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JOYFULLY BEING ALONE: This subject is an extension of a frequent topic of mine which I deal with on a daily basis: extolling the virtue of introspection and self-analysis as part of clearing out impediments to devotion in the stage of bhakti called anartha-nivritti (retiring unwanted habits of thought and action)--at least that is often the hint. We live in a time of busy-ness and addiction to innumerable distractions, where it isn't seen as cool to just be sitting down without a handheld device, something to do, or talkative friends.

I remember once on a busy street being taken by the beauty of a particular cloud, where the comments I heard from passersby were about my being on drugs or exhibiting unusual, curious behavior to be looking up at the sky, as if their personal business of walking somewhere, or hanging out with no real purpose, was the only important activity, and my looking at a cloud was deranged tomfoolery.

Though we are social creatures that need interaction with others, the importance of being alone with one's thoughts or taking the time to reflect on life is crucial. Some people aren't comfortable being alone or don't know what to do with themselves or how to use the time other than to watch someone else living their life, on T.V or in a movie, or to sleep, play a game of solitaire, or lament they don't have a friend to be with or something "fun" to do, etc. I doubt there is a class in school on how to be alone and be happy, or how to sit in nature and observe, or in general, "being," rather than doing.

Those on the bhakti path can always chant or read and have lots of service to do, and yet, in my experience, being able to be alone and to think with no distractions (like our IPhone!) or external engagements is so beneficial. Keeping a journal can help one be more internal and understand ourselves better and what we truly want and require for today, tomorrow, and the long haul of our lives. Without this we may feel carried away by the current of life, thinking that our life is out of control, or that we aren't satisfied. We need time alone and undistracted to sort this all out.

Spending time by ourselves is also a way to take a timeout from life's demands, and can be a way to recharge or regroup, especially in a place of scenic beauty. Alone, we can talk to Krishna and pray for guidance, and to be peaceful enough to be receptive to hear or sense it. When I am "alone," I remember Krishna and talk to him of my mixed position as a motivated devotee, and how I require his mercy. I love to do this before our Deities, as I do every morning to wake them and chant, appreciating their sublime beauty and wondrous mercy to have come to bless us. In that sense being alone can be an opportunity to "practice the Presence of God," or feeling our connection with both our soul and our "Maker."

When we are comfortable being alone and in touch with ourselves in our current life situation, we will be better persons and more satisfied when we're with friends or interacting with others. I have gradually found in the solitude of sadhana, or spiritual practices, and in country living (backed by years of reading from many wise living persons, and from the ancient but timeless wisdom in scriptures) that we aren’t our past trauma, labels from our upbringing, or the opinions of others, but we're a pure soul having a human experience. Thus we have much to offer others just by being present to listen well, remembering we're servants of Krishna, and being kind, caring, compassionate, and encouraging people. With such good qualities, people will be more open-hearted towards us and inclined to hear knowledge of the soul and God.

We can be our best self in the world, or be situated in our “authentic illusory self,” while doing our spiritual practice to awaken our soul (bhakti). To me, this is making the best of both worlds, and if we can do so, we will be satisfied physically, mentally, and emotionally that we used our natural skills and desires in the service of Krishna (God) in a way that also serves the family of the Earth. This is real balance and sustainability for the long haul of a life of devotion!
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