"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it wasn't. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone."
~ Robin Williams
One of the greatest instincts we humans have is the instinct to connect. To be in the company of another. To feel validated. To share something in common, whether that's an interest, a project, a house, the same values or even a life. Yet to be able to connect sincerely with others, firstly means to be able to connect with ourselves. And that often means overcoming loneliness.
Around ten years ago when I started to practice yoga and was becoming less interested in socialising just-for-the sake-of-it, I remember going through an intense period of loneliness, where I just longed to 'connect with' someone. It usually happened on a Friday night. Not having planned anything and thinking I would be fine, I would find myself with pangs of loneliness like I'd never had before. I'd make these desperate last-minute phone-calls to a series of friends, in the hope that someone would be free for some company! Unconsciously, I was trying to escape myself. As life would have it, I often ended up alone and was forced to come to terms with my loneliness.
As Robin Williams describes, the other form of loneliness comes from feeling lonely, in spite of being around others. Whatever form of loneliness we experience, it's a state that can be very debilitating and ultimately lead to depression and suicide.
However, if we come from the perspective that 'life happens for us' and not 'to us' then, then no matter how it shows up and no matter how uncomfortable it feels, loneliness can be a gift. Something that teaches and leads to healing and transformation.
If we become skilled at being with loneliness, then we don't need to suffer it's bleakness. We can learn to experience the inner freedom that is possible, even in our darkest lonely moments.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool in overcoming loneliness. Taking this approach works well:
1. Acceptance. Loneliness starts with gentle acceptance, like you would a friend. Recognising and accepting that right now 'here is loneliness.' Not need to fix it or change it. This is the honest truth in the moment.
2. Body and mind awareness. What does the energy of loneliness sound and feel like? Be curious. What are its thoughts? What does it feel like in the body? Does it feel stuck, perhaps heavy, like a big lump of mud in the belly or fluttery like butterflies in the chest? Give it your bare attention.
3. Letting it Be. Allow the energetic feelings and mental story to just be there. Even though it may feel yukky. Watch mindfully, without getting caught in the story. Watch how any sensations and thoughts shift and change.
4. Breathe. Be mindful of the breath and try to breathe more evenly and more fully. Even though it will probably be hard to do, do your best to take some gentle, deeper inhales and exhales. Notice any effect the breath has on the thoughts and sensations, even if they disappear.
5. Find your inner peace. Notice that even though thoughts and sensations may be there, there is also a part of you that is untouched by the loneliness. That conscious 'awareness' or that part of you that just 'watches'. Be in touch with this peaceful observer. Connect with the sense that this peacefulness is beyond the loneliness. Free of any suffering.
When a mindfulness approach to loneliness is practiced and mastered over a period of time, then loneliness states subside and can be completely overcome. However, if symptoms persist despite your individual efforts, it is recommended to seek professional counselling, therapy or coaching support.
At Momentum, our mission is to inspire and empower others to be self-aware and to make a conscious difference! We provide ways for people to meaningfully connect with themselves and others through our classes, events and coaching.
May you be well and happy.