Solitude vs. Community and Spiritual Bypassing


FAST FOOD! Cooking your street food, while your buddy drives to the market!

Sheesh, I’ve felt uncharacteristically sad and lonely recently! As an experiment, I found an apartment down a featureless alley on the edge of Chiang Mai for the last couple of weeks. The intention was to have minimal distractions from other people, touristy adventures and to minimize any time spent on creative or professional projects, just to see how I deal with myself. I can say that during this time, I touched the edges of divine bliss and intense despair.

I spent most of the time observing myself through journaling, doing yoga and meditating. It *seems* as I gain clarity through healthier living I unlock deeper, long hidden emotional states. And they’re not always pretty! Perhaps part of me thought this trip would offer a fast track to bliss but I’m waking up to the deeper realization that bliss doesn’t mean freedom from pain, bliss really means freedom from suffering. And I still suffer. A lot sometimes! The last week especially felt really unpleasant and brought up all sorts of past insecurities and fears. I thought about giving up doing something, anything, to distract myself but that’s when the most mature part of me would step in tell my more childish self that it’s only when I face the fire can I begin to move through it. Or as Victor Frankl said, “What gives light must endure burning.” Not exactly comforting, but certainly true.

I also never value community as much as when I completely remove myself from it. Besides amplifying my gratitude the solitude also gives me increased empathy for the loneliness that people who are without community must feel. Luckily mine has been a voluntary and temporary choice with the intent for me to know myself more deeply, so I can return the best version of myself, for myself and others. I am also thankful that I did have a few local people to reach out to and to spend some time with when things got especially challenging. Thanks Roxanne Ruby​ and friends for providing a laugh when it was needed 🙂 I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t give myself a little break on a couple of occasions, by getting into a small research project on the topic of permaculture-based communities. So cool!

I’m happy to say that this little experiment will soon be coming to a close when I’ll once again immerse myself among other travelers. This weekend I’ll transition back to living in the center of town, getting into some fun social activities next week as well attending TEDx Chiang Mai. After that I’ll be continuing on to Pai, a mountain town in the north, for a few days of fun before heading into a two week meditation and detox retreat. Notice the pattern? I’ve found that this cyclical living experience seems like a good way to prevent getting comfortable, so I can tear my consciousness a little bit and then to let it heal in an expanded state. Before doing it again. Gotta keep it fresh. Stagnation is the killer!

Related to these thoughts, this well timed article provided some great insight and something important to consider, especially for those going deep with themselves who might find this is an easy trap to fall into: “Spiritual bypassing distances us not only from our pain and difficult personal issues but also from our own authentic spirituality, stranding us in a metaphysical limbo, a zone of exaggerated gentleness, niceness, and superficiality.” Thanks for the link Sarah Zandbeek <3

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