“History had no lessons or rules to offer the student, it could only broaden his understanding and strengthen his critical judgment.”
We are all ultimately alone in our lives, this is our own singular journey, it's not someone else's journey it is ours, ours alone, ours to fiddle with as we see fit. This singular journey is a lonely trip, it may at times feel like a lonely vacation. Our inability to deal with this aloneness drives us to try to connect with other people we may encounter in our lives. We strive to connect with people, to find friends and lovers, to find others to share our journey, we may find someone to share our journey but it is still only ours to live. Emotionally and physically, we inherently move towards this goal of union with others, however it is never completely possible, we are alone, conceived into this world alone and upon our exit from this world, we will leave alone, it's a harsh and bitter reality to swallow, the notion that, to a large degree, we will always walk alone.
We are, when born into this world, a lone rider; our life is just a curious journey that we must undertake ourselves, feeling as though we’re just an island in the vast sea of life. And so when we live our lives we vacillate between the two feelings of aloneness and loneliness, although these words sound bitter they can be sweet if we learn to embrace them.
Aloneness is the feeling of being present and loving, for when we truly love our self, no other is needed, others may be there to cause us joy or pain, but in all actuality we are full and complete, you can envision aloneness as existing as complete and closed circle, at both times empty yet full. Loneliness is the void, it is a lack of something, we can envision loneliness as a circle drawn only halfway, with a missing other half.
We are taught as young children to believe that both of these states are negative, even now that is how we perceive them, as inherently bad. Both aloneness and loneliness are certain parts of life, they are two states that we cannot ever hope to avoid, but yet we are taught that these two states are negative, that this negativity sets us up for potential failure in our formative and later years. What would happen if we embraced both of these natural feelings and states as normal facets of life?
The idea of aloneness does not imply loneliness; it implies rather a satisfaction or a contentedness with oneself, however we are taught that this is bad or negative, for even God said, "it is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:16) and God made Woman From Man to be his companion. This is not to say that being “alone or lonely” should be a condition that is striven after but rather they should be viewed as natural elements in one’s life that should be embraced. We are talking about the ideas of being alone and lonely as a natural course of life and not for instance Major Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia, the former and the latter are very different concepts.
On being alone, history and mythology is replete with stories capturing the essence of magic in moments of time where one has wandered alone. In Buddhism, Gautama Buddha sat beneath a tree where he confronted Maya in a state of meditation with only himself, we can think of Jesus with his spiritual struggle in the desert, alone, or the beautiful world of dreams that present us with such jewels with which to explore ourselves all existed when alone.
Existential philosophers teach as that we alone are responsible for creating a meaningful life in an absurd and unfair world. We create our world by choosing paths, we alone do this, and no one helps us. We find that being alone brings us into our sacred space, into our temple, where magic rituals and personal alchemy take place. When we accept aloneness, we enter into that sacred space, which acts as a counter to the delusions brought on by society and other outside influences. It can be said that by accepting the idea of aloneness it helps us to mature and evolve as both emotional and spiritual beings. Being alone is the classroom that teaches us most about ourselves because there is no one there to project our own struggles or issues onto, we must accept them as parts of ourselves.
Aloneness is a void, the space for creation, the land that Hermes has not yet tread. In the Christian faith, it is stated “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The sacred space of aloneness allows for creation, to create ourselves in the same manner empty lots allow for creation of societies buildings and monuments.
A cup purpose is its emptiness, it has possibilities. The Japanese Zen Koan “A Cup of Tea” warns us against filling our cup with all of our ordered and unordered thoughts and preconceptions, for true learning to takes place the cup must be empty. Life contain light and dark elements, life is full of joys, times of bliss, happiness but is also containing loss, grief, sorrow and aloneness. These dark elements, of which, aloneness, is a dark element, must be embraced by all equally without disdain for one or the either, indeed we need to be empty, we need only to reflect that which is around us, our goal, is to be like a still, calm pool of water in which everything can be reflected but nothing obtained. Embracing the opposites helps us to individuate, to evolve ourselves to a more enlightened spiritual being. The Pythagoreans and other Greek philosophers believed that all was sprung from the Monad or the First Absolute.
