Loneliness is But a State of Mind By H. Bondurant
Experiencing loss is something that changes how you see yourself. Our relationships with others are important and play a major role in who we become. Breaking up, losing a parent, getting fired are a few experiences that transform you. They tend to change what it’s like to be you by rearranging your values, priorities, the things you care about, the things that you think define you as a person. With constant transformations, you can struggle identifying who you really are.
When writing about transformation, Ruth Chang argues that what really transforms us are the choices we make by committing to being a certain sort of person. Instead of seeing yourself as someone who is alone or lonely, commit to being the kind of person who enjoys solitude. When someone drastically changes as a person, something is supposed to change on the inside. You gain a new perspective on the world or take a radical shift in what matters. Many of us have these moments, epiphanies, turning points, where we decide to change something about ourselves. When you embrace solitude , the more you can reflect on your experiences and how they have changed you. Life experiences reveal information to us but we aren’t always paying attention. By reframing the way you experience being alone, you open yourself to learning new things not only about yourself but also about the world.
Most religious teachings value solitude. Being alone allows you to be receptive, a major part of I Ching. Buddhism invites you to search for Nirvana by letting go of your attachments. “Suffering ceases when craving is still or removed” so by practicing nonattachment, we gain personal freedom. Abrahamic religions consider solitude to be a time of personal growth. Proverbs 24:32 says “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.” Solitude can be difficult but “With hardship, there is relief. Indeed, with hardship, there is relief (Quran 94.56).” Unless you are taking a vow like a Buddhist monk or Sufi Muslim, solitude is a state of impermanence.
Loneliness is but a state of mind. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states that we all suffer from avidy a. Avidy a clouds the mind from thinking clearly. One way avidy a clouds the mind is when identify ourselves with something that might possibly change. By saying “I am lonely,” we are letting the ego take over instead of recognizing that feeling as impermanent. Another form of avidya is when we desire to have something whether or not we actually need it. Many times loneliness stems from a kind of wanting, even if we are not sure what it is we want. To clear your mind of avidya, you practice pratyahara. Pratyahara is the 5th limb of yoga and comes right before Dharana, the ability to direct our minds. Practicing pratyahara requires turning inward and away from external sensations. To observe the mind with clarity, you withdraw and rest the senses by orienting yourself to what is within. “That is freedom. In other words, the Perceiver is not longer colored by the mind.”
Ways to Embrace Solitude
1. Reframing . Choose to see your state as solitude rather than loneliness. Solitude is a time of reflection, a time of growth, a time to reconnect with the parts of you that youconsider to be “authentic.” Go out to eat by yourself. Travel on your own. If being alone becomes overwhelming, talk to random people. Allow yourself to separate from any preconceived notions of who you are.
2. Meditate . Regardless of the religious path you take, meditation is a key part of solitude. Instead of overanalyzing your situation or your emotions, allow yourself to just be. Observe the mind without judgement. Know you can identify your thoughts without having to identify with them.
3. Write . Your present is impermanent. As you grow in both mind and body, you become less connected with your past self. Writing allows you to process the present with reminders for your future self. See yourself as writing a letter to a friend.
4. Embrace your body . Although it will transform regardless, your body is the vessel for personal transformation. Choose to love it. Take action by treating your body well whether that’s yoga or a haircut or eating pistachio gelato. Dance naked. Tell yourself you look good when you pass the mirror. Honor the unique characteristics of your body, the way it moves, the memories it holds, the potential it contains.