Hide and Seek: The Power of Awareness
The monk had spent thirty years in complete solitude in his Himalayan cave. A lone mountain climber happened upon him one snowy morning and inquired, “Sir, how isolated you are, alone in this vast wilderness, absent companionship. How do you deal with the loneliness?” The recluse replied, “Yes, I am alone, but I have never known loneliness. What is that?”
Have we ever really examined how we and our society view loneliness? A psychological inquiry identifies causes. But when we look closely, we discover they are triggers, not causes. They are what lead us to discover, to uncover, our loneliness.
Here is a short list of how we have been conditioned to view loneliness. But as we read this, we will begin to realize they are what triggers a pre-existing loneliness already deeply engrained within. They lead us to uncover the loneliness that lies hidden.
Social Anxiety: Individuals with social anxiety disorder may avoid social interactions due to excessive fear of judgment or embarrassment. This avoidance can lead to isolation and loneliness.
Low Self-Esteem: Low self-esteem can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and a belief that one is unworthy of social connections. This negative self-perception can lead to social withdrawal and loneliness.
Depression: Depression often involves persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities. Depressed individuals may isolate themselves from others, leading to social isolation and loneliness.
Grief and Loss: The death of a loved one or a significant loss can lead to profound feelings of loneliness, especially if the individual is struggling to cope with the grief and lacks a support network.
Transitions and Life Changes: Major life transitions, such as moving to a new city, starting a new job, or going through a divorce, can disrupt social connections and lead to loneliness as individuals adjust to their new circumstances.
Technology: Paradoxically, excessive use of technology and social media can sometimes lead to loneliness by replacing face-to-face interactions with virtual ones or fostering social comparison and feelings of inadequacy.
Psychology states the above as ‘cause’, but they are only circumstances that are awakening, triggering, activating, revealing loneliness that is already existing within. It’s premised upon the misperception that the thing outside creates the happiness inside – or in this case, the loneliness inside.
There are so many circumstances that uncover loneliness. There are countless triggers that activate existing loneliness. There is but one cause for loneliness. While happiness is self-arising by revealing the Self, loneliness is self-arising by forgetting the Self. The extent of our loneliness exists in exact proportion to the extent of our forgetting Self.
A Quest for Wholeness:
When we experience separation, the core fear that arises contains the sense of loneliness.
Loneliness finds its roots in the experience of incompleteness and separation. This feeling stems from our strong identification with our physical body and mind, while our deeper essence as pure consciousness remains concealed. The pitfall of seeking wholeness externally, through another person for example, is that external entities cannot complete us. Despite our passionate belief in their capacity to do so, the perfect partner or the ideal relationship cannot make us whole. Wholeness is an internal journey.
For many people, life is a constant whirlwind of distractions, both healthy and unhealthy. Even a fulfilling relationship, while enriching, can divert our attention from moments of introspection. Whether we’re engrossed in the beauty of a heartwarming movie or the intensity of a violent one, our focus remains outward. Yet there inevitably come moments when the engagements and the external noises subside, and we are left with what’s inside.
It’s during these times that we truly confront ourselves – or our disconnection to our Self. Perhaps a loved one passes away and our attention turns inward as the external presence fades. Relationships may come to an end, leaving us without the familiar external focal point. In such moments, we are forced to confront what lies within us. We become acutely aware of our loneliness, which is the feeling that separation from Self spawns. It’s here that we encounter the loneliness embedded in our core fear arising from our Self-separation.
Our yearning for balance and wholeness colors our emotions with a sense of loneliness when we haven’t realized our true Self as consciousness. When we’re confined to identifying solely with our physical bodies, thoughts and emotions – lacking the balancing influence of pure awareness as witness consciousness – we yearn for completeness and often turn to others to fill this emptiness and repair our disconnection. The innate hunger for balance and wholeness persists unfulfilled as long as we only identify with our body and thoughts.
Loneliness is the absence of connection within, not the absence of company without.
Our social conditioning deeply embeds the misperception that our completeness derives from external factors; people, places, things, and circumstances. Romantic movies, books, marketing, and fairy tales inundate us with this belief, fostering the hope and dream of finding the perfect partner and feeling whole in a perfect relationship. We believe they will complete us. The thing outside will make us whole inside. This conditioning perpetuates our sense of loneliness.
Much of our experience of ideal love remains an internal story we create based upon our conditioning. This becomes our infatuation. We live internally in a fairy tale that we and society write. A significant portion of our perception of ideal love is rooted in the narratives we construct, shaped by our conditioning. This internal storytelling often leads to infatuation, where we believe in a self-made fairy tale. However, reality frequently fails to align with the scripted love story we’ve envisioned.
Without recognizing our Self as pure awareness, whether in solitude or in a relationship, we remain susceptible to loneliness. When we’re not in a relationship, we often long for one, and when we are in one, we may yearn for something or someone different. Loneliness can escalate into neediness, a relentless pursuit of love, or unworthiness. However, it can also become a catalyst for seeking an end to our suffering, motivating us to embark on a path of awakening that unveils the genuine source of wholeness.
Loneliness as a Catalyst:
We grasp for relationships to ease our sense of loneliness. But relationships serve as primary vessels which hold the experiences that become our evolution and awakening. Some are gentle, loving and kind while others are difficult and heartbreaking. Relationships are one of the chief and most powerful tools that reveal who we are and how we value everything.
The value we give to another depends upon our own sense of worthiness and sufficiency. Our attitude toward ourselves determines how we see others and how we behave toward them.
Both relationships and loneliness are grace; the power of realization.
If we embrace loneliness as motivation for Self-awakening and allow it to transform into stillness, silence, and re-connection, we can wield it as a potent tool for personal growth. As we progressively unveil our true Self, we can savor the natural balance that relationships bring and experience the fulfillment of knowing our authentic Self, devoid of the suffering of loneliness, neediness, infatuation, or grasping.
Ultimately, loneliness serves as a summons to wholeness, although we often remain oblivious to its purpose and cause. Deep within us, our authentic Self beckons us to reunite, remember, reveal, and illuminate our inner essence. We mistakenly believe it’s a call from the external world, a call for another to complete what is already whole. In reality, loneliness is our most faithful companion, waiting for the moment when we finally perceive it clearly and recognize it as grace calling us towards Self-realization.