Solitude, a synonym for aloneness, means a state of being alone without being lonely or “being with one’s self”. Many religious sects and other ways of living emphasize the value of being alone, being alone is considered being closer to god. The Native Americans practiced their vision quests which usually occurred alone, the Australian aborigines practice the idea of the walkabout, and many cultures all over the Earth contain this same theme of the magic of aloneness.
Although inherently alone, humans are also social creatures to some degree, we rely on others for help, resources and social bonding, but how does this work in a world where true connection is not possible, how humankind can be a social animal but yet at the same time be alone with themselves is quite a paradox. Perhaps this is the crux within our civilization, the Achilles Heel of the modern human, the imbalance between our sociality and our limits on connectedness. What a paradox it is, to constantly suffer our needs to connect with our inherent aloneness. History and myth is drenched with mystical places such as Shangri-La, Tír na nÓg, Nirvana etc which can only be achieved on our own in our aloneness.
Living with an inherent aloneness means that we deal with loneliness, the difference between these two concepts is astronomical in meaning and often times I’m sure the two ideas become crossed and misunderstood but yet also vastly intertwined. Loneliness can be defined as one who has no friends or company, they are without companions. It can also be defined as the quality of being unfrequented, remote or isolated. Loneliness is related to sadness, we spend much of our life in a state of sadness or loneliness. We are born alone, alone we pass through the barrier from womb to life and we pass the veil of death with only ourselves to guide us, although there is some help which we will discuss further in our study. Everyone at some time has felt that loneliness, and the depression or sadness that comes with this human state.
I’ve treated many people who feel this way, and it would seem that over the years it has increased tenfold, many are afflicted with classic textbook depression that stems from loneliness, which stems from aloneness. In almost every case it is someone who seeks the necessary idealizations on the outside; externally they seek love and belonging, never really embracing their own aloneness, which then seems to become the monster of loneliness and depression. Depression or loneliness could be lessened by the acceptance of our aloneness; accepting one would lessen the other.
Now it just so happens that life is made up of a mixed bag of good and bad, light and dark elements reign supreme over our life and we can never truly avoid depression or loneliness in much the same way we could never avoid “not breathing” for far too long. We must learn the ability to live within the opposites that are given to us, joy, suffering, happiness and depression are just some of the opposites that we must deal with throughout our lives, there are many others examples but for every beautiful element of life that we treasure there is the opposite that we abhor, but we must learn to embrace each equally.
There was a woman that I worked with a while back she was unhappily married to a narcissistic man who made himself the center of the universe and she was verbally and mentally abused for the span of a 20 year dysfunctional marriage and wanted a divorce, she knew this was the right course of action, she was very unhappy, but she was scared to be alone, she was scared of that unknown, cultivating her concept of aloneness enabled her to not be scared of being lonely and she was able to start living her life, her way, much happier, without her abusive husband. Her fear of loneliness kept her in her abusive relationship but when that fear was made common and accepted life changed for the better.
Aloneness and Loneliness are facts of life not just for human beings but it is being documented throughout the world in many studies and research articles that honeybees can become depressed, ants can become depressed and have lower rates of mortality, abused dogs and cats suffer from depression, fish have been observed having sentience, many animals have sentience and it is found that they suffer with similar forms of very human problems. Aloneness and Loneliness can be thought of as an imposed instinctual state, a condition that life imposes on us from the very start of our lives, it is a life state that we strive so hard to fulfill with relationships, drugs, activity, religion and philosophy but nevertheless Aloneness and Loneliness will never be eradicated, for they are essential parts of life. Being alive creates angst towards many inherent natural states that will always be present in our lives, why do we spend so much time and energy avoiding these natural states?
Human beings and other life forms are pleasure-seekers, we love to feel good, and our pleasure seeking is based in part on biology and psychological avoidance. We are taught at a young age that feeling good is good for us, that we should always be happy, that if there is one sign of sadness there is something off or something is wrong with us and we are told that there is a pill that will change all of these horrible feelings. In this age, any slight change of mood demands a pharmaceutical cure; many medications that work on our biology are out on the market, even advertised in commercials between your favorite television shows.
This and many other things such as social media warp our sense of what is natural and unnatural, leading us on an everlasting quest of pleasure and joy, a state that can never fully be reached and as such we will continue to struggle with this paradox of natural states versus unnatural states always striving towards an impossible goal.
