Even though I’ve been in a couple for 35 years, I love being alone. It’s been a part of my life since childhood. I grew up as an only child on five acres in rural Illinois, where I spent a good portion of my childhood playing outdoors alone (or with my dog) and sitting in trees reading. I don’t ever remember feeling lonely. My parents and I were close, so I was with them a lot too, and I had school friends who came to visit, but at the core of my life was time spent in solitude. It became the peaceful center from which I lived outward into the world. As an adult, I always relied on time alone to come back to myself, away from jobs and social situations. Don’t get me wrong—I loved my friends, but there was a certain point at which I had to step away and be alone. It was like breathing to me.
I have so many memories that involve finding joy in being by myself. One of the most vivid was when I worked for a senator as a student intern in Washington, DC, in college. One lunch hour I wandered around outside the Capitol Building alone and then sat in the sun in a quiet spot where no one else was walking. I can remember having a sudden flash of absolute exhilaration when the thought crossed my mind, “No one else on Earth knows where I am right now.” There was something incredibly exciting about that to a 19-year-old living in a new city, trying out grown-up life on her own. I’ve never forgotten that feeling—of being an alive, independent, free spirit in the world.
When I took up bird-watching many years later, I felt a similar thrill being alone in nature: a magical aura that surrounded a sudden encounter with a migrating bird in a bush or tree. If I were absolutely still and silent, the birds came closer and continued with their bird lives as if I weren’t there. It was a precious gift. There were even times when a wood thrush or warbler would land in a branch close to me and sing its heart out. Some kind of special connection occurred then—a living awareness that passed between us. I treasured those moments. It was perhaps my first conscious experience of the spirit of life that is in all beings.
After I embarked on a spiritual path in my 30s, time spent alone in meditation or contemplation became central to my journey. I found it absolutely key to have those daily periods of solitude in order to connect with my own soul and with God. In solitary silence, “stillness speaks,” as Eckhart Tolle has written. Divine connection is an inner experience that comes only when we set aside all external distractions and open our hearts and souls to something greater, beyond the material world.
These quiet moments are extremely precious to me. They are at the core of my life as a human/spirit on this Earth. Ultimately, too, they bring me closer to those around me. I am fortunate in having a life partner who understands and supports my wish to have alone time. She too needs time to herself. When we come together from our separate solitudes, our connection is even deeper and more loving.
Words are often unnecessary with friends and family who share this kind of connection. Something beyond verbal language is passing between us. We recognize and celebrate one another’s souls when we are together and carry our heart connection with us when we are apart. This is life on Earth at its most expansive and wonderful. To me, time spent alone is an essential part of being human, of being conscious spirit in physical form, which is why we incarnated at this particular time on this particular planet. The world is full of so many distractions. It is only in stepping aside and looking inward that we find the true nature of who we are in this extraordinary universe. Every day I say a prayer of gratitude for the solitude that is a sanctuary of peace in my life.
Beneath the noisy thoughts in your head, there is peace. Underneath the emotional upset, there is peace. Behind every human action and reaction, there is an unwavering core of peace. It may be hard to perceive at times, but if you take a deep breath and allow everything to just be as it is, you are immediately brought to the peace that always lives within. I have learned the truth of this over time and through experience. That one breath changes everything, and I am centered in absolute stillness and peace, no matter what else is going on around me.
The world we experience every day is full of excitement and drama, all of it compelling. We are here on Earth to immerse ourselves in those diverse experiences and emerge on the other side with new awareness and wisdom. We may not know it consciously, but our souls are guiding us on our earthly journey. It is a journey through the polarities and extremes of life back to the center of all creation, which is infinite peace and oneness, which is God. To know peace in the midst of every experience—chaos or celebration—is to live in alignment with divine Source energy. It is why we are here (and where we came from), all of us in our uniquely diverse lives: to come back home to peace and radiate it out from the core of our being. More and more, we are coming into conscious realization of this extraordinary process and the transformative power it holds.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, antiwar activists used to chant “Peace Now” and “Give Peace a Chance.” (I was there; I remember.) John Lennon wrote: “War is over, if you want it. War is over now.” Beneath the slogans and lyrics was a truth that we have gradually come to see in the years since then: peace is present now, within each of us, and we can live it individually and collectively when we breathe it into the world with conscious awareness. It’s not about forcing anything to happen. It’s about allowing the peace of the universe to fully emerge from our souls and guide our daily lives, moment to moment.
