Last time I was ruminating about how having a goal in one’s life, especially in relation to what one wants to be as a person, makes a huge difference in one’s sense of purpose, including during the time when our usual social roles and interaction are absent, like at the time of social isolation, voluntary or not.
People are beings of growth, I believe, happiest when they observe the growth of themselves or anything else important to their lives. Nevertheless, merely daydreaming of a goal does is not enough, one needs to actually walk the path to get this deeply satisfying sense of constant improvement. It does not matter how big the steps are, if our environment sees them, or how long it takes to see tangible results. The path can be a source of joy by itself, even in mundane activities where it takes time to see the result, e.g. in mastery of an instrument, in professional sports etc., what even in the most invisible field of all – our own mental maturation and spiritual ripening.*
I’ve been thinking what experiences from the solitary retreats I can take to this time of social isolation. During the past two decades I had over 40 solitary retreats, most of them short, but the principle is the same – total isolation from any interaction from external world, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months. Has it been useful for the present time? Yes, definitely, but not in the way that might seem on the first glance.
Here are my personal experiences. Each retreat was different, but they all shared the goal and the outcome. For me, the surprise was in the outcome.
Our lives usually consist of a whirlpool of samsaric distractions that leave little time for focusing within and developing our capacities. It can be very hard to change this, not so much because of the objective external conditions, but primarily because of our internal decisions. Consequently, we are not used to being alone. When forced to it, our minds can experience confusion, disorientation, changing moods, frustration, anxiety and other forms of discomfort or suffering. How can one maintain stability?
I’ve started these posts when our regular meditation sessions on The Light of Meditation ended due to the coronavirus pandemic while people wanted them more than ever. I’m very reluctant about writing here, because the aim of SICGU is to focus on DHARMA, not to any personality. I hope that others will join or replace me here. Besides this, I am merely a student, I don’t want to be in focus while we have fully qualified teachers who can connect Dharma and everyday life much better than me – and they do during the classes. You are most welcome to join them.
Best wishes to all.
Ani Tenzin Wangmo