Dear Ayurvedic Abbie: Being Alone vs. Being Lonely


Dear Ayurvedic Abbie: I've been making a lot of changes in my life, and while I feel better physically, I'm concerned because I'm starting to lose friends—and they're concerned that I'm often alone. I have great yoga-meditation friends, but not around where I live, and sometimes when one of my local pals calls to go out, I feel like I'd rather be alone! All of this is so different than five or ten years ago. Am I becoming depressed? I think you call it  (literally "darkness," or what is mentally and physically harmful)? Can I go too "within”? Is this a “Hermit Alert”??

Dear Haley:

NO WORRIES. Alone is okay! Why do I say this? Because you never used the word lonely. There is such a big difference between being alone (nobody else around) and being lonely. You can be in a crowd and be lonely. You can be in a marriage and be lonely. People are around you in both examples. Being lonely is painful, whereas being alone is simply being by yourself. It is a choice as opposed to a feeling.

When we start to practice and rebuild or establish an internal locus of control, we gain clarity about ourselves. Sometimes that clarity releases us from the need to be people-pleasers, attention-getters—you name the external role—and we no longer look outside of ourselves to define who we are. When this process begins, we often take a step back from our social world. Your desire to be alone doesn't mean you're becoming a recluse. You're simply withdrawing your energy from a previously external focus. 

Check in with yourself to see if this doubt is coming from you or if it has more to do with how the other person is processing their understanding of your choice, and how it impacts them.

But your concern is understandable. Many times I hear folks say that as they make changes in their lives—like spending time meditating, doing yoga, changing their diets to lighter and easier-to-digest foods, or just no longer going out to venues with lots of scattered energy—their family and friends become worried and sometimes judgmental or even angry. Yet these reactions are a reflection of who your friends and family members are as they bump up against the fact that they need to alter how they engage with the “new” you. Your shift is causing them to make an adjustment and that might require some introspection on their part. Still, their concerns can create doubt in your mind. But now that you're becoming accustomed to the path of going within, just check in with yourself to see if this doubt is coming from you or if it has more to do with how the other person is processing their understanding of your choice, and how it impacts them. 

I find times like this to be perfect for taking a relaxing yoga nidra (yogic sleep) or nurturing myself with a long abhyanga (self-massage). I've noticed that when I am tapped on the shoulder by self-doubt, and old relationships are being rocked by new behavior, I need to step to the side and do something to nurture myself—something that helps me get back to the path of turning into my inner realm, instead of beating myself up with criticism and second-guessing. I find massaging myself with oil and deeply relaxing actually helps me to pause, detach, and soothe myself—and become less reactive! Then I go back to the process of checking in to see how I feel about the interaction. That “pause” in thinking, and offering yourself deep support, goes a long way!

Our society supports an external locus of control, which means looking to the outer world to determine “who we are” and what we should be doing, liking, eating, wearing, etc. This entrains us to seek “approval” from the outer world in the hope that it will tell us that we're “okay.” So, when one of us turns inward—which is not the orientation that society so often promotes—it's challenging to find support in our social world. This is why yoga and ayurveda buddies, meditation teachers, and spiritual communities are so important. These folks can offer understanding and support for your personal process of going within—as well as share their experience of clarity that is the generous profit of yoga, meditation, and other internal practices. Being alone and content within yourself is not labeled as negative in these types of communities. On the contrary, being quiet, internally focused, or alone is said to be healing, nurturing, and joyful.

Tamasic? No. It sounds like you are turning your mind toward sattva (purity, existence, reality) and over time, the boon of this pattern will quiet your concern.

Blessings, Ayurvedic Abbie

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Kathryn Templeton
Kathryn Templeton, MA, RDT/ MT/LPC, E-500 RYT, C-IAYT. Ayurvedic practitioner Kathryn Templeton has devoted... Read more