Loneliness is a big topic, and it is a big issue for many people. Loneliness drives many people to the spiritual path as they attempt to find a refuge from this feeling. It’s a powerful body sensation, and because of it’s power, we need to take time to really look at it rather than to just obey it.
Too often, we believe what we feel, and we believe how we interpret what we feel. There is a sensation in the body, and the ego-mind labels that as loneliness. We immediately believe this label, and we take action based on that belief in regards to how to “fix” this feeling. But sometimes, the label is wrong. Furthermore, this body sensation may have nothing to do with your physical reality. For instance, you may feel lonely, but you’re at a party with friends or in a crowd of people. You are not actually alone; that’s not your physical reality. Yet, the feeling remains.
So as we dive into this big issue, let me start by breaking apart the reality of being alone from the idea of being alone from the feeling of loneliness. Ideas are not feelings. Ideas are not reality. They’re electricity in our brains. Feelings can be all kind of body sensations, and physical reality is just what is. I encourage you to work on seeing these distinctions to help you become a better observer of reality, and you can start with doing this loneliness.
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As I said to start this post, our reality and our feeling-states are often divorced. If you feel lonely when you are walking through a mall, that’s a disconnect from reality. There is no physical threat at hand in the mall, and you are surrounded by people. But the feeling of loneliness is still present.
Obviously, the reverse can be true too. You can be by yourself, but you don’t feel lonely. Now, you are actually in the situation with which the loneliness feeling is supposed to be associated, but the feeling isn’t there. In moments like this one and the above, this is a great time to focus on your reality to help illuminate issues with the ego-mind and its incorrect associations of the present moment with different body sensations. Draw more of your attention inwards and get curious about what is happening inside of you.
All By Yourself, Don’t Want to Be….
Certainly, you can be alone and feel lonely at the same time. The above examples are ways to illuminate incorrect ego interpretations and associations. The more you pay attention to physical reality and how you feel about situations, the more you may realize how often your ego assumptions are completely wrong. When physical reality and emotional reality seem to match, things get trickier, and it’s easy for things to spin out of control.
For instance, the ego looks at being by oneself as a threat. When the ego makes this interpretation, then the body responds. The body says, “Ok. This is bad. Here are a bunch of loneliness feelings and sensations.” Then, the ego may respond to the increased body sensations and say, “Hey, I’m feeling even more lonely. This is REALLY bad!” So the body gets that message, and says, “I guess we need to feel REALLY bad now.” This creates a pretty nasty feedback loop, and it can do this with any uncomfortable emotion, plunging people into deeper states of loneliness, hate, despair, and so forth.
In so many ways, the ego pulls the strings on a lot of our feelings, and it is why practicing being present is so critical. By allowing your attention to rest in the space of the observer, you can break this vicious cycle by not accepting the ego response to be more upset by any uncomfortable feeling. That allows you to really explore a feeling like loneliness if it is actually present. However, sometimes, the body didn’t have an issue with being alone or anything in general. The ego’s bad habits can turn a neutral or even positive situation into a threatening one. When you neutralize your ego responses, suddenly, a lot of upset feelings resolve themselves with no deeper issue being discovered.
Making Space for Loneliness
As you learn to observe the emotions and sensations of loneliness, more things can come up that can’t arise if you are too triggered. If you are upset about feeling lonely or any other feeling, that upset becomes a layer on top of those deeper layers. You can’t easily go deeper into the core feeling. So the practice of being present to uncomfortable feelings is–as I regularly mention–key.
Interestingly enough, making space for loneliness may require being alone. In the space of solitude, you can really focus on this feeling and listen to its deeper stories. If you are too busy trying to run from it or make yourself feel connected to someone else, you don’t really understand the loneliness. You don’t know where it is coming from or much about what it is actually doing in the body. When you make space for this and any other issue that arise, you can learn a ton of about how the ego, heart, and body are all interacting. Just as some people get angry when they are hungry (creating the popular mash-up term of hangry), loneliness could be a sign of some other need entirely. Maybe it is a response towards fatigue. Who knows what it will be for you? Only you can find out.