The Human brain and, I would safely assume other living beings have pleasure centers in their brain, these centers release dopamine in bursts whenever we engage in pleasurable activities, all drugs of addiction operate to release dopamine in the brain, and a little dopamine burst feels really good. Pleasure is also a reward, however not all rewards are pleasurable; some can be “not pleasurable”. Many of the great things (ex. evolution of the soul or psychological maturation) that happen to us in life happen in times of despair, sadness, turmoil, or hardship. When we face the forge of life growth happens, change occurs, and lead is turned into gold. What happens if we continue to strive to avoid the natural states of the burdens? It seems to follow then that our growth as a species would halt or stop. In seeking only pleasurable rewards we lose the “non-pleasurable rewards” that really do change lead into gold.
When we cultivate the idea of being alone with ourselves it forces us to look towards ourselves as being our best friends, our loyal companions and in that intimate personal relationship with ourselves is where the growth happens, that Individuation occurs, when one individuates, it knows well and harmonizes all of its components. Individuation is difficult to achieve when we live a world that is driven with external rewards and reinforcements. We are searching for something and that something is not outside of ourselves, but inside ourselves, we are enticed by the false reflection of ourselves that we see in other people and this leads us to stray from our true nature.
It is quite a dilemma, that in being a social creature, and wanting that deep connection, we can never truly feel it with someone outside of our body; we can only truly enter that deep of a relationship with ourselves. I think that once we embrace Aloneness, Loneliness becomes easier to deal with and even the relationships that we have with friends and family, that is relationships outside of ourselves, become deeper and richer. Paying attention to one’s own self brings into focus the clearer image of others.
So, in a nutshell, we are social beings, there is no denying that, we love company, we like to be around people who make us feel good, however, the quandary is that by nature and design we are destined to truly be alone with ourselves. Cultivating our Aloneness with ourselves enables us to find that depth of connection that we are looking for and in turn helps to deepen those external relationships around us. In mastering tha ability to sit alone with ourselves, paradoxically we realize that we are not alone, but surrounded by life all struggling to define the mystery that we live in.
When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.
"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.
"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."
At these words Banzan became enlightened.
"True wealth lies not in the accumulation of paper and material goods, but in the pain and joy that we have driven through to create the memories, relationships, trials and tribulations which define us and make us who we are.”
“All that life is is propaganda; just make sure you choose one that is the least negative.”
“We live in a society that wants to anesthetize themselves from any feeling that is negative, but......... when it is darkest, growth occurs.”
“Humans put too much focus on emotions and feelings as if they were the only fuel that drives us towards our destination.”
“I've seen people run away from themselves, achieving merely a moment’s reprieve, only to see their shadow catch up behind them to seize them yet again.”
“Resistance is futile; the only thing to do when you are feeling as though your world is crumbing is to surrender and accept it and that is the only way out.”
There are times when I walk into a store to purchase food or some other essential ingredient of life and wonder how existence would be different if we didn’t have to make some senseless exchange of money for those items.”
“Everyone has a yellow brick road; the problem is that some of us are color-blind.”
“Anxiety and depression may in fact not be disorders; they are failures in interpreting messages from our deeper parts of ourselves.”
“The Milky Way is not visible for 9 out of 10 people in the United States, that power and magnificence is obscured by our own pollution, and all that remains is cloudy blackness.”
“Dorothy, the Wizard, the Tin man, the Lion, the Scarecrow, all the characters in The Wizard of Oz are indeed just different archetypes of our own inner being.”
“The road we must travel while here on this ball of rock is not always straight, but sometimes it is curved, sometimes having detours, loops, twists and turns and most of all up and downs.”
“Individuation is a necessary component to growth and evolution, the universe does it over and over and over again, to come together one must first fall apart.”
“The dreams that we experience when we awaken from a deep sleep are our own personal power and deep intelligence trying to figure out life for us when we are resting for a bit”.
“Everyone, I don’t care who they are, has a counterpart named Mr. or Mrs. Hyde.”
“Scars remind us of who we once were, what we went through and who we have become, we are covered with them from a multitude of experiences, the experiences are neither good nor bad, just a learning experience that we can grow from, however, the problem is that we are locked into both, a sense of grandiose vanity and a negative perception of learning from these experiences.”
“I have this unnerving feeling that when I was walking down the hallway during my limbo state in the Bardo choosing my next life, I accidentally took the wrong turn and ended up here on Earth.”
