January 03, 2013

The Solitary LIfe

Many of us may have a romantic notion of the hideaway cottage where we live in seclusion tucked away from the happenings of the world.  This cottage I'm in is like that, but the reality is lack of heat, old plumbing, slanted floors and a myriad of other interesting and unusual ailments that visit an old building, much like an aging human body.  Asleep for the first night in this 'other world', I wondered about my unconnectedness in this experience.  Not that I was out of contact with many people, but my existence seemed suspended, the way life seems to float in an unreality when we  lie awake in the middle of the night and dwell in an imagined world.

Then yesterday I received word that Lynda Swanson, a former colleague and supporter of Olympia Zen Center, had been found dead at home when she didn't arrive for her classes at community college.  There's a sad feeling that she died alone and maybe we think someone should have been with her at that final moment.  There's that awful pull between living alone and the idea that we should witness another person's end which is, at the same time, the most alone and necessary work we do.

It's just true that to enter "the cottage" is to accept the ultimate solitude, otherwise we might not quite reach the space that the heart longs for, which is the space to know ourselves.  Loneliness is a given in this human experience.  But the solitary heart is a cultivation in the midst of others that we die into again and again perhaps as practice for that final breath when we might, if we are lucky, get a flashing glimpse of who and what we truly are.  Sometimes there is another witness to this, and sometimes not.