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  • Writer's pictureRoberta Jones

Alone: Excerpts from Consolations, by David Whyte

"Being alone is a difficult discipline: a beautiful and difficult sense of being solitary is always the ground from which we step into a contemplative intimacy with the unknown, but the first portal of aloneness is often experienced as a gateway to alienation, grief and abandonment. To find ourselves alone or to be left alone is an ever present, fearful and abiding human potentiality of which we are often unconsciously and deeply afraid.

The permeability of being alone asks us to re-imagine ourselves, to become impatient with ourselves, to tire of the same old story and then slowly hour by hour, to start to tell the story in a different way as other parallel ears, ones we were previously unaware of begin to listen to us more carefully in the silence, and just as importantly, to inhabit that silence in our own particular way, to find our very own way into our own particular and even virtuoso way of being alone.

To inhabit silence in our aloneness is to stop telling the story altogether. To begin with, aloneness always leads to rawness and vulnerability, to a fearful simplicity, to not recognizing and to not knowing, to the wish to find any company other than that not knowing, unknown self, looking back at us in the silent mirror.

One of the elemental dynamics of self-compassion is to understand our deep reluctance to be left to ourselves.

Aloneness begins with puzzlement at our own reflection, transits through awkwardness and even ugliness at what we see, and culminates, one appointed hour or day, in a beautiful, unlooked for surprise, at the new complexion beginning to form, the slow knitting together of an inner life, now exposed to air and light, (my emphasis)."

When I read these words by David Whyte, I was moved by his deep exploration of what it means to be alone, encompassing both the struggle and the potential for "a contemplative intimacy with the unknown." I couldn't help thinking about how this process mirrors the current collective state of facing the unknown as a "gateway to alienation, grief and abandonment," but also the opportunity to "re-imagine ourselves, to tire of the same old story and then slowly, hour by hour, to start to tell..." [a new story].

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