Loneliness is No Match for Meditation
As human beings, we have a natural aversion to loneliness. We avoid it as much as possible or only tolerate it in small doses. This behavior is normal and driven in part by a biological imperative: if we weren’t hardwired to socialize and seek the company of other people, the human race would be much smaller.
While some would argue that is a good thing, from a spiritual and yogic perspective a human birth is the most precious of opportunities since it offers us the perfect vessel to engage in spiritual practice. The scriptures teach that countless souls are waiting for the golden opportunity to take on a human birth since the human ego is perfectly balanced to allow for maximum spiritual development.
We fear to be alone because we don’t know who or what we really are. Being alone goes against the momentum of our externalized mind, which is always seeking to connect with an object of the senses. When we are completely alone and without anything to distract or entertain us, we face the possibility that our mind will want to look within, which gives rise to fear. This fear is not limited to discovering the emptiness within. At a psychological level, we fear to look inward because it might bring to light negative feelings, past traumas, and other wounds we keep buried through a constantly engaged and distracted mind.
From a spiritual perspective, looking within is scary because we fear to unmask the individual parts that make up our carefully constructed sense of self. Even though our opinions, thoughts, feelings, and body change dramatically over the years, as long as the mind is externalized and jumping from thought to thought and from object to object, we feel a comfortable sense of continuity. Looking deeply within can break that illusion, revealing an empty core that challenges our identity.
In this way, the natural fear to look within is a brilliant mechanism employed by the ego to keep us tied to our sense of being a separate individual. In truth, loneliness is like a thick darkness that prevents us from seeing a room filled with shining gold. If we were to walk through it, we would discover infinite joy.
Here you might think that I’m just waxing poetically, like yogins often do, or preaching a high and idealistic philosophy that I’ve never experienced. But it’s not the case. Although I don’t reveal the majority of my yogic experiences, I confess that I’ve been blessed to have attained the early stages of samadhi (meditative absorption). When I say samadhi, I mean entering into a meditative state where the mind is perfectly quiescent and all awareness of being a body and a mind has vanished, leaving only the experience of resting in a formless awareness that is sublimely blissful and peaceful. Of course, different traditions argue as to what is actually samadhi and what is a higher or lower level of samadhi. Each tradition has its own schema that often disagrees with others.
In my own case, entry into samadhi was confirmed by later breaking into the tandra state of awareness, which is a phase of meditation where the yogin experiences intense visions that precede even deeper states of formless and empty samadhi. The tandra state is discussed within the Non-dual Shaiva Tantric tradition. It is only possible to enter into tandra after the Shakti, or spiritual energy accumulated in meditation, has completely purified the body, the mantra has descended into the throat, and the mind has become extremely concentrated through daily practice. (There are additional factors governing tandra that merit a separate post).
Coming back to loneliness, I delved into the topic of samadhi to explain that once we attain these deep levels of Self-awareness, it is no longer possible to truly feel lonely. This is because in that deep state of meditation we experience that we are an eternal and undivided expanse of pure Consciousness, so the fear of discovering an empty core is nullified forever.
Due to karma, circumstance, and my renunciate monkish tendencies, I’ve traveled all over the world by myself. Yet I can’t say I’ve ever felt lonely. After we attain samadhi, the residual impression of our identity as pure Consciousness remains present even after we return to our normal bodily awareness, making it impossible to feel truly lonely. We carry the experience, even if faintly, that the world is a reflection within our own Consciousness.
Interestingly, I do admit at times to having felt bored, which is different than loneliness. Boredom is a symptom of the mind’s addiction to jumping from one object of perception to another, so even advanced meditators fall victim to the momentum of the externalized mind from time to time. But boredom is a superficial condition that is easily fixed by meditating for even five minutes. Loneliness, on the other hand, speaks to our core sense of being and identity, and after touching pure Awareness loneliness never returns or is severely attenuated.
So how does all this apply to you? It’s important to understand that loneliness is natural and should never be challenged with brute force. We don’t overcome loneliness by listening to discourses, convincing ourselves, or relying on other psychological methods. Instead, this post on loneliness is really an invitation to meditation. Daily meditation will cause our inner loneliness to fall away of its own accord.
If meditation is the cure for loneliness, why not just write about meditation? The reason is because the fear of being alone or of looking within can prevent us from meditating in the first place. Loneliness is a trick of the individualized consciousness. It is a gatekeeper to the bliss, peace, and unity of pure Consciousness you will experience if you overcome your fear to turn within, be alone with yourself, and establish a daily meditation practice.
Finally, it’s equally important to understand that there is no timetable to overcome the fear of loneliness and reach those very deep states of meditation. In fact, to a great extent, it is beyond our control. Meditation is about letting go and surrendering to our own inner Consciousness, the seat of divinity and wholeness. It is a question of spiritual maturity that will take hold of us when we are ready.
As always, our only task is to give ourselves lovingly to daily meditation. Fear and loneliness might be there in the beginning, but don’t let them stop you from claiming your own inner greatness. Meditate with the conviction that your inner consciousness will reveal your eternal nature. Meditate with love and the rest will follow.
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Originally published at mahasarameditation.com on March 12, 2017.