“My Eyes So Soft”
by Hafiz, trans. Daniel Ladinsky
Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so tender,
My need of God
I’ve heard it said that just as 2012 was the symbolic End of the World, 2013 is the year of Death and Destruction. The interpretation of this, luckily, isn’t about alien invasions or blowing up the White House. Rather, we are living in a season of consciousness-raising. Many individuals are choosing to turn to yoga, meditation, and various spiritual pursuits to guide us on a journey that has fewer and fewer externally imposed rules. We are braver now, and making scary, life-changing choices, like ending relationships, writing books about controversial topics, having babies, and changing careers.
I’ve just ended a two-year relationship, and as my friends from far afield hear about it, they come out of the woodwork to tell me they just jumped out of the same boat.
One friend, Carol, is in the middle of a long bicycle tour along the West Coast, completely by herself. She told me she spent several nights camping alone on a deserted island beach with hunting whales and a pack of wolves. “I just wish I had someone to share this with,” she tells me.
Women, especially, no longer have to depend on a partner for survival. We can do it on our own, even with a pack of wolves at our backs. So what are we afraid of?
I’ve been thinking about Hafiz’s poem a lot, lately. We know there is a difference between being alone and being lonely, and we start to beat ourselves up when the one turns over into the other, as if it’s alright to be alone, but loneliness is an emotion only the weak should feel.
Hafiz reminds us that loneliness is a gift. Unlike depression and lethargy, which want us to stay still, to stagnate, loneliness wants us to move. Loneliness is a desire, a physical feeling, something missing in the heart that encourages us to seek. Without loneliness, Hafiz seems to say, how would you find me?
It’s a part of the human experience to want to share ourselves with others. It’s okay to want love, and love can come in all shapes and sizes. Loneliness can send us on journeys toward other people, yes, but it can also send us to the page to write poems, to a canvas to paint, to the woods to walk, to the animal shelter to give a home to a new companion. Even if we are not looking specifically for God, our loneliness will send us in search of something.
Mindful practices like yoga and meditation can help us to feel our loneliness fully, without needing to numb it or push it away. We can allow it to rest in the heart, give it a home, and meet it as a valuable teacher of connection. It reminds us that we can be lonely in a relationship or in a room full of people, and that it simply will not be cured by the company of just anyone. Our loneliness deserves better than that.
Lately, my yoga practice has been a pranam (a deep physical respect, a touching of the feet) to my own loneliness. It is a practice of gratitude to the holes in my heart that move me. It’s a deep bow to my indispensable guide on this journey, even when I can barely see the road. It’s also good to know that, with so many of us on this lonely path, I’m not alone at all.
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