Many years ago, back in the 1980s, I was traveling for a month with my Federal job. I found myself up in the northeastern part of the United States attending a training session. I was from Colorado, everyone else was from the surrounding area. During the weekends, everyone returned home except for me.

Part of me enjoyed the freedom to do whatever I wanted during this time. Back at home at the time was a wife and five children. When I was with my family, I felt the need to take everyone else’s needs into account and I could not always simply stop and do whatever the hell I wanted. But here in New England, I was on my own and enjoying the freedom to follow my heart’s whims.

I would travel all over the place, visiting whatever sites called me…..Provincetown and Cape Cod, Boston, Concord, Walden Pond…and many others. Rarely did I feel lonely nor dwell on the need to have others around me.

However, one time did bother me. I went to a well known seafood restaurant known for its succulent lobster meals. I had to put my name on the waiting list for a table while I sat at a bar nursing a drink waiting for my name to be called. Finally, I heard the words “Gilbert, party of one” and rose to answer. Soon my face was flush with the awareness that the “party of one” had led to some laughter in the room. I imagined everyone looking at me as I claimed my table. The personal shame I felt at being alone in that moment was probably greater in my imagination than it really was in “reality”.

I enjoyed my dinner in spite of the self-imposed shame in that moment of being alone. The meal was fantastic and led me to forgetting about the moment of answering to the call of a “party of one”. At one point in the meal, I felt the need to go to the bathroom. I alerted my server that I was not finished yet and I would return in a moment. Unfortunately, the harried waiter failed to tell the busing staff who cleaned off my table before I returned. I then had to tell my waiter what happened and again it brought back a sense of shame that I was dining alone.

Looking back on this, it was a silly event and I had a silly reaction. There is nothing wrong with being alone. In fact, in the vast diversity of experiences that we as spiritual beings have in moving through this human experience, being alone is one of those that it serves us to experience….along with intimate relationships and families and larger groups. Just part of the package of things that we can experience and “feel into” for the learning and joy that they can bring us.

I recalled this whole dining experience recently as I was reading this report from the BBC about a trend in Japan on “The Rise of Japan’s ‘Super Solo’ Culture.” Japan, historically a very group oriented culture, is seeing a rise in the number of people who are creating full lives by doing things alone. People alone in Japan used to hide with embarrassment but are now out in the open giving rise to what is called “ohitorisama” culture. Loosely translated this means “party of one”.

Bars are starting to specialize in solo guests. There is growing demand for singles doing karaoke. More social media posts are shared where people are very open about what they are doing as a party of one.

Demographic changes in Japan have led to this trend. Seniors are living longer and outliving their partners. Falling birth rates are leading to fewer young people to connect with. These trends are not limited to Japan but are occurring everywhere in the modern world. One recent report predicts that between now and 2030, the world will see a 128% growth in single family households.

So what are we to make of this fascinating trend? A few thoughts come to mind…..

First, no doubt marketing companies are aware of this. Stay tuned for a number of new products and advertising targeting this group. As always, innovators will identify a human need and work to fill it.

Second, being solo will at some level become a new norm which will be much more acceptable as a lifestyle choice. No longer will being alone have such stigmas to it. That’s a good thing.

Third, although we can lift the stigma from the cultural pressure to not be alone, to not be a party of one, that certainly doesn’t alleviate the need for humans to have other human interaction. This rising number of humans who are living alone will create a greater need for ways to connect in a healthy manner with other humans. This can be companionship and friendship. It can also be sexual and physical. Unmet needs of either type can lead to some unfortunate unhealthy outcomes.

Fourth, this trend is something of which we should all be aware of whether we are in a relationship or not. One of the things of which we become more aware on the spiritual path is that we are all connected at some level. Our awareness of this fact means that we should seek experiences that connect us to others. That means that we need to seek ways to incorporate the parties of one into our lives when we are living with others….and to seek constructive ways to connect with others when we are the ones who are living by ourselves.

Whether or not in this material life we live with others or alone, what is important to remember is that ultimately at the level of Spirit we are all one…..when we look beyond the duality and limitations of the world of the physical level we know that we truly are all One Party. Let us be aware of this trend “out there” in life so that we can both support it in our thoughts, words and actions…..and look beyond it to see it as a reminder that we are all connected.

What do you think?

Mark Gilbert

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