Finding the Sacred Alone

Finding the Sacred Alone |


We’re coming up to the nine year anniversary of the death of my love. While I still mention my bereavement occasionally here, rather than define me it has become the marker of when my real life — my truly conscious life — began. His death shattered everything I knew and everything I was, and created a hole so vast I didn’t know if it would ever be filled again. But as the years passed, and I healed myself inwardly and outwardly, I have learned so much about life I don’t know if I’d want to change anything that happened.

Through the unravelling and rebuilding there’s been one constant — I have been alone all this time. During the first years I was too messed up to even consider being with another soul. In the middle years I was earnestly rebuilding my life. And now, while I’m ready to venture into a relationship again, I’m trusting it will come when the time is right. For now I am still alone — and I’m content here.

Yet I still remember the discomfort of Saturday nights spent alone. The endless hours with only myself for company, and that wasn’t much company at all. I remember being deeply scared of the alone in my 20s. Even an afternoon on my own could send me into a whirlwind of fears. I didn’t want to be alone — alone meant I didn’t exist. That I didn’t matter to anyone. That I was nothing. So I did everything I could to make sure I was never alone.

One of the many gifts that came out of my bereavement was the opportunity to befriend the alone, once and for all. What started as excruciating has become something I deeply treasure. I actually crave being alone when I’m with others for too long. And yes I’m an introvert so this is how I recharge, but it goes so much deeper than that. Time alone is sacred to me, and something I’ll need to cultivate even when I find myself in the arms of another relationship. My alone time keeps me sane and healthy, and when I’m sane and healthy I have so much more light to share with the world.

So many times I’ve heard course peeps and friends mention how being alone is hard for them. That they feel lost when their significant other is out for the night. That they’re single again for the first time in years and a weekend on their own feels terrifying. That they fill their time so they don’t feel lonely. They’re not sure how to BE alone.

Then there’s the other side: my loved ones who rarely get a second to themselves. Who are demanded of and pulled in so many directions each day they fall into bed depleted to their core.

So whether you’re fearful of the alone, hungry for some pockets of time just for you, or are simply ready to cultivate a deeper connection to your internal world, I’d like to invite you to join me as we explore the Sacred Alone together.

In March I’ll be leading a gentle 14-day journey into the quiet knowing space in your heart that offers refuge, wisdom and calm. Each day you’ll receive an email from me containing a short essay on the day’s theme, a downloadable MP3 audio (alternating meditations, visualisations and mindfulness exercises) and a series of powerful journal prompts to work on. Each day will build on the last, so that by the end of our 14 days together you’ll have created your own Sacred Alone practice you can build on — and extend! — going forward.

You can read all the details and sign up over on this page. I really can’t wait to share this new journey with you guys!

My word of the year notebook

MIracles on the beach
I must admit, choosing such a super trendy word for the year was a pretty smart move as I can’t seem to turn a page or click on a link without seeing it yet again. I’m experiencing daily miracles! But as lovely as that is the miracles I’m searching for this year will be happening in my flesh and blood world. To help me pay attention I’m keeping a notebook devoted to recording my miracles as they happen. Usually everything goes into my Moleskine journal, but I liked the idea of collecting my notes in one place with the hope that I’ll reach the end of 2014 with a notebook (or two — let’s be optimistic!) full of miraculous occurrences. I simply date each entry and outline what happened. Simple.

book of miracles
Going forward I might adopt this as a yearly practice — writing stuff down is always my first impulse, and this way I’m fusing attention and intention with a splash of mindfulness, too. When I’m away from home I jot down anything I want to remember in a text file on my phone — if you’re not a stationery addict like me you could easily keep a word of the year file on your smart phone or computer. The point is to pay attention to the opportunities you have to be/experience/practice your word each day.

I have four entries in the notebook so far, and already I’m feeling more open to the coincidences and surprises that usually go unappreciated. If it makes my heart jump, it’s a miracle; if it’s a wink from the universe, it’s definitely a miracle. It’s like I’m viewing my daily experience of the world through a refreshed lens and I really like it. This is the first time my word of the year has been more about receiving than doing. Accepting rather than changing (even if the change is good). Kind souls have been sending me links to miracle-related quotes all over social media — we’re nine days into the new year and my ship is pointing in the right direction.

My second miracle of 2014 happened last Saturday during a weekend by the sea with my family. Despite the blustery weather we took ourselves off to the beach to chase the waves and have hot chocolate and cake. All afternoon had been rainy and grey, but as we prepared to leave the cafe the most amazing sunset burst across the sky. We ran outside and stood in absolute wonder. It was the most incredible sunset I have ever seen – no joke. We just couldn’t get over it. The iPhone photos I snapped don’t even come close to the majesty we witnessed, but here’s a little taste:

sunset | SusannahConway.comsunset | SusannahConway.comsunset |

Messages from my other life

I had an amazing dream while I was in Devon last week. Actually, there was nothing particulary amazing about the actual dream, but what it represented was amazing (to me). For the last few years I’ve been having a recurring dream that I have another home somewhere, out there, but I can’t remember where it is. It’s an apartment I used to live in, and it holds a lot of my stuff, but I haven’t been there in such a long time I can’t remember the address. In the reoccuring dream I know I have to find this other home at some point so i can sort through the things and let it go, but I can never find my way there. I always wake up confused and it takes a moment to remember that in the real world i have just one home and it’s here, in London. The relief is always enormous.

