Love and Solitude
Consider for a moment the ways in which you perceive the current autumnal transition. Autumn can be seen as a slow pull inward…into an inner stillness. It’s a silent, unhurried movement into the darkness and the great, life-giving mystery.
Most of our culturally conditioned doing and relating discourages us from finding a kind of internal stillness. In cutting ourself off from our depths, we limit our access to the energies that most nourish us; and we easily become dry, brittle, and depleted. You might pause to consider whether you feel the truth of this in your own life.
The following wisdom, as expressed through Rainer Maria Rilke, eloquently expresses the value authentic relating, which supports individual solitude and encourages what I'll call spiritual maturity, developed through direct experience. Rilke writes...
“I want to beg you, as much as I can, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually—without noticing it—live, along some distant day, into the answer.”
In these writings Rilke is referencing romantic intimacy, but his words are a vessel of wisdom for all manner of authentic being and relating, because authentic being and relating is inherently intimate. He continues:
“I hold this the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude.”
He invites us here to consider the quality of “ordinary” relating—or what passes as relating in our marketplace world—and contemplate the distinction between that and true intimacy, which is experienced only through our differentiation or separateness.
“A togetherness between two people is an impossibility, and where it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a reciprocal agreement which robs either one party or both of his fullest freedom and development. But, once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky!
“All companionship can consist only in the strengthening of two neighboring solitudes, whereas everything that one is wont to call giving oneself is by nature harmful to companionship; for when a person abandons himself, he is no longer anything, and when two people both give themselves up in order to come close to each other, there is no longer any ground beneath them and their being together is a continual falling.”
Often, especially in “spiritual” gatherings, there is a rush to express unity, to merge into a puddle of bliss. But in truth, this denies or bypasses a big part of our reality and gives way to all manner of shadowy, unconscious behavior, which is at odds with the expressed desire for harmony.
From the perspective of the third-dimension, this physical reality, we are indeed quite separate, un-merged. So, while we are certainly more than we appear from the perspective of duality, and while these more expansive dimensions are something I've actively explored in circles, with friends, and with clients, to skip over our unique, solitary selves is to miss out on a big aspect of living. And to be only for our selves is the lonely trap of separation.
Rilke invites us to consider if we are willing to stand guard over the solitude of another person and whether we also are willing to let that person be a sentinel at the gate of our own solitude. This is what I've asked in the communities I gather, that we honor and stand guard over each other’s solitude, and to trust others to guard our own.
In so doing we give ourselves ample opportunity to see the veils of habitual “relating” that our conditioning, as well as all our unprocessed emotion (like fear and anxiety) drive us to…the rushing in or the standing far back that keeps us in our historic “safety zone” of relative sleep and prevents true intimacy. Together we practice stepping out of a false kind of love, or defense against it, and into the depth of something far more whole-some, nourishing, and eternal. Rilke urges:
“Love is something difficult and it is more difficult than other things because in other conflicts nature herself enjoins men to collect themselves, to take themselves firmly in hand with all their strength, while in the heightening of love the impulse [and habit] is to give oneself wholly away. But just think, can that be anything beautiful, to give oneself away not as something whole and ordered, but haphazard rather, bit by bit, as it comes? Can such a giving away, that looks so like a throwing away and dismemberment, be anything good, can it be happiness, joy, progress?”
"[So often,] people who love each other fling themselves to each other…and they don’t notice at all what a lack of mutual esteem lies in this disordered giving of themselves…”
What I call authentic relating produces what Rilke describes as “a very great, almost unbearable happiness” that can only occur between very rich individual natures, between those who, for him- or herself, are as Rilke puts it, “richly ordered and composed.” It is they who unite “wide, deep individual worlds” and it seems that it is for this we are born.
“Like so much else, people have misunderstood the place of love in life, they have made it into play and pleasure because they thought that play and pleasure were more blissful than work; but there is nothing happier than work, and love, just because it is the extreme happiness, can be nothing else but work. So whoever loves must try to act as if he had a great work; he must be much alone and go into himself and collect himself and hold fast to himself; he must work; he must become something! … For believe me, the more one is, the richer is all that one experiences.
“Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over, and uniting with another…it is, [at first, only] a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world for himself for another’s sake…
“The demands which the difficult work of love makes upon our development are more than life-size…but if we….take this love upon us as [an] apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in all the light and frivolous play, behind which people have hidden from the most earnest earnestness of their existence—then a little progress and an alleviation will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us; that would be much.”
In my communities of practice, we gather to become more fully, more deeply, more vastly ourselves…for ourselves, for each other, and for all. Our practice exploring and communing with our so-called Higher Self is, indeed, our highest expression of love.
Photo Copyright : Olivér Svéd