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Use Your Loneliness

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I hate to feel lonely. Don’t you?

Believe me, I have had some long stretches of loneliness in my lifetime. But in recent years, I’ve managed to solve that problem almost entirely. I say almost, because I’m not a hermit, and for my own mental health I need to have people around me some of the time. Or maybe a lot of the time. And, I especially need a life partner for several reasons—but now is not the time to discuss that.

What I discovered was How to Use Loneliness. And how to stay emotionally stable and even happy when I am lonely. It was a stepwise learning lesson for me. Here, I’m going to describe the first level of how I escaped the pain of Loneliness and its twin problem: Depression.

My huge discovery was using writing alternated with meditation. It was huge for me. It might not work for everybody, but it should work for most people. It’s so simple. I should have thought of this fifty years ago. Here’s what I do when I’m lonely.

Step one, believe it or not, is actually recognizing that I’m lonely. Sometimes I’ll mope around for a while, not feeling very good about life, then I’ll have a eureka moment. And recognize that I’m lonely!

Step two: I grab a pad of paper and a ballpoint. I start writing about whatever is on my mind. Or whatever in life is troubling me. Or maybe, I’ll just start writing about a favorite topic that energizes me.

Step three: When I reach a point in the writing where I can’t think of what to write next, I stop. I grab a favorite cushion and sit in Zen meditation for a while. That usually lasts no longer than twelve to fifteen minutes. Sometimes it will last longer, especially if I’m having a bad case of the blues.

Step four: Repeat the writing and meditation until I feel better. Or it’s time to take a shower and take a walk. Or read an interesting book. Or maybe treat myself to a healthy lunch. Or have a date with a special friend.

Why does it work? Writing is an excellent form of self-therapy. Writing will often let one part of your mind express something that another part of your mind didn’t know. Then, the meditation will let your mind process that knowledge and help heal a part of the mind that was hurting.

Another benefit of this process is that it turns loneliness into aloneness—which is being alone but feeling better about it.

Let me know if this works for you.

The Value of Aloneness

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Being alone can result in one of two states of mind: either loneliness or aloneness. The first is being alone and not happy about it. The second is being alone and liking it.

lonelygirl01I spent many of my younger years trying to avoid loneliness. And hating every minute I was lonely. I did all the typical things people do to avoid being alone. I scheduled my life so I’d be busy all the time. If I found myself alone for some reason, I’d make sure there were several radios and televisions making noise to keep my mind occupied. And during that time, I had no inkling of what aloneness was all about.

Then something happened way back when: I heard a song on the radio that reminded me that we all die alone. I know from stuff I learned in collidge that the human body dies from the outside in. That is, we lose contact with our sensory organs and our physical body while our mind is still functioning. So, that means my whole body will shut down and essentially be “dead” while I’m still alive somewhere deep in my brain. I imagined that could be utterly terrifying.

Then, a few decades ago and with the help of a teacher I know, I began deliberately changing my attitude about being alone. I began to appreciate aloneness. And that was about the same time I began loving myself a bit more than I had earlier in life. Looking back, this worked out very well with Zen meditation, and it really did enhance my practice.

In certain ways, aloneness and meditation are the same things. And in other perspectives, they are complementary and work well together.

Simply put, being alone with yourself and observing your mind is known as Mindfulness meditation. Being alone with yourself and not thinking is Zen meditation. I like to do both, sometimes alternating one with the other.

Now that I’m getting into my senior years, my meditations are sometimes very deep and I lose contact with my body for a while. In case I’ve never told you, that is a great experience. And not terrifying at all. For me, there’s not a shred of fear about the possibility of not “waking up.” I would just go on through the Window and see what happens next.

Let’s get back to the point of this blog. Aloneness is good. Start switching the gears in your mind to be more appreciative of aloneness. Even to the point of seeking it and planning for it. You don’t need the radios and TVs playing all the time. You don’t need somebody there for you all the time. And you don’t have to be “bored” by silence. You can learn to be comfortable and at ease being alone all by yourself. Just being with yourself.

Aloneness is a state that can be comforting and nourishing. It creates an atmosphere conducive to inner growth and self-development. It can also provide an opportunity for healing from the daily slings and arrows.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

February 20, 2017 at 8:20 am