Loneliness: A sense of separation, congealing like a knot in the gut, that pervades the body and mind with a sense of being cut out of time and space. We can be surrounded by people, but still experience the despair of being lonely and lost in the crowd.
The sensation of loneliness can be a condensed mix of sadness and badness that can feel like a physical pain or obstruction. Indeed, research shows that loneliness has medical consequences. Long-term sufferers of loneliness are more prone to heart disease, cancer, depression, diabetes and suicide. And it’s an epidemic, according to US surgeon general Vivek Murthy, to be “associated with a reduction in life-span similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”
It’s easy to recognize the felt-sense of loneliness and even its lack of correlation with having loads of people around. Loneliness springs from a belief that we’re ultimately separate entities: Separate from the planet and nature; separate from each other; separate from our ancestry; separate from the other gender; separate from joy; separate from our bodies; and separate from life.
But loneliness is clearly not separate, it’s hanging over humanity like a dark cloud that needs to rain. For example, The House of Parliament, a bastion for the belief in the separate “I”, can effuse a daunting mood of loneliness, which Britain’s Minister of Loneliness, Tracey Crouch, experienced as: “A very dark place, a very lonely place.”
Minister of Loneliness? Yes, that’s right. Let’s take in that even some global law-makers are recognizing the horrific consequence and cost of the belief in separate self, and even more innovatively, the importance of a feeling in forming reality.
For far too many, loneliness is a sad reality of modern life. I want us all to confront this and take action to address loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, those who have lost loved ones – those with no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with. pic.twitter.com/42DbUKuDYb
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) January 17, 2018
The new Ministry was created in 2018 to honor Jo Cox, an opposition Labour MP who was murdered by a Neo-Nazi affiliate in June 2016 as Britain raged over the Brexit vote. According to the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, over nine million people in the UK feel lonely. Jo Cox was campaigning to acknowledge loneliness, as well as the suffering of refugees, the importance of community, and in general, the power of belonging in the deeper sense. She said, shortly before her death:
While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me is that we’re far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.
From a Spiritual Perspective
What is loneliness from a spiritual perspective? Is it inevitable, like death, and can it therefore only be postponed, denied or repressed? Or is something else going on? Certainly, it’s never just loneliness. The sense of loneliness is always mixed up with deeper currents of pain in the form of rejection, grief, shame and guilt.
Could there be a way out? The Dalai Lama claims he never suffers loneliness. We could rephrase this to say that he’s radically free of the illusion of a separate self. Perhaps it’s this belief system–in the absolute separation between us that is the deeper affliction. As the Londoners say: “Mind the Gap”.
If awakened beings like the Dalai Lama don’t feel lonely, then it seems they enjoy the fulfilling interconnection of all expressions of life. Nondual teaching would advise that to allow this experience, we need to let the fixed idea of a separate ‘Me’ fall away. This ‘Me’ will always be lonely in a paradoxically shared field of illusion, because separation defines it.
The software of suffering we collectively carry is punctured with either-or thought structures based on competition. It’s coded with belief structures around ‘Me vs You’, ‘Self vs World’, ‘Kill or Be Killed’.
When the separate self starts to dissolve, an intimacy emerges towards all experience, which of itself flows into a sense of unity. This sense of unity directly affects our experience of being alive. According to Rupert Spira:
Presence itself is so utterly, intimately one with all experience that separation, alienation, non-interaction, loneliness and fear are simply inconceivable… What would be separate from what? Space separate from space? Love separate from love? The ocean separate from water, the sun from light?
In response to the Cox Commission, the British mental health charity MIND is offering a list of eight suggestion to help manage loneliness. We share them here, but with the twist of insights in Nondual Therapy.
- Think about what is making you lonely
Inquiry into the kind of thoughts that generate loneliness can lead to an increase in mindfulness, which of itself will disinvest power from the belief in ultimate separation. Relaxing the body and opening the senses, notice how certain repeating thoughts affect our feelings. Examples include thoughts like: “Nobody cares about me”; “I have to do it all alone”. Imagine how it would feel to think the opposite, or without these thoughts altogether. An excellent resource for this is the work of Byron Katie.
- Make new connections
In doing the above, we are already connecting to different neural networks, expanding the mind, and releasing the software of suffering. Indeed, the wisdom of interdependence, interconnection and inseparability is a direct antidote to the suffering of loneliness.
Loneliness screams for a connection which is already here but which blocked by stress. For example, our loneliness can seem to be the only thing that connects us to our lost partner. We disconnect from the world and the present moment to try to preserve the connection with the past. Yet if we make a new connection, let’s say to the existential joy shared with our partner, then the need for loneliness is undercut. We become increasingly able to open up in both directions (towards the departed and towards our present environment).
Another way to invite new connections is to step out of old patterns and reflexes. The whole universe is a resource waiting to support you.
