We all need alone time – to centre ourselves, collect our wits, process the week or day, or simply be quiet and be with ourselves. For some of us, alone time is lonely – I was reminded of this when I heard a talk on modern isolation.
There’s a difference between aloneness and loneliness: Dove Pragito definesloneliness as a lack, a feeling that something is missing, a pain, a depression, a need, an incompleteness, an absence; and aloneness as a presence, fullness, aliveness, joy of being, overflowing love. You are complete. Nobody is needed, you are enough.
When we’re isolated, we can sometimes feel aloneness, but mostly we feel lonely.Stephen Diamond believes that our high-tech culture makes isolates people, and that loneliness is becoming a bigger problem because of that. He points out that in our grandparent’s day, when there was only the telephone or regular mail, people got out more, mingled more – every day.
Today we don’t do that very much. We can work at home and communicate online; we can even shop from home, exercise, play. We can do most of our daily activities without leaving our own space.
Our grandparents, on average, worked shorter hours, socialized person-to-person more and slept longer than we do today.
Feeling lonely can actually stress us by triggering our stress-response system. Why? Because we are social animals, and being separated from our fellow humans can be a threat to our system. We all have an innate need for connection, for love and companionship, acceptance and recognition.
Having said that, not everyone who works long hours and sleeps less than their grandparents feel lonely. Some of us cherish this time as our alone time. It brings us joy and renewed energy. And the difference, according to Deepak Chopra is in how we feel inside ourselves.
To overcome loneliness, he suggests we connect to that part of us isn’t lonely. Sometimes we can feel the loneliest in a room crowded with people. The root of loneliness isn’t about the absence of others, but about the absence of, or a lack in ourselves.
This feeling is universal, and is really a result of the way we live today. There are three steps we can take to begin this journey of self:
- First, cultivate acceptance. Accept all our emotions for what they are – true expressions of what’s going on for us right now. If we’re feeling lonely, then allow that feeling to simply be there, and rather than judge it to be right or wrong, just as you would a child or puppy, approach it with compassion.
- Cultivate an inner knowing of yourself through meditation. Meditation comes in many forms, walking, sitting, lying down, doing simple chores. It isn’t about how you sit or stand, whether you keep your eyes open or closed, it’s about focusing on your breath, quieting the mind, and giving your inner self room to be known. If you meditate with an attitude of self-compassion and self-love, and meditate regularly, then you are building a practice and a habit of self-regard. This is quality alone time.
- Meditate on the heart. Make the heart your focus of attention and imagine breathing into that area. Allow any thoughts or emotions to arise, noticing them, then returning your attention to the heart. Do this for a few minutes. Then open your eyes, and for the next 30 minutes, simply observe yourself to see how you are. You’ll likely notice that the effects of meditation linger and make everything around you more vivid.
As you re-discover who you are, you’ll notice that your feeling of loneliness will dissipate, and your sense of aloneness take it’s place.
For a set of free 3-minute mindfulness meditations, visit my website. Each one focuses on one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness. It’s a great way to start or end your day.
I’m re-opening enrollment to my program, Burning the Candle at Both Ends this Fall, and working hard on planning a webinar, also in November called Three Brief and Unusual Ways to Live Stress-Free.
I’ll keep you informed as things unfold.
Just say Hello!
Quote of the Week
I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone
– Lord Byron