tamasomā jyotir gamaya
Oṁ śhānti śhānti śhāntiḥ
The above is a chant I learned from my Yoga Therapist that has helped me. It is roughly translated as:
From ignorance, lead me to truth;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to immortality
Om peace, peace, peace
Are there spaces in your life in which there is not a safe harbor? A space perhaps you keep visiting despite the rocky shore, crashing waves, and dangerous undertow? Your heart longs to connect there and after searching meticulously, overturning every single stone, shell, and pebble, you leave empty handed once again. Surely, this space still exists. And so, you retract, often in disillusionment and despair, berating yourself for losing it in the first place and resolving to come back another time, for surely it will still be there.
Are you avoiding aloneness?
There are spaces in your life where it may appear that you have been abandoned, left alone. In these spaces, you often are learning and growing through pain and even suffering. You’ve been so determined in your intention to salvage and restore, that this overwhelming feeling of “being left” cuts through you like a knife piercing your gut. It hurts. There our times the pain is so insufferable and intolerable you will go at great lengths to lessen its intensity or avoid it at all costs. There are so many places to hide that offer the illusion of safety that we are often pulled into these “oh so shiny” spaces that fill us briefly, placing our original search on hold. This part of us that runs from being left and rejected isn’t bad or good, it’s simply our way of avoiding the pain we feel may kill us if we linger in it for too long.
And so, we rotate between the “oh so shiny” spaces and occupy our time with the things that we believe are easier to obtain: our next fix, the bonus on the slot machine, sex with a new partner, recently purchased material goods, a drunken night on the town, an obsessive exercise routine, or a decadent piece or two of chocolate cake. We spend endless hours engaged in perpetual stimulation, avoiding the inevitable, the fact that we are all alone. All of us are alone. And we all to some degree have participated in the act of overstimulation to drown out the pain and fear to avoid being alone. We go back to the spaces in our hearts and minds that have caused us the most pain, in effort to connect and to make sense of a time when we were left, rejected, and abandoned. These are the times that have often paralyzed us. The reality is that being alone is something we all experience, collectively.
You are not alone in that we all are alone and struggle, at times.
And so, since we are all alone, we are also all not alone. Imagine that! Separated by the barrier of our skin, we spend our days moving through time and space, alone. The beauty in this is that being alone in this way is universal. It is something we all experience every day of our lives. We all experience the fear of being alone and this awareness can be grounding and calming. Some of us are lucky to have our lives full of the people, pets, and things that we love. We feel at peace in our aloneness and are satisfied with our connections. Still yet, some feel over-connected and long for more time alone. While others are still struggling in the pain of feeling alone and abandoned and are challenged connecting to others. These feelings of abandonment often come from real places of struggle, perhaps resulting from neglect or abuse in childhood, or even a lengthy relationship with an abusive individual. Living with a mental illness can make it difficult to connect due to symptoms that may limit one’s ability to engage in endeavors where connection occurs. Those things take people away from healthy preoccupations that can make a person feel less lonely and fulfilled. And still yet, we can all take comfort in knowing we all experience times when we feel alone and wonder: “Am I enough?”.
When struggling with pain and loneliness, sit with it and be inquisitive.
When you feel alone and fearful, and you have the urge to fill it with something not truly healthy, sit with that feeling. Let it flow over you and do nothing to escape or contain it. Perhaps, even address it and “check in” waiting to see what comes up. There is often a lot we can learn in these spaces if we choose to sit with it instead of flee or mute it. Often the urge will be too great, and you will choose to engage in some form of activity for relief. Ultimately, if there is pain within you, longing to communicate a need, and you flee each time, you may miss out on a piece of the puzzle that may bring peace in your life. You may be missing opportunities to connect with yourself and when you choose to “sit still” you may in time heal the places within you that are running back to empty vessels, unsafe harbors, and unhealthy endeavors.
Also, in these spaces where you are alone, you will find that it might be a good time to take inventory in your life. If you have been struggling, ask yourself these questions:
- Why am I hurting?
- What things can I do realistically do to ease the struggle?
- Is there someone or something in my life that I continue to invest time in even when it is causing me pain to do so?
- Can I let go of certain things that are causing me pain?
- Are there things in my life that are “not mine”, that I cannot control, that I cling to? Can I let them go?
- What are the things in my life that I do have control over that bring me joy? Can I expand these in my life making them the priority over the things I cannot control that are not mine?
These questions might help those struggling to clear their plate of things that cause despair and depression that might elevate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Clearing one’s plate from situations that are outside of one’s control and replacing it with things that allow a sense of agency can lighten the load that may in time lead to opportunities to connect. Loneliness can be a product of too much overstimulation. Sitting with oneself provides the space to reconnect which is needed to connect to others. One of the most effective ways to deal with pain is to sit with it, address it, and learn from it. It’s not a perfect process, healing is lengthy and will involve many detours. But, always remember, you truly are never alone as you are part of the collective conscious that is healing itself in the past, present, and future.