DR. SMRITI KRISHNA shares some reflections on the value of solitude and alone time during the pandemic. She reminds us of some ancient wisdom from both the Japanese and Indian cultures on how to love ourselves, spend time with ourselves, accept our imperfections, and celebrate life, even during a pandemic!
As I glance outside my apartment balcony in the heart of Melbourne, Australia, to the piece of sky above and a green patch that I can see through the high-rise buildings, I notice that the streets are unusually quiet. The occasional chirping of birds breaks the deadly silence. The sixth lockdown due to the pandemic has turned the city into a ghost town.
Many who have been resilient throughout the past emergence of the pandemic are starting to feel the sand wash away from under their feet. Holding on to positivity and being resilient is becoming harder as each day goes by. Many are lonely and confined to limited physical and emotional spaces. Yes, there is a vast virtual or digital world out there where we can hang out and reconnect with anyone across barriers, but still, many people feel lonely.
I have listened to my friends’ complaints that the lockdown has made them realize how lonely they were.
Why are we so reluctant to spend time with ourselves?
Loneliness is an experience which, when turned into a positive, becomes a divine practice. Solitude is an enjoyable phase to detach yourself from your body and allow yourself to heal the wounds that past experiences have inflicted upon you. The solitude phase is transformative and nonjudgmental. You might be broken from inside: a broken marriage, broken friendships, children being irrational and alienating, loss of career growth, a lack of personal growth and feeling stuck. But it is okay to be broken, it is okay to have failed. You are beautiful the way you are.
How to make solitude a divine experience?
The practice of meditation takes us to a stage where we learn to accept the things that comes our way in life. Yes, life may not have been rosy, and there have been lost opportunities and occasions of discrimination, but so what? None of that has changed who we are “inside.”
The practice of meditation takes us to a stage
where we learn to accept the things
that comes our way in life.
Many of us have been lucky enough to have a list of friends on social media, a group of friends to help us enjoy weekend parties, and school and university social media groups that erase international borders, all of which have brought us together in the time of the pandemic. Those are all good support systems. But you want to go beyond that and live fully in the present moment. That’s when you are left alone with your real self and that is when you start to love yourself without judgment.
The Japanese art of Kintsugi puts broken pieces of pottery together with gold, which is a metaphor for highlighting the flaws and imperfections in a damaged art piece. However, we don’t need Kintsugi. It is okay to be broken, it is okay to have been hurt in the past, it is okay to carry scars that have healed only on the surface. The whole of our life may not be perfect, but the pieces are just as beautiful as they are whole in themselves. The broken pieces don’t need to be aligning perfectly. Every piece or experience in life is a story, and it is perfect the way it is.
Hindu philosophy teaches that the gunas (a Sanskrit word meaning tendencies or personalities) are not the true “Self,” or Atman. So, practice Atma-Prema, or unconditional self-love – love of the Self that exists at the center of all of us. AtmaPrema arises from the realization that beyond our imperfections, beyond the titles and genetic lineages we carry, our fundamental inner being is pure and eternal.
As lockdown continues, now is the time to put all those years of reading about meditation into practice. Meditate and enjoy time with yourself. Congratulate yourself on the amazing journey so far. Be your best friend!
Illustrations by ARATI SHEDDE
Smriti Krishna, M.Phil., Ph.D., GCED, is a research scientist who focuses on improving the lives of patients with cardiovascular diseases and promoting healthy aging. Her work has been published in many leading general and specialist journals. Currently, she conducts her research at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and the Baker Department of Cardiometabolic Health, University... Read more