Patrick Holford goes walkabout and confronts his fear of being alone

I have also had profound experiences in nature. This is part of the ‘walkabout’ tradition of the Aboriginal people. Several years ago, after the bust-up of a significant relationship, I was working hard and living alone and, despite a fair amount of outward ‘success’, I was uncomfortably aware that in essence I felt lonely, and I wasn’t happy with this almost permanent, nagging, ‘empty’ and ‘incomplete’ feeling. I knew that the answer lay on the inside, but I didn’t know the way in.

So I decided to confront the fear of being alone by going to a part of the world where I didn’t speak the language and to a region where there wasn’t anybody there, and just be by myself.

I booked a flight to Santiago in Chile, hired a jeep and headed off into a remote region in the high plains of the Andes with the intention of reaching the top of Volcan Copiapo, a dormant volcano at 6,052m (18,500ft).

After two days’ driving I headed inland and civilization soon disappeared. I drove along a deserted mining track, rising higher and higher until I came over a ridge and saw a vast deserted plain and a 72 Conscious Connection turquoise lake, home to hundreds of bright pink flamingos, surrounded by snow-capped volcanos.

The next day I left my jeep and headed off on foot up Volcan Copiapo. Soon there were no signs of life. There was only me.

At night, as I camped, the eastern horizon lit up with lightning and I heard the sound of distant thunder. The sky was sprinkled with millions of stars.

In the day, I walked like an ant, ever uphill, in this vast deserted space. Being by myself, with no distractions, I became acutely aware of the voice inside my head. Do you know the one? That inner judge that says things like ‘What if I get lost? Why on Earth am I doing this? I’m a failure. I’m a fraud. What if someone steals my jeep? I shouldn’t have come this way. I should have saved that snack bar for later.’ Or the inner show-off: ‘Wow, this looks great – I must take a picture to show people how brave I am in the middle of nowhere.’ Or the endless cacophony of sub-personalities.

Instead of listening to these voices and buying into their fears and fantasies, I started to repeat the mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ internally. The meaning of this mantra is best described as ‘I bow to the inner 73 Doors to Enlightenment self/Shiva’ affirming that ‘Nothing exists which is not Consciousness,’ including my self.

After two days in this solitude, repeating the mantra, the voices in my head stopped and silence began to take their place. I started to just be present – to make a choice and get on with it.

I also started to feel a kind of connection with the Earth. My senses became more acute. I could hear the sound of water under the earth, although there was no sign of running water in any direction. I had gone from lonely to alone to all-one.

My simple goal was the top of the volcano, but as I got closer and closer, suffering from lack of oxygen, the ever-steepening icy terrain and my lack of physical strength, I realized I couldn’t make the very top, especially without crampons, since it was covered in ice. The view, however, was magnificent in every direction. And my consciousness seemed to expand in this breathtaking vista – not that I had much breath left.

When I finally made it back to ‘base camp’, my tent in the middle of nowhere, exhausted but alive, I burst into tears. I’m not sure if they were tears of joy or relief.

Nothing
The sound of nothing moving across still water,
The faint glow at the edge of a dark night,
The sky mauve, blue, black and white,
No movement, no sound, no light.
Hear the wind of a breezeless night,
Feel the beat of a soundless drum,
Absorb the heat although there is no Sun,
Know that you are not alone.

❖ Extract from Chemistry of Connection, courtesy of Hay House 2016