Alone yet not Alone

Connection is within our grasp

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

There will be times when we are alone. There will be times when we are not alone but will feel alone. Sometimes, this aloneness will be translated into loneliness, and other times it will be translated as solitude. If we find ourselves feeling lonely even amid community, or if we feel as if we can’t make the transition from loneliness to solitude, then that is a signal for us to take a step back, take a breath, take a look at our life, and check our state of mind.

Breathe: Be present

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

I am currently reading a book on mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn titled Wherever You Go There You Are. I am 50 pages into the book, and the majority of his insights come back to breath and meditation. He references breathing as a tool and a guide to bringing ourselves into the present moment. This idea of intentional focused breathing is a key aspect of meditation practice, and breath itself is key to life.

There is a word, Pneuma, which comes from the Greek word for breath, also translated as wind or spirit. This idea flows through many faiths and is rooted in the belief that the very breath we take connects us to something greater than ourselves. When speaking of God, the poet Kabir Das says, “He is the breath within the breath.” Breathing is integral to life, and those breaths have multi-faceted purposes.

If we feel displaced, restless, or disconnected, let us start by taking a breath into the present. After taking a breath, let us examine our life, and look for all of the points of connection that we have.

Life: Perception versus reality

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Are we actually alone, or do we just feel alone? In other words, does our perception align with reality? This perception correlates to our definition of human connection. Here is an example from my journey with understanding and battling feelings of loneliness.

I am married with two daughters, and these are my three favorite people in the world. So how can I feel alone amid my family? The baseline of my life is togetherness. Beyond that, it would only be a day or two that would go by without some sort of communication or connection with friends or other family. I also had a consistent community at my work and church.

Instead of focusing on and embracing the connections, I focused on the empty spaces in between. The reality was much more connected than my perception of reality. In that perception of the space between, I was missing the connections taking place right before my eyes.

Mind: Less and more

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My definition of connection had become based on time with friends, and in that narrow definition, my family got less of me. Another side effect of this way of thinking that it leads towards becoming a taker rather than a giver. I would enter social events feeling so desperate to connect, that I would be unable to feel like myself, and instead, would feel like I have nothing to offer.

As you may have noticed, there is a lot of I and me in those sentences. whereas we need to be in tune and aware of our state of mind, there is importance to maintaining perspective in life. The journey of overcoming or understanding loneliness draws us inward, but one of the most powerful tools to draw us out of this mindset is to look outward just as much.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible comes from John the Baptist telling his followers to transition to following Jesus rather than him. In John 3:30 he says, “He must become greater; I must become less.” I have used this verse in my life to tether me to perspective. This idea of less and more is vital to living an impactful life. we replace some of the self-thoughts with thoughts of others. We replace some of the self-service with service to others.

We need a healthy ego. Our ego is where we carry our self-esteem and self- worth, and a healthy ego is essential for us to bring the best versions of ourselves to the lives around us. In times of loneliness, focus less on our own life, and take in more of the lives around us.

Moving forward

For me, this journey toward a life of fulfillment and purpose involves navigating through the forests of loneliness at times. If you find yourself on similar paths, remember to take a breath, check the perception of reality, and look outward as much as we are looking inward.

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