How to Grasp the Gift of Loneliness

Do you ever feel lonely?

Do you know how important that feeling is?

That’s because loneliness calls you – calls you to come to know who you really are; what you really want, and what gives meaning to your life.

No one else can know these for you. Only you can.

Loneliness arises to remind you that there are discoveries about yourself that you have yet to make.

It isn’t easy to feel lonely.

But don’t run from it.

Trust Loneliness

Loneliness arises when you feel alone. Abandoned. You feel there is no one who really understands you.

That feeling persists even when you have friends, are successful and busy in your work, and have material comforts.

None of those seem to matter much. They don’t give your life the meaning and importance you seek.

Loneliness is your sense that something profound, deep below the surface of your life, is missing.

That something is a treasure that only you can give to yourself.

True loneliness is an admission of loss.

Your daily life is full of activity – physical and mental.

You rarely have space for quiet, time for reflection, time to ask yourself important questions.

What spaces you have get filled in with distractions that feel like imperatives. Check that alert! Answer that text! Send another! Scroll, scroll, scroll!

This is normal. This is your everyday.

Then, something happens that brings you to a full stop.

A close relationship breaks up, a loved one dies, a dear friend departs.

Such an event is sacred. It challenges you to plumb your depths for meaning. You can’t be distracted from it by distractions.

You may put the plaster and bandages of daily life over you, but still the wounds will tug at you.

These you can only heal from the inside.

You can hope that the feeling will diminish over time. And it probably will. But it will return until you have discovered the treasure of your depths.

The Anatomy of Loneliness

You only feel lonely when a significant relationship shifts.

You do not feel lonely when your favorite old chair breaks beyond repair.

You are created to value other human beings.

From conception, your life depends on the life of another, literally, for life-support. That doesn’t change when you enter the world.

You still depend on others for your nourishment - for your very existence.

Your dependence lasts for a very long time.

Because you’re vulnerable for many years of your early life, you recognize both physically and mentally the great importance of nourishing relationships with others.

It’s natural to appreciate the relationships that have sustained you, and natural to wish to reciprocate. You are born for this.

Your appreciation for the value of relationships starts with anatomical necessity and blossoms into a gift of soul.

Once you are able to care for yourself physically, your relationships shift from physical necessity to the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved.

The degree to which you feel lonely after a loss, reflects the degree to which you have known and loved, with all of their complexity.

The Power of Presence as Memory

It’s impossible to establish a deep, nourishing relationship without physical presence. Even people who meet online, or in some other removed way, realize that if the relationship is going to blossom into fullness and be meaningful, they must meet face to face.

Being present physically creates strong, lasting bonds. Physical presence is the ground of intimacy. This is the intimacy of thoughtful exchanges, meaningful conversations, and the natural closeness that arise from knowing and being known, loving and being loved just as you are.

It is only through physical presence that you acquire a whole sensory library of knowledge-as-memory, that sustains your relationship.

You know others by their thousand little gestures, their touch, their voices, the myriad expressions of their faces, the scent of a perfume, the sound of a foot fall.

Knowledge, deep knowledge of another, can only be created by powerful memories rooted in sensory experience. Sensory experience requires physical presence.

A relationship cannot be intensified or strengthened without memory.

From Present to Omnipresent

Once you have a library of knowledge-as-memory of a loved one, your relationship deepens and expands through remembering. Your memory of a single sight, sound, or scent recalls the multivalence of a whole person -- all at once. It would take pages and pages of description to articulate the accumulated knowledge evoked by a single memory.

This occurs naturally even when you are not aware of it.

You have a friend. You develop your love and friendship by spending time in the presence of your friend. Then, even when your friend is not physically present to you, you still have your shared love, you still have your friendship.

Where is your friendship? Where does it exist?

It exists within you and within your friend. And it exists everywhere outside of you, between and around both of you, in space and through time. But you cannot see it, touch it, feel it, hear it -- except in your memory.

At the same time, your memory enhances occasions when you are physically present together by adding experiences and meaning to your library of knowledge of one another and yourself.

Your friendship is completely subtle. It has moved from the necessity of physical presence to profound omnipresence. Your love, the basis for your relationships, is not limited by space and time. Your love exist at all times -- within, through, and across all spaces, and in more than one person.

You incorporate your omnipresent relationship into your living body through your memory.

Your relationship, once solidly established, does not die when your beloved dies or departs. Your friendships do not end when your friend moves to another town.

You may not see a friend for years, but when you meet again it is as if all time and space between you had never separated you. You have experienced this.

What you are keenly aware of, when you feel lonely, is the physical absence, the lack of immediate presence of the person you miss.

This absence would not cause loneliness if you had not already incorporated the subtle omnipresence of your relationship into your body and your life.

Physical absence, the cause of loneliness, provides the opportunity for you to explore who you are when you are alone, what you really want, and what gives meaning and importance to your life.

The Gift of Loneliness

Whether your aloneness is wanted or unwanted, whether it is the result of a breaking up of a relationship, a death, or a departure, loneliness is an opportunity.

This is a precious moment for self examination – for turning your keen sense of absence into insight.

The circumstances causing your loneliness can vary, and so the questions you ask yourself and the practices for insight will be different each time you feel lonely.

The gift of loneliness remains the same even when the circumstances vary.

Loneliness calls you to explore and examine the nature of Love, its importance, its source, and its manifestations in your life and through your life into the world.

It calls you to refine your sense of who you are, how you are, and what gives meaning to your life.

And from that deeper insight, you will pour yourself forth with greater wisdom, love, and greater joy, into all that you do because of all that you are.

That is the gift of loneliness.

By allowing loneliness, by trusting it, you uncover the treasure of your Being.

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I offer personal coaching to help you discover the best practices, questions, and your own answers through self examination if you seek to grasp the gift of loneliness.