Steady, consistent mindfulness practice truly is progressive. It can take the receptive practitioner on a continuous, non-linear journey from a deeply felt connection to the body and the present moment, through emotional peace that facilitates diminished attachments to outcomes, all the way to discovering profound joy in three key dimensions of relationship: solitude, community, and love partnership.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian executed by the Nazis during WWII, wrote in his book Life Together that the ability to be alone enables a person to meaningfully participate in community, and vice versa.
Solitude was not my friend across a big chunk of my life, for it made its appearances to me as its evil counterparts loneliness and isolation. I was anxious when alone, feeling left out of the crowd and struggling to accomplish meaningful activities. Through perseverance and necessity, I’ve been able to find peace in being by myself, using such windows to write, read, exercise, meditate, watch or listen to quality programming, and travel.
And yet solitude is not the complete solution, as Bonhoeffer noted. Any “overdone strength” can undermine us, and excessive solitude does lead to an isolating loneliness. I’ve believed for decades that human beings are made to thrive within the context of community, whatever that community looks like; family, friends, colleagues and, of course, pets are all potential members of one’s community, along with the living ecosystem.
When we are at peace with being alone, not attached to what others might provide to us, we are truly free to give, share, and receive the wonderful things that community has to offer. We’re able to be transparent as well as accept others for who they are. In the context of authentic community, we begin to recognize any prejudices or unconscious biases that might hinder us from fully embracing another individual, and work hard to diminish them.
These pillars of healthy solitude and reciprocal community are what provides a foundation for an individual’s loving partnership with another human being. Committed to our individual and collective growth, we strive as partners to offer each other the truest expressions of unconditional love: affection, compassion, curiosity, friendship, laughter, learning, listening, and trust. With all due respect to the movie Jerry Maguire, we don’t “complete” one another as much as stretch each another to unleash our fullest potential.
If you’ve hung in there with me for this entire blog series across the past couple of weeks, do you see the progression? Can you sit atop the perch of what a mindful love partnership consists of, look back at the journey, and notice all the continuous practices that make it possible?
An individual not in touch with their own body, nor present and engaged with the people, activities, and nature that surrounds them, will not be able to offer full intimacy to a love partner. Similarly, when one is caught up in a swirl of negative emotions and clinging to the notion of what others might give them or what society owes them, they can seldom give unconditional love to a community or a person. At best they will stumble upon fleeting moments when the love partnership seems thrillingly unbreakable, but soon the painful consequences of “mindless” living will inevitably evoke despair and disillusionment.
Let’s continue to practice together, for we all want the same things. We want to be at peace in ourselves, feeling whole and complete and engaging with others out of our overflow rather than our deficits. We know there’s no promise of permanent community or love partnerships, for everyone and everything dies at some point and we cannot control others’ choices. Therefore, it is essential to continuously grow more aware of our own infinite being-ness, of our divinity wrapped in organic clothing, the permanence within the impermanent.
There is no quick fix, no magic bullet, no “get-mindful-quick” scheme that you can purchase on the Internet or order from an infomercial with self-styled “guru” operators standing by. There is only practice and those willing to keep doing it, despite how clumsy or discouraging they might feel on any particular day.
Thank you for being in “virtual community” with me across this series, and please keep in touch!