This week I’m going to be covering the topic of isolation – more specifically the branches of loneliness and solitude. At some point we all go through this and it can be one of the toughest times we will ever experience.
I want to show you that moving from loneliness to solitude is a positive step, and one that has immeasurable benefits for your spiritual growth. Loneliness is knowing that you’re unhappy, and solitude is taking positive action to re-write your story. I know it doesn’t seem like it at the time, but it’s a very big eye opener and indicator of what it is you’re actually looking for in your life and from life.
Each post will have a series of questions for you to answer, followed by a meditation for you to do. The questions are as always, designed for you to honestly look at yourself. You may find them quite forceful, but they are filled with compassion. You may get upset, be surprised or shocked and even angry at your response, but this is natural. You’re finally starting to recognise your feelings!
I want you to embrace them and sit with them and see where they take you. Don’t react to them, just observe them as they come up. Sitting and being with your feelings is an excellent way of following the emotion through and finally seeing the insights that your soul has been trying to get you to see. I want you to follow these feelings because they not only need to be felt to their very end so they can stop pestering you, but because once you’ve observed and felt them, you’re more likely to let them go and allow yourself to be healed to move forward in your life.
Today I will be talking about what loneliness is and how by redefining it, we take charge of ourselves and our lives again. When we change our perspective, things become easier to manage.
Loneliness is a complex feeling. We don’t consciously choose to be lonely – it just seems to creep up on us and then take our breath away.
Ironically, loneliness is an invitation to strengthen the connection with yourself, however, we do not always view it this way. Most of us view loneliness as the ultimate result of allowing sadness and bitterness to constantly dominate our lives. We see it as a personal attack on who we are and use it to blame our suffering on everyone else. “I’m lonely because no-one likes me. No-one likes me because I moan too much/I’m not smiley enough/I’m too fat/I’m not sporty enough/I’m unsuccessful”. The list of reasons we tell ourselves goes on and on.
Of course none of those reasons are true. We are all worthy and deserving of connection, but we have got to re-write our stories of who we think we are. We need to accept ourselves by accepting our loneliness.
To move forward into this kind of acceptance about loneliness, we first need to admit that we’re scared to be lonely. It’s a dark area full of unknown fears, buried ambition and heart-ripping aches that, so far, we have successfully avoided. We have fleeting thoughts about how scary being lonely would be, but that’s all they remain: fleeting. That thought needs to become stationary so we can sop avoiding it and see it for what it is: fear of disconnect, fear of unworthiness, and fear of not being loved.
Loneliness calls out to us when on an unconscious level we have tired of avoidance. We see signs of this in various aspects of our lives: work becomes about paying the bills, our anxiety and depression reach new levels of intensity, we feel left behind and stuck, we feel unable to socialise because we won’t have anything worthy to contribute. Slowly we isolate ourselves and loneliness takes holds.
Loneliness begins to unfold all the other unpleasant feelings we’ve kept nicely tucked away in our own Pandora’s box. It’s a signpost to the areas of growth that we’ve shoved on the sidelines because we didn’t think we were deserving of happiness, or because someone made us feel worthless and defeated before we even began the journey.
Loneliness calls for us to be authentic in an economy that sees authenticity as a threat to its existence.
And let me tell you – just because you’re lonely, that does not mean you are condemned. We have all been there.
How do we move forward?
Well, for a start it’s not by surrounding ourselves with tons of people. I’m sure you’ve all experienced the feeling of being in an overcrowded room and feeling the loneliest you’ve ever felt. Surrounding ourselves with people only masks the loneliness. Eventually we’ll trip over it and find ourselves faced with a mess to clean up.
For me, loneliness is a measure of how connected we are to ourselves and to the people in our lives. Loneliness comes to us when we feel as though there is a lack of something something deeper and a lack of authenticity in our lives.
To move forward I believe David Whyte had it right when he says that we have to “step into a contemplative intimacy with the unknown”. We’ve admitted that we are scared to be lonely (what will it show us?), and now it’s time for us to journey with loneliness and makes friends with it.
When we’re feeling in need of company and wanting to avoid ourselves, we’re apt at picking our company quickly and thoughtlessly. This ends up decreasing the authenticity of the company, and the connections made can become shallow and unfulfilling. We’re literally filling a space with someone, anyone because the thought of being left alone with ourselves is devastating and terrifying.
