How often do you feel lonely? It’s the feeling you get when you miss a person for any reason. We think everyone needs to feel lonely when they are alone. Now, the feeling of loneliness is very real. I’m not going to argue with that—I’ll leave that up to the psychiatrists of the world. This article is not for people who take things literally. If you have an open mind, feel free to read on.
The truth is that loneliness is completely unnecessary. That’s why I say loneliness is not real. It’s a story that’s created by mankind. Here are some of those lies:
- Everyone needs 500 friends
- Being alone is for the crazies
- Being single is for losers
- Divorce means you failed
The problem with loneliness is when we start believing in it. In that case, loneliness deteriorates your mental well-being. The truth is that you’re never lonely. You always have company: Yourself. So you can be alone without being lonely. I like how Anthony de Mello, author of Awareness, puts it:
“Loneliness is when you’re missing people, aloneness is when you’re enjoying yourself.”
This is an alien idea for our society. We’re all conditioned to believe we need to have people around us 24/7. We call people who go on a vacation by themselves weird. I’ve said it as well. I’m one of those people who said, “Who goes on a trip alone? What’s the fun in that?!” False. If you can enjoy your own company, there’s a lot of fun in that.
The famous playwright George Bernard Shaw was once at a cocktail party. You know how these ordeals go, right? Most birthdays, Friday afternoon drinks, networking events, conferences, balls, and so forth are all the same. You simply talk about nothing with people. When someone asked Shaw if he was enjoying himself, he said:
“It’s the only thing I am enjoying here.”
So even when you’re not having fun at someplace, you can always enjoy your own company.
How about being social?
We’re social animals and I believe in the importance of intimate contact. Relationships are important. I’m not proposing a life of aloneness.
But let’s be real. How often did you feel alone during the last period? If you even answered once, it’s time to work on your “aloneness” skills. This is all about getting more comfortable with yourself. Try these two things:
- Do more things on your own—Find something you can do at ALL times. Learn a skill, organize an event, work out, go for a walk, read a book, start a business, make music, etc. You get the idea. If you have a goal, you go after it. If people want to join you, that’s great. If not, that’s fine too.
- Stop clinging to others—Stop thinking so much about other people. I don’t mean you should become an insensitive person. You can still care. Just avoid attachment.
Aloneness means freedom. You can always enjoy yourself without needing others. You know, the problem is attachment and neediness. When we’re needy, we’re annoying. Somehow we can detect when others are needy.
The friend that calls you multiple times. The salesperson who insists on trying his product. The guy/girl who wants your attention. You can sense that, right? But if we switch the roles, we’re all of a sudden oblivious.
Put up a mirror. I’ve done that too. What you’ll find is that you’re needier than you think. That also means you’re less free than you think. It’s time to give up your neediness. You don’t need anyone to be comfortable with yourself.
The funny thing is that the more comfortable you become with aloneness, the more people you will attract. Crazy right? That’s how we are. We’re attracted to what doesn’t need us. As a result, you’ll never be alone if you don’t want to. But it all starts with adopting the belief that you’re never lonely.
”But can I be happy when I’m lonely?”
This remains a controversial idea to many. Most people will not agree with you if you adopt this mindset. But that’s why so many people are unhappy.
But how do you stop yourself from feeling needy or alone? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I’ve read many books and tried to find a method for being happy and comfortable by yourself. The standard stuff like journaling, working out, reading, learning, all works. But there’s one thing that makes the most significant difference: Awareness.
We must build some kind of meditation practice in our lives. I know that most of my readers are practical folks, just like me. That means you’re not fully comfortable with the idea of meditation, right? Or maybe you don’t see any benefits?
Here’s the thing: A regular mediation practice will make you more aware. And awareness is what you want. People who think meditation itself is the goal don’t get the point. Meditation is the vehicle to awareness. It’s simply a method.
But mediation is a broad concept. I’m not only talking about sitting meditation or meditation retreats. I’m also not talking about which type of meditation is best. You can pick any type you want: Walking meditation, Mindfulness, Transcendental, you name it. You can use an app, course, or coach. It really doesn’t matter.
I personally like Sam Harris’ app, Waking Up. I’ve been using that for about a year. I did his introduction course for 50 days. After that, I kept up the daily meditation. After a while, I felt I was more aware throughout the day. That’s how you stop—by becoming aware of your behavior. When you’re aware, you can stop. But without awareness, you can’t.
Now, I only use the Waking Up app when my thoughts are scattered. You know how your thoughts are all over the place sometimes, right? Your mind just keeps on spinning and you can’t seem to calm things down up there. That’s the perfect time to meditate.
Meditation will make you more comfortable when you’re alone. If you want to learn more about this idea, I recommend reading Awareness by de Mello and The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. Both books go deep on the idea that we don’t need anything to be happy.
Some people just can’t believe that. They email me things like, “Yes, but my wife left me. I’m lonely.” Look, I get it. But you’re doing it to yourself. You have the ability to be okay with life, no matter what happens. You just have to be open to it. And if you’re not? No big deal. I can tell you that this stuff works. Get back to it when you’re ready.
After you keep practicing, you don’t need anything to be happy anymore. You simply are happy no matter what. When you reach that state, loneliness doesn’t exist. It’s merely aloneness.