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The Spirituality of Being Single

Being alone provides an opportunity to wake up to the longing for true joy, heal old wounds, and understand the cycles that previously held us back.

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Once upon a time, two people fell in love (spoiler alert: one of those people was me, and, it didn’t last). The two were almost happy, but they had trouble loving each other and themselves.

One March afternoon, in the midst of an epic fight, the lover accused the woman of needing too much energy from him.

“It seems to me,” the lover said, “that you need constant reassurance. I don’t have time to make sure you feel secure.”

The woman was outraged. Then the woman was hurt. She felt her lover’s words were an indictment of her character. She didn’t think she needed too much reassurance, but she wasn’t quite sure she understood true love at all.

“So what?” she said after a long dramatic pause. “You need lots of things and I try my best to provide them. If I need extra reassurance why not give it to me?”

Her words sent the lover into his own thoughts.

“You’re right,” the lover said after a while. “I’m not an easy person to love.”

Years later, long after we broke up, I realized that being single is better than being in a bad relationship. But with that realization, I fought the nagging feeling that something was wrong with me, and I set out to fix the mysterious flaw that kept me perpetually unloved. From this false perception, I collected attributes I thought I needed to be: more outspoken, more thoughtful, more communicative, more calm. I repeated affirmations of self-worth and inner-joy, while ignoring the nagging feeling that I just wasn’t enough.

Most of all, I forgot that I had strengths.

I forgot that powerful moment when I advocated for myself and told my ex-lover that it was okay to need reassurance. On my journey toward healing, I confused self-deprecation with spiritual awakening.

Now I realize it is okay to stand confidently in our desires.

Being alone as we arise can be a blessing. Being single can allow us to wake up to our discontent with the space to examine our cycles and heal wounds. The mistake occurs, however, when we wake up to the longing for true joy, and we attach specific circumstances to those feelings. We decide “true joy” looks like a brand new job. We decide “true joy” exists in the love of another person. We mistake the outward manifestation as a symbol of our worth. True joy can exist in the absence of what is tangible.

You can experience true joy alone.

Though the road is often lonely, being single isn’t in and of itself a spiritual dilemma. It can be hard, scary, and disheartening, but beyond the occasional blind date from well-intentioned friends, there probably won’t be charitable donations or fundraising initiatives to fight the plight of the unmarried. That’s okay.

The crisis of being unhappily single is not actually about the absence of a partner. Nor is the crisis of being unhappy in a relationship actually about an unsuitable mate. Instead, it is a crisis of perception. Many of us believe that being single means no one wants us, and being unwanted means we’re tainted. The truth is, despite the tangible evidence a Facebook feed provides, our perception is often limited. We’re not seeing the complete picture. From Meg Ryan movies to sappy love songs, we are often encouraged to think of love as a commodity. We are taught to temper our behavior in an effort to keep love. Love isn’t something you wear like a vintage purse. It’s not something you get when you’ve done everything right. The truth is none of us are overwhelmingly easy to love, but we’re all so deeply and fully worthy of the effort. There is no destination where you suddenly become worthy. You’ve been worthy all along. Our spiritual path shouldn’t become a new way to broker love, and being single doesn’t indicate a lack of spiritual progress. We’re all exactly where we’re supposed to be, and we’re allowed to enjoy our time wherever we find ourselves.

Related: Learn how to recognize the beauty of being broken.

So, if you find yourself healing deep wounds inflicted on your heart, please know that you deserve love no matter where you are on your journey. You are as worthy of love today as you will be next week. Even at in your most obnoxious state, you deserve the things you want. Your status as a single person is a gift: you’re allowed to practice being the partner of your own dreams. You’re allowed to shower yourself with all that you desire. You’re allowed to be selfish in the most delightful ways. As you process your past, and face your inner-gremlins, know that you are worthy of love in this very moment. You don’t have to pass some cosmic karma test. You are worthy of a partnership, and you are beautiful standing by yourself.

Learn to enjoy your own company.

When we give ourselves permission to be exactly where we are, we discover that this path, like any well-worn path, is an opportunity to love ourselves more thoroughly. Breathe into the yoga of your solitude. Be in union with the expansiveness of all you are.

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Sometimes it’s difficult to cultivate lucidity during troubling times. Patanjali Yoga Sūtras offers 4 practices to help keep the mind steady: 
Friendship, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity. 
These four practices are also praised in various Buddhist suttas.
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