My Body Is My Dog: On Physical Solitude

Planet Yabadada On Being Alone

What happens when you’re alone? Something magical, that’s what. And a little bit weird, actually.

There’s only your mind and your body when no one’s around, guarded by your everpresent spirit. It’s as if these, normally interconnected yet separate, parts of you detach from each other thus gaining some breathing space, a chance to look into each other, really look, really feel, really see.

When I’m sharing my space with someone else – be it strangers or the people I know – I feel like my body and mind kind of melt together. They become an integral representation of ME as a whole, as an unquestionable union that is greater than just a mere sum of the different parts of my being.

If it sounds trippy, don’t worry – I think so too.

These are the thoughts that came to me after I’ve locked myself in my little creative studio upstairs, away from all distractions, to face the blank page in front of me.

The delicious alone time. From me to me with me.

I set myself a goal for this year to post an essay every Monday, no matter how bad or good as long as it’s relatively sane and inoffensive, and so shall it be.

Fortunately, February gives us and all of our resolutions a second chance as the Lunar New Year (aka Chinese New Year) commences – this time it’s 1st February. Perfection! I’m raising a green juice toast to diversity!

But let’s come back to my odd topic of choice and a bizarre title for this week’s blog post.

During my years of being especially hyped up about becoming a professional writer I’ve read many a book, I’ve watched many a video, and I’ve listened to many a podcast with accomplished authors on how to write well, but most importantly, how to write, period. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard was from an English author Neil Gaiman (novel American Gods, comic book series The Sandman, etc.). He said that in order to start writing, no matter how blocked you think you are, you should set a timer, sit down and commit to doing either absolutely nothing OR… writing. Eventually, he said, after a while, even if it’s a long while, you get bored of staring out the window. Your mind starts craving for some active engagement and if writing is the only option, so be it!

This simple trick works well for me most of the time. Ideas get ignited by unexpected sources. This time, sitting here doing nothing in front of a blank Word page, I was reminded by myself of how often I engage with my body: a scratch here, a pinch there, a little stretch, an occasional redo of my hairdo. And then it dawned on me – my body is my dog! Or my cat, but one of those cute lovely ones, not the scary-scratchy-don’t-dare-ever-touching-me-again-you-human ones!

Let’s explore.

Being alone is very much a physical thing. I don’t think your mind can ever be alone, isolated from other minds. I believe we’re always and forever connected to other minds. Yes, the minds of the past, the present, and perhaps even the future humans, what the great Carl Gustav Jung (Swiss psychiatrist, the founder of analytical psychology) called the collective unconscious. But let’s not ignore the immeasurably vast and inconceivably deep imprint of ideas and opinions of the people we’ve actually met throughout our lives already.

Can you tell which thoughts are purely yours? Can you actually own a thought?

We learn our spoken languages from other people after all. That means other people teach us how to think.

By saying “being alone” we mean isolating our bodies from other bodies.

And when I’m alone, my body can finally relax. And it does. Especially so if I give it the attention it requires. And it’s always requiring. I’m a very tactile person. I show love, affection, and support mainly through touch and this is how I expect to receive them. I’m always ready to be touched, hugged, kissed by the person I love. And that definitely applies to my own self. Thus, sometimes I think of my body as my own dog: always ready for a good stroke and a loving groom.

But relaxing when alone hasn’t been always the case. At some point in my late childhood, being very influenced by TV (I’d probably had seen The Truman Show already) and the Christian teachings about omnipresent and omniscient God, I convinced myself that after you die you are obliged to sit down with God in front of a telly and watch the most embarrassing things you’ve ever done in public or in your very private time. The latter is probably even more terrifying, you know, all the farts, all the nose and ear picking, all the things your housemates would never want to know you’ve done, all the freaky things you may be doing to pleasure yourself… You know, normal stuff.

So for a long time, I’d been very thoughtful of how I behave even in solitude. In fact, this idea still sits at the back of my head to this day (and perhaps this explains why I can’t properly fart…), but, fortunately, I don’t find these things are too embarrassing anymore and I don’t believe in this kind of God, i.e. Christian and bullying.

Carving a daily slot of alone time for me means more than having a break from other people’s thoughts and my conversations with them. Or even their auras, their energies. It means more than focusing my mind on my own creative activities, such as writing or drawing or playing music. And it’s not only about meditation practices or solitary contemplation either.

Being alone gives me a chance to converse with my body. It’s about listening to what it says it needs.

Maybe today it’s a head, neck, or feet massage? Or maybe it’s time to do a quick check-up of my breasts? Or maybe it’s an opportunity to compassionately and lovingly look at my belly and really be honest with myself if it feels comfortable, inside and out? Or perhaps my body craves to stretch out to all four directions like a sea star taking over the whole double bed I’m sharing with someone special at night? Perhaps it’s time to explore my sexual needs and kinks while I’m at it?

I do yoga regularly but so far I’ve hardly ever attended a class or had a session with other people. I do mine at home. I used to do it guided by a teacher on YouTube, quite religiously in fact, but for some time now I’ve been doing it alone. This solitary practice seems to be working best for me at this time in my life. I know enough poses and techniques for the time being. Now I’m learning to let my mind follow my body, not the other way around.

As in yoga, so in life.

Not all of the time, but more than I’ve used to. Much, much more. Because my body dog is wise, she knows exactly what we both need. And yes, I talk to myself as if I’m two. Don’t you? Oh, it’s just me… Well, that’s just fine!

So if your body was an animal, in a sense of physical attention it needs, what would it be?

Whatever it is, make your animal happy – groom it, stroke it, train it, play with it – and it will be your loyal friend forever.

Make your body happy and healthy and it’ll teach you how to be a human and truly enjoy it.

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Featured image: Audra Bajori, self-portrait.

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