Have you ever felt the pangs of loneliness in the dead of night or at home during a melancholic, rainy evening, wishing you could hang out with some friends or had that special someone you could cuddle with?
We have all been lonely at different points in our life. This is different from some much deserved alone time after a busy day. This is accompanied by that heaviness in our hearts that craves for company.
What do we generally do when this happens? We turn on the TV, or head out to a noisy club, where the music can drown out our thoughts or drink some beers, watch a game/movie and fall asleep on the couch.
There is nothing inherently “wrong” in any of the above activities. But what if I tell you that there are some ways in which we can use this feeling of loneliness for our personal growth. It is not better, nor am I throwing in any claims that it will make you feel better. It is just… different.
I arrived in Toronto, all alone from India at the beginning of a Canadian winter (read more about that here). Loneliness ran amok in my life and I filled it up with acquaintances, drinking and house parties. Nothing wrong with that. But as I matured and grew to accept my solitude with grace, I started doing something different.
[pullquote] I no longer wanted to push away my loneliness. I no longer wanted to disown it, neither did I want to wallow in it. I wanted to embrace it with open arms, feel all the feelings that it had to offer and let it slip away, feeling satisfied that it had done its job[/pullquote]
I no longer wanted to push away my loneliness. I no longer wanted to disown it, neither did I want to wallow in it. I wanted to embrace it with open arms, feel all the feelings that it had to offer and let it slip away, feeling satisfied that it had done its job.
The transformation didn’t come about in a day nor has it occurred completely. Though my loneliness has taught me as much as intimate company, if not more. Here are some ways that I have developed over the years, which I want to share with you.
Be with your solitude without labelling it as something negative
It is human to label experiences. So that we may make sense of it and file it neatly into our memory cabinet. When I am feeling lonely, if I label the experience as negative then I am judging and fighting my Self. Accept it as another experience; neither good nor bad – it’s just different. Spend time with your thoughts, even if it is just for 5 mins at a stretch. Gently let go of the urge to fill that time with Doing. Put some ambient, background music, without lyrics, if the deafening silence is too difficult to handle. Start with 5 minutes and build it up over time to however long you want.
Channel the desire for company to something creative
This energy of longing within us is great for creative work, as long as we are not trying to fill up the loneliness with work. Then it is only an escape and not as rewarding. Once you are able to embrace and BE with your loneliness, it will naturally shift to this joyous urge of doing something creative with this time. Then it’s an expression of our joyous inner child and not a cover up. I use this time to write, play music, read and even watch a sitcom or two.
Honour the feelings welling up inside and go deeper
Loneliness, especially after a breakup or bereavement, comes with its bundle of strong emotions. Exploring those emotions with some gentle soothing background music in a meditative setting can be a beautiful way to honour all that your body and your subconscious is trying to convey to you. Ofcourse, you need to be adept at BEing with your loneliness before you can venture into this experience, as otherwise it might be very overwhelming.
Work on the shame associated with being alone
Society is really good at shaming us about being alone. It is relatively less in North America as compared to a more collective consciousness type society like India. Own your solitude in style with some balls. I often dine alone at restaurants (with white linen and silverware!) while pushing away the urge to fiddle with my phone. I go to movie theaters alone, if no one is willing to go for it or if I feel like catching a movie on a whim. I tramp around town alone, sit in parks alone. I even travelled for 2 weeks through Peru alone recently and everyone asked me – where is your girlfriend? Spending time on my own in social settings was difficult for me initially and now I can totally rock it like a boss.
Incorporate your solitude learnings into your relationships
The ability to be alone is a great skill in relationships as it saves your partner from being dumped with the onerous task of always keeping you entertained. It cuts down on clingy and needy behaviour and you are in turn able to honour your partner’s need for space and alone time. Though be careful that you both are communicating your needs well and are spending time together as well. You may not want to become like 2 distant, floating, self-sufficient islands in your relationship.
[pullquote] The ability to be alone is a great skill in relationships as it saves your partner from being dumped with the onerous task of always keeping you entertained[/pullquote]
Even though I follow these principles, I am far from being perfect at it. Yes, loneliness is hard to handle and I have that familiar heaviness creeping into my heart as I type this at my desk, while missing the company of a loved one, who is no longer with me. But we learn and we evolve and that’s why we are here on this blue dot.
This video summarizes this post in the most heartful way possible –