As the population of the world increases every day and there are many more people than there ever has been, there is a growing epidemic of ‘loneliness’ infiltrating mankind. I was moved to write this blog as each day I am encountering an increasing amount of people in my practise and in everyday life that are experiencing loneliness and the extreme emotions that accompany it.
Having experienced loneliness at various times in my life I sought to understand it through much soul searching and by studying a great variety of masters perspectives on it, such as the Dalai Lama, Neal Donald Walsch, and Eckhart Tolle. I came to an understanding of the mechanics of loneliness and was able to overcome it in my life. I would like to share with you some of the insights I gained and the tools that I used, that may assist you to understand and to get a handle on this ‘malaise’.
I know that each of you at some point in your lives would have experienced feeling lonely; that feeling of being completely disconnected from other human beings, a hollowness inside, a bottomless pit of isolation that locks you into a place of introversion within yourself. In addition there may be feelings of anxiety, worthlessness, sadness, fear, hopelessness and if it continues for an extended period of time depression may ensue.
One of the greatest insights that I learned about loneliness is that it is an ‘illusion’ created by the mind. It is our mind that conjures up the stories that tell us that we are lonely and that we are lacking something in our life. Why and how does this happen? It starts at a very early age when our minds are conditioned by our parents, teachers, friends, and the society we live in to seek fulfilment from the external world and to project our lacks, such as the need for validation, acknowledgement, love, etc. on to it in search of fulfilment.
As children the messages that we got were, that we were not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, clever enough, etc., which created in our mind a feeling of ‘deficiency’. To compensate for this we create a persona, mask, or false-self of trying to be all the things we feel we are lacking in order to try to fit in and become socially acceptable. In pursuit of this we forget the true essence of our being, which is unlimited love, joy, peace, compassion, kindness, hope, strength, courage, beauty, and creativity. We also overlook the unique gifts that each of us bring with us to this life. The moment we start to look outside of ourselves for fulfilment and completeness we start to create the lack within because we become so alienated from that which we truly are.
In addition our society and social conditioning has taught our ego to create the illusion of the feeling of separateness and isolation from each other. We are taught in our competitive world to continuously compare ourselves to others. We compete for attention, reward, recognition, validation, and success. In pursuit of this we compromise ourselves to achieve these attributes so that we may fit in and become socially acceptable, meanwhile compromising but simultaneously endangering the essence of who we truly are while the void inside gets ever deeper. At the core of this illusion is the fear that one is not good enough, lovable enough, or worthy enough.
According to the Dalai Lama, the aliases under which our feelings of isolation sometimes hide are anger, jealousy, and mistrust, which our mind creates through ‘stories’. The mind spends hours colouring, embellishing and sprinkling glitter on these elaborate stories that keep us trapped in a perpetual cycle of separation if we believe them. These stories need to be discarded.
If, for example you have an underlying belief that people don’t care or that they are out to get you, or that you do not have the capacity to connect with others, this will inhibit you from connecting. The suspicion and mistrust you have for others creates a block between you and another human being. Sometimes we may create a perception in our minds that everyone else is connected and that we are different and isolated. A thought like this will perpetuate our disconnection if we do not seek to understand the truth of it.
Eckhart Tolle suggests that when you are feeling the void of loneliness, take the time to step into the void and to understand where this lack of separation comes from. Surrender to the moment and let go of any concept you have about the moment and its interpretation, including the concept of ‘me being alone, of me being lonely, of me not having anybody in my life and simply be there as consciousness. Ask yourself the questions: Who am I? What makes me happy? What are my core values and beliefs? When you ask these questions a sense of ‘who you are will develop’ Take the time to truly respect and love this person for the unique gifts that they bring to this world. In taking the time to find yourself and getting to know who you really are, you will achieve a sense of wholeness and the loneliness will become replaced by self-love.
Use the loneliness and the pain of it to come into the moment and dissolve the personal sense of self. Take courage in remembering that many great philosophers, artists and geniuses through history, those who did not fit in for one reason or another were forced into loneliness and used the vertical thrust of it to achieve great possibilities. Only through surrender and through presence in the moment is it possible to be at ease in loneliness. Understand that it is only a conceptual prison that you are trapped in, and that too, one that can be deconstructed.
If you feel that you are lacking love, intimacy, friendship, fun or joy, then give these qualities to yourself first and then to others. In giving more you receive more and that which was empty inside becomes full.
Understand that only you are 100% responsible for your happiness. When you start to own this responsibility for yourself your choices and actions will become aligned with authentically being who you are in life rather than pleasing others. When we feel empty we are needy and have nothing to give but when we become fulfilled within ourselves we over flow with love. Instead of focusing on the need for others or the external to fill you up, focus on what you can give and share with the world.
Understand that at the cellular level we are all inter- connected and are ‘One’. This means that we are never alone. That life force, higher power, God or whatever you may call it that created you, me and everything on this planet exists everywhere, in everything and all the time. Once you understand this basic truth you will find a real sense of peace and serenity within yourself. This can be done by taking time to go within to understand the true nature of yourself through self-awareness and meditation or by spending time in nature and feeling your inter-connectedness to her.
In my journey to understand and overcome loneliness, I found that the antithesis of loneliness is movement. First, the movement within to understand the loneliness, to cultivate self-awareness and to connect to the unlimited source of my true nature which is love, joy, peace, courage, hope, strength, beauty, creativity, and compassion, and then the movement outward towards doing something to reconnect to others.