by Dr. Brenda Shoshanna
Loneliness is one of the great sufferings of our times. Despite our being constantly on-line, tuned in, the heart needs human contact and warmth.
And, beyond that we all have a deep hunger to belong to community or family. Yet, before we can truly feel a part of their world, we must understand the difference between loneliness and being alone.
If we come together out of fear of being alone, this togetherness is not really satisfying, but often a way to hide from the disconnection, self judgment and sense of separation that fuels our lives.
There are many ways to heal this, both psychologically and spiritually.
For example some practices and roads to health insist on community – individuals are strongly advised to spend time together, help one another, be there for each other.
Interaction is considered crucial.
For example, in Jewish practice, you must belong.
You are not allowed to isolate yourself. Over and over you are told that it is not good to be alone. In fact there is a painful assumption in many communities that there is something wrong with you if you are alone.
In Jewish practice, the place to find God is not away from life up on a mountaintop, or in personal seclusion, but at the kitchen table – among family, friends, food, discussion. The experience of God is never separate from life, and never separates you from those you care about or from your daily life. As you live and interact with others, you become balanced and whole.
Then question of fitting in, or not, to the community is also important, and has driven many individuals away to search for connection differently. They do not wish to fashion themselves to a ready made image, but to have the ability to discover and be who they are.
In contrast, Zen practice asks, who is the One who walks alone, who is the Solitary one?
This question is truly fundamental in our lives.
How few are at ease by themselves, how often they seek the company of others compulsively, to escape what’s going on in their lives. Being with others can then become an addiction to cover up fundamental anxiety at facing the truth of ourselves.
In order to be free of loneliness, it is necessary to first learn how to be alone, to face ourselves, stand on our own two feet.
The question of the solitary one has often been misunderstood.
It does not point to an anti-social individual who withdraws from life, but to a person who journeys deep within their own nature, addressing the primal questions of life and responding according to their own spirit and wisdom.
This form of practice is not about belonging. It is not about being noticed or accepted by anyone.
In Zen meditation, even though you sit next to others, you must find out what it means to be alone and experience your aloneness through and through. As you do, you may realize that aloneness is not loneliness. In fact, it is the opposite.
When we fully face and accept ourselves, when we stop rejecting who we are, a strange thing happens, loneliness dissolves. We then become able to accompany ourselves, wherever it is we may go and learn to stand on our own. At this time we are free to join or not join any community.
Rather than feeling the need for others, when others come we can truly welcome them and when they go, we can allow them to depart. No clinging, no possessiveness, no demand that they be there to meet our needs. Just a gracious appreciation for the time together we have shared. And, of course, when we are in that state of mind, wherever we go, whoever we are with, we are always connected, always at home.
From Sarah: I discovered Dr. Shoshanna just a few weeks ago and quickly got her permission to reprint her articles…she’s amazing, and you’ll love her book “Save Your Relationship.” Just go here to read more about Dr. Shoshanna and get quick, new help for healing your loneliness–>>