During this double festive season in the background of COVID-19, many of us are separated from our loved ones. While I celebrated with my in-laws and husband over the weekend, I am still visited by an old friend - Loneliness.
Loneliness comes and goes, regardless whether you are alone or in a crowd.
Loneliness is actually neutral - it's the story you attach to it that determines the emotions you feel when experiencing loneliness.
Expectation creates suffering
The difference to me is whether the loneliness comes with expectations. You can read my previous post here.
Being alone does not mean being lonely.
I used to hate eating alone - I found it humiliating, embarrassing. (What would others think about me? Why do people not like me enough to eat lunch with me?)
As I grew older, I learned to enjoy my own company. There are many activities that one can do alone that is enjoyable, such as listening to music, reading a book, immersing in nature or spending an afternoon in the museum. When one is present with the moment, you will feel blissfully alone. I invite you to have a day without any structure or plans - just be on your own, without ANY expectations. See how the day unfolds!
Conversely, being in a crowd does not mean being connected. With expectations, your focus is inwards (I wish they understand me, I wish they SEE me). How to turn your focus outwards: Use my favourite Japanese concept "Ichigo-Ichie". It means: this current meeting in this setting and time, only happens ONCE in this lifetime. This helps me to embrace the moment, and be grateful no matter how the meeting turned out to be. (To think things could have been better, IS a form of expectation , which creates suffering). To establish a connection, I invite you to reach out to someone WITHOUT expectation, just BEING there for them, and see how the conversation unfolds!
Without expectations, am I encouraging you to take an only passive approach and bleak view in life? Far from it!
You can be present WITHOUT expectations, and be an active participant in living your life 100%.
Loneliness as a natural state
Loneliness is a state. We came to the world alone, and we will leave the world alone.
We can learn from nature where loneliness is the most natural state. Without expectations, there is no suffering. Loneliness is just is.
Just like there’s no light without darkness, there’s no connection without loneliness. One has to experience loneliness to appreciate connection.
Loneliness is YOUR private company
Your loneliness is personal, it is yours and only yours. Even when two lonely people meet and attempt to communicate their loneliness, your loneliness will transform to something else - perhaps connection!
What emotion comes to you when you are lonely? Is loneliness pitiful, sad, empty, boring, contented, spontaneous, free-ing? There is no right or wrong, you have the right to feel how you feel!
Own your loneliness, do not attempt to numb it or escape it. Make space to meet and cherish it. Appreciate it like drinking wine with an old friend. Savour the moment when your old friend visits. There’s catch up to do.
When you chat deeply with him/her, when it’s time, he/she will get up and leave.
Elle is an authentic relating practitioner who builds community in connecting the world. She founded We Are Hear Singapore, which heart-based listening happens every two Saturdays, healing the loneliness pandemic one listen at a time. Register to attend here.