Community & Relationship

The Gift of Loneliness

By July 1, 2010 4 Comments

Photo by Per Ola Wiberg

You never know what you are really writing about.
On Monday, I wrote a post called “Just A Feeling: Dealing with Difficult Emotions.” I thought I was writing about the freedom that comes from knowing that a difficult feeling is “just a feeling” — temporary, often arbitrary, not necessarily a call to do anything.
On the way to making that point, however, I told a story about craving connection with others during a solitary week. I thought I was just giving an example of a difficult feeling.
Your responses said something different. What spoke to so many of you was the experience of longing for connection. You could relate.
Thank you for sharing so honestly and bravely in the comments and in emails.
When I read your words, I felt ambivalent about mine. Did I really want to suggest that human beings longing for one closeness with one another should recognize that’s just a feeling, and leave it at that?
Or did I want to say, when it comes to this feeling: Honor that longing. Take it seriously. Pick up the phone, go down to the soup kitchen to extend your heart, write that long overdue email to an old friend.
This is, of course, a bigger question. When should we take action to change a difficult feeling? When should we just be with the feeling as is?
I don’t know. What I do know is this: it’s always helpful to know that a feeling is “just a feeling.” When I know that, the rational, mature, happy Tara is back in charge. I’m now longer being whirled through the storm like Dorothy in the twister.
I’m not desperate to escape an uncomfortable experience, because I know it’s not permanent and not that important. I know lots of feelings come and go. Feelings and action to change feelings shrink back down to their proper place.
From this place, I’m at choice: I can take action or not. I can lean into the discomfort or I can make some choices that are likely to change my mood. I’m not caught in a wild chase of good feelings or a frantic rush to avoid bad ones.
But on loneliness in particular, I want to say this: yes, know that what you are feeling is just a feeling. Know it will pass.
But use your feeling of loneliness, your longing for connection, to get to know your true nature.
Examine your loneliness. Not all your ego’s thoughts about it, but the feeling itself. Hold it up to the light and look at it. See what’s at the kernel of it.
Use it to investigate: What is your true nature? What kind of connection makes that nature happy, in balance? What kind of relationship to people makes it unhappy, out of balance?
Who are you deep down, underneath it all?
I know that for me, the answer is love. When my life reflects that, I’m at peace. When it doesn’t, a war begins to rumble inside.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • This is a beautiful follow-up to your last post, Tara. Thank you for your wise words.

    I think you got to the core of the issue. When we connect with others out of unexplored loneliness, we do so from a place of neediness and fear.

    But when we allow ourselves to move through the middle of the feeling and come out the other side, if we then choose to connect, it comes from a wide open heart.

    You express so well the fruits of meeting feelings directly: “I’m not caught in a wild chase of good feelings or a frantic rush to avoid bad ones.” Being caught in grasping and avoiding is unpleasant, to say the least, and feeds the inner war. Being friendly toward our feelings offers the possibility of true inner peace.

    Love, Gail

  • uzma7 says:

    That is beautiful yet hard – to finally reach the core which is love. Awareness and action are key steps. Great post , thank u 🙂

  • sophiashouse says:

    Thanks Uzma, I’m glad this spoke to you. It’s true – it is hard. So often we stay on the surface of our reactions, ignoring the core emotion or reality that is going on underneath. But the gold is all in what’s underneath! Thanks so much for reading and for being part of the community at Wise Living. Tara

  • Tara says:

    Thank you Gail. Yes, I was just reading something that spoke about the Buddhist concept of “craving” as one of the five mental toxins, alongside jealousy, conceit, and others. That really struck me – craving as a mental poison–oh, so true! And how much of our lives we spend in some kind of craving, and the search to meet it.
    And, as you say, when we greet the craving with a little space, a little friendliness, we soon are carried to something deeper, calmer, and soooo much more interesting.
    Love to you, Tara

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