Loneliness is interesting. We can be surrounded by many folks, and yet we still report feeling lonely. We can find others through social media or on dating sites; we may even be able to knock on a neighbor's door and say hello and ask if they would be willing to have tea with us. With all these resources available to us, we still feel so deeply and painfully alone.
I think it's particularly heart-wrenching when loneliness seems to be a theme in our lives--when it follows us around like a lost puppy that we have no energy or capacity to take care of. We felt lonely, and like an outsider, in our families. We feel lonely and misunderstood in our friend groups and/or with colleagues. We may even feel lonely while with our romantic partners. There's a general sense of disconnection in our lives. It can seem that we're performing, and no one really knows us or sees us. We may not even feel like we know ourselves.
To me, the answer is simple. It's love. It's being a part of loving communities. Somewhere. Anywhere. It's loving and accepting ourselves, and loving and accepting others. We live in a country, though, where finding connection can be incredibly difficult. How many of us walk around in NYC, for example, and look at others? Do we notice each other? Do we smile at each other? Do we think: "Hey, I know that life is hard, but I hope you're having a good day." When we see someone in pain or in need, do we stop and ask: "can I help in any way?"
I wish we lived in such a world, where we see each other and are kind to each other. But, to no fault of our own, we come from trauma. We experience pain, heartbreak, grief. The more trauma and sorrow we experience, the more we might close ourselves up, build up walls, hide ourselves, and hope no one looks at us so we don't keep getting hurt. We may also stay away from others because we believe that if we get close and vulnerable with them, we might be the ones who do the hurting.
I think it can be difficult to notice our flaws and our mistakes and forgive ourselves. And, start to trust that we're working on learning from our mistakes; trust that we can change. Trust that we can become better, more connected and embodied humans. And that, no matter how many mistakes we've made or how imperfect we are, we still are worthy of love. It can also be difficult to forgive others, and think "they hurt me, but I get it. They're also traumatized humans." When we're interacting with another human and we notice the irritation/frustration/annoyances bubbling up inside of us, it's hard -- to take a breath, notice these uncomfortable emotions, empathize with ourselves and them, and practice acceptance around their imperfect selves.
Interacting with humans is hard. But, if we're not ready to interact kindly with others, I've got good news! You can start interacting kindly with yourself. You can start connecting more with yourself. It has to start with you. The more you accept yourself, the more you'll accept others. The less you'll want to control others to make them into what you want them to be. The less you'll be controlling towards yourself.
To me, self-acceptance, self-love, self-connection all sound soooo peaceful. But, unfortunately, those skills take work. Constantly looking at ourselves and practicing certain skills to improve these traits within us take practice. So, the question is: are we ready and willing to do the work? If we're not ready and willing, it's totally OK! Change and willingness take time.
If you are willing though, I'd love for you to try this lovingkindness meditation below. If you'd really like! You could do an experiment. Practice this for a week and see how you feel at the end of the week. You can set a timer for 5 minutes and do this for 7 days. You can find a meditation on YouTube. You might even download a popular meditation app -- Calm or Headspace -- and practice this meditation. Ooh! You know what's even more cool! As you move around the world, notice the folks around you and wish them loving kindness. See how that feels. Notice the dogs, the trees, the flowers-- wish them all loving kindness. It may seem silly at first, but doing that helps the brain. It challenges the brain's negativity bias, and helps the brain notice the positives more.
What may happen is that you feel more joy, you feel less lonely, you feel more forgiving of self and others, and you feel more open to new, heart-filled, awe-inspiring experiences. You might even feel optimistic, which feels impossible in the world that we live in. If you do this experiment, you have to promise me that you'll let yourself relax into it and be open. Really let yourself breathe; deep breaths (inhale on the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4). Really connect to your body. I love focusing on my feet, my shoulders, my fingers, my belly going up and down when I meditate. So soothing.
Community is important. Human interaction. Deep bonds. All so crucial to our well being. But, if those deep bonds aren't as readily available to you, try loving kindness meditation. It can be powerful. It can be healing. You might notice that it helps you forgive someone who you thought you'd never be able to forgive. But, outside of these powerful experiences, I especially love that it allows us to feel more connected to ourselves and to everyone else in the world.
This wonderful yoga teacher said once that through lovingkindness meditation, someone is always thinking about us. How beautiful is that? You could be stressed out at work, and breathe, and think about the fact that someone somewhere is thinking about you and wishing you loving kindness. It's so beautiful! It gets me so excited!
Thank you for reading.
I wish you peace and happiness. I wish you love.
(wishes towards yourself)
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live a life with ease.
(wishes towards a loved one, a mentor, a kind neighbor, a pet, etc.)
May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you live a life with ease.
(wishes towards someone who you may be in conflict with)
May they be safe.
May they be happy.
May they be healthy.
May they live a life with ease.
(wishes towards all beings in the universe -- trees, birds, folks in other countries)
May everyone and everything be safe.
May everyone and everything be happy.
May everyone and everything be healthy.
May everyone and everything live a life with ease.
Learn more about loving kindness meditation.