Did You Ever Wake Up With Them Polar Bears On Your Mind?

Lately I’ve been thinking about loneliness…

Like when the other villagers come around and say, “Nothing personal, Old Dude. But you just don’t mean that much to us anymore. Off you go.” And then they put me on an ice floe and leave me for polar bear chow.

Do you ever feel like that?

I’ve heard that a true yogi is content to live as a hermit and die alone, knowing full well that no one will ever remember that he lived.

Just thinking about that makes me lonely. Is that where I’m trying to get with my practice?

It may be that I think too much about where I am trying to get.

I can try to think like I woke up in a Himalayan cave this morning. But that’s dropping a made-up non-reality onto my mind. And my current mind wouldn’t decide to be a hermit. So, I can’t think like a hermit.

Maybe hermit consciousness doesn’t get lonely.

If I look right here with the consciousness I do have, I feel separate from you and from everybody else. I have relationships that are important to me. But come right down to it, you are not me and I am not you. I’m set up to feel separate, crave relationship and fear its loss – all at the same time. I’m set up to fear my own core loneliness.

The old yogis said that ego – asmita, the “I” maker – makes me feel that way.

I am in relationship with people who are not me. Those relationships tell me how I’m doing. If I am loved and respected, if I am useful, then I feel good about how I’m doing and I feel like my life has meaning.

And if I lost those relationships…

There isn’t much to say about one point in space.

With two points in space there is relationship, and I can talk about what it means.

One point in space doesn’t even have an observer.

Falling back into that ego-separateness that seems so ultimate. No refuge in the loving and affirming relationship that gives meaning. Adrift on the ice floe.

But I learn from my yoga practice that separateness is an illusion. It comes out of a mistake I make about my own true nature. I mistakenly think that I am a free-standing, free-floating, self-creating, self-existing individual without any necessary connection to the all. The truth is, we are all interdependent and it couldn’t be otherwise. Thich Nhat Hanh says that we “inter-are.”

We are of the deep common.

Indra’s net – An infinite number of faceted jewels, each infinitely reflecting the infinity of reflection in each of the others.

In time, my practice will shift my consciousness toward realization.

For now, I want to be loved and needed. And not that I want to change that. My practice is not a practice of not caring – it is a practice of dropping my guard.

I may have some understanding of these matters, but we shouldn’t count on that.

I go to my mirror and I speak to my reflection, saying…

Do you withhold love from the loneliness you feel? That makes it ache all the more. Better to pull it close and speak sweetly. Is there no one around to reflect you back to yourself? Love need not be reflected in order to know that it is. Love surpasses reflection; it is the ground of your being.

I mean those words; they are as true as I know how to make them. They give me comfort.

I must lose interest in my comfort. Spiritual practice cannot be on my own terms.

Success may come disguised as failure.

If all goes well, I expect that one fine morning I will find myself forced onto an ice floe, listening for the soft splash of huge paws coming my way through an icy sea.





23 responses to “Did You Ever Wake Up With Them Polar Bears On Your Mind?

  1. I think of two things here. The first is Robert Bly’s poem “Words Rising.” In it he invokes blessings on “the woman who separates the black seeds of loneliness from the brown seeds of solitude, as the afternoon light slants in.” So there is a distinction to be drawn between loneliness and solitude. The former speaks of lack, the latter, of the emptiness that reveals the fullness of the world.

    Secondly, I think of Thomas Merton, seeking greater and greater solitude, for example by seeking a hermitage, away from his fellow monks, but maintaining a great correspondence with all of he admirers of his writing, until bursting forth upon the world with his trip to Asia.

    Can we seek solitude in the midst of our busy lives? That is the path of the householder, and truly interesting to me.


    • Wonderful references, Richard. And yes I think we can seek solitude without incurring the lack of loneliness, perhaps by maintaining the witness, which, for me, brings an ease of caring.


  2. Well friend,
    I can see you aren’t guilty of spiritual bypassing. Sounds like you’re in the deep ready to come up sounding with the whales. You know that all is coming and going all the time. I remember the comraderie of your farmer’s market. You are clearly in the bosom of loved ones. But it’s winter and a good time for the blues, for reflection and for the embrace of aloneness. The sun is about to melt the fortress. But really I have notice how strong the sun shines in you all the time.


