Five ways to lean into loneliness and find resilience.
There are times in our lives when loneliness may haunt us. It might be our child leaving for college or going to the non-custodial parent for visitation; or, it might be when our parents transition to the other life. For some, it might be those long years after the loss of a spouse, whether in divorce or death. Perhaps you are a military spouse raising children and your loving husband/wife is serving abroad.
Upon reading a book, When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödron,* I found this chapter that really spoke to me. She talks about being in a state of loneliness.
Pema Chödron describes six kinds of loneliness to demonstrate our phases and evolutions beyond what might make us feel “crazy” and feeling like we must do something with it. She, further, describes this state of being with our loneliness, a sort of leaning in.
There are quite a few types of conversations that I conduct with my clients on this very topic. We’ve all been there: constant yearning to do something to replace the anxiety of it; we want to fix the other person, hoping for better companionship; eating to stuff the emotions down deeper; over-exercising; pacing the floors; feeling no purpose because this loneliness has consumed you so much that you cannot even move. We buy cars, boats, relocate to a new place, anything to remove this feeling of loneliness.
Yes, you know it; you’ve been there. you have felt the pain. Even children have experienced the loneliness of living with someone who is in the home, but emotionally removed from their lives.
We tend to feel this sense of need to explain this state of loneliness, to place blame or defeat. But, it only takes us deeper into our anxiety and our search for happiness. So what can we do?
- What is it? Sit with it. Yes, exactly that: just sit with it. Sit long enough to find, first, the story about this feeling of loneliness. Find time in your day for about three consecutive days to sit for 15 minutes to an hour, as long as you can keep your thoughts straight enough to research it in your mind. What is the location of these feelings? Does it feel sad, painful, physical, etc.? Then leave your meditation or pondering and go about your day. Practice this for three days, dedicating about the same time to each question.
- Ask yourself: On the fourth day, ask yourself “What is it about this feeling of loneliness that serves me?” “What does not serve me?” Lean into it, feel it, BE it. Do not judge it, just be still with loneliness.
- Showing up: On the fifth day, this is when you lean into the feeling of life without judging loneliness. You know that life will bring that feeling again, but now the emotion is different. After about 10 minutes of meditation, ask yourself, “What is it that I do that helps me show up for myself?” What does that look like? What do you want it to look like? Meditate on that without judgment.
- Keep your promise: Once, you have done the meditations with loneliness and how you can show up for yourself – even while emerging from the state of loneliness- imagine living in this neutral, curious state all the time. Find time each day to do something that reminds you of who you are or who you want to be. Really take time for this, even if it is ten minutes. Light a candle, sing a song, dance to your favorite tune, walk on the grass- feel this feeling of who you are.
- Living in Gratitude: When we LIVE in gratitude, the world is a much different place. We become like a curious child to see what other magical moments and surprises arise so we can be grateful for those moments. They are teaching moments. This state of being brings us to mastering the resilience of the state of loneliness and walking further in the mastery of happiness.
When loneliness arises in your life, and it will, keep these concepts in mind. You have choices in how you live your life, responding wisely with the feeling of alignment.
As I mentioned, in my mentoring/coaching practice I conduct several different types of conversations to further go into this feeling of loneliness and other emotions that seem to haunt us and hang on. There are multiple different ways to practice and find this resilience that changes how we respond versus react to these emotions.
If you are a Personal Coach or serve in Employee Development, you will encounter these situations weekly, if not daily, with your clients/employees. There is this continuous yearning for happiness that I’m sure you recognize: the next promotion, making more money, taking on more responsibilities, going back to school, getting along with others in the workplace. The list becomes endless, and it is your role to gently guide and help your client bring forth all the necessary information in order to make better informed decisions, be more mindful, embrace diversity and work in a happier state while employed with the company they serve.
For individuals: You are invited to attend….
On October 18, 7pm CST, I will be offering an International Call on the topic of happiness, The Pursuit of Happiness and Health This workshop is a product of Taproots for Life, a for-profit organization that uplifts women who are finding their voice after life-changing events and want to bring magic and surprise back into their lives.