybe my previous comment/observation about accepting you as a Latina is a really ignorant, insensitive white woman thing to say and I and no right to ask. If so, I am sorry. XOXOX

      • Hi Ruthann, thanks for asking (totally reasonable question). I’d mentioned it in one or two previous posts but that was ages ago. People here find it hard to believe that I’m a Latina because they think I am Chinese. Maybe I am Chinese! I could see that. The most important thing to note is I am always treated kindly and with respect here. And in my particular pueblo, I feel safe. Very safe.

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