    • Sometimes you dive deep, sometimes you just fall in and start to sink. Knowing that I am loved makes all the difference, it’s a strong fortress to work from. But got to leave the walls eventually and that doesn’t mean the love stays behind the walls, but damn it can get cold if you let it. And, Hil, I’ve always thought the blues was the most joyous music.


      • I agree about the blues. Sadness is so sweet in its way. Mourning is an homage to the greatness of life that we recall when one becomes separated from that. There is a strange pleasure in sorrow perhaps because sorrow remembers joy. I know that sensation of sinking but I will tell you that you are in the company of dolphins who will swoop you up though you don’t expect that in the surrender. Play the blues. Revel in it. Indulge every bit of melancholy. You may find yourself singing and I suspect you should sing. Just tear it up!!


  3. Geez, Bharat. I didn’t think I would, but I am. I am disagreeing with you. I do not think, that, in time, your practice will shift your consciousness toward realization. I think that something as important as that can only happen in the NOW, and I struggle with this time thing. In the precise now of this moment, I can slip outside of time and just be very vulnerably present, and then it is indeed possible for me to shift into realization. There isn’t anything to wait for that will give me this consciousness. I think I already have it, but I deny it, which is in practical terms the same as not having it. If I am content to wait for time to give me something that precious, I am waiting in the grip of TIME. I will be strangled by it, because of the way I am waiting. Paradise is here, not coming. Where am I?


    • I think, dear friend, that as we begin to get away from denial, we can move toward realization. And the sweet thing about now is that it is eternal. So we have all the room we need for practice.


  4. Brother Bharat

    Bapuji has taught us about the angel of struggle. I too feel this now too so intensely as my whole lifes geography has been upended. Who am I now? Am I different and what is my real identity anyway? I have no students. Am I no longer a teacher? My friends and family are so far away, I feel adrift. My heart sometimes succeeds in a remembering of what it holds. My heart holds you. Love your sister Joy


    • Dearest Sister Joy – This is hard. We need hugs. We need to lay eyes on each other. With some other state of consciousness we could be content with just the vibration. But where most of us are we just really need some body presence. I know I do. When we are all together we can’t get enough of sitting on top of each other. This is real. We mustn’t pretend it isn’t. The love is still there in the heart, but disrupting the normal presence is bound to have an effect. Then there’s a knock at your new, strange Chinese door and in comes the angel of struggle. And she can be fierce and she can be denied only just so long. You look at her and say, WTF? And she says tear off the bandage and dance in your blood. I have seen you dance, Sister Joy. I can see you right now. And you are really, really good. Lead on. I love you.


  5. This is interesting because, for me, I crave moments – hours – in which to loll about in a sea of quiet and introspection. No, really, just me and the cats, so maybe it’s not alone-ess I’m craving but quiet. I work with the public – a lot – and often find that my being in the thick of people leaves me feeling isolated, yet I crave a certain interaction (I wrote interreaction accidentally, spell check caught it, but the misspelling is interesting, ne?) I don’t have anything affirming or contrite to reply here, only lost dialogue. I love your blog.


    • I think Richard in the comment above raises it – it’s a razor’s edge, as is so much of our practice – how do we householders keep from slipping from solitude into loneliness. For me, the sweetest solitude is often found within the crowd. And all the while, my ego wants the interreaction. I think you made up a good new word, Auntie!


    • After 26 years of marriage, I dirocved my husband, left him and our 2 girls to live by myself in an apartment down the street. I never felt so alone as I did in that family. I, too, have given up love for Lent. I feel like a small rudderless sailboat adrift with its sails in tatters but still intact. The water is calm now, but there is nothing else around except the vast ocean with no land in site. I feel uneasy and a mild panic sets in when will the next storm hit? It then occurs to me that this isn’t about the boat or the water or the storm or being alone. It occurs to me that this is the place where I will meet God


  6. I didn’t have time to reply to this when I read it this morning. Later while walking, the dogs ran ahead of me and I heard a crunching sound …ice breaking. I scurried forward to find an ice floe drifting down the river, paw prints – but no dogs – on it. I thought of you. I thought of how it is impossible at this point for you to die alone, unknown and unnoticed. You havent been living in a cave. You have impacted my life strongly without us “knowing” one another. Your energy shifted my energy, which made me a little sweeter, when I wasn’t feeling it, to the next person. The butterfly effect. Imagine all the other ripples you have created. We all feel separate, alone, lonely at times. We can not and are not separate, regardless of our very human feelings to the contrary.