For the first time ever, I dreamt I found the other home. I can’t remember how I found my way there, but suddenly there I was, opening the door and walking in. In the dream I was so surprised to finally be there my heart was racing as I looked around this converted loft filled with tables strewn with my belongings. There were clothes displayed on the walls like a museum, and piles and piles of books and records. Slowly I began to go through the objects, pulling out things i remembered from my teenage — things I haven’t thought about in forever in my waking world. It was like discovering a corner of my brain I hadn’t opened in 25 years.

When I woke up I immediately reached for my journal and wrote down everything i could remember about the other home — there were a LOT of underlinings and exclamation marks. It really was a remarkable dream, an actual conclusion to a long-running series in my head. There are so many layers of significance, and as usual i’ve been journalling my way into it all, marvelling at my own unconscious. Most mornings I wake up wishing I didn’t have such vivid dreams, but then something like this happens and I’m grateful to have this other noctural life that has its own plotlines and climate; it’s like squeezing two lives into one.

Our brains are extraordinary, aren’t they.

Keeping a dream journal has definitely enhanced my ability to recall — and, more importantly, interpret — my dreams. We spend a week on dreams in Journal Your Life, exploring ways to read our dreams, find the gifts in our nightmares and practice a bit of lucid daydreaming, too. I’m certainly no dream expert, but I’m expert at my OWN dreams, and that’s where the benefit lies. By paying attention to our unconscious mind we uncover all these juicy clues to what’s really going on inside us. My dreams are often ridiculous and impossible, but they never seem to lie to me.

Do any of you have crazy big dreams? Have they ever been useful? I’d love to know :)


Registration for the summer session on Journal Your Life is now open — I’ve updated the page with a video sneak peek!

‘This has been so much more than just a course, it’s become a Process. What I have learned, what has taken me most by surprise, is Gratitude. I find that every time I journal now I end up thanking God for my life and all that it holds. On the outside, my life seems very ordinary, perhaps even a little boring. What I have discovered is that I have an internal life that is extraordinary, rich and fulfilling. I wake up each morning excited by the sheer possibility that each day holds. This gift you’ve given me is priceless, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!’ ~ Beth

The carry-on experiment

I can sum up the results of my wee experiment in one word: FREEDOM!

In the past I’ve been an over-packer, the worry that I’ll find myself abroad without that one essential item I didn’t pack made me bring countless items “just in case”. But here’s the thing: “just in case” never ever happens. What does happen is I end up wearing the same four items until they fall off my back, and I come home with a suitcase full of unworn (and clean!) clothes.

This time I knew I had to pack differently. As I shared in the post before I left, the thought of having to catch eight flights — in other words, having to CHECK my suitcase eight times — left me in a sweat. There was no way I could handle the stress of will-my-suitcase-arrive-with-me eight times. And I speak from experience here, as the very first time I visited the USA my suitcase got lost and arrived four days later. Not much fun.

Plus there was the time saved at each airport. By checking-in online the night before I was able to head straight to the security line, take my laptop and toiletries bag out of my suitcase, whizz through the scanner and get to my gate all in the space of an hour — sometimes less. International flights tend to take a bit longer, but all my domestic flights within the USA were a breeze.

So that’s the travelling part taken care of, I hear you say, but how was living out of a tiny suitcase for 3.5 weeks?

Friends, it was awesome :D

I did cheat a little bit, in that I also had a tote bag with me for my Polaroid films, which inevitably ended up carrying a few extras I picked up along the way. But even that wasn’t an issue at the airports — as long as I put my hangbag inside the tote while going through the various checkpoints, everyone was happy.

Having only a few things with me made leaving hotels a piece of cake (not much with me so not much to leave behind!) and staying with friends was just as easy. In fact, it was great not having to cart around a big suitcase as I travelled Littlest Hobo-style around the country by plane and train.

I picked up a couple of items of clothing on the trip and, of course, ended up wearing those the most; I also left a few pieces in Santa Barbara and Toronto to be sent home (thank you, Lisa and Jamie!) and did laundry in Santa B, Bellingham and Providence, too (thanks, loves!).

But the biggest plus of the entire experiment was how FREE I felt. I had literally no baggage with me. I was just ME, being present in every place I visited. It made me realise how little I need to live contentedly. Walking back into my flat on Sunday I was shocked at how “full” the place felt. Do I really carry all this stuff with me every time I move house? What’s the point? Most of it I haven’t looked at or used since I landed in Bath nearly four years ago (and I don’t even have that many possessions, but after 39 years of living i’ve inevitably gathered a few bits ‘n’ pieces. You know how it is.)

Since I’ve been back I’ve been wearing the same clothes I wore while I was away (washed, obviously ;) I’ve already halved my book collection and have started going through all the drawers and cupboards in the flat, clearing out and boxing up items to go to my local charity shops. This morning I started planning which pieces of furniture I want to let go of. Operation Move To London is in full effect!

So while I’m not turning into a minimalist — my camera collection (already halved) and vintage treasures make that impossible — I definitely want some more of that freedom I felt. I’ve moved house more times than I care to count over the last 20 years and perhaps the fact that I’ve never settled anywhere permanently is a contributing factor to this urge to purge. I know that my next home will not be a permanent one, either, and that makes me want to travel as lightly as possible. Maybe one day I will settle somewhere permanently. In my daydreams I imagine that will be when I find someone I would like to settle with — as a single woman I’m happy to keep moving until I find the right place. A place that truly feels like home.

For now I’m pleased to report that with just a few items of clothing, some toiletries, your laptop, notebook and a Polaroid camera you really can be at home wherever you find yourself. It was truly the most delicious, and timely, revelation.

As a few people have asked, here’s a link to the cabin suitcase I used, a Samsonite B-lite Fresh in raspberry