The Search for Divine Connection
The opposite of making space for loneliness and feelings of being disconnected is to go searching for any person, thing, or experience that can make it go away. Unfortunately, sometimes people succeed, and then something terrible happens. The individual becomes addicted to that person, substance, practice, spiritual teacher, spiritual high, or something else. They equate the ability to be and feel connected to an external thing. Then, they endlessly strive to hold on to whatever this perceived savior is to avoid feeling lonely.
But no external thing can sate loneliness forever, and you cannot bypass any issue within you. They just come back at some point. Even if something helps to get rid of loneliness for a moment, eventually that addiction becomes less and and less helpful. Then the person is off searching for more connection.
In particular, people look to spirituality to find connection, but the true spiritual path is the opposite. The true spiritual path helps us to see how we have cut ourselves off from the oneness in which we’re eternally enmeshed. We look inside to see what beliefs, pains, and issues create the perception of disconnection, and we learn to resolve those things. In short, we turn inward if we truly are searching to acknowledge the Divine connection that binds us all together.
Releasing the Loneliness Feeling
At the heart of this discussion is the feeling of loneliness. It’s not the idea of loneliness. People don’t care about ideas like this unless they are attached to body experiences. It’s like the idea of a fear of rocks. If you don’t have any physical fear when you see a rock, you can still think about the idea, but it’s irrelevant to you. If you have a physical reaction when you see a rock, then that fear is real for you.
So let’s be really clear that the idea and the physical reality aren’t what is at stake here. The feeling of loneliness is the key issue, and that is where we need to place our focus. Any time the feeling of loneliness comes up. Breathe into it. Ask yourself some questions to inquire about it. Those questions might be:
Where does loneliness live in the body?
What types of body sensations arise when loneliness comes up?
See if you can really describe those sensations to yourself to help focus in on them. Breathe into those specific body sensations. Don’t try to do anything other than breathe and be present to it. The more you can neutralize your ego responses to this feeling, the more you can learn and help that feeling naturally release. Then, you may still be by yourself, but you won’t feel lonely.
The Fear of Being Alone
In general, I think if you investigate the loneliness feelings that you may find a fear of being alone hidden underneath it. While I haven’t researched this, it sure seems like a lot of beliefs in multiple cultures portray being alone as a bad thing. Therefore, the fear of being alone and the feeling of loneliness can have some powerful cultural and generational beliefs keeping them going. Additionally, there are probably some deep instinctual programs at work too. So let’s consider these forces that some of you are facing.
- Cultural Beliefs. A lot of social beliefs see being alone as threat to survival. The fear of being alone often underpins why societies tell people they need friends, families, and romantic partners. Clearly before social safety nets and other modern day support mechanisms, people would be challenged to survive on their own. The reality of being alone in early times and even in certain parts of the world today mean your chances for survival would be significantly lowered.
- Generational and Family Beliefs. Let’s say that some members of your family went through hardships on their own where they felt cut off from social support. Those upsetting and perhaps even traumatic experiences get absorbed into countless behaviors and beliefs in the subsequent generations. While nothing bad may have happened to you when you were on your own, a lot of unconscious actions and beliefs may have been learned from your parents and the older generations. Those patterns became silent wounds that make you terrified of being alone and/or feel extremely lonely.
- Instinctual and Early Childhood Programming. There are lot of powerful programs built into the instinctual animal body within us. Part of that comes from ages 0 to 5 years old when we have no ability to care for ourselves. Being completely alone all the time would mean death during those fragile years. This primal need for others can get stored deeply in the emotional and physical memories of the body. If our needs weren’t well-met or were un-met at times when we were left alone, that can leave a scar in terms of how frightening being alone can be.
Actual Harm From Being Alone
So far I’ve been writing with the assumption that nothing bad actually happened to you when you were alone. But as I mentioned in the last section, if something bad did happen to you when you were on your own and you couldn’t get help, this amplifies this loneliness issue to a whole new level. Whether it was something bad happening because of neglected needs or something like being attacked by a pack of feral dogs when you were by yourself, then there is now a physical and emotional moment that has to be relived and healed.
