As I age, I’ve found that my mind’s proclivity is to attach to loneliness; in earlier times in my life, I thought I had no problem with it-but it’s different during my eldering sage-ing years.
When I was involved in meditation much more than I am now, I prided myself on having the attribute of understanding aloneness, and loneliness, didn’t present a problem to me. Pride, self-centeredness, and self-conceit are opponents to spiritual growth & understanding, but Ego loves to present that these qualities are only about self-interest, not self-conceit, i.e., Greed is good. Or Pride is OK.
In The Pocket Pema Chodron [(2008). Boston: Shambhala Publications], a Buddhist teacher & writer, writes about loneliness in the sixty-fourth reading, the following:
“When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cool loneliness (my emphasis) that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down” (p. 106)
So, what’s cool loneliness, I wondered? The first given that came to mind is that it’s cool to be lonely. If one is lonely, pause, be with that feeling, and then let it go; that’s one thing that appears to have a good outcome, because we can be open to all of life, not just what we define as the good parts. Extrapolating, it’s cool to be angry, greedy, ignorant-it doesn’t mean that you are those things, rather they’re simply your emotions running through your mind like the current of a river.
If cool loneliness is cool, then it presents us with a counter-cultural axiom. In other words, if we think of coolness (as described in the previous paragraph) as something positive, then it can meet something called heat, and come out on top, right? Empirically, heat should trump (pardon my innuendo) cold, but in a spiritualized realm, cool loneliness replaces uncool loneliness as an attachment that, say Buddhists, is something we can use as an antidote to uncool loneliness that may become an attachment or addiction.
Another popular usage of “cool” is used when we say to someone, “Will you just cool it?” Here, “cool” means moving to a more stable and less hot-headed way of doing things. Couldn’t cool loneliness be looked at and used in this way? “Hey, just pause & relax. Take it easy. Be cool.” An admonition to be more balanced and less off-the-chain hyper.
Pema writes about a “relaxing and cooling loneliness;” Think of a very hot day wherever you live, and both your car AC and home AC are broken: feeling a cool breeze would make your day, right? Refresh you, right? Or, say, it’s about one-hundred degrees’ temperature outside, and you drink some ice-cold water-ah, the pause is refreshing!
This positive “loneliness” or “aloneness” gives us pause to sit with our feelings of pain because we’re alone, our feelings of fear because we’re alone, and possibly memories of early-childhood experiences of loneliness. Anytime we pause and breathe like this, we allow our unconscious to float to the top of our minds; we note it, and let it go. Our noticing perhaps grooves a place or track in our consciousness, so that now what’s bubbled up can be looked at in our lives.
This is a kind of cool loneliness, because it’s not hot with resistance, inner commentaries, or denial. There’s a welcoming & inviting “coolness” without the stressful pressures that heat up in our minds as fixations or obsessions.
So, don’t judge yourself-love yourself and invite in your guest-Ms. Or Mr. Cool Loneliness!
©Christopher Bear-Beam May 18, 2017