"It’s hard to find peace in a world which puts so much emphasis on the external reward and not the internal reward".
"In our pursuit of all the things that life has to offer, we most often become blinded to what may be the actual goal that we are to reach".
"Be careful of your choices in the present, for the future cannot be rewound and we tend to reside in past”
"In all my journeys and all my destinations, I have found that the process is more important than the destination, the process is what forges you and builds you: not the destination, which is why all destinations and finales feel lonely."
"You are right here right now, not in the past, not in the future, but right here and as soon as we realize that, the moment is gone, it moves that quick."
"Therapy is not about healing someone or finding a cure, many people will walk into my office looking for a cessation of all their symptoms, all their depressions, their anxiety or the grief that they are stricken with, and I must tell them all, one by one, that there is no cure, no eradication of the pain and the struggles, but rather, that therapy is about finding a way to cope with the ever-present condition of being a human being and all its frailties."
“All war is man’s failure as a thinking animal”.
“One of the goals of being human is to foster and develop a sense of communal feeling among all members of the populace.”
“The number one reason why relationships experience so much trouble is the under-developed ego, that part of the psyche that says I am more important or what I'm thinking is more important than you are.”
"From the moment we are born we begin the long process of dying."
"There is no endgame; no finality to our lives, there is no finish line and certainly no contest between you and other people."
"To admit that you do not understand life or what life is, implies that you understand life at some level and therein lies the secret to understanding this life, that it truly can never be fully understood"
"When you completely understand that there is no absolute truth to any facet of life, you are completely set free"
"We are destroyed over and over again throughout our life, many times, only to rebuild and grow again that similar something to what we had, this occurs without prejudice and strikes us all and with that destruction is the opportunity for growth, change and evolution, only in the destruction is true creation and change possible."
"We carry with us the yolk, that core, the deep, rich piece that is the Prima Materia; it is the personal quintessence that will become the stone through the process of hammering, beating and forging.”
Opiate Abuse is something I am very familiar with these days, it truly is a problem of epic proportions, it is a problem here in Pennsylvania and elsewhere across America. I have lost friends to opiates and Heroin going all the way back to 1993. In fact, in the Spring of 1993 was the first time I saw it at a local party. Ask any patient who takes Heroin or opiates and they will tell you “the drug loves me back”, I have also heard “it feels like a warm blanket where there are no worries or concerns”, and I have also heard you feel as though “the sun is illuminating your body”.
America takes a staggering 80% of the world’s opiates and 99% of the world’s Hydrocodone supply. Those numbers tell us that as a nation there is something wrong with American society. We don’t bear pain well, there is an absence of strength in modern American society, we are weak, we work too much, too much focus is on money, we don’t have enough time for ourselves and our spiritually is disappearing.
As a first line of defense we need to focus on those issues in order to deal more effectively with Heroin and Opiate addiction. We have been lied to and blinded by our supposed leaders, who themselves are just paper tigers, that we need a war on drugs and prisons to fill with offenders. Apparently in order to make difference we need a war on American Society.
Your bodies 30 to 50 trillion cells are all made up of Atoms which are the smallest part of you.
And each Atom, is 99.999999999999% empty space.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
The truth is: we are all born with this “Magic Button” switched on. As kids we find joy and happiness in the simplest of things. We can run around, play with flowers, make necklaces out of daisies and feel like a princess when we wear them. We make our wishes when we blow off the seeds of a dandelion and know they will come true. We climb on trees, fall off again, lie on the grass, gaze up to the clouds and marvel at their forms and puffiness. We imagine what it would be like to sit on a cloud or dance on one. At night we look at the stars and imagine living on one. Our parents thought we had imaginary friends but we knew so much better.
Your mind is incredibly powerful and with a little bit of daily training you can completely switch your mindset so that you too can catch all those magical moments you simply didn’t perceive before because you were so caught up in just seeing the negative and stressful aspects in your life.
According to the fox, it is our relationships that make the world around us significant and meaningful.
“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
The fourth planet belonged to a businessman. This man was so much occupied that he did not even raise his head at the little prince's arrival. "Good morning," the little prince said to him. "Your cigarette has gone out."
