I’m sitting at my desk, laptop infront of me. To my left, my work phone; to my right my personal phone. In my browser window behind, my social networks spew their messages out.
And here I am contemplating loneliness. There are times, in what seems to be an increasingly ‘connected’ world where life can feel very lonely.
You can be sitting in a coffee shop or restaurant, surrounded by others in a throng of chatter and noise, and feel alone.
Or you can be in a relationship, living with others, and also feel completely alone. And with loneliness can come depression, and anxiety.
What is this loneliness? As social animals, we can yearn for connection and belonging. Facebook and other social media are powerful manifestations of that need for belonging, finding our tribe, those with whom we feel an affinity or sense of community with. Being disconnected from our tribe can feel very isolating. But sometimes loneliness resonates at a deeper level.
A deeper loneliness
It’s not that you don’t have friendships, family, interests, activities. And yet, with all that, and a busy-ness that goes with it, you can still feel painfully lonely.
When someone comes to counselling talking of that loneliness, it calls to mind a profound aching of the soul for connection, not just with others bit with his or herself.
That type of loneliness is one that distraction and activity can’t blunt. The urge to eat unhealthily, look at your phone, watch TV, shop, drink, all take you away momentarily from the loneliness. But pause, still yourself, and it comes back, a spectre to haunt you, taunt you even.
I think of it as an alienation from your deepest sense of self, your values, your calling. The Psychosynthesis counselling which I practise is particularly focused on that deepest calling of the soul, of the Self.
The secret meaning of loneliness
So when someone talks about loneliness, I wonder about what is calling deeply from within, who or what part of them feels so lonely. The work we do together holds that in mind, that need to feel connected to yourself as starting point for all other connections in your life. You could say it’s the secret need to feel whole again. Once that secret is out, it can’t be held back.
The journey of reconnection and coming back to oneself is one of the most profoundly moving and humbling things I am witness to as a counsellor. It is like watching a flower move from bud to blossom. An act of grace and beauty both to experience and observe.
Where do you begin? This week’s Lifeline can help.
This Week’s Lifeline
This week’s Lifeline is about finding our inner connections through external connections in nature.
This exercise uses meditative observation.
Take some time to be outdoors in a favourite place in nature.
First ground yourself by tending to your breath, your sense of rootedness on the ground. When you feel still, choose a plant or tree that is in leaf.
Once you’ve made your choice, stand back from it and take in the plant or tree as a whole. Be attentive to its size, shape, colour, texture, smell, movement.
When you’ve drunk in the sight of the plant or tree as a whole, move in more closely. You’re going to pay exquisite attention to a leaf. Find a leaf on the plant, tree or on the ground, if not within reach. Take hold and be as fully with the leaf as you can, with all your senses (caution with taste).
Explore the leaf in the minutest of detail. If you can, observe the capiliries and veins, the shape of the cells, the shape of the leaf, its weight, colour, texture. Hold it up to the light and see how the light passes through it. Smell it. Press it against your skin.
Then standing back again, notice how the leaves come together, how they join the branches, what patterns they form. Notice the interdependency of the leaves with the branches or stems.
And zoom out again and notice the whole, the sum of all those observed parts.
Imagine the roots underground, stretching into the earth, taking in moisture, nutrients.
Now turn your attention to your inner world, starting with your breath. With careful attention, imagine yourself as this plant or tree, a multi-faceted living organism, a living hub of interconnectedness. Notice all the aspects of your life and personality as an interconnected system, all in service of your life.
When you’re ready, consciously end your exercise and make a few notes if you wish, about your experience.
Feeling alone or lonely?
Being alone can be a choice but if you are alone and lonely, perhaps you’d like to see that change.
So If you’d like to explore your feelings of aloneness, why not make an appointment for a first counselling session?