A Spiritual Awakening and Reconnection
For some of you who have had a spiritual awakening, you may momentarily discover your innate connection to all of life. The physical and emotional response to letting go of the ego can be an amazing experience, and many people call this experience a form of connection. But all experiences pass. Then, it is time to dissolve those old issues and the ego beliefs that create the feeling of loneliness and the perception of separation from oneness.
Additionally, a spiritual awakening is also a reconnection with all of ourselves. That includes the pain we have sought to avoid. So reconnection often brings up unresolved pain, and if some of those issues speak through feelings of loneliness, then you may feel more lonely after awakening as you start to heal those issues.
Along with this inner reconnection, a spiritual awakening can also sever a lot of false ties. For many people who have been trying to hide from their loneliness, they may have made a lot of unhealthy connections with other people. That can mean that they have friends, jobs, and other situations that don’t support them at all, and if newly awakened, this person will have to navigate the truth of what they have created in their lives. If they don’t, then they are likely to feel doubly confused because of how connected they feel or felt inside and now how disconnected and separate they may feel from the rest of society, including people who at one point seemed important to them.
However, don’t get caught up on all of the feelings here. That’s a trap. Simply notice the arising of these feelings as you start to heal and grow. The more you allow yourself to observe these feelings, the more easily they can come and go.
Spiritual Loneliness and Seeking Like-minded Spiritual People
Another ego trap to be aware of is the attempt to find others with similar spiritual beliefs to find connection. Many egos think that other people need to believe the same way as them to have a spiritual connection. That’s not true at all. Connection exists within us and around us all the time. Creating this belief that we need similar people to have connection is part of creating disconnection. In general, most beliefs people create are aimed at defining, categorizing, and segmenting life. That thinking is a form of separation, and the more you bring separation into your spiritual understanding, the more you will cut yourself off from other people. It’s like following a religion and not allowing yourself to connect with others because they do not follow your spiritual path. It’s such nonsense! We are all one, and we need to all globally recognize that if we want to continue to survive as a species.
Rather than seeking out specific spiritual people, let go of the seeking. Open yourself to this moment and whoever you find in this moment. See what is already here for you. Sure, some people will understand you more or less on different things, but if you both learn to open to the current moment, all kinds of amazing “feelings” of connection are possible. However, the deepest connection is already there, and that is the most important thing to acknowledge. In acknowledging the space of presence, you can be with anyone or anything in the truest form of connection.
Discovering Disconnection in Society
Finally, after an awakening, people are being re-sensitized. In feeling more of life, they may often feel how disconnected other people are from themselves. From this vantage point, a person may need time to get used to how disconnected other people are and separate those feelings from their own. When an awakened person has done the work they need to do on their loneliness issue or if they don’t have that issue, then they can observe these feelings of disconnection that they sense in others without being disturbed by those feelings. I occasionally talk about this quality of being open to all feelings like being open to the weather. Sure, we can feel a cold breeze, but we can also distinguish between actually feeling cold inside ourselves versus feeling a cold breeze coming from outside of us. The more you melt into the present moment, the more you dissolve separation and the feelings of loneliness inside of you. That allows you to be present and undisturbed by the many feelings of disconnection that other people are living in and are emanating out from their space.
Embracing All Your Feelings
Loneliness is just another feeling. Feeling disconnected is just another feeling. We have feelings all the time. What we need to do is to learn to be present to them and to not feed into them with more ego beliefs. As you observe loneliness and other powerful feelings, you can learn a great deal about yourself and resolve underlying issues. As those underlying issues break apart, you will tend to not have the same types of feelings or else they are very fleeting and create no ego response. You may then move into other issues and find deeper pains that you did not even realize you had. You may also stabilize in greater experiences of peace, but as I am repeatedly emphasizing, any experience is a passing one. Be present to a peaceful heart, mind, and body, but do not cling onto them. Don’t turn those experiences into new goals.
As you embrace more and more of yourself, you may truly understand how disconnected you were in the first place. You may discover how much of the loneliness you felt was actually caused by your own rejection of different aspects of yourself. In truly allowing all parts of yourself to be as they are, issues like loneliness and feeling disconnected tend to disappear, and you are as you are.
Feeling Alone and Disconnected After Awakening
For some more thoughts about loneliness and a spiritual awakening, please enjoy this video.