That may sound “woo woo” and weird, but it’s actually grounded in the here and now. When you take a deep breath (which is spirit infusing human form) in the present moment, you align with the silent power of a “peace that surpasses all understanding” and are centered in the ground of all being. It can shift everything in a nanosecond. Within that living breathing inner peace, there is only love, compassion, and connection. Connection to God; connection to our fellow beings on the planet. When we pause and become fully aware of our breathing and the stillness at our core, struggle, judgment, and the need to build walls against everything and everyone falls away, dissolves. War, within and without, is over in that moment of completely conscious loving awareness.
This is where we are now on the planet, moving toward fully embodying that truth, that destiny. I feel it more and more powerfully every day in my own life and in the lives of people around me. But don’t take my word for it. As you move through your day and life starts to “get to you,” pause and take a deep breath, feel the sweet stillness at your center. Gradually you will begin to realize that peace is everywhere; it lives inside each and every one of us.
There is a trend lately to think of certain behaviors as immutable and impossible to change. We hear comments like “Oh, he’s just hard-wired that way.” Meaning, it’s in the genes; he (or she) can’t change. Really? That line of thinking can take us down a rather pessimistic path into entrenched fear. Fear of the external world, fear of change, fear of those different from us. Are these fears hard-wired in us or simply habit? Do our genes control our destiny? Maybe not. Perhaps our genes and we ourselves can be transformed by shifts in collective consciousness and the power of divine energy. By connecting through the heart with our fellow human beings and to the God/dess within us.
Biologist and author Bruce Lipton has written about “spontaneous evolution.” He cites scientific studies that show that “genetic determinism” is an outdated belief, and we are not victims of heredity. Signals from our external (or internal) environment ultimately control gene activity. Translated, this means that genetic predispositions can be overridden by real-world experiences such as those that open our hearts or connect us with our soul. Spiritual awakenings or other transformative moments have a power that can break through habitual personality patterns. As our awareness grows, we can also consciously choose to align with our soul instead of our personality self or ego.
New neural pathways are laid down in the brain with each change in consciousness or new experience that is consistently repeated (neuroplasticity). In other words, we are not doomed to replay old behaviors, thoughts, and memories over and over. As we allow accumulated emotions to be felt and released, space is freed up for the full power of the soul to take its place at the leading edge of our awareness and our lives. Within a regular spiritual practice, hard wires can be disconnected and old habits broken. Something as simple as meditating and aligning with your inner spirit on a daily basis, in your home or in nature, can open the door to this process. You begin to see the world and others with fresh eyes.
Right now, in this moment, breathe and let go into the inner peace and stillness inside you. Your soul is “wireless” and has no attachment to past experiences. Allow it, and the breath, to guide you to a totally present-moment experience of life, wherein peace alone fills your conscious awareness and defines your day. In doing so, you are no longer tied irrevocably to past behaviors and feelings that are fear-based. In the present, nothing exists except beingness and love, which is God embodied in human form. Fear cannot exist in the presence of love. Breathe in divine energy and breathe out old restrictions and preconceptions. In this state you are free, liberated from everything that has held you back in the past.
I find that when I consistently and consciously choose to let my soul lead the way, I start to recognize opinions and judgments, whether mine or someone else’s, for what they are: replayed past fears that separate people from one another. If I live from an open heart, I begin to think of people as doing the best they can with the awareness they have at the moment. This applies to self-recrimination as well. To see everyone, including myself, as being in the process of evolving allows for the possibility of transformation, individually and globally. No one is hard-wired for anything really—except love.
In the United States, there are societal rules about when silence or quiet is called for: in temples, churches, and meditation halls; in libraries and classrooms; in funeral homes and cemeteries. This is sanctified silence, the kind that is recognized as fitting into the social structure. The underside of these rules is another kind of silence, the silence of dissociation or noninvolvement, which can translate as complicity: “When there is conflict, keep your mouth shut,” “Don’t get involved,” “It’s not your problem, so why make trouble?” The threat of potential or escalating violence runs through these admonitions. Best to ignore whatever you’ve seen or heard. Only many of us don’t have that option in our lives. And now, increasingly, none of us have that option.