"Three and two make five. Five and seven make twelve. Twelve and three make fifteen. Good morning. FIfteen and seven make twenty-two. Twenty-two and six make twenty-eight. I haven't time to light it again. Twenty-six and five make thirty-one. Phew ! Then that makes five-hundred-and-one-million, six-hundred-twenty-two-thousand, seven-hundred-thirty-one."
"Five hundred million what?" asked the little prince.
"Eh? Are you still there? Five-hundred-and-one million-- I can't stop... I have so much to do! I am concerned with matters of consequence. I don't amuse myself with balderdash. Two and five make seven..."
"Five-hundred-and-one million what?" repeated the little prince, who never in his life had let go of a question once he had asked it.
The businessman raised his head.
"During the fifty-four years that I have inhabited this planet, I have been disturbed only three times. The first time was twenty-two years ago, when some giddy goose fell from goodness knows where. He made the most frightful noise that resounded all ov er the place, and I made four mistakes in my addition. The second time, eleven years ago, I was disturbed by an attack of rheumatism. I don't get enough exercise. I have no time for loafing. The third time-- well, this is it! I was saying, then, five -hundred-and-one millions--"
"Millions of what?"
The businessman suddenly realized that there was no hope of being left in peace until he answered this question.
"Millions of those little objects," he said, "which one sometimes sees in the sky."
"Oh, no. Little glittering objects."
"Oh, no. Little golden objects that set lazy men to idle dreaming. As for me, I am concerned with matters of consequence. There is no time for idle dreaming in my life."
"Ah! You mean the stars?"
"Yes, that's it. The stars."
"And what do you do with five-hundred millions of stars?"
"Five-hundred-and-one million, six-hundred-twenty-two thousand, seven-hundred-thirty-one. I am concerned with matters of consequence: I am accurate."
"And what do you do with these stars?"
"What do I do with them?"
"Nothing. I own them."
"You own the stars?"
"But I have already seen a king who--"
"Kings do not own, they reign over. It is a very different matter."
"And what good does it do you to own the stars?"
"It does me the good of making me rich."
"And what good does it do you to be rich?"
"It makes it possible for me to buy more stars, if any are ever discovered."
"This man," the little prince said to himself, "reasons a little like my poor tippler..."
Nevertheless, he still had some more questions.
"How is it possible for one to own the stars?"
"To whom do they belong?" the businessman retorted, peevishly.
"I don't know. To nobody."
"Then they belong to me, because I was the first person to think of it."
"Is that all that is necessary?"
"Certainly. When you find a diamond that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you discover an island that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you get an idea before any one else, you take out a patent on it: it is yours. So with me: I own the stars, because nobody else before me ever thought of owning them."
"Yes, that is true," said the little prince. "And what do you do with them?"
"I administer them," replied the businessman. "I count them and recount them. It is difficult. But I am a man who is naturally interested in matters of consequence."
The little prince was still not satisfied.
"If I owned a silk scarf," he said, "I could put it around my neck and take it away with me. If I owned a flower, I could pluck that flower and take it away with me. But you cannot pluck the stars from heaven..."
"No. But I can put them in the bank."
"Whatever does that mean?"
"That means that I write the number of my stars on a little paper. And then I put this paper in a drawer and lock it with a key."
"And that is all?"
"That is enough," said the businessman.
"It is entertaining," thought the little prince. "It is rather poetic. But it is of no great consequence."
On matters of consequence, the little prince had ideas which were very different from those of the grown-ups.
"I myself own a flower," he continued his conversation with the businessman, "which I water every day. I own three volcanoes, which I clean out every week (for I also clean out the one that is extinct; one never knows). It is of some use to my volcanoes , and it is of some use to my flower, that I own them. But you are of no use to the stars..."
The businessman opened his mouth, but he found nothing to say in answer. And the little prince went away.
"The grown-ups are certainly altogether extraordinary," he said simply, talking to himself as he continued on his journey.
Drum therapy is an ancient approach that uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. From the shamans of Mongolia to the Minianka healers of West Africa, therapeutic rhythm techniques have been used for thousands of years to create and maintain physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Hangman, hangman, upon your face a smile,
Tell me that I'm free to ride,
Ride for many a mile, mile, mile.
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”
One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's surprise, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake the dirt off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, the donkey continued to shake the dirt off and take another step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!
Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake the dirt off and take a step UP.
Cory Ian Shafer