At this time we have everything we can think of that will distract us from the unpleasantness and the unwavering cloak of unfulfilled emotions: Tv, adverts, phones, shopping, social media, gym classes, children, work, and all other ‘obligations’ we use as excuses. And yet, when all that is done and we sit down at the end of the day, we are still left with ourselves. The loneliness still engulfs. So why won’t we make friends with it? Why won’t we make friends with ourselves?
Why do we do this?
Because we’re great at avoiding our feelings – especially the negative ones. We think that if we acknowledge them we’re going to have a breakdown, we’re going to attract more of what we don’t want, or that people won’t want to be around us and so we’ll end up with no friends.
Our problem is fear of authenticity. “What if people don’t like who I really am?” So I ask: what if people loved who you were? The only way you’re going to find out is by being yourself. If people don’t like it then you know that those people are not to be a part of your life and you can direct your energy to those who will value and bolster you.
I know a few people who will spend their lives with time-wasters because they fear the loneliness that is likely to overwhelm them should they acknowledge it. For some, it is easier to live a life in inauthenticity than it is to speak up and connect with their loneliness. It’s not easy graft admitting that you feel you’ve wasted a part of your life, but once you’ve taken that admission and faced it in all its ugliness, you’re ready to move forward and take the necessary steps to connecting authentically.
We have all felt that we’ve wasted some part of our lives doing things that have made us unhappy, and all of us at some point take back control. We have all been there. We need to remember that.
When did we let ourselves be treated this way?
Our economy may be successful because of our rapid habit changes and short attention spans, but our personal lives and authenticity is suffering. We’re not a commodity and yet we treat ourselves like we are.
That is why loneliness affects us all and why it’s debilitating and hard to acknowledge.
Loneliness is NOT “I’m all alone and no-one likes me”. Loneliness IS loss of authentic connection with ourselves and others.
How can we combat loneliness?
Besides the regular channels such as counselling, phoning The Samaritans or speaking with any professional or a close friend or family member, when you’re ready to overcome loneliness you move into solitude and actively re-write your story.
Moving into solitude signals that you’ve stopped pretending that everything is ok and that you’re happy. You have started to be honest with yourself and the realisations have opened your eyes to the many opportunities for growth and fulfilment that admitting and accepting your loneliness brings. You’ve realised you’re deserving of positive changes in your life.
Below are some questions about loneliness for you to answer. Be as honest as possible. These questions are meant to be reflective and a tool for growth – don’t beat yourself up.
• Why are you reluctant to be left alone with yourself? What are you afraid you’ll see?
• How do you feel when you’re lonely? E.g. angry, fear of missing out, pathetic, rejected etc.
• How do you distract yourself from your feelings? E.g. binge watching tv, eating, drinking, other excessive habits.
• Who’s to blame for your loneliness? Is it someone else or is it you?
• Do you take responsibility for your loneliness?
• How have you contributed to your loneliness? – have friends invited you out, but you’ve said no because you feel you’ll bring them down?
• How have you isolated yourself from everyone? What message does this give out to people? What message does this give out to the universe?
• Do you waste time with inauthentic people because being around them is better than being alone? How much of your life have you wasted doing this?
Sit or lay in a comfortable position and focus on your breath.
Imagine white light entering the crown of your head and flowing down your spine out into the ground and rooting you there.
When you’re ready imagine a gate in front of you – it can be any type of gate. As you step through the gate you see a path. Walk down that path and notice how the ground feels beneath your feet. Is it soft? Bouncy? Muddy? Is there a breeze, or is it a perfectly calm day? Is it warm? What can you smell around you?
Carry on walking until you come to a bench. Sit down on the bench and take some time to enjoy your surroundings and be at peace.
Invite someone special to come and sit with you. It could be a friend, spirit guide, family member, a pet etc. Open up to them about how you’re feeling. Express how you’re feeling in any way that comes up – cry, scream, shout, laugh, talk, hug, dance – there’s no judgment here, just acceptance.
When you feel you are finished, sit for a few more moments in the peace that has come from letting your feelings out. When you’re ready, walk back up the path and through the gate. Gently open your eyes and give yourself a few moments to come around.
Be happy. Be you.