Together alone

I’ve just left Hubby in Greece. He’s staying out longer than I can, given my other commitments. We have a long history of airport/train station goodbyes as our relationship gradually shifted from two separate continents, to the same continent, then to the same country, and finally to the same town. What we don’t know about maintaining a relationship at a distance isn’t worth knowing! But it can still be hard.

We were sprung today by a friend as we indulged in an emotional farewell at the airport, even though we’ll only be apart a few days. She rejoiced in my tears as I embraced Hubby. “Don’t ever lose this” she told me. “This is so precious you must work hard to have this always”. I joked that it was my inner Greek expressing more emotion than my British self would! She laughed, I cried some more.

But really she’s right. Depth of emotion is to be valued, not feared or wished away. Honouring feelings is what it means to live in the present moment. I fear I’m just coming up with a new personal definition of ‘airport yoga’. No sticky mat (or special room) required — only tissues!

Now that we’re more than 1000 miles distant I’m already missing Hubby and part of my heart will be with him over the coming days until he’s safely back home with me. While we’re apart I’ll be missing him, feeling the lack of him, but also enjoying the sense of him being where he needs to be.

togetherness mantraIn yoga TT we chant the ‘togetherness mantra’ every day and I wonder about the meaning of this, about the meaning of ‘togetherness’ — in this special context as well as in life in general, since yoga often seems a particular focus within a wider picture.

Do I feel ‘togetherness’ with Hubby even though we’re miles apart? Of course, his love is in my heart. We are bound to each other. We have formally pledged life together. In the studio do I have a sense of ‘togetherness’ with my fellow yoga students? My head tells me this is more a sense of comradeship than companionship at this stage in our relationship.

And yet…

When I practice with them, or indeed when I practice with anyone, or on my best days of all just when I am around others between my practices, there’s some sense of connection to others that I didn’t used to feel. What is this? Some alchemical mix of compassion, love, and trust.

Some days it offers a radiance that reflects back to me and provides warmth and light even within the deepest well of loneliness. Some days there’s a sense of reciprocal care and love regardless of whether I’m physically in company or not. Some days comfort and safety are almost tangible experiences, as real as any physical loving embrace where skin on warm skin offers a lifeline out of lonely despair. What this is, where it comes from, and what it means are questions as difficult to consider as the chemistry between lovers. I’m no philosopher. I can’t explain. I can only wonder — and feel rather humbled by the experience.

It’s no great work of literature, but the unpredictability of such feelings, and the yearning for them once they’ve been experienced, was nicely described in the opening page of the novel I’m reading right now:

mountain shadow cover“The source of all things, the luminescence, has more forms than heaven’s stars, sure. And one good thought is all it takes to make it shine. But a single mistake can burn down a forest in your heart, hiding all the stars, in all the skies. And while a mistake’s still burning, ruined love or lost faith can make you think you’re done, and you can’t go on. But it’s not true. It’s never true. No matter what you do, no matter where you’re lost, the luminescence never leaves you. Any good thing that dies inside can rise again, if you want it hard enough. The heart doesn’t know how to quit, because it doesn’t know how to lie. You lift your eyes form the page, fall into the smile of a perfect stranger, and the searching starts all over again. It’s not what it was. It’s always different. It’s always something else. But the new forest that grows back in a scarred heart is sometimes wilder and stronger than it was before the fire. And if you stay there, in that shine within yourself, that new place for the light, forgiving everything and never giving up, sooner or later you’ll always find yourself right back there where love and beauty made the world: at the beginning. The beginning. The beginning.”

So what is ‘togetherness’? For me it’s some combination of love and compassion that recognises our common humanity, but it is also possible in a party of one — we can be together alone. The feeling of being loved can be a solo game.

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