We often explore who we are in solitude. Physical solitude, on a woodsy walk or in a quiet room, is one avenue. Side-by-side solitude is another. I derive extraordinary comfort and pleasure from a chunk of time spent connecting fully to my truest self, uninterrupted, with my eyes closed, deepening my sensory awareness, being with my internal condition through lack of external stimuli, in the company of others similarly engaged and who, at the end of our side-by-side solitude, will not criticize, correct, or otherwise minimize my or anyone else’s experience. Having at least one or two companions in the same room to share side-by-side delving is a powerful establishment of safe relationality. It ranks with a good marriage where each person accepts the other person as is. Accept in at least a fond way, though sometimes with great affection, or even astonished, appreciative awe. Side-by-side solitude is perhaps the greatest safety I know or have ever known. Safer than physical solitude, though each nourishes me profoundly.
No Eyes, No Words
Interaction with others frequently involves competitiveness, the seeking, giving, or withholding of approval, or power wielded in various nonconsensual ways. We develop strategies for being with others that range from giving up our self, to hiding our self beneath a double, superficial self, to struggling to maintain or assert an authentic self while others, for their own convenience, try to discourage us from being true to ourself. This normal part of living in the world can be a lot of work. It can be draining. Many of us feel how we are being eroded, eaten away, or blocked, and in need of restorative experiences. We typically experience relationship through verbal (auditory) and visual channels and associate both with being socially available instead of private with our self. In our current world, we are overly connected and over stimulated.
Then we arrive at a Dancemeditation session. There are people, yes, but right away we stop talking, stop hearing words. Soon, we close our eyes and enter a stretch of side-by-side time that induces freedom from our usual interactive brouhaha. And we are alone with our self, but not alone in the room. This simple set of conditions relieves the strain of relationality and ushers in a new and renewing experience of self with others. Some people experience anxiety in the beginning from the lack of corrective feedback, but that discomfort passes fairly quickly. As we move and breathe side-by-side, we can relax into trustworthy companionableness. We are who we are with others. We can discover more of who we are alongside others. The situation contributes to the evolution of self. I know I feel not only safety but am also able to reach farther into my core creativity
Exploration and Making a Living
If we have discovered and cultivated an activity that opens us and tosses us happily into self-exploration (I love to dance, to sing! etc.) and then we submit it to commercial pressure (This is so wonderful I want to do this for a living!), it becomes interactive and performative, undergoes corrective scrutiny, and is assessed and judged for worthiness for momentary compensation. It may be right livelihood, but being valued by external standards necessarily diminishes its exploratory and experimental flavor. This happy activity forfeits the safety of being allowed to fail, allowed to be ordinary, imperfect, irregular, or unreliable–four delicious attributes of self-exploration that all use words with negating prefixes of ‘un’, ‘im’, and ‘ir’. But we could use four different words that turn dross into gold. Nascent. Evanescent. Unique. Magical. These four words connote access beyond the ordinary. Not one of them is expected to have factory-produced precision and regularity, and all of them are attributes of self-exploration. We are magnetically drawn to these qualities. I personally would fall into a deep depression without this arena of interior expansion—-this No Person’s But My Land. Many of us would.
I am not advocating against doing what one loves for a living, only pointing out that self-exploration requires protective parameters. We have to restrain ourselves from correcting and criticizing and fixing so we may discover organic order no matter how chaotic or differently ordered, organic truth, connections and configurations beyond our ordinary perception, natural beauty in things as they are, a calming or anesthetizing void, inexplicable transitoriness, and who knows what else. Exploring the self is magical, unique, nascent, evanescent.
My work and writing are sponsored by Dervish Society of America (DSA), a nonprofit 501-C3 organization dedicated to the Path of embodied mysticism. DSA provides opportunities for personal development, exploratory inquiry into embodied spirituality, and community connection through practice, service, and performance. DONATIONS are tax-deductible.