Being Alone and Lonely
One of the situations that many have struggled with during this long COVID period is being alone, because in most of us it evokes feelings of loneliness, of being lonely, or even of abandonment. Whether we are young or old, for many of us this feeling is hard to bear, because in our experience it stems from a painful lack, a lack of being part of something; the lack of belonging to someone or being in contact with others. But it is also difficult because it makes us confront ourselves in the emptiness that accompanies loneliness, since introspection occurs almost automatically when distraction disappears.
Mystics consider this feeling of loneliness and abandonment from a different perspective; they say that these moments of solitude, though difficult for us, are in fact very valuable – because it is in that loneliness within us that the Divine lets us know that it exists. It is in that emptiness that the voice of our true self, our divine essence, becomes so clearly audible to us – a voice so often drowned out by the activity of our mind or the outward noise.
No possible logical explanation can prove the existence of the Lord. But he gives his own proof when he creates that loneliness within us, and we find that this feeling of loneliness doesn’t leave us, no matter what we may achieve in this world. This is actually the inclination of the soul towards its own origin. It will not rest unless it goes back to its own source, its own origin. So the very soul in the body proves the existence of the Lord.1
For this reason, mystics regard these moments of being alone and experiencing loneliness as a blessing in disguise. Because then we get the chance to experience reality and to realize the truth. For, thus says Hazur:
We are all lonely in this world. It’s a self-deception to think that somebody belongs to us, or we belong to somebody. It’s just a self-deception. The time comes when we all realize the self-deception, when we wake up from our deep slumber. We are lonely because soul is the essence of that divine ocean, and this feeling of loneliness will never leave the soul unless it merges back into that ocean. This very feeling of loneliness is forcing us to follow the path which leads back to him. But for this nobody would bother about the Lord. This feeling of loneliness is forcing us on to the path and keeping us straight towards the Lord. So it is only a question of time until we realize that we are lonely. We think: I belong to mother, mother belongs to me. I have got sisters, brothers, so many friends, my wife, my children, my property, my wealth. I have so much. I belong to so much.
But in everyone’s life an opportunity does come when one realizes that he is really lonely in life. Nothing belongs to him, and he doesn’t belong to anybody at all. I think that is a most fortunate moment when it comes in anybody’s life. …. The sooner one can realize this fact – that one is lonely – the better it is for that person.2
Loneliness is a blessing in disguise when it makes us realize that we are truly lonely. It becomes a divine gift when we can endure its pain. When we stop trying to run away by throwing ourselves into activity and socializing, or seeking distraction in sensory pleasures, and instead, accept it, even welcome it, and dare to look in the mirror of our heart. Being lonely is an opportunity to get to know ourselves better; to become aware of the existence of God and realize how much we need him. It is a powerful divine tool to teach us to focus on him, to remind and inspire us to live more and more in his presence. As Hafiz so aptly put it in one of his poems:
your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so
My need of God
When we try to learn this lesson there will come a day that we will experience a peaceful happiness in being alone, a sweetness in the pain of missing, and gratitude will warm our heart – because experiencing loneliness has helped us to refocus on God; it has strengthened us in our meditation practice and, by doing so, it has brought us more and more in the presence of the Divine. It’s then that we will realize that all these moments of being alone and lonely have truly been a divine gift.
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives Vol. I, Q14.
- Ibid, Q. 399
- Hafiz, The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master, ed. D. Ladinsky; Penguin Compass Books, 1999, p. 277.