Another week of beautiful discussions. Loneliness, seemingly quiet yet charged full of insights, this was a topic we all had to work on to deepen past our memories of being alone and see loneliness as a signal, a season and a cycle bringing in change and opportunity.
The check in this week was ‘what is your experience/relationship with loneliness?’, most people recalled an experience in their life where they found themselves with loneliness. These experiences ranged from breakups, to not fitting in, grieving loss, outcast, having different opinions, not speaking the language, feeling unwanted, to embracing the aloneness. However we soon established that aloneness is quite different to loneliness, as we all found ourselves to feel lonely amongst people or within relationship.
Is loneliness a signal?
In the check in we also were asked to express loneliness with our bodies. The physical expressions and gestures had a pattern of tension, closedness, fear, and suggested there was an energy bound up and burning from the inside. An extreme holding on or a narrowing of focus upon something lost in the external world. An attachment. Be that a person, belonging, identity and more. This imbalanced tunnel vision upon something we cannot control seems to take over our minds and lock us into a frantic and sometimes delusional closed loop of reasoning that contracts our awareness. For example; everything will be good when I find the perfect partner or the group accepts me, or when I make a million bucks etc. There is a definite external focus driven by an uncomfortable feeling. Loneliness is a signal of change, death, and transition. We are confronted with the unknown as our attachments, or as Gabor Mate suggests, our addictions are not satiated.
How do we take response-ability for loneliness?
The wise humans of the group offered the idea of eating loneliness mindfully to develop a taste for it, to picture and live your loneliness as a beautiful melancholy poem, but most of all be willing to experience the loneliness. Making friends with loneliness, acknowledging the sensation, caring for the reactionary child part of self so that we can enter a state of listening.
Loneliness is the symptom of withdrawal from an addiction to medicating, suppressing or placating a need we do not know how fulfil independently of others. The bandaids take many forms in the external world; seeking acknowledgment, filling a hole within us, relationship, monetary success, physical feats, all in an attempt to get from the external what we need from ourselves. The hole needs to be filled from within.
The analogy of transitioning to organic certification on a cattle property became a very useful metaphor brought forth by the participants that illustrated what happens when we listen to the space in which loneliness is signalling. These particular humans experienced ridicule and criticism when they dropped all chemical practices in the 90’s. They experienced the loneliness of the pioneering plant set to a forgotten martyrdom to clear and prepare the space for what is to come. Quietness and listening followed as the surrounding community of farmers had left them to themselves. In this quiet space of observation and listening within the discomfort of letting go old habits of farming, the land began to teach, different grasses grew, water flowed and life slowly started to come back to the land. Nature happened.
Is this a beautiful clue as to what happens when we listen to the space loneliness is calling us towards?
Is it a signal to listen and greet what is just beyond what we know?
‘…half a step into self forgetting and the rest restored by what you’ll meet.
Just beyond yourself.’ - David Whyte
Loneliness is the tension you hold in your hand when you can’t let go. As the muscles relax, the attachment released, the hand opens. Pain and suffering floods our being as we watch a dear part of ourselves fall away. We are being asked to soften, to release the tension of holding on, to take a leap of faith, to grieve and to greet what that open palm will meet. We are being asked by loneliness to bring fertility to the soils of our soul, to grow into a new season of being.