- Open up
Opening up is often more easily said than done. To open, we need to relax. For example, to truly open our eyes, we need to relax into the environment. To truly hear, we need to relax into listening. The problem is, that there is this great big, stressed out affliction labelled loneliness in the gut, and it can seem that when we relax, it expands and gets worse. The art is to relax into the sense of loneliness, with a softness and curiosity about the felt sense of an affliction shared by millions.
When we reject the sense of rejection, then we generate more pain of rejection. When we disown the pain of abandonment, then we generate more abandonment. When we isolate the sense of loneliness, we feed the suffering of loneliness. Open up to it, share the sense of it with the universe, the planet and with all existence. If we can do this, we might find that the felt-sense of loneliness is the melody of homecoming.
- Take it slow
Loneliness is suffused with the pain of separation. It can seem we are forgotten, lost or cut out of time and space. Because of this when we move too fast, it somatically suggests that there’s not enough time and space for you precisely how you are in naturalness. But you’re not a waste of time and space (no-one is). Give yourself the gift of all the time and all the space. Especially, offer time and space to the contraction of loneliness. Be intimate with it. Share yourself with it and share it with all you meet, whether it be human, animal, mineral or the miracle of the sky.
- Be careful when comparing yourself to others
In order to compare yourself to others, you need to first separate yourself from them. In addition, the agenda behind comparison is to check if you’re worthy of belonging, before opening up and risking intimacy. These two beliefs: In being not good enough, and in being comparable, fuel the suffering of loneliness. Habits of comparison will always leave you with a greater sense of rejection.
Comparison leads to competition and in no time, the left hand is competing against the right and we’re back in the limited belief structure of ‘Kill or Be Killed”.
As Krishnamurti wrote:
To live without comparison is to remove a tremendous burden. If you remove the burden of comparison, imitation, conformity, adjustment, modification, then you are left with what is.
- Check how you are feeling
Yes. How you are feeling matters to us all, and to the whole existential universe, so it should also matter to you. Our feelings are at the heart of the matter. Feelings affect our levels of stress; our mental freedom; our sense of peace; and our ability to connect to others.
Indeed, feelings and emotions are the substance of our reality–how we experience being in the world. When thought says: “I don’t want to BE here”, let yourself check in on the feeling of that. Loneliness or isolation is just the tip of the iceberg. As the loneliness unfolds, it could well reveal a deep pain of rejection, and when this unfolds, it could release a powerful longing to belong. This longing to belong–to God, to others, to the planet, to your own life–is the compass to the loving, seamless sense of unity in community indicated by Rupert Spira, the Dalai Lama, Byron Katie, Krishnamurti and so many others. Of itself this wisdom of unity births compassion (for better or worse, we’re in this together).
- Get some help
It sounds simple, but it’s often not easy. To open up to help from the outside, we have to admit a degree of helplessness within ourselves. Some have spent lifetimes avoiding the sense of helplessness due to a traumatic confusion between helplessness and power abuse.
Again, move slowly, honoring your feelings. The allowance of the sense of Helplessness is intimately entwined with humility (letting go of the idea of the separate ‘Me’) and the wisdom of interdependence or togetherness. Only when we release control and the habit of conformity and relax into the helplessness, can the deeper call for help be released. This is because precisely what we need is hidden within this denied helplessness. In the words of Rumi:
Prayer is an egg. Hatch out the total helplessness inside.
When the unified field hears that call, a response will come. In unpredictable, uncontrollable ways, life always takes care of itself.
- Read others’ stories
When we connect our sense of loneliness with the loneliness of people around us, a melting occurs. We’re also one in the suffering of loneliness! In this process of unfolding, we need each other, and the stories of others can be a tremendous support. But don’t stop with stories of loneliness, move on to stories of awakening. And you don’t have to read, you can tune in to Conscious TV, Buddha at the Gas Pump, UPLIFT or any of the other channels of light.
Let’s imagine that what has been called “An epidemic of loneliness” is totally connected with a torrent of spiritual awakening to the unity of all we are, together with the falling away of the sentient limitations embedded in beliefs of separation. It could be that the sense of loneliness arises like smoke from the burning embers of the separate self, or the private ‘me’ with its separate suffering. Perhaps loneliness is the symptom of a deeper awakening that signifies our evolution into a more essential community born through the wisdom of unity. Could it be that the collective trance of separation is melting and that this dark space of aloneness is weather on the way to oneness?
All about Compassion
Suffering is a catalyst for spiritual awakening and spiritual awakening is a catalyst to compassion. Compassion is another word for Together (Com) in suffering (Passion). Compassion is perhaps the most powerful healing drive available to modern man, and with loneliness, it brings the felt-sense of unity that makes all difference precious. When we can have compassion with compassion, how much faster we’ll be free of loneliness!
In the words of the Dalai Lama:
If you wish to overcome that feeling of isolation and loneliness, your underlying attitude makes a tremendous difference. Approaching others with the thought of compassion in your mind is the best way to do this.
Georgi Y. Johnson is author of Nondual Therapy: the Psychology of Awakening. Her website is http://www.iamhere.life