Meditation for Solitude

“Don’t leave your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut deeper. Let it ferment and dress you up …” – Hafiz

What does it mean not to “surrender loneliness so quickly”? For most of my life, I would have preferred to give up my loneliness yesterday. Loneliness felt like a painful, sore, hollow sensation in the core of my gut. He was my constant companion and I certainly didn’t want him there. At some point in my twenties, I decided that if I spent so much time alone, it would be worthwhile to investigate what loneliness really was. What I discovered never stopped me from feeling lonely, but it helped transform my relationship with the loneliness of something miserable into a powerful source of information.

Loneliness Hack # 1: Make friends with desire

My first revelation was that at the center of loneliness was desire. It was a powerful longing for love. And yet he had learned that this kind of longing was unattractive. I was told that I should stop looking for love and that “it would happen when I least expected it.” I told myself that I’d rather stop wanting things because not getting them made me feel desperate, pathetic, and disappointed. I told myself I was too old, too ugly, and too late for love, and then I told myself that love wasn’t real anyway (considering the divorce rate). I tried anything and everything to get her to stop wanting love. Nothing worked. I continued to feel lonely.

One day, I was on the beach with my boyfriend and my boyfriend’s new girlfriend. As they approached the shore together, I wandered with a twist in the waves, feeling lost in a mist of loneliness and frustrated desire. Suddenly, I decided that instead of fighting my longing, I would try to open up. With each wave crashing over my head I cried out a new wish. “I want the dress I saw on 5th Avenue,” I began. Crack. “I want to be beautiful.” Crack. “I want real love.” Crack. Instead of feeling depressed or alone, opening up to every desire felt liberating. He felt strong, brave and exciting. There’s no guarantee that I’ll get these things, but just saying them seemed almost as good to me. Within loneliness there is a deep and powerful desire to connect. Trying to get rid of it will not help. Opening to the longing will.

Loneliness Hack # 2: Learn the difference between your stories and the truth

Everyone’s stories are different. Mine sounded like, “I’m so lonely. There must be something wrong with me. I’m too picky. I choose the wrong people. I have to be immune to real love.” Sometimes another voice came in: “You’ll find love! You just have to join a different dating app, cut your hair and buy new clothes. You can do it!” And back and forth. These voices were part of the global heart of mental chatter that accompanied me throughout my day. Much of this “conversation with myself” developed as a child trying to navigate my world, and much of it has remained childish in terms of their maturity and problem-solving skills.

So what do we do when we realize we are lost in a depressing maze of self-talk? First, congratulations! Observing that you are lost in your thoughts (and not just living in them) is 80 percent of the battle. Then notice if there is a feeling under the talk that you don’t want to hear. Wish? Dol? Sadness? See if you can rest and breathe in the same feeling, not in the mind’s attempt to cover it up. Finally, instead of fighting stories with other stories, try to notice what is real. The chair under you. The wind in your face. Your body while breathing. These things are real. Awaken from your circular thoughts by becoming aware of the here and now.

Related: The fascinating science of why you are so hard on yourself

Solitude Trick # 3: Go home with yourself

Sometimes loneliness visits us when we are surrounded by people, in a relationship, and / or we go through the social media posts of more than 1,000 of our “friends.” In my experience, this kind of loneliness is the result of being alienated from ourselves. We are not experiencing the richness of life. We left the building.

There is a Zen quote that says, “An image of a rice cake cannot satisfy the appetite.” In other words, living life stuck to our phones, saying things that others want to hear, or getting lost in our thoughts makes us feel hungry, empty, and lonely. If you are experiencing this kind of loneliness, stop what you are doing and go back to yourself. Meditate with the practice below. Disconnect. Exercise. Have an honest chat with a friend or a date with your newspaper. Your loneliness is a sign that your life is calling to you. Answer. He’s coming home.

We are deeply interconnected with each other. We breathe the same air, we influence the mood of others and we are made up of the same raw materials. Loneliness is a difficult mental state, but practicing these tricks whenever we feel alone brings us back to ourselves, to our heart, and to the interconnected present moment that keeps it all going. This is how we let loneliness “saoni” us, emerging more tender and with an open heart on the other side.

By Yael Shy

#Meditation #Solitude

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