Alone I Stand

by Asatar Bair on May 8, 2012

Photo courtesy of Sergio Tudela

Alone on the sea,
Alone on land,
In the crowd and in solitude,
Alone I stand.

- Hazrat Inayat Khan

* * * * *

So many people fear being alone more than nearly anything else.

What do they do to punish an prison inmate? Solitary confinement. I’ve heard so many people say their greatest fear is dying alone.

If you can confront your greatest fear, you come alive in a way that is hard to imagine. Fear is a cruel captor. So I invite you to ponder the mystery of what it truly means to be alone.

This little poem was the object of my meditation for about two months some years ago. It was given to me by my father, Puran; I have been blessed to receive wisdom from many teachers in my life, but Susanna and Puran hold a special place in my heart as the wellspring of inspiration. Any spiritual exercise they give me I practice with great dedication.

The way I was taught to work with a poem or sacred phrase is to place it on the beating of my heart; since each heartbeat actually has a double-beat, it can work for either one syllable of a word, or a two-syllable word. How you do this is an act of creative interpretation, and it helps to reveal the meaning of the text you are working with. Here’s how I did it:

Breathe in 8 heartbeats, and breathe out 8 heartbeats. On the inhalation:

  1. Al-
  2. one
  3. on the
  4. sea
  5. Al-
  6. one
  7. on
  8. land

On the exhalation:

  1. In the
  2. crowd
  3. and in
  4. solitude
  5. Al-
  6. one
  7. I
  8. stand.

This way of working with the poem on your heartbeat is a great way of ensuring that your breath will be slow, deep, full, rhythmic, and heart-centered. And it’s a great way of keeping your mind focused on the meaning of a sacred poem like this one, written by the great Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan.

At first the poem seemed so lonely. Then I realized that “alone” is a lot like “all One”. That made it feel incredibly intimate; as the practice developed, I felt more and more like all beings were cells in my infinitely vast body. Paradoxically, this practice made me feel more connected to everything — more than connected, one with All — than before.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share below.

Yours in the One Heart,


P.S. Thank you to all who have recently begun applications to our two-year University of the Heart program; please remember to complete them!

P.P.S. To enter our drawing for 101: Introduction to Heart Rhythm Meditation, please respond to this email. The course starts May 30th.


leslie May 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm

It is a funny thing with me, I never feel alone by myself, only in crowd do I feel alone. I do experience a need for sharing my wonder and amazement with others, but my attempts fail except with children or when expressed through my art.

Asatar Bair May 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Hi Leslie,
How wonderful it is to share wonder and amazement! The Universe is truly astonishing. Thank you for your comment!

LaVonne Bunt May 8, 2012 at 9:42 pm

That way of sequencing the breath is helpful. Counting numbers puts me in a different part of my brain that tends to be seqentially somewhat dyslexic.

Asatar Bair May 9, 2012 at 10:20 am

Hi LaVonne,
Yes, I know what you mean. I like using a word or phrase to keep the rhythm of breath and heartbeat much better myself. But we teach counting as a way of getting there, to break things down into manageable steps.
Thanks for your comment!

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