Loud, vocal, and acted-out hatred is playing out in city after city in this country. The kind of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and homophobia that has always existed but is now being given a green light by behavior and attitudes at the federal level. Nazism and Klanism is in full-out resurgence in this so-called “land of the free.” That freedom was about money, maleness, and white skin when this country began, and it still is. Yes, we have come a long way, but the segments of this society that don’t really want an egalitarian, balanced social framework are still clinging to the illusion of superiority and power. That is the old patriarchal paradigm that is so full of cracks now that even talk show hosts on late-night TV are addressing it. No, we are not going backward, but the labor pains we experience as we birth a new way of being on this planet can be intense and at times frightening.
There is no turning back, however. We signed up for this specific soul incarnation to be part of something monumental. So what do spiritual people, committed to love, peace, and harmony, do at times like these? We can limit exposure to the constant bombardment of negative news alerts, meditate more intensively, and hold love in our hearts and in our lives, but is that enough? Having come of age in the politically active 1960s and 70s and lived that to the full, I know that is part of my heritage, but I also realized over the years there is more to it. I have learned the immense importance of energy and of how our own life force and inner being affects everything around us. The world will change and the paradigm will shift, not from the force of will power and pushing against, but from the steady peaceful walking forward together into a vision of something more open and inclusive. The dynamic energy of transformation—from fear to love.
This vision has a voice, and it emerges from yet another kind of silence: the silence of the soul. On a spiritual path, we often center ourselves in the silent peace at our core. That very silence can give rise to the voice within us that expresses the vision and speaks for the freedom and rights of all people and all beings on this planet. You can remain peaceful and loving and still speak out against injustice and hatred and for unity, connection, and sister/brotherhood. In fact, it is our responsibility to speak up. This can take many forms: in writing articles, in signing petitions, in sending letters and emails, in attending nonviolent marches or gatherings, in joining community groups based in diversity—and, especially, in not letting racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, or homophobic remarks or behavior pass by us, unaddressed. You don’t have to be perfectly articulate or eloquent to honestly and calmly speak from your heart about universal love and human compassion.
Over the years, I have discovered that silence fills my soul at all times. I carry it with me, and it informs my entire life and connects me to the presence that is God. From that place, I share my heart’s vision of a world based in loving-kindness. From that place, I know with everything in me that I am not separate from any other being on Earth and that our voices were given to us for a reason: to speak to one another. From that place, there is only one voice, the voice of love.
Spiritual and self-help programs have counseled people for years to “let go and let God.” Wise advice. When you let go of everything (literally, everything), that very letting go creates an empty space in which you are inviting God to come in. The letting go is actually a welcoming, an open door for divine presence. At times of uncertainty or stress, it can be hard to remember this, but that wisdom, if relaxed into, can cut the cord that holds you to fear-based trying and replace it with the gentleness of allowing. On the level of egoic effort, nothing happens but straining and frustration. On the level of soulful surrender, all is flowing and perfectly unfolding.
Opening to the space within me has become part of my daily meditation practice. With each breath, I connect with the life-force energy that is God. When I let go completely into the spaciousness at the core of my being, external distractions fall away. Within that vast inner space is peace and expansive being-ness. Eyes closed, I see the light that animates everything. Here, there is no distinction between light and dark, me and God. There is only a deep awareness of universal consciousness, of oneness.
Making room for quiet time alone is also key. I have sought silence all my life, in nature, in sanctuaries, in solitude. Stillness takes me deeper into my soul. There is an empty space in silence that soothes me and brings me to the peaceful inner sanctuary filled with God’s essence. I don’t have to search for it because it is always with me, apparent as soon as I take a deep breath, relax, and am present in the stillness. Moment to moment, this is where I connect with the Divine.
Create space in your life, in your physical form, every day so that spirit can enter. That open space calls God to you. It’s a sacred invitation. If we fill our lives up with noise, busyness, and distractions, the Divine has nowhere to be fully present. If your body is filled with worries, fear, and frantic thoughts, God gets lost in the inner turmoil. It’s not that God ever disappears; it’s just that we can’t perceive the Presence that is always with us if we fill every crevice in our lives with clutter. Feng shui is based on this premise: clear your clutter, outer and inner, and your life can come into full bloom.
In silence, in stillness, in empty space, the mental and physical clutter of a busy life falls away, and you can hear spirit speak to you in a language that is beyond words. With every quiet breath, you go deeper. Look within, in the limitless spaciousness of your soul, and you will find God peacefully waiting, where s/he has always been and always will be.
“If you are never empty,
how can you know
the fullness of your spirit.
If you are never alone,
how can you know