Being alone is a relief, but feeling lonely sucks.
Being alone is a needed break from the hectic world that constantly demands our attention. It’s a cup of coffee and a good book while the kids are off at school. It’s a solo hike up a beautiful mountain with the sounds of nature keeping you company.
Feeling lonely is a burden.
It’s the experience of wanting to be anywhere but where you are. It’s being in the company of others, yet feeling disconnected and separate. Feeling lonely is getting time apart from your ex-boyfriend, yet noticing that when you’re finally alone you still miss them and can’t even enjoy the solitude.
Yet, feeling lonely is essential to waking up to who you are.
Feeling lonely is not a symptom, it’s the medicine. It’s the shamanic process of returning to wholeness, and it can be extremely painful. Often the call to feel lonely comes when you least want it, because all you really want is to feel better.
“This isn’t what I need right now!” You shout.
“What are you afraid of?” Asks Loneliness.
“I’m just sick of being alone” You reply.
“If you are alone, then who are you talking to?”
Loneliness is a spiritual practice because it forces you to come to terms with the fact that you are never alone. Your inner world isn’t a monologue, it’s an orchestra of feelings, thoughts, emotions, imagination, memories, sensations and richness beyond your wildest dreams.
Loneliness is the key that gives you direct access to the deepest, most brilliant parts of yourself, and yet we fear it. Instead of being with this brilliance for hours, days or even weeks at a time we settle for tiny bites of it in the shower each morning. We towel off and think to ourselves how ironic it is that we get our best ideas while showering, yet that thought gets dismissed when we check our phone as we step out of the bathroom.
We go about our day frustrated because we don’t know what we want, we don’t know what direction to take our life, and we have this lingering doubt that we’re not aligned with our deepest desire. We take passion tests, poll our friends, hire coaches and rigorously try and discover what we were meant to do in life, all because we’re avoiding going to the source, because to go to the source would mean having to experience extreme loneliness.
Loneliness is the pain, it’s not the situation. Loneliness can often be achieved by being alone, but it’s not always that easy. To find loneliness we are tasked with noticing and removing the ways we distract ourselves from it. We are asked to drive ourselves to the brink of insanity, to the point where we just can’t take it anymore.
Loneliness is not recommended for those who aren’t ready. Just as heavy lifting wouldn’t be recommended for those recovering from an injury, loneliness isn’t recommended for those who are easily overcome by addiction or depression. It’s dangerous. It’s scary, and if it’s not you probably aren’t doing it right.
The obstacle is the way. Loneliness is the path to wholeness and only through the pain of facing our fear of being alone can we wake up to the life that is possible when we stop running from our inner world.
Then after you’ve mastered being alone, go spend a month with your parents.