Loneliness. How to get liberated from it?
This letter is the 6th episode of my 🔭 Laboratory Logbook, a monthly newsletter where I share my explorations.
One day, I read an interview of the Dalaï-Lama where he was explaining that he had never felt lonely. I was surprised. A human being who never feels lonely? Not even just a little bit from time to time? Was this really possible?
Until, for me too, the feeling of loneliness gradually faded out of my life, for about 8 years now.
These days, I have noticed that many people around me feel lonely. So, for this laboratory logbook, I locked myself in the tiny house, alone, and I dove into loneliness. While writing, I doubted: can my testimony be really interesting and useful? After all, I am a mere human being, not the Dalaï-Lama!
Then, I realized that it would indeed be interesting, precisely because I am not a Dalaï-Lama. To remember that, yes, it’s possible to get liberated from the feeling of loneliness, even when we are ordinary human beings!
Table of Content
Feeling lonely is normal
I remember feeling lonely when sitting by myself at the canteen of the junior high school. A loneliness tinged with some shame of finding myself on the margin of the mini-society of pupils. “Are they going to mock me?”
I also remember feeling lonely while observing so many happy couples around me, year after year. A loneliness tinged with some frustration and even anger at myself. “What is wrong with me?”
Then, there was the loneliness after a separation. Heartbroken. A feeling that can surprisingly stay around for months, sometimes years! Tinged with a complex blend of sadness, resentment, fear. “Am I going to leave alone forever?”
And, there was the death of a close relative. Another relationship forever broken, in an unfair and irreparable way. Such a deep feeling of loneliness… Nothingness.
In life, there are so many opportunities to feel lonely! Most of the time, loneliness appears when I don’t experience a sense of belonging, when I don’t feel understood, when a key relationship breaks down.
Eventually, even if loneliness is quite uncomfortable to experience, it really is just a normal feeling. An aversion to being separated from each other. An effective tool that maintains the cohesiveness of entire societies, and that probably increases the survival chance of the species.
But, as you may have noticed in your lives, there is also another peculiar version of loneliness…
Is feeling lonely always logical?
While feeling happy in a love relationship, happy to be surrounded by ones’ kids, happy to be successful and recognized in a given field or art, one can wake up one morning, and, deep inside, be surprised to feel lonely. Sometimes, loneliness seems to come out of nowhere. What a frightening sensation!
But this feeling of loneliness, the one that keeps appearing even when in the presence of loved ones, is wonderful.
It is wonderful, because a bug occurs in the mind: how can I feel lonely right now, while surrounded by loved ones? Does this make any sense?
It is wonderful, because losing trust in such an absurd feeling can let me drift from being overwhelmed and manipulated by it, to starting to observe it as a somewhat dubious external object, and seeing more clearly.
I may then realize that this loneliness is tinged with a feeling of anxiety. Might it be the expression of the fear of losing loved ones in the future? Or, could this loneliness just be a sophisticated expression of the deep fear of death, the fear of the end of “I”?
By observing a feeling as a mere information, a simple physiological phenomenon, one automatically starts to see things differently.
Noticing this fear glued to loneliness, may I even start to realize that, feeling lonely, at its core, is not really about being lonely, but more about being afraid of being lonely?
Just a little more distance, just a few seconds of clarity in the middle of the storm. Just enough to allow a new awareness to appear, and to change forever the way I experience loneliness.
Feeling lonely is not necessary
In my case, loneliness faded out of my life gradually.
Among other things, I saw a psychologist, I learned Vipassana meditation. Both invited me to drift from reacting to feelings to observing feelings. Then, while loneliness came through a separation, and through the death of a relative, this habit of observing let me see loneliness differently.
Before, this is how I saw myself in relation to others.
An autonomous entity, a human body, separated from the rest of the world.
After this period of systematically trying to observe loneliness objectively, this is what I see.
At a subtler level, deep inside, there is a continuity between what I am and what others are. A common essence, which takes different shapes.
Then, how could I feel lonely anymore?
And these are not just the deliriums of the Dalaï–Lama and Lénaïc. There are countless researchers, in the margins of science, who have explored unexplained facts, showing again and again this deep connection.
Loneliness is, hence, a natural physiological phenomenon that plays its part in the survival of species. Yet, being alone, really separated from each other, at the deepest levels, doesn’t appear to be technically possible in this world. The structure of the world doesn’t allow anyone to be alone. It is just an illusion.
Thus, feeling lonely is not necessary. As shocking as it may sound when we suffer deeply, feeling lonely is a matter of choice. Do I choose to focus on the outer world, where I am always going to look separated from everything else? Or, do I choose to focus inwardly, where, by construction, at any time, I appear to be everything else?
It is not just conceptual, philosophical, theoretical. Once I really realize this underlying reality, loneliness cannot affect me anymore as it used to do.
So now, how will you get liberated from loneliness?
Next time you feel lonely
The most direct way to solve loneliness is to distract oneself from it.
Go running, watch a movie, play video games, scroll social media, eat, read, meet friends, look for a new partner, etc. There is nothing wrong with these things, all of them solve loneliness. But only temporarily. Sooner or later, loneliness comes back.
One step further is to choose a distraction that reminds me that it is really possible to get liberated from loneliness.
Reading about the Dalaï-Lama who never feels lonely, how some people — like the Shuar from Amazonia — experience personal relationships between them and animals or plants, near-death experiences, the new scientific research about trance science, regression hypnosis, quantum entanglement, ancient sacred texts, etc. Any optimistic distraction that shows how everything is connected.
Unfortunately, this previous step doesn’t liberate one from loneliness.
Each book, each documentary is just a distraction, a story. Something theoretical that I don’t experience myself. But it is a crucial step, because it inspires. It plants a seeds. I start to wonder, more and more seriously, more and more frequently: “Really? Is living free from loneliness really possible?” I start to look at life differently, feeling after feeling.
Until one day, while loneliness returns, I begin to perceive at the same time a subtle connection between me and everything. Outwardly I feel lonely, inwardly I feel surrounded and loved. At the same time. Just a few seconds, in the middle of the storm.
It may be clear or fuzzy, sudden or gradual, short or long. I may see it, hear it, feel it. Smell it? I may call it “quantum entanglement”, the “common essence”, “love”, “consciousness”, the “absolute”, the “ultimate”, etc., or I may not call it at all. For anyone it is different.
But once it is well established, loneliness has already become a vague memory. I drifted from “Oh I feel lonely!” to, “Oh, more precisely, I feel loneliness passing through me”. I don’t take seriously anymore this dubious feeling, this information that just reminds me my human condition.
And, should it appear, I am now so much less affected. I am liberated from loneliness!