A slightly different blog…
The other day, I came across a very interesting article in the Elephant Journal on being single. This is a topic that I have wanted to write about for a while, and it got me thinking:
Is being single essential for self-development?
I am writing this blog from my personal perspective of a person who is currently single. I have the benefit of living alone and making my own time for my mindfulness and meditation practice. I can focus on myself and my needs. And I would not have it any other way. One day I might have an opportunity to discover how to share that part of myself with someone else. But in the meanwhile, I would like to acknowledge some of my experiences and thoughts surrounding self-development.
The short answer to the question above is: of course not.
You can be in a relationship and still develop yourself as a human being. However, self-development, somewhat obviously, requires time with your self. It requires time alone. It requires independence. It requires time taken for your own practice. It requires an almost selfish focus on your own needs, which actually isn’t selfish at all.
After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to take care of yourself first.
Additionally, even if your partner also practices mindfulness and meditation, everyone’s journey is unique. And if your partner is not on a similar journey, things can get somewhat tricky. You cannot and should not force someone to take up meditation or any other self-development practice. But it is not unlikely that the difference in perspectives will cause the need for additional compromise. This is why people in relationships often become a “we”, instead of an “I”. Hobbies and interests merge. Individuality becomes hard to maintain.
Self-care is replaced by care for someone else.
I am not speaking for all couples, of course, but generally, compromise is needed in most relationships, whether romantic or not. While it is an essential part of healthy relationships, I might argue that some things are above compromise. Independence is a vital aspect of being human. Having your own hobbies and interests is what makes you your own person. Waiting for someone to complete you implies that you are not a whole human being to start with. It’s like saying that 1 + 1 = 1. It’s the belief that if someone leaves you, you are no longer complete.
If you cannot find happiness alone, you place your happiness in the fate of impermanence.
Note that independence is very different from loneliness. But even loneliness is better than codependency, especially with the “wrong” company. Surround yourself with people who have a connection with you on some fundamental level. Make sure your support network consists of people who add to your life, rather than deduct from it.
Simply put, surround yourself with positive people. And then spread love and kindness to everyone else, too.
It is exhausting (and I speak from experience here) to have someone in your life who is always complaining about something. You may be empathetic, compassionate, kind and healing, and this is to an extent an integral part of your practice. But being very sensitive to other people’s energies, I’ve learned to trust my gut and to avoid people who will drain my energy and inject stress and negativity into my life. I’ve learned the balance of kindness by giving to people who only took. I’ve learned that it is not my job to heal the world. Compassion and kindness can only grow by being shared, but we must remember to show that same compassion and kindness to ourselves.
Love yourself first. And then love everyone else, too.
Above all, there is something spiritual about being single. At a time when many of us fall in love and get married at a younger and younger age, being alone and learning not only to love yourself but who “yourself” actually is, is a commodity and a gift. Being single is a reminder of the impermanence of all things. It is a lesson in non-attachment. It is a glance at pure happiness that is dependent on nothing and on no one. It is the perfect metaphor for a very individual journey.
And it is an insight into experiencing a love for yourself that is much more constant and purer than love from anyone else.
Completely alone or completely alone?
So when I say “completely alone”, I don’t mean that I am completely alone or that I have no one to count on in times of need. I mean that alone, I am complete. I am surrounded by positive people and positive energies – my family, my friends, and a sense of community with all living beings. But I am content, happy even, to be on my own on a more obvious level.
I am complete all by myself. And so are you.