    If your dissatisfaction with the possibility of floating off alone, unknown and unnoticed makes you not a “true yogi” than so be it. It is the practice that counts, the process, the awareness.

    One point in space has a radiant energy touching all other points in space.

    Love flowing to you.


    • You are having such kind and beautiful thoughts. And after all you’ve gone through. Has your heart grown three sizes? It was already pretty big. There is really nothing that love can’t overcome, is there. The Dalai Lama has spoken of our shared karma. That means to me that we are all here together on this third stone from the sun at this very moment because we must be. We are all working this out together. Even when we sometimes feel alone, that’s just part of the mix. And what better to contribute to the mix than a reminder of love, just in case anyone has forgotten. Thank you for your blessing, dear friend. Hands together; deep bow.


  7. Thoughtful words that run deep. I think as we find our true self it can actually be more uncomfortable. Our joy can increase because we are honoring and celebrating our true self which is deep love but the challenges of life can become more intense as we journey to our deep center which is actually out to the cosmos.Life is a gift that deepens our awareness of love which we can experience I think only between 2 points. We are alive to learn how to love. Love to you!!!


  8. Wow. I feel the same way most of the time. Sort of like a separate, lonely being that needs love to feel worthy. I try to remember that separateness is an illusion as well. Insightful post and beautifully written as usual.


    • And yet we have a deep connection with each other that endures through it all. Our work always seems to come back to seeing ourselves more clearly. And when we do, some of our fear and anxiety and loneliness dissolves. Thanks for coming by, Colleen.


  9. So my dear one, as you know me so well by now, you know full well I’m often off playing in another field than everyone else. March to my own drummer and more often than not, hear my own tune. I suppose everyone else does that too so I’m really not all that different. So bear with me (yes, that pun is intended) as I go on this little journey of excavation. Is it an admission of who I am? Is it a realization brought forth through your writing? Perhaps it’s both, perhaps it’s neither. Perhaps it’s simply a long overdue observation of what is, put forth in a musing on this fine early spring day.

    In my own little world, I’ve always played in my own sandbox. People have come in to play with me along the way. Some have left their toys and some have taken my toys. All in all it’s a lovely little sandbox and all are welcome. Now, I cherish and adore all the relationships that I’ve fostered, created, been lucky to have been a part of…I have even enjoyed the ones that have not gone well because there was always something to be learned in those too (even if I didn’t like the lesson). Even though I cherish all of it, if it were all to end tomorrow, if I were to float away on that ice flow, ya know what, I’d be fine. Sure, I would grieve for what was, but that would be a passing moment. Life would go on, I would go on. I would simply float along until I didn’t, at which time I suppose my time here would be over.

    I’m not sure what this says about me, or doesn’t say about me, or perhaps it says nothing at all. Perhaps it only shines light and wraps words around how I’ve always been my entire life. We come and go and flow through life. Do I need to be remembered by those whom I form relationships with; not really. Will I always remember those whom I form relationships with; probably in some manner, but no guarantee. Am I ok with that; most definitely. I’ve touched lives and lives have touched me. Do I need any more than that? I don’t think I do. That moment of touching comes, lingers and then goes. The feeling was there, the memory was there; that moment in time was just that, a moment in time. Eventually it all goes…and that’s ok for me. I don’t need to hold onto it, I’d rather it floats off into the universe to do whatever it needs to do.

    So long story short, thank you for writing what you did. You made me realize (yet again ole’ wise one) that it’s ok for me to be this way. That flowing along through the magical waters of life, perched upon ice flows and floating debris is what I do. It’s how I’ve always been and that’s ok. It works for me. You were able to put into words something that I’ve never been able to so distinctly define or articulate, and for that I offer a deep and loving bow to you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s